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.