The affable Roger "Sodie" Soderstrom not only knew how to win races, he knew how to capture the hearts of fans, topping the AMA's "Most Popular Rider" lists for many years. His racing career spanned 20 years and included five national wins in class C competition at Peoria. As a Harley-Davidson dealer, Sodie was also an active supporter of the sport and helped numerous racers launch their careers.
Roger Soderstrom was born in Chicago in 1917. At the age of 20 he bought his first motorcycle, a 1936 Harley-Davidson 80c.i. flathead. Soon after, he stripped down a 1938 Harley-Davidson 61 cubic inch, and in 1941 he entered his first race - a Novice TT in Lexington, Illinois. Roger won that race and launched a career that lasted nearly 20 years.
World War II interrupted Roger's racing career. He trained as a pilot, but the war ended while he was still in training. After the war, he and wife Shirley were married.
In 1946, Soderstrom placed third in the class 45 finals at Marion, Indiana, which he had entered as a novice. The point earned from that finish propelled him to AMA Expert ranking.
In 1947, the Soderstoms opened Sodies' Cycle sales Normal, Illinois, then relocated the dealership to Bloomington in 1953. Roger and Shirley shared duties at the dealership, and according to Roger they prided themselves on running a family-oriented store. They also taught the importance of safe and defensive riding.
In 1949, Soderstrom's racing talent became even more apparent when he took 33 wins in a row and won the Peoria TT National 80c.i. title. The following year, he returned to Peoria and had a banner weekend, winning both the 1950 80c.i. and 45c.i. titles. In 1952, he captured his third 80c.i. title at Peoria, and returned to successfully defend it in 1953.
An AMA membership poll published in the March 1952 issue of American Motorcyclist ranked Soderstrom as the 11th most popular racer in the country. The tenth-ranked rider was Joe Leonard, whose race bikes were sometimes transported to the races by Soderstrom.
Soderstrom's career also included races at many now-historic events. He raced on both the beach and track at Daytona Beach, Florida, contested the annual Laconia, New Hampshire races, and raced in Michigan's Jackpine Enduro.
Over the span of his career, Soderstrom collected over 100 podium finishes. He retired from racing in 1960, but continued to street ride into the 1990s. The Soderstroms ran their dealership until 1974, when the business was sold to employee Chuck Feken.
Roger Soderstrom was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2006.
Soderstrom died Oct. 13, 2012. He was 95.