A piece of West Australian cycling history resurfaced recently when I invited Mal Barker - a multiple State-Champion in his time – for a coffee and a chat about another unrelated project he is currently working on.
Mal - well into his 80’s now - had mentioned in earlier phone conversations that he owned a bike that had been lying in bits under his son’s house in Gidgegannup for the past 20 years.
“It’s not in very good condition, but all the bits are there including the Brooks saddle and the wooden wheels. A young bloke called Golder, he was about 18 or 19 years old, he won the Northam-to-Perth race on it in 1925. It came with copies of some news articles reporting the race and it’s got some pictures of him crossing the finishing line. If you’re interested, I could bring them down when we meet. I’m never going to get around to fixing it up and my son’s not interested”.
A little bit of research on Trove, an initiative by the National Library of Australia to digitise old newspapers, revealed a number of articles including pictures of the race that confirmed that an 18 year old A.E. Golder had indeed won the Northam to Perth race in September 1925.
The Northam to Perth was a very prestigious blue-ribbon event second only to the Beverley to Perth.
Collectively, the newspaper articles and photos provide a wonderful window back to simpler times between the two world wars.
As fate would have it, the bike would end up very much forgotten under the Golder house for nearly 75 years. In 1998, Golder’s elderly son-in-law decided it was time to do something with the bike and he gave it to Mal.
To my surprise and delight, though the bike was in poor cosmetic condition, there on the head tube was the original brass badge – The West, Built by West Cycle Ltd of Hay St. The bike’s original components, some of the best available at the time and generally in very good condition included Chater Lea cranks and axle, BSA pedals & headset, Brooks Sprinter saddle and Major Taylor style adjustable head stem. The wooden front wheel was complete and the only missing component of note was the rear hub. With regard to the frame, of note are the especially fine seat stays, 7/8” diameter top tube and ChaterLea bottom bracket shell. Three types of wooden rims of varying diameters came with bike – small and large tubular rims and medium sized clinchers.
The bike has been cleaned, fish oiled and coated with conservation wax. The plan is to leave the bike in very much “as found” condition and to build a rear wood rimmed wheel for display purposes and a set of steel Westwood wheels for the very occasional gentle outing.
The Trove newspaper articles are available here; https://bit.ly/2AA3hye