DHBC committee, 3rd of April 1908DHBC committee, 3rd of April 1908

Marc Rerceretnam

1908 - Formation of the DHBC

The Dulwich Hill Bicycle Club is one of the oldest continuously operating bicycle clubs in Australia. Existing club minute books begin from 1914.

The DHBC was formed in 1908 after some members from the then Marrickville Bicycle Club (now defunct) broke away. Its inaugural meeting was held on the 8th April 1908 at the Dulwich Hill Masonic Hall with a subscription of five shillings from each of the approximately 20 foundation members (Heathcote, p5). After the meeting the group held their first ride, a very social all day ride to Gymea Bay (Sunday Times, 22.3.1908, p10).


The competitive spirit – racing

1910 DHBC race team1910 DHBC race team

The new club was not content to identify itself as solely social club with wheels. As the newly formed DHBC they challenged and convincingly beat the ‘Campsie Club’ in a football match by a convincing 20 points and on the 13th of June 1908 and then organised it’s first road race starting from Ashfield at the corner of Parramatta and Liverpool Roads and running for 5 miles (8 km) (SMH, 25.5.1908, p10).

1950s Junior Premiership Team1950s Junior Premiership Team

DHBC road races commonly ran to the Homebush, Enfield, Bunnerong, Earlwood and Chullora areas. Most races were short by today’s standards being usually 5 miles (8 km) to a maximum of 40 miles (64 km) in length. These early racers were limited to a single gear with freewheels disallowed from sanctioned events (Heathcote, p6).

DHBC Road TeamDHBC National Road Series TeamThis racing tradition continued through the decades with the formation of various race teams and participation in major race events like the Goulburn-Sydney race.

In 2012, the DHBC Racing National Road Series Team was formed to compete at the top level of cycle racing in Australia.

DHBC Track racing

DHBC at Henson Park, 1936DHBC at Henson Park, 1936Early track racing was held on a variety of surfaces, usually dirt, ash or timber boards. Access to various tracks at Ashfield’s Pratten Park (ash) and Canterbury’s Canterbury Velodrome (board) were used through the 1920s and early 1930s, but the club had no permanent track. In 1933 Marrickville Council opened a banked, 470 metre bicycle race track at Henson Park which was used for the 1938 Empire Games (Heathcote, p25).

Camperdown VelodromeCamperdown VelodromeBy the late 1960s, as a result of pressure from the Newtown Rugby League Football Club, Marrickville Council planned to remove the track from Henson Park. Key club members negotiated a lease on O’Dea Reserve, Camperdown in 1969. Constructed largely by club members, a 250 metre Olympic standard velodrome was completed in 1971. (Heathcote, p30) Camperdown Velodrome was used until about 1992 and was demolished in 2000 due to concerns over toxic landfill on the site.

With the demise of the Camperdown Velodrome, the DHBC attained use of the new Canterbury Velodrome built several years earlier in 1982 located in Tempe. The DHBC still happily reside there.

Women and the DHBC

Margaret McLachlanMargaret McLachlan in 1967Cycling has traditionally been a contentious activity for women. Male opposition to new freedoms provided by the bicycle ran contrary to the traditional roles imposed on women - staying put within house and home. This developed an environment that discouraged women from taking up cycling seriously. Many early female club members played a pivotal role in its social events, particularly organising picnics, balls and cabarets. Some took official roles as time keepers, administrators or providing support.

However the DHBC has a long history of including and encouraging women within their ranks. In 1947, club member Fred Kaltenbach, encouraged the DHBC to support Madelaine Bollard and Sonia Witchard (later Sonia Heathcote) to become affiliated members of the NSW Amateur Cycling Union. Possibly the first women admitted as full members, but they were still disallowed from racing! (Heathcote, p14-15)

TTT Masters GirlsTTT Masters GirlsTwenty years later, DHBC member Margaret McLachlan showed herself to be a highly competitive racer often beating her male counterparts. She was banned by the NSWACU in 1966, much to the disgust of the DHBC. Margaret joined the DHBC as a 15 year old and by the time she was in her late teens was beating boys in races. Unfortunately for Margaret the NSW Amateur Cycling Union decided to cancel her racing license. Margaret and the DHBC were furious, protesting this outrage but to no avail.

