For many years, I have been a keen bike rider, so I thought I'd jot down my memories of some of the more notable rides I have undertaken. Oh, and I'm talking about bicycles, i.e. road bikes, not motorbikes.
My first 'ride of note' was probably in the spring of 1962 (the year after I finished High School) but I can't really be sure. It wasn’t a long ride by any stretch of the imagination but it became a memorable one.
My riding companion for this ride was Garry F., who lived not far from me in the Housing Commission area of Fern Hill, which is part of Fairy Meadow, a northern suburb of Wollongong, N.S.W. How Garry and I became close enough to want to go on bike rides together, I don’t recall. It wasn’t as if we knew each other well at Primary School. Well, I guess that doesn’t really matter.
The bike I had was one that I had ‘inherited’ from my older brother, Kevin. Little did I know at the time that Kevin had ‘inherited’ it from our eldest brother, John, who had graduated to a motor-bike or, perhaps, a car by this time. Anyway, it was a Malvern Star 5-star, which meant that it was a very light bike, suitable for racing. Indeed, it was the bike I used for a short period, when I took up bike racing as a sport in October, 1963. I can’t remember what brand of bike Garry was riding but it was just an ordinary bike with 3-speed gears in the rear hub. Not exactly suitable for the ride we had in mind!
Our planned route was to ride up New Mount Pleasant Road to Mount Ousley Road, the main highway between Wollongong and Sydney, then across the link road to Mt. Keira Road, down that wonderfully twisting and turning road to Wollongong and back home to Fern Hill. We may have ridden out along Picton Road to the western end of Mt. Keira Road; my memory isn’t good enough to remember with certainty. Either way, it was still a relatively short ride; it’s just that there was a bit of climbing and descending involved.
All went well until we got to the ‘business’ part, i.e. twisty section, of Mt. Keira Road, when, having realised that I was far more experienced than Garry, I said to him: “….just ride at a speed with which you feel comfortable. Don’t try and keep up with me, because the road surface is quite bumpy.” (Which it was, back then.) After saying this, I headed down the twisty road at my accustomed fast speed, leaving my riding mate to follow at his own speed.
I reached a point near the bottom of the descent, where the road begins to flatten a little, and pulled over to wait for Garry. Well, there was no sign of him, so I was starting to worry. Then an ambulance whizzed up the road and I began to worry more about Garry. Next thing, I saw a man wheeling what looked like Garry’s bike into his yard, about 200 yards up the road from where I was waiting, so I rode back up to speak to him and, as I did, the ambulance headed down the hill, no doubt heading to Wollongong Hospital.
Well, the man confirmed my fears, which were that Garry had fallen off his bike and been taken to hospital. So, naturally, I headed out to Fern Hill to let his family know what had happened and to have a shower and change to ‘street’ clothes, hop on a bus and go and visit him at the hospital. By the time I got there, he was in bed in a ward but he seemed okay. I asked whether he had gone too fast but he said “no, I just passed out”, which was quite a surprise, I must say. I suspect that the bumpy road surface may have been a factor, too.
I moved away from Fern Hill in mid-1966, so I lost contact with Garry but, some years later, he turned up at Davis and Penney, Bowral, where I worked for a few years in the mid-70s. He was a representative for one of the companies that supplied goods to D&P and we had a bit of a laugh about that ride, the one and only bike ride we had together.