Those mad cyclists?


It’s 3:32am, and I can’t sleep. I have had varying degrees of hoarse-ness of voice in the last few weeks, and after a doctors visit last Friday, a blood test on Monday, and an ultra-sound yesterday, things are playing on my mind. The ultra-sound came back all-ckear – the Thyroid, Lymph nodes, and another gland starting with ‘P’ in the upper neck, and the neck muscles all being normal. Which might seem a good thing, but I don’t think ultra-sound could actually ‘see’ into the throat itself so there is now the more worrying possibility of something inside the throat or voicebox. So, I can’t sleep, so instead here I am blogging!

Recently I was reading a book called “An Australian Adventure”, by Harry Griffiths. It is an autobiography of the author’s time since the World War I, concentrating on him and his wife’s adventures in the Australian outback as part of the Methodist Inland Mission. And an interesting read it is! I was reading it during my lunch break, as has been my custom, and I came across this passage towards the end in regards to the celebration of the Jubilee Year in 1951.

“These messages were included with those from the representatives of various bodies in the town and handed to Jack Montgomery, one of the many cycle couriers carrying similar messages of loyalty to the Crown from every part of Australia. Jack received our letters in front of the Alice Springs Post Office and set off to pedal almost 2000 miles. On 1 May, Jack met up with Dick Waltham, who had left Darwin weeks before and had cycled from Darwin via the little-known and seldom-used track down the west coast of Australia to Perth, then across the treacherous Nullabor Plain. From Port Augusta, 200 miles north of Adelaide, where Jack and Dick met, they travelled together to Canberra, where all the cycle couriers converged on 8 May. United, they stood beside their bikes and presented their courier bags. It would be of interest to know the aggregate miles covered by these young fellows, when bitumen roads were more a dreem than a reality” (An Australian Adventure, Harry Griffiths, P. 187).

“These messages” mentioned at the start of the above quote included messages of loyalty and best wishes to the Crown (the monarch of the Commonwealth, of which Australia still belongs) from the the Methodist Childrens hostel, and the office of the Federal Methodist Inland Mission, both based in Alice Springs almost in the geopraphical centre of Australia and were dated 5th April 1951. The messages were presented to the Prime Minister of Australia in Canberra, the Australia capital, by the above-mentioned cycle couriers.

The miles covered must have been phenomenal! According to Google Maps, the journey to Alice Springs to Canberra via Port Augusta was 1600 miles (2560km). The commitment of the cyclists who took part in the “Jubilee Cycle Marathon”, as it was called, was impressive. More than 300,000 messages from over 5000 settlements scatterd all over Australia were despatched to Canberra, by an estimated 250,000 courier and escort cyclists, covering a stagering 1,000,000 miles according to newspaper articles perused on Trove.

It reminded me of something I saw in the National Museum in Canberra when we visted there in January 2015. Here is the text copy.

“ERNIE OLD’S MALVERN STAR

Ernie Old was a young man when he caught the cycling craze, and started competing in races in rural Victoria in about 1900. But it was in his 70’s that he became a celebrity, when he challenged himself to ride from Melbourne to every state capital, a feat he accomplished before his 76th birthday. For the next 10 years he continued to crisscross the continent, making his last marathon ride from Melbourne to Bendigo on this bike in 1960, aged 86.

Greeted as a star by cheering crowds celebrating his rides, Ernie Old proved that travelling the vast open spaces of Australia by bike was possible and enjoyable at any age. Supported in his marathon rides by Bruce Small’s Malvern Star company, Old joined an elite group who championed cycling in Australia, as a sport, a healthy lifestlye, and a sustainable form of transport” (National Museum, Canberra, January 2015)

Other information on the plaque the above is quoted from informs of the total kilometres he travelled – more than 24,500 kilometres (more than 15300 miles), travelled from 1945 through 1948. Wow! Sometimes we think the spirit of adventure and impressive acts is something that belongs back in the 19th century and before when the great navigators discovered the New World, and explored almost every corner of the globe. But the efforts of the cyclists mentioned in this post show otherwise. And cyclists in the 21st century still continue to push the envelope for distance travelled by bicycle. Attempts have been made in recent years to break an already huge distances travelled in a year record, the latest distance record holder being Kurt Searvogel, having ridden 76,076 miles (122,432 kilometres) in a year finishing in 2015.

Seems a couple of cycling related quotes would be a good way to finish this post, so here are a couple of my favourites…

  • “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” (Albert Einstein)
  • “Riding a bicycle is the summit of human endeavour – an almost neutral environmental effect coupled with the ability to travel substantial distances without disturbing anybody. The bike is the perfect marriage of technology and human energy.” (Jeremy Corbyn)
  • “Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the human race.” (H.G. Wells)
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