Driver by name, rider by nature

A recent visit to the museum in Southern Cross revealed a once-loved "humble tool of the Twentieth Century" (to quote Jim Fitzpatrick’s “The Bicycle and the Bush”).  This humble tool had belonged to Fred Driver, long-time resident of nearby Moorine Rock.  Fred was a pipe runner and did a daily bicycle patrol along the Goldfield’s pipeline, checking for leaks.  The Pipeline, that most remarkable and historically poignant engineering feat in our region, provided the pulsing artery which ultimately beat Australia's longest typhoid epidemic in the Goldfields and in many other ways brought progress.  Enough progress in fact to quench an enduring thirst from mining and agriculture throughout the region.

Fred would ride alternately west to Garratt and east to Noongar, each a daily round trip of about 30 km.  His bike, remote from archivist attention, battle weary and lacking care, hangs indelicately in the Southern Cross museum shed.  

According to “The Bicycle and the Bush”, this use was typical along much of the 557km pipeline for about 60 years, from its completion in the early 1900's. Another of Fred’s humble tools was a hammer, for caulking cracked seam welds with lead shot.

The bike is unremarkable, except for its place in the history of the Goldfields.  The generous sweep of the drop bars had been turned up for comfort.  The 'Major Taylor' headstem is more often associated with racing cycles than utility bikes.  Fixed or freewheel I wondered?  Possibly fixed as the Philco rear calliper brake appeared to be an after-thought.  It was poorly aligned on the rim and what was left of the brake lever had been mounted clumsily on the top tube. 

It seems Fred was handy with a strand of wire; tidy wire reinforcements adorned the pedals and a fine figure of 8 loop secured the break link on the chain. 

Fred Gordon Driver would have been around 18 when the pipeline was completed in the early 1900’s.  He was carting water to pioneer farmers in the early 1920’s, a hint perhaps that by then he was working on the pipeline.  A perk of working on the pipeline was unlimited water for the home garden and vegetable patch.  Assuming he made his pipe runs for perhaps 25-40 years (a reasonable guess by the look of the bike), a conservative estimate puts the bike’s working life at around 200,000-300,000 km.

Fred was still residing at Moorine Rock at his death aged 73, in 1957.  No doubt he understood well what richness to life the pipeline provided, with his own dedicated contribution to it.        Robert Loughman

Paul Clohessey’s Tandem

Working at the Midland Velodrome is a quietly spoken middle-aged man named Paul Clohessey.

The name rang a bell so with the aid of Google and Wikipedia, I looked him up and subsequently sat down with him for a chat last month.  I was especially interested to find out if Paul was the young man in a picture provided by Mavis Jones taking delivery of a rather special racing bike outside the home she shared with her late husband, bike builder Milton Jones.

“Yep. That’s me. 1990 or 1991. I had it built for the 1992 Paralympics in Barcelona.”

The bike is - and I’m pleased to say remains - a rather special fillet-brazed road racing tandem built out of Reynolds 531 tubing.  It was originally fitted with a Shimano 600 / Ultegra / DuraAce groupset and triple-spoked carbon fibre wheels and cost $6000.

Racing in the Vision Impaired classification, the tandem was initially piloted by Peter Stotzer in Barcelona and thereafter Eddy Hollands. The bike would go on to participate in two more Paralympic Games (Atlanta and Sydney) and two World Championships (Belgium and The Netherlands). 

“It was an incredible bike. So stiff.” 

At the 1998 Worlds in The Netherlands, Paul felt he and Eddy were good for a podium finish having surprised the opposition with a tandem track gold and broken the world record in the 4k pursuit the day before. From the outset they were marked men though, and the tactics of opposing teams would see them targeted and kept off the podium, finishing 4th overall.

In 1999 the bike was resprayed for the Sydney Olympics in which Paul and Eddy won gold in Sprint and bronze in the time trial. Paul retired from racing after the 2000 Olympics aged 30 years of age.

Paul won numerous gold, silver and bronze medals, broke numerous world records and was awarded Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM). The frame now lives with Paul’s brother.
More details and photos can be found in the MHJones Register

Frank West

1925 Northam to Perth winner A.E. Golder

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;

Frank West.

At the finish, Golder on his “The West” racer.

At the finish, Golder on his “The West” racer.

Hector Thomas & Fleet Cycles

Hector Thomas was born in 1900. He joined the army when he was 15 years and 11 months old and went to England.  An accidental meeting with his father, who was also in the army, found him out and he was sent back to Perth.

