Friday, May 11, 2018

One of only 3 extraordinary women who achieved the Gold Star in Brooklands for completing a lap on a motorcycle at over 100 mph averaged speed, (on a 350cc single-cylinder Norton), Theresa Wallach

Born in 1909, Theresa Wallach went motorcycling against the not unreasonable wishes of her parents, and she won a scholarship to study engineering in 1928.

She was half of a team that rode from London to Cape Town in 1935, but that's another post some other day. She wrote a book about it, "The Rugged Road",

 and though no photos were known to exist, her teammate's slides were discovered by accident in Jan 2018, and sold at auction

During WW2 she served in the Army Transport Corps, first as a mechanic and later she became the first woman to be a despatch rider in the British Army, where she served for 7 years.

After the war she rode across the US, Mexico, and Canada by motorcycle, with a sleeping bag and full saddlebags, travelling some 32,000 miles in the process.

The tour lasted for two-and-a-half years and was funded on the long trek by stopping and taking 18 odd jobs – everything from airplane mechanic to dishwasher – just long enough to earn enough money to get back on the road. In that era, there was no Motorcycle License, or "endorsement" needed, there were no CBs, and seemingly, no limits to a travel visa.

After her trip, she returned Britain only to find a depressed economy and returned to live in Chicago and made a living as a motorcycle mechanic. Eventually, she established a motorcycle shop selling and repairing mainly Norton and Triumph, incidentally becoming the first unmarried woman to own and operate her own motorcycle business in the United States.

King Edward the 8th, stopped by her display at the 1950 New York Trade Convention, and both former English expats talked about living the life free of the rules.

Her teaching career began unofficially when 3 businessmen came into her shop to buy BSAs for a motorcycle trip. Their inexperience was obvious she refused to sell them the bikes until she taught them the fundamentals of riding.  It was then that Wallach began devoting more time to instruction.

The Japanese manufacturing competition became too much in the 70s, about the same time her 2nd book "Easy Motorcycle Riding" was published and became a top seller.

 "The opportunity of seeing America came as a contrast to my journey through Africa, from London to Cape Town, before the war. It is interesting to compare “old” Europe with “young” America and “undeveloped” Africa"   you can read an except here

So she sold her shop in '73 and moved to Phoenix to open the Easy Riding Academy, a school training motorcycle riders.

She continued to ride until the age of 88, when vision forced a halt.
and remarkably, I missed a post on one of my favorite sites while looking there for tool and car source info


  1. Hi Jesse,
    Sorry to be a pedant. The first 2 paragraphs refer to Beatrice Shilling, also a Gold Star recipient. Her jetting modification to the Merlin enabled Spitfires and Hurricanes to enter a negative g dive without the engine going over rich, even cutting out momentarily. Previously this had been a deadly advantage for the fuel injected Daimler Benz in Bf 109s. Given the rarity of female engineers and the testosterone charged lifestyle of the RAF's fighter pilots, it was perhaps inevitable that the modification became known as Miss Shilling's Orifice.
    Regarding Edward VIII. He was never actually king, having abdicated before his coronation. The reason given at the time was that he wanted to marry a divorcee, Wallis Simpson, though there was probably more concern in political circles about Edward's fascist sympathies and irresponsible behaviour. Nowadays, of course, if Harry wants to marry divorced Meghan Markle nobody bats an eyelid.

    1. Good catch, thanks! In all the editing and rewriting on that I messed up the origin story paragraph and didn't split the narrative.
      As for King Edward, well, that's what he's known as over here, regardless of the technicality, and where's the impact of saying Duke of Cambridge versus King Edward? So, that's a couple reasons I went with calling him king. Simple, easily understood by my core demographic, and far more impressive while only technically not true

    2. Yep, makes sense. It's just that he's never referred to as King in the UK so it looked a bit odd.