Percy Roderick Coleman was born at Mountain Road, Ngaere, Taranaki, New Zealand, on 26 January 1897. He attended school until he was 12, when he became a motor mechanic in Palmerston North. Despite an accident with a workshop grinder which cost him the sight in his left eye, he began racing motor cycles at 14. He rode Indians, Harleys, captured all world records (!) on grass tracks and even competed officially for Indian in the US. In 1930 he represented New Zealand officially in the Isle of Man TT on a Royal Enfield, but abandoned the race due to a crash. He established an important motorcycle business in New Zealand, continued by his sons, one of whom finally won the IOM TT. Another son broke his 1929 one mile world record in 1964, one year before Cannonball passed away.