celebrating 40+ years of motorcycling

The curious case of Michelle Duff.

Michael Alan Duff was born in Toronto. He was a competitive motorcycle racer 1955-69, mainly on the European Grand Prix circuits.

In 1963 he married a Finnish woman and had a son with her the same year, and daughter two years later. In 1964-5, he rode under contract for Yahama. He won the Belgian Grand Prix 1964 at a record average speed. In 1965 he broke his pelvis and left hip joint during testing and was six months in hospital.

In 1967 he stopped professional racing, separated from his wife, and moved to California to become an associate editor of Cycle World. He still did some racing, and in 1969 won the Eastern Canadian Championship. From 1970-8 he ran a Yamaha dealership. He also remarried and had another son. From 1978-84 he worked doing specialized machine-shop work in the Greater Toronto area.

However, after years of feeling that he was trapped in a man’s body, Mike decided to accept the idea that he was, in fact, a woman. In 1984 Michael became Michelle. She separated from her wife, moved to down-town Toronto to start living as a woman. By 1987 she had completed the transition and was living as a woman. She published her autobiography in 1999, and in 2000 moved to an isolated cottage in central Ontario. She is also a photographer and writer of children’s fiction. In 2009 she published two young-adult titles about animals.

If you’d like to read some more about this amazing story, I’ve enclosed a few links below for you to read. Some of them are quite “wordy” but I do recommend them as they provide a fascinating insider’s look at what racing was like in the 60’s from someone who was there and who raced against the best, Redman, Read, Ivy and, of course, Hailwood.

How Yamaha rescued Grand Prix Racing.

Another recollection of racing in the 60’s.

Michelle’s personal web site.

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