Goldfields Ride Wrap

The Inaugural Percy Armstrong Goldfields Ride, which traced the first delivery of the Coolgardie Cycle Express Co in 1894 by cycling Pioneer Percy Armstrong, was undoubtedly an overwhelming success. Six riders and one catering manager enjoyed a memorable 70km riding experience spread over two days. Someone has surely put together a cycling experiences bucket list, but I’m afraid it needs updating as the Percy Armstrong Goldfields Ride has to be added to the list.   

Great Southern WAHCC members Glenn Huffer, Nick Raven and Murray Gomm were joined by Perth members Viv Cull and Robbie Harrold. Kalgoorlie vintage cycling enthusiast, and unofficial tour guide, Paul Day also completed the ride. Great Southern member Collyn Gawned, incapacitated by recent shoulder surgery, was the catering manager and against doctors’ orders, completed the final ride into Ora Banda.

Accommodation was either swag or tent and meals were around the campfire with Collyn’s lamb casserole followed by dumplings for dessert a clear favourite. Generous amounts of bacon and eggs and no shortage of porridge for breakfast ensured riders were well prepared for the day ahead. Collyn also bought along some homemade Percy Armstrong Ale, Murray shared his Coolgardie Cycle Express Co port and Viv’s whisky ensured riders all had a solid night’s sleep.  

Unsurprisingly, it was cold overnight with zero degrees the norm. We fell on our feet with the daytime weather as the conditions were perfect for riding with blue skies, little to no breeze and not a single bushfly sighted over the entire trip. Thanks to generous rain in the region prior to our ride, the roads were in great condition to ride. They were firm and compacted, no mud was traversed. Taking in the scenery did have to be combined with eyes on the road to avoid corrugations and ruts however.

An unexpected bonus throughout the ride and around the campfire was the amount of local knowledge was Paul Day provided. Paul was a pedalling encyclopaedia on the history and flora and fauna of the region. The highlight of his wisdom was undoubtedly stopping at three abandoned bush velodromes that could still be seen.

The bikes that were ridden were sympathetic to the era with Nick riding a 1920’s Ren Star with Kelly bars, Glenn on a circa 1940’s Flying Arrow (previously owned by Phil Harris), Robbie on a Triumph with nickel plated handlebars so definitely some age there, Viv on an old safety inspectors bike, Murray on a 1936 Malvern Star and Paul on a bike modelled on an old Goldfields bike in a photo. He started with a BSA chain ring and then built the rest. 

There were a number of keen fossickers that spent many a daylight hour looking for treasures along the way. Robbie set the standard five minutes into the ride by spotting an 1896 English threepence at the abandoned Coolgardie bush velodrome. After day one a number of old bicycle components were found and the challenge was laid down to find enough parts of old Goldfields bikes to make a complete bike to ride the Percy Armstrong Goldfield Ride in the future. Robbie was up to the challenge and got up at dawn the next day and scoured the Ora Banda tip with a fine tooth comb and came back with an armful of parts. Clearly we will need to complete the Ride again and fossick some more, but the challenge is looking definitely doable!  



There were only a couple of minor breakdowns, Nick had a chain guard rattle loose and Murray lost both soles of his boots. Fortunately there was plenty of rusty fencing wire on hand to twitch up the latter.

Robbie Harrold took a number of photos and plans to show a video of the Ride at the next Perth meeting which will be an event not to be missed.

Event Coordinator Glenn Huffer and Catering Manager Collyn Gawned, who also drove the sag wagon, deserve special mention for all the hard work they put in that resulted in a Ride of great substance that was enjoyed by all.





Vale Peter Wells

Club member Peter Wells died at Fiona Stanley Hospital on Monday September 13th. He was 88.

Peter was a founding member of the club. He had been club president for many years, a role he only recently reired from. 

Those who knew him will remember him not only for his his passion for WA made bikes, but for his passion for the club. His contribution to the club was immense; aside from his years on committee he was responsible for the newsletter and organised many of our rides and displays. His mechanical knowledge and generosity with expertise to club members was second to none.

Funeral details;

20 Sep 2016 10:00AM Sacred Heart Catholic ChurchDiscovery Drive Thornlie

20 Sep 2016 1:15PM Fremantle Cemetery

It is my sincere hope that as many club members as possible attend to pay tribute to a man who gave so much to his fellow members. 

On a personal note it was Peter who introduced me to the club just 5 years ago, an introduction that I’ll always be grateful for.

Robert Frith, club president

Peter visiting ex member Patrick Leverett in Melbourne in 2010. Photo courtesy Patrick Leverett.

