Cycling 1910-2010


An after dinner slide show by Roger Fowler

Click on the images to view larger versions.



The 1910 Timaru to Christchurch was won by Bill Arnst in 5.37.45 for the 112 miles (180km).  

Fastest time, 5.30.27, went to ABL (Smiler) Smith of Linwood, pictured, who was declared the winner of the South Island (or New Zealand) 112 mile championship.  

For many years it was customary for fastest time getters in professional handicap races to be awarded the championship title for the distance, a fact not always appreciated by the media, hence the incorrect caption.


At top left is a group of riders crossing the Rakaia road/rail bridge in the rain.

At bottom left a rider tries to ford the Selwyn and bottom right another chooses to carry his bike across the railway bridge while hoping for no trains.



The first Round the Gorges (100 miles) was run on 29th September 1928.   Bert Arnst 50 minutes was the winner in 5.07.40 --- he won the Timaru to Christchurch the same year.   Fastest rider, the first of 7 times, was Frank Grose in 4.54.23.   His co-marker on scratch, Gordon Lukey, set a new Christchurch to Invercargill solo record of 21.58.42 in early 1951.



The Avon Club was formed in 1933 and the picture includes Arthur Hand, standing wearing cap, George Bartrum with centre parted hair and on George’s left possibly Frank Stoddart, all of whom were still around when I joined the Club in 1950.



In 1935 bikes cost about 2 to 3 weeks wages.




A man celebrated his 70th birthday in 1935 by riding a 25 mile race.   His finished strongly but some distance behind the younger riders.






Don Swanston senior on left with fastest time cup and shield and Ben Froggatt with the winner’s cup for the 1945 Timaru to Christchurch.




Ben Froggatt, 1945 Timaru to Christchurch winner.







Bill Bowden’s certificate for the NZ 4000 metres teams championship 1946.






Poster for the first amateur Timaru to Christchurch race 1949 won by Arthur Warrington 4.54.42 with Vic Martin fastest 4.25.54.






Poster for the first post-war Round the Gorges which was raced in stormy conditions resulting in the slowest times ever.   Malcolm Shearer 1st 6.14.30, Jim Ritchie fastest 5.47.54.


About this time I was attending Uni in Christchurch and home was at Orepuki 42 miles west of Invercargill on the south coast.  


I used to work at the local cheese factory for a few months in the summer and it was while there that workmate, Milton Herrick and I agreed a bike race on our sports bikes (that’s all we had) over 8 ½ miles over shingle roads for a bet of 2 shillings plus I had a side bet that the winner would take less than 30 minutes.   Another local lad, Digger Popham, joined in and we set off at top speed riding for the most part side by side in the car tracks.   With a mile to go I was running 3rd, then Digger crashed so I finished second losing one bet and winning the other --- it took about 25 minutes.


The following week I removed my Miller dynamo light, carrier, pannier bags, and mudguards and anything else I could do without.   The race finished almost outside the Pub where they had a whip round and presented me with a winner’s prize of 25 shillings, a bit over half a day’s wages.   We raced on the road every week after that and after laying out a quarter mile grass track around the rugby paddock (well named) we raced there every week too.


Some of us got keen and bought racing bikes, mine came from Harry Hubber, a well known veteran cyclist.   It weighed about 19 pounds, steel wheel rims and Aussie Dunlop high pressure tyres.   One of the other bikes had wooden wheel rims.   We raced in a few handicap races from long marks on grass tracks at country sports meetings with some success.   Then it was back to Christchurch with the sports bike and racing trams along Colombo Street.


On arriving home for the August holidays in 1950 I found that I had been entered for the 40 mile Gore to Invercargill race a couple of weeks later so we got stuck in and did several fairly brisk training rides, the longest being around the Longwoods, about 60 miles.



The 14 minute mark lined up by the Gore Post Office at the start of the Gore to Invercargill race.   There were 16 and 18 minute bunches in front of that.   I am on the far right being held up by my trainer Tom Smith, which is just as well because I was riding a fixed wheel 86 inch gear, that’s 48 x 15.   Feeling good and not knowing any better I rode away from my bunch to a call of “Let the mad bugger go” and caught the 16 minute bunch before Edendale (24 miles to go).   That’s where that enormous dairy factory is today.   We caught the front soon after the Edendale hill.   I knew there was a prize for first through Woodlands and had thought before the race that I would have a go at winning it.   There were nothing like the number of AA signs that are about now and I didn’t know the road so sprinted away from the bunch and found Woodlands about a mile and a half later.  From then on it was head down and solo time trialling it to Invercargill.



My mouth is shut in this pic as I had no teeth at all then.   2 drink bottles on my handlebars made for easy drinking without taking my hands off the bars.   The 2 Papanui placegetters wore food bags hung over their shoulders, jerseys had no pockets then.  