Undeterred by the sexist bans, Margaret set her sights on breaking ultra marathon records. In 1967 she set a new women’s record for the Sydney-Melbourne route breaking it by 4 hours, in 36 hours and 33 minutes. This record stood for 3 decades. In 1968 she rode from Sydney to Newcastle in a record time of 6 hours 14.5 minutes. Margaret retired soon after having 2 children and running a bicycle shop with her husband John, first at Stanmore and then in Newcastle.

Today the DHBC is encouraging more women into cycling and into the club. In recent years the female membership has grown both in numbers and as a proportion of the total membership.

DHBC - A very social club

1956 Marrickville Jubilee Parade1956 Marrickville Jubilee Parade. Bill Connolly of Alcon Cycles (left), Claude Heathcote (right), Olaf (driving the Alcon cart) and Young Annakin (the Great Dane)Races and competitions were not the only issues that dwelled in the minds of many an early DHBC member. Long distanced social or touring rides were organised from the early days of the club. In fact the first social ride was held on the same day of the club’s formation (8th April 1908) when the new committee and members jaunted off to Gymea Bay. In the years that followed, touring rides to places like Windsor, Dolls Point, East Hills, Wallacia, Botany, and San Souci were held on a regular basis (Heathcote, p6).

To this day the club maintains its ongoing tradition of very social, touring and ‘adventure’ rides, mostly based on camaraderie, a strong sense of adventure and tinged with a little competitive spirit.

Appreciating our bicycle history - The DHBC Valley Wheelers

The Valley Wheelers was formed in the late 2000s by a group of members with a penchant for history, vintage bicycles and paraphernalia and a good beer. The group grew steadily and by 2012 formed a formidable section of ‘Saturday Slowies’ group. They also began organising touring rides to places like Wiseman’s Ferry, Picton and Bowral on a regular basis. They also do a yearly pilgrimage to Evansdale, Tasmania to compete in Penny Farthing races.

Group members began accumulating personal bounties of vintage and historically significant bicycles, from rare Italian racing steads to restoring forgotten Sydney made bicycles by old bicycle build masters like Bill Connelly of Alcon Cycles (Marrickville), Jim Bundy (Granville and Riverwood), Bol’ Dor (Campsie), Speedwell (Sydney), DMI (Ryde), Clem Eagles (Enfield), Blackbird (Ashfield) and Clamont (Sydney).

By 2013, the Valley Wheelers initiated and organised the very successful ‘Sydney Classic Bicycle Show’. Held at Canterbury Velodrome at Tempe on the 23rd of March 2013, making it NSW’s first major vintage bicycle event.

DHBC highlights

DHBC 6-seater tandemThe notorious DHBC 6-seater tandem

1967- The DHBC 6-seater tandem ‘going all the way’ with LBJ

DHBC 6-seater tandemThe DHBC 6 'and a half' seater tandem

This bicycle was used in the Waratah parade to welcome US president Lyndon B. Johnson during his visit to Sydney in 1966. During the parade, the growing opposition to the Vietnam War and Australia’s part in it became apparent when anti-war protesters made their views known. Mike Mazza, one of the 6 riders on the tandem claims the police told them to ride over the protesters lying on the road. The 6-person team declined the offer. A few minutes later, the front fork of the tandem snapped ending their contribution in the LBJ cavalcade. The US abandoned their ambitions in South Vietnam soon after. Read more about the 6-seater tandem here.

1952 - Lionel Cox and Olympic gold

Lionel Cox gold 1Russell Mockridge and Lionel Cox after winning Olympic goldLionel Cox, a long time member of the DHBC won Olympic Gold and Silver medals in the 1952 Helsinki games. Originally a member of the Marrickville club, he went on to become a life member of DHBC. The photo shows Lionel with Russell Mockridge after their gold medal win in the tandem track event at the 1952 Olympics. Lionel died in 2011.