140 Years of Bikes

With the Tour de France on at the moment, we thought we would revisit this article on bicycle clubs in Wagga Wagga written for our “At the Archives” page from 2011:

Many people contributed their ideas to bring the bicycle from the German “Dandy Horse of 1816” through to the sophisticated special-purpose cycles of today. The wooden-wheeled iron-tyred “boneshakers,” followed by a very large high wheeled cycle which was nicknamed the “man killer”, likely first made their appearance in Wagga Wagga in the 1860s or 1870s.

As early as 1872, there were definitely bicycles in the Wagga area.  On November 6, 1872, a Grand Bicycle Race was held as part of the sports programme for the Prince of Wales’ birthday at Wagga Wagga.  The advertisement for the event stated that the bicycle race had been added to the programme “by request”; we might assume from this that it had not been the organisers’ original intention to include the race, but that they had been approached by a couple of enthusiasts.

A later article in the Wagga Express noted that three competitors were entered in that particular race. However, the Nov 13th edition of the Wagga Express, following the athletics day, made one short mention of the results of the bicycle race, saying, “Although some bicyclists were on the ground the match did not come off.”

Cyclist Dick Mutton [Wagga Wagga and District Historical Society Collection, CSURA RW5/27]
Australian champion cyclist (c.1900), Dick Mutton of Bathurst (from the Wagga Wagga and District Historical Society Collection, CSURA RW5/27)
The Wagga Bicycle Club

The first Bicycle Club in Wagga was formed in September 1882, with the Mayor, AT Bolton, as President and ED Leyshon as Captain.  Initially, there were 21 members and all was looking very promising.  However, the club had disbanded by 1884.

On November 29, 1887, at a meeting chaired by A Faunce and attended by G Evans, J Boyd, P Hayes, C Douglas and J Gormly, a second Bicycle Club was formed and following a second meeting held on December 5, 1887, it was decided that Wagga Club would join the Bicyclists Union of New South Wales.  Joseph Gormly was Secretary-Treasurer and G Evans, the Captain. The uniform of the club was a navy blue suit and white straw hat with a navy blue band.  Regular races were held at the cricket ground, often in conjunction with foot races.

As interest grew in the sport, a new venue was sought and a twelve acre block at the corner of Fitzmaurice and Travers Streets was obtained for the club’s new track; after considerable work was done on the track, which was named the Trapezium, the first race was held on August 4, 1897.

Track Riders at Wagga [Tom Lennon Collection, CSURA RW1574/612]
Joe Power, Barry O’Hagan, Dennis Tilden, Norm Power and John Demmery on the track, c.1960s (from the Tom Lennon Collection, CSURA RW1574/612)
The Wagga Wagga Cycling Club

The fortunes of the Wagga Bicycle Club waxed and waned through the next fifty years; some years no meetings would be held at all and then an enthusiastic group would gather to reboot the club once again (usually by changing the name of the club ever-so slightly).  The club went into recess during the early 1960s; however, on July 31, 1975, the Wagga Wagga and District Police Citizens Boys’ Cycling Club held their inaugural meeting where discussions took place regarding the formation of a new official Cycling Club.

An organising committee of 11 members was formed to investigate the possibility of track cycling returning to Wagga Cricket Ground; Barry O’Hagan was elected President.  And so, with some hard work by passionate committee members, cycle racing was returned to the sporting calendar.

In August 1976, a ladies auxiliary was formed with Roslyn Tilden as President, and Dianne Poole as Secretary; Jan Lloyd and Shirley Tucker were in charge of records. The funds raised by the hard-working committee were greatly appreciated by the members.

Today the Wagga Wagga Cycling Club is still going strong and has a huge calendar of events each year.

This article was initially compiled by June Dietrich for “At the Archives” [The Daily Advertiser, 12 March 2011].

References: Wagga Wagga, a History, by Sherry Morris; Sydney Morning Herald – 23 Jan 1890, Jan 22, 1926; Wagga Wagga Express – 26 Nov 1872, 13 Nov 1872; The Gormly Index – CSURA; The Daily Advertiser – 23 June 1939, 6 Jan, 1956;Wagga Wagga and District Police Citizens Boys’ Club – Minute Book, 1975-78 [RW171/13 – CSURA]; http://www.waggacyclingclub.com.

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One thought on “140 Years of Bikes

  1. Much later in history but closer to RCAE / CSU — in the later 1980s there was an effort to encourage staff to meet (on bicycles) outside the Black Swan and then cycle to the campus, followed by a shower and then breakfast at the staff club. About 1989 I think there was an organised group (including CSU staff and students) which met outside the railway station in Wagga. One aim was to push for cycle tracks in Wagga. My green T-shirt has “Think Ahead, make way for the Gobba Cyclists” on the front (with a cartoon), and “Spokespeople” on the back. The label says “100” OZ” — before China was invented. I must have been younger then! Edward.

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