He was determined and rejoined the army and was sent to Belgium and France. He was certainly one of the youngest to serve from WA. Hector was a signaller with the 13th Battalion. In the battle of Hamel he was wounded but stayed with his unit until the Armistice was signed.

After the First World War he returned from service and worked in the cycle industry from 1919 - 1940. He worked for Armstrong Cycle & Motor Company on Hay Street from 1925 to 1940.

The below reference is from Armstrong when Hector applied to work in a munitions factory. He didn’t end up working in the munitions factory but went off to the Second World War for another five and half years of service.

When he returned he started his own cycle shop, Fleet Cycles on Beaufort Street, Inglewood near 7th Avenue. He used to paint the bikes with enamel with the Fleet Cycles logo and then bake the enamel under lights. He also did bicycle repairs. Hector retired in 1968 when his arthritis became bad. His GP told him to stop working which he did immediately, closing the shop up and selling the property with everything intact.

The name Fleet Cycles was taken over by a bicycle shop owner in Morley for many years.

Hector Thomas lived at 22 Normanby Street, Inglewood.

Mark Powell (Hector's grandson)


Fred Buzza and Swift Cycles

This article is mainly recollections of Fred’s son John Buzza, with some additional detail provided by Allen Buzza. Fred’s Grandson Wes Buzza is keen to find out more about the history of Swift Cycles, please contact the club if you have any recollections to pass on.

My Dad, Alfred William Buzza (Fred to all that knew him), was born on 12th June 1901 in North Perth. His family moved to 2 Mint Street East Victoria Park in about 1902 or 1903. He was the youngest of four with a brother John (Jack) and 2 sisters, Vera and Olivia (Olive).

He attended the state school at Cargill Street Victoria Park and Perth Boys school in Perth. Jack was Killed in action in WW1 on the Western Front.

When Fred left school aged 14 he went into the rag trade and served his apprenticeship as a tailor’s presser. WW1 was in progress and while he was too young to fight he probably worked on military uniforms a lot of the time.

In about 1925 he started a garage business in what is now Rivervale at or near the corner of what is now Enfield Street and Kitchener Avenue. It was called Buzza’s Garage. Fred was hit pretty hard by the great depression of 1929-31and Buzza’s Garage was closed at some point. Ever resourceful Fred worked on stations around Yalgoo in shearing sheds and on farms for a time.

Around 1932 he went into a partnership with Phil someone and they started Sprint Cycles on the corner of Gresham Street in Victoria Park. This partnership dissolved in about 1934 and Fred moved to a shop at 471 Albany Highway; Swift Cycles. Dad used the Buzzalong name for the bicycles and tricycles he manufactured in-house and the Swift name on the bicycle stock he would purchase from the trade.

He married our mother on 10th March 1934, so there may have been a change in the structure of the business at that time. Mumwas a highly qualified nurse, no office wallah, and I think she would have exerted plenty of say in how the business was going to be run from then on. The house they lived in was built in 1928 by Mum’s parents and leftto her and her sister. (Sister Melva lived with them for many years until she married and went to live in Manjimup)

I didn’t come along until 1939,so all I ever knew during my childhood was that Dad had a bike shop and he made bikes. I spent a fair bit of time at the shop with Dad during the war years because Mum was in charge of a first aid post at the Cargill St school and attended there quite a bit. I saw Dad build the bikes from scratch. He used to buy all the components in; various tubing, lugs, rims, spokes, hubs, seats, handle, bars, bells, chains, sprockets, mudguards, ball bearings, brakes, brake rubbers and so on.

He had a forge and brazed the frames together with silver solder. During the war years he went to join up and was “manpowered” because he owned a small business which could be set up if required to manufacture for the war effort. It never came to that, although he was asked to make 2 samples of a small mechanism from a drawing supplied bythe Dept of War. It was top secret and at the time he didn’t know what it was. Years later, he recognised the chap who was from the DoW in the Broken Hill Hotel and was told the samples hemade were a part of a 303 rifle bolt mechanism.

As children, Allen (4 and a half years my junior) and I used to build wheels in front of the kitchen stove while we listened to the radio. We would have been about 6 & 10 by then. Dad was meticulous about the spokes being in the right place. I don’t know if it still the case but there were I think 32 spokes in the front wheel and 40 in the back. We could true the wheels and put the tyres and tubes on when we were quite young too. Dad used to do all his own painting; he had an oven for baking the enamel. He used some decal transfers but all the lining and fancywork he did himself. He had a set of lining brushes.

He also made tricycles to order for disabled and geriatric people. These were tricky as they were specially engineered frames and had to have a split rear axle to enable cornering. I was a test rider o these on more than one occasion. They were tricky to ride too because you didn’t need to try and balance them. They only had a front brake too.

