Friday, December 17, 2010

The Bike Series #10 - Theresa Wallach

Theresa Wallach grew up in London and learned to ride much against her parents wishes. She competed in trials, scrambles and road racing. In 1928 she won a scholarship to study engineering at what is now the City University, London. 
In 1935 she undertook an epic journey from London to Cape Town. She, and her travelling companion Florence Blenkiron, were the first people (male or female) to cross the Sahara on a motorcycle. Her story of this amazing adventure has been published recently under the title "The Rugged Road".
In his biography Francis Beart, the ace Norton tuner recalls how Theresa walked into his workshop at Brooklands and asked if she could borrow his 348cc International Norton for the next weekends race meeting. He told her it would cost five pounds, which she didn't have but managed to borrow. When the day came it was pouring with rain but her lap was timed at 101.64mph - much to the annoyance of Beart's top rider, Johnny Lockett, who had never taken the machine to a 3 figure lap! Theresa's was one of the last Gold Stars awarded before Brooklands was closed down at the start of the second World War.
During the war she became the first woman despatch rider in the British army and spent 7 years in active service. 

After the war she spent two and a half years touring the USA with just a bike, sleeping bag and whatever fitted into her saddle bags. 32000 miles and 18 jobs later her bike was displayed at a motorcycle show in New York where she met Louise who introduced her to WIMA. Theresa returned to England, but within a year was back in the USA and set up shop selling, servicing and repairing British bikes, mainly Norton and Triumph. Another first - the only woman to own and run her own motorcycle business. She a
lso gave motorcycle riding lessons and in 1970 published her book "Easy Motorcycle Riding". 
The early 1970s saw a decline in her business due to the influx of Japanese machines to the market and in 1973 she moved to Phoenix, Arizona to open a motorcycle riding school. Having never owned a car she carried on riding until she was 88 years old when sight problems forced her to give up her licence. Theresa maintained an active interest in WIMA right up until her death in 1998 aged 90. A truly remarkable woman.

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