Fastest was Les Lock (on the right) who won 14 NZ and 30 Canterbury titles, a fair way ahead of my 1 NZ and 14 Canterbury championships ranging from half a mile on the grass to 100 miles on the road.   Angus Riley was second fastest and Harry Hubber, one time holder of the Christchurch to Invercargill solo record is the tall Invercargill rider who was 3rd fastest.


Roger20, jpg

When you’ve stopped laughing, that’s Roger, about 65Kg, at Orepuki with the canteen of cutlery for the Gore to Invercargill and a few other trophies.   Some Invercargill cyclists came out to Orepuki one evening and raced on the grass.   One of them, Ray O’Connor, reckoned I won every start by “brute strength and ignorance”.   He was half right.  






Charlie Bishop winning the 1950 Timaru to Christchurch finishing on the grass at the Showgrounds.





More 1950 Timaru to Christchurch.   Top left: The mayor of Timaru starts the limit men.  

Top right: The scratch bunch, there’s Harry Hubber on the left, then Bob Elliott,

P. Russell, Jim Ritchie, Will Hoffman, Colin Shilton, Ted Lambert, Angus Riley, Sam Taylor, P. Murray, Les Lock, Brian Lynn, R. Bamford.  

Bottom left: Les Frew presenting the Frew Shield to Charlie Bishop.  

Bottom right: Charlie Bishop 1st and Ted Lambert fastest.



Avon scratch men July 1951.  

From left: Ray Harris, Neil Sutton, Sam Taylor, Roger Fowler, Vic Martin.

Sam saw me looking in Laurie Dawe’s shop window the previous September and recognised me from the Gore to Invercargill.   He suggested that I join the Avon Club so I did.   He later introduced me to Nancy who is now my wife, poor soul.   I told my parents about the old guy, Vic Martin, still racing at the age of 30, I could hardly believe it.



These are Orepuki grass track results from December 1951.   In those days we didn’t know you could complain about the handicaps so we didn’t, we just got on with it.   I had to give away some fairly big starts, 600 yards in a mile and a half (6 laps) and finished 20 yards behind winner Bill Barnett.   Bill used to climb onto the roof when his mother was after him while she stood there shouting, “Come down from that roof Billy you little bugger, just wait till I get you.”   Hence he was known by some unkind people as “Billy the Bugger”.  


The 8th December results include the Invercargill riders’ visit where they gained 11 placings.   Notable among them was John Holloway who later was fastest time winner Round the Gorges in 1957, 1958 and 1960.


On New Years Eve a few weeks later I slept in a one room hut with no door in the Rec (local sports ground) to avoid being woken by revellers.   The Tuatapere sports were held on New Years day.   After winning the heats and finals of the half mile and 1 mile I was rehandicapped to 15 yards behind scratch in the mile and a half and local farmer, Bruce Waterhouse, promised me a bottle of champagne if I won the final.  I won the heat but luckily was only 5th in the final so didn’t have to drink anything.


Drink was involved again at the Browns sports the following Saturday.   Having won the half mile and one mile I lined up on scratch in my blue Hawaian shirt giving away starts of up to 260 yards in the 2 mile and a spectator called out, “I’ve got a bottle of beer on you Blue.”   He won, I was in front with 3 laps to go.



Caledonian Games riders, Rugby Park, Invercargill, 1952.

Left to right: Ray O’Connor, Gib Cooper, Ian Fraser, Roger Fowler, Sonny Broad, Will Hoffman.



Roger Fowler at the Caledonian Games, 1952, with loose fitting Hawaian shirt, football shorts, and no, they are not the glasses I wear today.






Scratch men Gore to Invercargill 1952.

Left to right: Roger Fowler, Gerry Hill, Joe Faulkner, Ian Fraser, John Holloway, Will Hoffman, Ray O’Connor, Alan Larkins, Kelvin Hastie.



This 1952 Timaru to Christchurch poster shows a first prize trophy worth 50 pounds, 200 times the entry fee of 5 shillings.   200 times today’s entry fee of $25 for a classic race is $5000, an unlikely payout.   As usual there was a dance and presentation of trophies at 8 pm on race day.



The Papanui Club ran the Round the Gorges from 1928 till 1941 when it was discontinued during the war.   On its revival in 1949 it was run by Christchurch every year until the Club wound up when Papanui took over again and they are still running it today.



Round the Bays history


The lower picture shows Roger climbing Gebbies in the mid 1950’s and the other one the 3 scratch men about 1952.   They are Sam Taylor, Roger Fowler, Neil Sutton with timekeeper Murray Fowler, Roger’s father.   We rode together to the bottom of the Gebbies climb then split up and solo time trialled to the finish.







We weren’t allowed to accept cash prizes 50 years ago, just trophies or trophy orders like this one for 2nd place in an English Park track race.   9 shillings for a 2 shilling entry fee was not a top moneymaker.




These Free Lance pictures are from the National Champs at Western Springs, Auckland, in March 1953.  

Top left is Pat Wylie, Christchurch, leading into the straight in the one mile handicap.

Top Right: Roger Fowler changing a wheel after puncturing in the semi-final of the 4000 metres individual pursuit.  

