Despite being drafted into the army and receiving offers from professional football clubs, Doug Theobald’s love of motorcycle trials shows no sign of abating as he prepares to enter his seventh decade of competing in the sport.
Even though he is set to celebrate his 77th birthday this year, Doug Theobald is still getting revved up for motorcycling.
The Risby veteran has dedicated the last six decades of his life to a sport that has increased in popularity over time.
Going back to his early days as a motorcycle enthusiast, he explained the origins of a hobby that became a lifelong passion and how he was able to mould it around his work life.
“I always wanted to be into motorbikes,” he said. “I used to work on a farm part-time during the summer holidays and weekends – I earned £90 and bought a 197cc Dot from Bowers on Risbygate Street.”
Theobald currently owns 10 motorcycles, which he uses to compete in three motorcycling categories – classic, British classic and modern.
“I started competing in 1953,” he explained. “Then I became Norfolk and Suffolk champion by 1954.”
Yet, in 1957, Theobald was called up to the army in order to enlist for national service.
Fortunately though, he was able to pursue his biking career with the Royal Artillery Trials and Display team.
“They wanted me to stay on as a permanent staff member and they kept me at the base while the rest of my platoon went to Christmas Island,” he said.
Remaining with the regiment in North Wales, Theobald was able to earn more accolades by becoming the Cheshire county champion in 1958 and 1959.
Upon completion of service with the army in 1959, he was able to dedicate more time to regional and national competitions.
One of Theobald’s crowning achievements was obtaining the Eastern Counties champion title on consecutive occasions throughout the 1960s.
Participation in the Scottish Six Days event sits high on his list of personal achievements.
Featuring 10 times in the competition, he was able to finish in the top 20 throughout all of his appearances.
Furthermore, the veteran motorcyclist has competed at international level, allowing him to take part in prestigious contests across Europe, which included Germany, Austria, Sweden, Belgium, France and Holland.
“We did all of those internationals, though working full-time was restrictive to this as I would have to be back for Monday mornings,” he said. “I used to envy those who didn’t have to work, but I’m glad I did it now.”
Theobald remains positive the sport can prosper and grow in the local area, although he has noted some key differences to the riders of today and those of the past.
“When I started in the 1950s, you had to learn how to be a mechanic – it was a necessity,” he explained. “The first thing we had to do was to wash the bikes, then do maintenance and oil changes.
“Today the younger ones leave it to their fathers or someone else and it’s slightly alarming.”
Still riding competitively every weekend, his routine in keeping fit for regular competitions includes visiting the gym three times a week and holding practice sessions when he is not busy.
Despite the rigorous schedule, Theobald does see an end in sight for his motorcycling days.
“I really want to ride until I am 80, which really means that I only have four years left,” he said. “I thank my wife Maurine, who has been very supportive of me.
“She never complains when I go off to compete and I thank her for all her support over the years.”
Theobald also expressed gratitude to those around him who have supported him.
“I love it really,” he added. “I like the people who get involved, I’ve enjoyed 60 years of pleasure of doing it and I’ve met some fantastic people over the years.”