Arthur Grady Day Display 2016

Club members just enjoyed the best Arthur Grady Day we've done yet! Seven members rocked up with over twenty bikes between them. Alan Hind's trio of Flying Scots attracted a lot of interest, as did Robert Hunt's Raleigh town bike. The Bell's penny farthing, kindly brought along by Andrew Blackmore, fascinates the great unwashed no end.
Heavy overnight showers cleared and presented us with a beautiful cool, sunny day.

A Busy Evening

It was awesome to see so many members at the Perth May Meeting. Not just members but bikes! ... count them;

1. Merv Thompson raised eyebrows aplenty with a recent acquisition - a penny farthing racing model with it's original seat, though not original paint. Manufacturer unknown, however a patent plaque on the wheel suggests it was made post 1888.
2. Peter Wells showed off a beautiful pre WW1 BSA racer he's been working on for a few years. He'd originally spotted it "holding up a clothesline" in a backyard full of bikes and it took him some years to persuade the owner to part with it. Everything on the bike, bottles and bottle cages included is original (though replated or repainted) with the exception of the saddle and toolbag. 
3. Peter also had a Swansea child's bike he's recently restored in brilliant red and white.
4. Another child's bike, this one from Phil Harris. Spotted in an op-shop, Phil found it impossible to resist the charm of this micro bike with Giro d'Italia livery. It also sports the original shop price tag - €180!
5. Visitor Tom Favazzo brought in a Swansea 2 Swan that's been in the family it's whole life; his grandfather bought it in 1939(?) and rode it regularly to Fremantle Port where he worked as a crane driver. Tom generally rides a modern bike however having rescued the Swansea from being thrown out he's been riding it regularly. It was his transport to the meeting.
6. Rob Frith had his 1955 Rotrax onboard ready for a ride in the wheatbelt the next day. A mid-range offerening from Southampton's finest replete with Cyclo Benelux derailleurs and Cyclo Oppy pedals.
7. Rick Verschuren brought along a 2 Swan frame (no frame number visible) which he is donating to the auction next month.
8. Not a bike! - Adrian Emilsen brought along his immense collection of freewheel removal tools as well as an intriguing freewheel vise.

A Letter From Oppy

Thomas Massam, was an active amateur racer in WA in the 50’s. In 1952 he received the below letter from Hubert Opperman in response to a request for training ad- vice. Thomas recently made a generous donation of the letter to the club along with his state jersey, his amateur certi ca- tion and some photographs.

25th February 1952

Dear Mr. Massam,

Acknowledgement is made of your letter of the 6th January, and I must apologise for not replying at an earlier date. However I have been away Interstate and at Canberra, and this is the rst opportunity I have had to reply.

Actually I cannot hope to go into any great detail, but if I can nd some training hints which I wrote some years back I will have them forwarded to you.

(1) Diet is a subject of its own, if you decide to special- ize. I followed one known as the “Dr. Hay” diet, but that only came after years of experience. Meantime keep to grills, avoid fried foods and pastries, eat plenty of fruit and do not eat heavily within 11⁄2 hours of a race.

(2) In a race, eat small quantities and often. Do not drink unless thirsty, and then only a mouthful at a time.

(3) I couldn’t possibly tell you how to massage - books by specialists are written on this subject, and masseurs take special courses at the Universities. However the object of massage is to tone up tired muscles and cre- ate a feeling that you are better for this. If your muscles are sore afterwards as a result of the massage or you do not feel any better for it, then you should change your masseur. After road training, you need at least an half hour “rub down” at least three times a week.

(4) Australians use 61⁄2” cranks only because they hap- pen to always be B.S.A. standard length. Continental cranks used by the worlds’ greatest are invarabiy the equivelant of 63⁄4”or 7”. I would say that with your size, you would be justi ed in using 63⁄4” at least or 7” but 63⁄4” would be the safest. Only do not mess around once you have decided.

(5) Do not worry about the size of your chainwheels. The actual gear is the most important. If you have 8 gears, you should have from 68 up to 96” with the vari- ations from one to the other as regular as possible.

(6) Position - This is rather dif cult to check, as differing lengths of leg, arm etc. make a differences I think that
I have dealt with this in the notes I spoke of. However you should be riding about 21⁄2” to 31 behind the brack- et, with the centre of your handlebar stem being level
with the tips of your ngers, when your elbow is against the nose of your saddle. To check your length of leg re- quired when the foot is in its correct place on the pedal, see if you can ride just comfortably with your instep.

(7) Gymmnasium period - Same as for boxing, except that prolonged skipping should be avoided as it tends to jar the muscles. Ground work, leg stretching, toe touching etc., is good, in fact, all exercises which are correctional against the tightening up by the pedalling are good.

