The title of Oldest bicycle club in NSW (maybe Australia) goes to ...........

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Postby marc2131 » 20 Nov 2017, 09:07

The title of the oldest continuously operating bicycle club is a rather contested one.

Several clubs individually lay claim to this title such as the Randwick Botany Cycle Club who were originally the Botany Cycle Club (formed 1903). There was a Randwick Coogee Bicycle Club but they only survived from around 1910 to 1916. However by the late 1950s, like many other clubs, the Botany (Amateur) Cycling Club appear to be in decline. The last mention in local newspapers is in 1957. However according to the RBCC website, club races were still held in the 1976 and in 1977 a deal was struck with Randwick Council for the use of Heffron Park. It was around this time they changed their name to Randwick Botany Cycle Club (RBCC).

There is also the Bathurst Bicycle Club, who co-existed with the Bathurst Occidental Bicycle Club from 1885. According to contemporary news reports, the Bathurst Bicycle Club appears to be active till around 1928. There appears to be a Bathurst Leagues Bicycle Club in 1929 but no mention after this date.

However the Dulwich Hill Bicycle Club appears to be the only one to have retained it's original name and is also able to emphatically prove it has operated continuously since establishment in 1908. Until proven, I suspect others may have had years or even decades where the club ceased to exist. The DHBC did merge with other clubs in the 1960s, most notably the Marrickville Bicycle Club founded in 1897 and the Petersham Bicycle Club formed around 1910, but still retained its identity.

I am currently in the process of publishing an academic research paper on Australian cycle clubs in general. This will be published this month, so I might share some related points about bicycle clubs.

Bicycle clubs in Sydney
(Following info from Marc Rerceretnam's 'Cycling Communities: Bicycle Clubs in Australia with an emphasis on Sydney, c. 1860s to 2000s', Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Dec 2017, volume 103, part 2).
The oldest bicycle club in Australia is the Melbourne Bicycle Club (since defunct) which was established in 1878. Even though Sydney had a livelier bicycle scene than Melbourne, it took us a year before we got our act together to form the Sydney Bicycle Club in 1879. Other clubs followed, like the Suburban Bicycle Club (1882) which covered the surrounding suburbs outside of the immediate city precincts especially in the Sydney’s eastern suburbs Double Bay, Woollahra, Elizabeth Bay and other corresponding areas. Other clubs were; Redfern (1882), Balmain (1883), Burwood (1883), Manly (1885), Newington College (1886), Summer Hill (1887), St. Leonards (1887), Glebe (1887), Ashfield (Burrai-beru Bicycle Club) (1890), Ashfield (1894), Petersham’s Waratah Rovers (Apr 1896) and the Marrickville Bicycle Club (Dec 1897). At the time most clubs existed in the Inner West of Sydney, and other wealthier country towns. It is interesting to note that women dominated in a handful of these bicycle clubs. For example the Petersham 'Waratah Rovers' (1896), Kensington's 'Hampden Cycling Club', the Sydney Ladies' Bicycle Club (1899) and the 'Ladies Auxilliary' within the North Sydney Bicycle Club were dominated by women. They were not so competition (testosterone :wink:) driven but concentrated on social touring rides to Picton, Bulli, the Shire, Akuna Bay, Richmond etc. The Waratah Rovers were one of the biggest clubs in NSW in the early 1900s but appeared to wane by around 1912. There was another club in that area, the Petersham Bicycle Club, which was formed around 1910 and appeared to have a more conventional male-orientated racing program until the 1960s when it merged with the DHBC.

Growth in bicycle clubs hit new highs after 1900 when the prices of bicycles dropped massively. Only after 1900 did many working class communities (and suburbs) take to the bicycle and form clubs. Prior to about 1900, it was largely a rich (1869-1896) to middle class (from early 1890s) person's pass time.

Petersham's Waratah Rovers at Bulli, 1896.
Petersham Waratah Rovers at Picton, 1896. SL NSW.jpg
Petersham Waratah Rovers at Picton, 1896. SL NSW.jpg (163.73 KiB) Viewed 1646 times

Petersham's Waratah Rovers Bicycle Club, c. 1896
Waratah Rovers Club 2 - Frank Walker glass slide collection, RAHS.jpg
Waratah Rovers Club 2 - Frank Walker glass slide collection, RAHS.jpg (424.72 KiB) Viewed 1647 times
Cycling at Centennial Park in 1900 on the newly constructed cycle path
Centennial Pk 1900.jpg
Centennial Pk 1900.jpg (186.89 KiB) Viewed 1647 times
The Sydney Bicycle Club remained the mainstay of the cycle clubs in NSW for decades. In the 1900s, it changed it name to the Sydney Bicycle and Motorcycle Club to incorporate new forms of motorised vehicles coming into vogue among the rich. It remained in operation in the Sydney CBD until 1981 when it sold much of its club contents and abandoned it's club premises. It continued to the early to mid 1990s before it folded soon after. However the name, Sydney Bicycle Club was resurrected in recent years, I suspect from around 2008. They are not the oldest club in NSW even though they share the same name as their 1879 predecessor.

The start of the cycling season in c. April every year. Approx 200 Penny Farthings down Parramatta Rd heading west to Ashfield or south to Botany
Opening of 1888 cycling season. 'The Sports of Australia-Cycling'. Illustrated Sydney News, 26Jul1888..png
Opening of 1888 cycling season. 'The Sports of Australia-Cycling'. Illustrated Sydney News, 26Jul1888..png (578.7 KiB) Viewed 1647 times
Decline and mergers in the 1950s and '60s
Since the 1950s, there was a slow but growing decrease in cycling and cycling clubs. This came about as cars and motorcycles became cheaper and therefore affordable to people living in our neighbourhoods. Local clubs began to fold up, firstly Petersham Bicycle Club and then the Marrickville Bicycle Club in 1965. Their already dwindling membership was merged with the DHBC. Other clubs in the Inner West died during this period, such as the Burwood-Enfield Bicycle Club and the Newtown Bicycle Club, just to name a few.
Last edited by marc2131 on 12 Apr 2018, 09:33, edited 4 times in total.

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Postby Stuart » 21 Nov 2017, 10:30

Fabulous stuff Marc.

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