The bikes he made to order were called Buzzalongs. The length of the seat pillar bar and inside leg measurement were critical. Racing bikes were a specialty. He had racing bike riders who used to ride for him in the big races like Beverley to Perth and Northam to Perth. The Northam to Perth came via Red Hill. I can remember going in the car early to Beverley. Mum would pack thermoses and sandwiches. Can’t remember breakfast but we must have had some. I think we went up Great Eastern Highway, branched off at the Lakes and went via York. Idon’t ever remember going via Brookton. It started outside theBeverley Town Hall.

We would then follow the riders down to the finish line in Maylands outside the Peninsular Hotel. As with Northam same thing startedat the town hall came via Toodyay and finished a the MaylandsPeninsular Hotel. They were exciting times.

His road racing activities was mainly sponsorship, although he did some road racing himself. I remember Lionel Felstead and Phil Kidd as two of the riders but I’m sure there were others.

Another scheme he had going was where you bought a book of 10 tickets and sold them for a pound each. That gave you 10 pounds to buy a new bike with. The people you sold the ticket to all came and got a book of tickets and so it went on. It would be illegal now as it is classed as a Ponzi Scheme. Back in those days it sold a lot of bikes.

In 1952 Dad sold the shop to Hi-way Cycles, owned by Les Andrews, whose brother had Swansea Cycles on the corner of Teddington Road and Albany Highway. Hi-way was a motor bike business as well. He had small bikes like BSA Triumph and Nortonbut I don’t think he had any Harleys or Indians.

The bike business was tough in those days. Starting from Hampshire Street in East Victoria Park there was Balmoral cycles, Sprint, Swift, Malvern Star, Swansea - I may have forgotten a couple.

Fred Buzza passed away at the age of 74.

Arthur Richardson

A born adventurer, among his many feats at the turn of the 20th century Arthur Richardson planned and executed the first solo circumcycling of Australia. Hugh Richardson, Arthur's grand nephew, has republished the famous and rare account of Arthur's trip "A Remarkable Ride". Hugh spoke at the January 2018 meeting. Copies of the book are available from Hugh's website


Richardson Reaches Katherine The West Australian Monday September 11th 1899

On Friday evening we received the following telegram from Arthur Richardson, who is engaged in an attempt to cycle round Australia, and who left Perth early in June last :

KATHERINE, September 8.
From Hall’s Creek, the last telegraph station on the West Austral- ian side, I rode across very rough, mountain- ous country to Flora Valley, then running the Regenda Creek down to Booty’s station. Here the bad country for blacks commenced with a rough piece of country to Ord River Station. I got through all right, and, spelling there for two days, I got a look at some maps of the country, for there are no roads or tracks from Ord River to the Katherine. I also got a good supply of our, beef, etc. I made a seven days’ stage “per boot” to Wave Hill, having a very rough time, running out of tucker, and living like a black- fellow. I struck Wave Hill Station all right. Mr. Cahill, the manager, made me very wel- come, and I had a good spell there.
Then, with the worst patch of country in Australia in front of me, I got a black boy to show me a short cut across the ranges to the Victoria River but he “reckoned plenty blackfel- lows all about,” and ran away, the rst night, leaving me “on my own.” I had a very rough time from constant exposure and several falls caused through travelling at night, and had very little sleep, for the blacks are very bad. I had no “ tucker“ but what I could catch, and I was fairly tired out by the time I struck the Victoria River about seven miles below the station. Here Mr. Watson, the manager, insisted on my having a good spell, absolutely refusing to let me go on.
Luckily, while I was there he had news from Wyndham that would take him to Port Darwin at once, so I travelled in with him. We were both glad of company for the blacks are bad all through here, and no one ever goes out mustering without a 9in.“colt” in his belt. The last two hundred and forty miles to the Katherine has not had any wheel traf c on it for four years, so that I could not travel much faster with my bike than Mr. Watson with the horses. We got in here this afternoon. My bike tyres are all right, and I am going strongly.

WA Bicycle Number Plates

Bicycle registration is a bit of a hot button dog whistling topic these days. It’s been tried and dropped in WA in the past, but the relics of the experiment live on in a few club members’ collections. If they’re still hanging off a bike they could help establish the bike’s age or origin.

Perth to Sydney - 1933 Record Tandem Ride

There was no made road across the Nullarbor and at one stage they spent two days wheeling their cycle through heavy sand. Another section was pitted with camel tracks; sometimes the country was overgrown with brush and near the Madura Pass the jagged edge of limestone had been exposed by strong winds.