Be careful not to overdo them though when you are tired from long training, and it is a good idea to cut back gymn work you when are this has started, and to step up the time in the gym when you are doing less cycle training.

(8) Mileage is not easy to specify but to be really t, you should be riding 300 - 350 miles a week - 6 weeks before the events. If you are feeling stale and not recu- perating between training rides, ease down your speed and cut back on distances. This depends also on the time you have available, and it is useless to try and pile up miles when your working hours make you tired.

Above all, whenever you line up, you must be fresh, and to have great mileage in your legs, and be (not) tired from lack of form, time to spell up, simply means that you can never show your true form.

I trust that these few remarks will be of some assistance.

Congratulations on your success to date, and best wishes for your future.

Yours sincerely

Hubert Opperman

Bike Week Exhibition

The WAHCC has been awarded Department of Transport funding to assist us in mounting a month long exhibition of bicycles in the city.

The club is partnering with the fabulous Museum of Perth, the UWA Bike Club (who'll be running a series of lunchtime seminars) and Giro d'Perth.

Bike Week runs from March 12th to 20th 2016. The exhibition will run for a month though; from February 29th to March 27th, details here.

Swansea 50 Mile Race 1931 Season

This panoramic photo below was taken outside the then South Fremantle Post Office on Hampton St (the building is still there and still in use). The angle of the sun puts the time around mid afternoon, so perhaps these are the finishers gathered for a group photo. 

The race was held on Saturday Spetember 6th 1931, the same day as the Northam to Perth and a week before the Beverley to Perth. It was won by L. McGuckin who, according to the article in The West Australian the following Monday, "has not ridden for some years" 

The West Australian, Monday 7 September 1931
Promoted by the Swansea Cycle Agency, under the auspices of the Fremantle Club, the Swansea 50-mile senior and 10-mile junior races held  on Saturday, attracted good fields. The first prize for the senior event was £15, and a cup valued £6/6/. There were 53 starters, and the limit mark 15 minutes, with D. Dwyer,  H. Marshall, and F. Taylor on scratch. After travelling 25 miles, L. McGuckin and C. H. Knight, two of the limit men, were still leading. 
D. Egan and R. Hudson, off 1.45, had overtaken other strong backmarkers. and had gained time from the scratch men. McGuckin who has not ridden for some years, left Knight about seven miles from the finish, and won comfortably.
A big bunch sprinted for second place,  J. Christensen winning from A. K. Hamilton and C. Ryan.
Result: L. McGuckin (15min.), 2.22.4. 3; J. Christensen (8.30), 2.17.10, 2; A. H. Hamilton (7min.), 2.15.40 1-5. 3; C. Ryan (7.30),   2.16.10 2-5. 4. Actual fastest time, D. Egan (1.45), 2.10.52. ;
The junior l6-mile race was contested by 20 riders, A. H. Evans and E. Willy on scratch facing a limit of 3min. 30sec . 
Result: J. Ueckard (2.45). 41.47. 1: S. White (2.4ff). 41.47 2-5. 2; N. Murray (2.45). 41.47 3-5, 3. Actual fastest time, O. Michelsen min.), 41.S.

The image is incredibly detailed, the headbadges of several bikes are readable and the faces of the riders are very clear. Do you recognise anyone? Let us know in the comments. 

click for a full screen panorama.

A list of starters publish in The Daily News a few days prior to the race;
Following are the handicaps for the
Swansea 50 mile: H. Marshall, D. Dwyer,F. Taylor, scr.; H. Stock, D. Egan, R.Hudson, 1.45; T. Dunstan, W. Humphries,T. Wooller, 3.0; H. Willey,  B. F. O'Mahoney, A. Hiron, L. Farrelly, 4.0; A. Patman,.G. Power, J. Tuke, H. Dacey,4.30; C. F. Christenson, W. Hall  S. Jones, 5 0; A. Winton, S. Taylor,W. Pender, B. A. Edwards, F. Elliott, 6.0; D. Roberts, H. J. Christenson,    A. R. Hamilton, V. Patman, 7.0; W. Read, D. Wright,F. Worster, J. Noonan, J. Murray,  E. Michelson, C. Ryan, R. Gove,  7.30; W. Huchchinson, H. Lewington,J. Christenson, J. Whologan,  M. T. Arthur, S. Mannelein, 8.30; J. Fowler,E. Willis, O. O'Malley, 10.30; W. Hayes,A. Ellement, O. Prowse, S. France,  W. C. King, 11.0; A. J. Stewart, J. Williams,13.0; C. Howard, W. Beissell,    C. H. Knight, L. M'Guckin, 15.0.
For the  Swansea junior road  race of16 miles handicaps are: — A. H. Evans,E. Willey, scr.; D. Michelson, F. Morris,H. Adams, A. West, 1.0; R. Merrick,  J. Hamilton, J. O'Connell, 1.45; R. Watson,E. Gable, V. Hennerman, 2.30;    N. Murray, E. J. Broomhall, S. White, E.Heaney, T. Clarke, 2.45; J. Johnston,  A. Bretag, 3.30. A. E. White to be handicapped.

