History of the Geelong Touring Cyclists

by Greg Allerton

The late 1970's saw Geelong chosen to pilot Australia's first bicycle plan. It was an exciting time for local cycling as several million dollars was spent over three years. The four aspects of the plan were: - Education, Engineering, Enforcement and Encouragement. It was through the last of these aims that a recreational cycling club was established.

The Geelong Bicycle Riders' Association was formed on the 15th August 1979 with Frank Kinnersley as the founding President. Twenty five riders attended a 17km family ride to Marcus Hill on the Bellarine Peninsula as the club's first event. The following weekend saw a combined camping tour at Steiglitz with the YHA Cycling Club. We soon attracted over 40 members and for several years were assisted financially with a grant from Geelong Bike Plan who also paid us for participating in a film for recreational cycling. This was helpful as club fees were only $5 per family and $2 per individual. After several meetings held at the State Government Offices and at the Gordon Technical College, the venue for meetings changed to the Church of Christ Hall in Roslyn Road Belmont.

In September 1981 it was felt that the original name was a bit of a mouthful and was changed to Geelong Touring Cyclists. Rides were varied with 1982 seeing the first shortest-day ride organised by Robert Kaub around Winchelsea and Moriac. By then Jim Harrison's weekends at Lorne were also proving popular. A ferry trip to Portsea was also successful, though in those days it was on the small passenger ferry with bikes occasionally being splashed by waves.

Meetings often had guest speakers such as St.John's Ambulance, Jack Griffin and Rod Evans on thier separate record breaking around Australia rides, and slide shows from intrepid club members. There were also speakers from different recreational clubs such as bush walkers, field naturalists, and Sub Aqua. Other varied meeting highlights included carpet bowls, folk dancing, cards, bike riding skills, games and bike maintenance. There have been other club social nights which often involved food. A meal at the Sutton Restaurant in Mercer Street saw a belly dancer leap up onto the table. Something different happened in February 1983 when Peter Donnan organised a bike ride to Ballarat Road Drive-in to see Night Shift starring Henry Winkler. Despite phoning beforehand, it took some persuading to be admitted and our presence attracted many comments.

Over the years the rides have become more ambitious. In October 1985 Greg Allerton, Nick Farrington, Alastair Macintosh and Gary Reudenbach rode 362kms in the inaugral Audax 24 Hour Opperman Relay which finished in Melbourne. The Club has since participated in and organized many local Audax Rides. For several years we had a good brigade of strong, young riders. Steven Cartin was the youngest Victorian to complete a 200km ride. Dale Colquhoun completed a Super Randonneur series at a young age. Peter Donnan has ridden dozens of Audax events both here and in the UK and has twice completed the gruelling 1200km Paris-Brest-Paris event.

Organizing fundraising rides for charity has become an institution with the club. The Geelong-Otway Challenge is our biggest event raising money for the Cardiac Unit at the Geelong Hospital. It is a testament to the dedication of Arthur Cartin ably assisted by Ted Hodgson and many club members on the day. Meetings have now moved to the SCOPE Centre at Shannon Park in Newtown whom we support through fundraising for the Murray to Moyne 520km Cycle Relay.

There have been many memorable weekend trips enjoyed by the club over the years. January 1982 saw a train journey to Warrnambool then a ride to Mt.Eccles National Park where we camped for 2 days. This trip was repeated the following year. 1985-1987 Australia Day weekends say a gathering of several cycle touring clubs at Daylesford. Members rode their loaded bikes from Geelong to camp at Lake Jubilee. There were several tours to the Otways as well as Baccush marsh, Winchelsea and Port Campbell. Easter often saw Peter Donnan, Nick Farrington, Greg Allerton and others unsupported on tours around Bendigo, Bogong High Plains, Warragul, Woods Point and Wyperfield National Park. Glendaruel and Neerim South have been more recent favourite weekend spots for many club members.

The Club has attracted a growing number of mature aged members. Riders now have a wealth of experience in all forms of cycling. Several members have taken up racing, with Peter Pape having completed several Herald Sun Tours. Others have done some amazing solo tours such as Alastair Mackintosh riding unsupported from Port Augusta to Kakadu in 1990. The proliferation of organized tours has seen members pedalling all over Australia as well as overseas - UK, Europe, Vietnam, China, Bali, New Zealand, Canada, USA and so on.

Many members have gained experience on club rides and progressed to enjoy the annual Great Victorian Bike Ride. Others prefer the smaller numbers found on NSW Big Rides or Bicycle SA events.

Local club rides include short, easy-paced events such as the progressive lunch ride, twilight bike path tours over summer and rides along our local Geelong bike trails. Medium rides often see members pedalling to Barwon Heads or Torquay, usually with cafe stops. Hard rides cover at least 100km at a faster pace and sometimes include a night ride to Lorne and back. The ride calendar always alternates these rides and offers plenty of variety for cyclists of all abilities.