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"The Rugged Road" to lifetime success

Another great picture from Motorcycle Photography by Frank Bott
Another great picture from Motorcycle Photography by Frank Bott

Theresa Wallach met obstacles on almost every ride of her life. However, with each turn, she found a better way to reach her destination. Female motorcycle riders weren’t welcome at bike clubs, races, or repair shops in the 1920s and 1930s. Theresa had to ride hard to show a love for motorcycles knows no gender.

As a young girl, Theresa grew up near the Triumph factory in London and learned to ride, race, and repair motorcycles. Her passion for bikes grew along with her skills. Through persistence she was allowed to compete in local races where she won many times. She eventually earned the BMCRC Gold Star for speeds over 100 mph. Motorcycle racing in the 1930s didn’t feature the safety precautions of later years. The Gold Star award was earned as much for bravery as it was for agility.

Later, without a road or a compass, Theresa and a friend crossed the Sahara on a 600cc Panther and became two of the first motorcyclists – female or male – to accomplish such a feat. The trip was such a newsworthy challenge that even Lady Astor, the first female in Parliament, cheered them on. They encountered the almost inevitable mechanical problems that accompany most long, isolated trips but refused to give up until the journey was complete.

Theresa continued to ride through gender barriers by earning an engineering degree, opening a motorcycle dealership, and even becoming the first female motorcycle dispatcher during WWII. She moved from Britain to Chicago and discovered she enjoyed teaching others to ride almost as much as she enjoyed riding. In 1970, she published her first book “Easy Motorcycle Riding” and then opened a school to teach motorcycle fundamentals.

Theresa Wallach wasn’t interested in leading a cause for women’s rights or equality. She simply loved motorcycles and thought gender shouldn’t matter. She penned a best-selling book called “The Rugged Road” which detailed her challenge to pursue what she enjoyed. She stayed true to her love of motorcycles by riding until she was 88 years old, which is pretty impressive for anyone.