Frame Repairs

I recently had to find someone capable of doing some pretty serious repairs to a hundred year old racing frame. It seems that only two people are in business in Perth doing that sort of thing.

I contacted Quantum Bicycles in North Perth and they agreed to at least look at what was needed. I was taken there by one of my lovely daughters.

At first I only saw the tiny entrance to the workshop and wondered if the firm could do the job. Then I was taken to another couple of rooms that were full of shelves and racks of bike parts and tools. Everything was spotless, it was a pleasure to see such a great setup.

I’m happy to recommend Quantum’s services to anyone who has frame or paint problems. Aldo will be pleased to show you some of his work; his paint finish is top class.

Quantum Cycles, 64 Farmer St, North Perth, WA 6006. Phone 08 94433407. Email

Peter Wells


Personal History: Percy Armstrong

Personal History;
Percival William Armstrong

Born in Stratford, Victoria on 13 September, 1866, the Son of Louis Armstrong and Martha Matilda (nee King). 

Armstrong and was enrolled at Scotch College, Melbourne from his home in Levuka, Fiji on 9th October 1882. In the 19th Century the usual enrolment was for 12 months and Percy was enrolled until 1884 and is mentioned at the Speech Night in December 1884, as gaining awards for instrumental music and rowing. 

The Age newspaper has two articles in October 1884 about his prowess as a rower. October 13, p6 and October 17, p7 which lists the achievements of the Scotch College Head of the River crew.

In the early 1890’s, Percy went to the Croydon goldfields in Queensland. Croydon is 156km from Normantown on the south side of the Norman River. Normantown is located on the south east corner of the Gulf Carpenteria and 718km west of Cairns. Percy came into cycling folklore with an epic ride with R Craig in 1893, when they rode their bicycles from Croydon to Sydney, a total of 3,200km. 

A couple of newspaper articles are worth recording: 

The Northern Miner (Charters Towers) July 8, 1893, p2. — The Croydon Mining News says, that P Armstrong and R Craig are leaving Croydon for Melbourne overland on bicycles. The North Queensland Register (Townsville) carried the same story on July 12, 1893, p10. 

Brisbane Courier, July 20, 1893/135 — Georgetown July 19. “Two cyclists names P Armstrong and R Craig, who en route from Croydon to Melbourne, passed through today, leaving a dinner for Townsville , which place they expect to reach in seven days. They anticipate to be in Sydney in seven weeks.” 

The following newspapers carried the same story. The Melbourne Argus on same date, p6; The Queenslander, July 22, 1893, p153. 

The Queenslander, July 29, 1893, p206 added more to the story of a week earlier — “The trip is a very hazardous one, and should be it be accomplished, of which I have no fear, it will prove to what a cyclist with a good machine can do in the way of travelling. Both wheelmen, I presume, to come through Gympie and Brisbane, can rely on getting a right royal welcome from the Brisbane boys.” 

The Capricornian (Rockhampton) August 26, 1893, p31 added to the Georgetown information — “They have undertaken a trip from Croydon to Melbourne via Townsville, Ravenswood, Blackall, Roma, Goodiwindi, and Tamworth.” This is at variance to the presumption in item 4. 

The best article is in “The Queenslander” September 23, 1893 p3. The notes are in a diary kept by R Craig, a member of the Redfern CC in Sydney. On arrival in Sydney, The Dunlop Rubber Co management were so impressed that they offered Percy the use of their new tyres in lieu of the heavy cushioned safety tyres used in the trek from Croydon to Sydney. Percy accepted the offer and the Sydney-Melbourne record was his first solo record attempt. He was able to break the record on September 30, 1893 by 26 hours. Completing the 930km in the remarkable time 4 days, 3 hours and 45 minutes. An article appeared in the Brisbane Courier Jan 8, 1894 p6, which stated that Percy had visited Brisbane on the 17 November 1893 on his way home in Croydon. 

The Queenslander Feb 17, 1894 p302, reported that Percy had arrived by steamer to Brisbane following his return visit to Croydon. The article commented that Percy was on his way Western Australia. 

In 1894 he had established a cycle depot in Coolgardie. A business man asked Percy how an urgent letter could be delivered to Kurnalpi, as all the camels and buggies were out of town. Percy offered to ride his bicycle and return the next day, this being a round trip of 164 miles. The business man thought Percy was joking, but when Percy said, “no delivery, no pay,” the businessman accepted the offer and duly paid the agreed fee, the next day. Within an hour of Percy returning to Coolgardie, another offer to deliver a letter 45 miles from town, thus Percy gained two fees in two days. And a new service was born and soon Percy had several agencies operating in the Goldfields and later, in Perth and Fremantle. His cycling friends found gainful employment as express couriers or managers of the cycle shops. 

1897 was good year for Percy. On the 16th of June, Percy married Grace Ethel Throssell at Northam with 250 invited to help celebrate the occasion. Grace being the 6th daughter of George Throssell and Mrs. Throssell. George was the local member of Parliament, and Commissioner for Lands and a former Premier. The Perth newspaper, the West Australian, gave a very comprehensive summary of the festivities. The last paragraph is worth quoting: “The bride will be greatly missed in Northam, where she was born and has spent the whole of her life. In all objects connected with the church, temperance, or social organisations she was ever to the front, and her cheerfulness and willingness to help, particularly with anything connected to music, will make her departure felt far and wide.” Several times the local press reported on her attributes on the piano. Strange, but true, the bridegroom was a talented pianist. While they may not have ridden a tandem together, one can imagine that they could harmonise at the family piano in Perth. 

On the 25th September 1897, he promoted the first Beverley to Perth Cycle Race of 116 miles and Menzies Bike shop Manager, John Beck, gained first and fastest from a very liberal handicap of 45 minutes. While the race was promoted as the Rover Road Race, as Percy had the Rover Cycle Agency in Perth, the LWAW agreed to recognise the event as the inaugural Beverley to Perth. 

At Coolgardie, on December 26, he promoted the first Westral Wheel Race, though under the name Coolgardie Austral over 2 miles, the winner being Jack Boydall, Kalgoorlie on 110 yards. That event is still being held today, though it did lay dormant on occasions. The completion of the transcontinental railway link, Perth to Coolgardie, a sporting promotion was held in Coolgardie with Percy winning the 10 mile Championship.

This is brief summary. Percy was as passionate about motor cars and motor cycles and with his cycle agencies, he organised businesses in the other two. Transcontinental records in both car and motor bike were achieved by Percy. He crossed the Nullabor 18 times and his last was in 1940, when he was 75. He had a motor cycle accident and the doctors had to amputate one of his legs, but he was soon back in the saddle, such was the determination of the man.

He was founding member of the Royal Auto Club and served on their governing Council. He retained his interest in cycling as did at least one term as LWAW President. He died at his home in West Perth on August 8, 1942 and was cremated at the Karrakatta Cemetery. 

George Nelson

RAC Tweed Ride Report

The RAC Tweed Ride held in Albany on May 9th 2015 was a great success. The Tweed Ride was just one of the many activities as part of the second Vintage Vancouver Street Festival. A wood fired pizza night was held with Perth and Albany members the evening before the Festival and Ride and was enjoyed by all.  

The Festival was held on historic Vancouver Street and there were 4 500 through the gate on the day. Sixty people rode in the Tweed ride which was a big increase from last years inaugural Tweed Ride which had 25 participants. A big thank you to Mal and Myrene Bell and family who travelled down with their ancient cycles members will be familiar with. The Tweed Ride was a major drawcard of the Festival thanks to a team effort from Perth and Great Southern members. It may have been the first time ever that eight penny farthings were on Vancouver St.   

Thanks to the generosity from local bikes shops, Passmore Cycles, Bob's Bikes and Impulse, cycles, prizes were awarded for the most Fetching Lady, the most Dapper Chap and Most Breathtaking Hair. WAHCC members/partners scoped the pool here with Carissa Clark winning the first and third categories and Collyn Gawned the second. 

Approximately 20 bikes were displayed featuring the history of the bike and local newspaper ads  featuring the agencies that sold bicycles. The bike racks and display panels that were funded by the Lotterywest grant resulted in a very professional looking display. A big thanks also to David Clark who supplied a fully restored 5 star Swansea for the display.  

Hats off to WAHCC member Glenn Huffer who liaised with the City of Albany to organise the event.

The first rider sets off. Photo courtesy © Anita Hotker

The first rider sets off. Photo courtesy © Anita Hotker

The Bell family are front page news.

The Bell family are front page news.