Centre is R. Woods with Polio stricken leg winning the half mile handicap.

Bottom left shows the champion Auckland pursuit team including, second from left, Graham (Banana) Moore who was first and fastest in the Waikari 100km in 1953.

The centre left pic, left to right, Trevor Cameron dark glasses, Christchurch, Peter Baird floppy hat, Auckland, Joe Faulkner, Christchurch, Mal Simpson, Auckland.


Trevor had great speed that I couldn’t match but by his own admission didn’t always use it wisely, he just liked going flat out.   In the 10 mile he took off with a lap and a half to go (about 770 yards) and gapped away from the field.   Nobody wanted to chase so I did, caught and passed him with half a lap to go, led into the straight and was run down to finish third.


The 1954 Waikari 100km started at the bottom of the big hill.   There were 8 on scratch.   One punctured, one had his chain come off, Trevor shot off the mark like a rocket and burnt off 2 or 3 and himself.   At the top 1 mile after the start Gil Painter and I were left in front.   We rode a 2 man time trial for over 90km to near Hawarden on the last lap when I rather unkindly jumped away and caught break (3 minutes) which included junior Ross Bush.   The effort told and I drifted off the bunch but still managed to get overall fastest time with Ross junior fastest.


Peter Baird had a fairly old car about this time and was on his back on cold concrete working on it in a cold wind one day a few days before his wedding.   His Mum called out, “You’ll catch your death of cold there Peter.   Do you want to spend your honeymoon in bed?”   The inevitable reply, “Yes Mum.”  

He promised me his floppy hat if I won the pursuit final.   I still have it.



The Avon Club team who won the National Hope Gibbons Shield for a 25 mile team time trial from Levin to Foxton and back in 1953.   Left to right: Neil Sutton, Harry Brook, Roger Fowler (Captain), Gil Painter, Ken Giles.   Our winning time in a strong wind on this undulating course was 58 minutes 11 seconds which wouldn’t get anywhere today but was a record at the time.



Prize winners in the Christchurch-Akaroa-Christchurch in the early 1950’s.   From left: Sam Taylor, Barry Smith, Charlie Bishop, Andy Bryson.




Roger Fowler leading into the straight at English Park from John Blance (Outer).





In 1954 certificates like this one were sometimes awarded instead of ribbons or medals.   I had crashed a few days before this and wasn’t at my best and that was enough to ruin my one and only chance of riding in the Empire Games.


On the face of it a 12 shilling prize for fastest time for a 2 shilling entry fee doesn’t seem overly generous but its equivalent to $90 for $15 today.


Roger’s trophies 1950’s.






I didn’t know Firestone made bike tyres.






Barry Smith 2nd and Sam Taylor first and fastest in the Akaroa.




Reg Harris, World champion sprinter, who came to English Park in the 1950’s and, in front of thousands, rode a flying quarter mile in 24.1 seconds when the World record was 24 seconds.   It was a great track, just needed a little more banking.



English Park 1950’s.   With 300 yards to go Ian Browne, Aussie Olympic gold medallist, leads Ian Hazeldine, Christchurch, Warwick Dalton, Auckland and Roger Fowler.



Vern Lill (left) 1st to Akaroa and Roger Fowler fastest in 1958.   Note spare tyre round shoulders.






After the return journey from Akaroa.   Roger with Laurie Dawe cycle mechanic, Gordon Kemp.






Akaroa prizewinners.   From left: Roger Fowler fastest, Vern Lill 3rd, Jim Pitcher 2nd, Ken Jeffrey 1st.





The judges of the 1959 National 10 mile championship at Timaru had no photofinish available and awarded 1st place to Warwick Dalton, white bike on outer.   Most others thought that Laurie Crystall, inside, won it.   It was perhaps some consolation to Laurie that he won decisively the following year.



English Park 1962.   That looks like Trevor Cameron centre, Don Swanston inside, don’t know the other leading rider.   Perhaps John Swanston extreme outside and Bevan Berry extreme right.



In 1962 100 miles Round the Gorges including lots of shingle roads was reckoned to be gruelling ride and certificates were awarded to all who finished within 1 1/8 times fastest time.





Ross Bush winning the 1977 Round the Gorges from Dave Freeman.   Spectators look like Colin Bishop in dark jacket and Robert Forrest’s father with peaked cap.   This was a very dehydrating day and many riders finished with a yellow deposit around their mouths which didn’t really enhance their natural beauty.



The finish of the 70km 1978 Frank Grose race, possibly in Sabys Road.   Graeme Duncan was the winner, Roger Fowler 2nd, Stan Hunt 3rd.   Note the absence of advertising on clothing, it wasn’t allowed then.



Gary Froggatt with trophy after winning the 1980 Akaroa.







Wayne Thorpe of Laurie Dawe Cycles with Craig Adair, crouching, and Craig’s Commonwealth Games 1000 metre time trial gold medal winning bike 1982.





Craig’s bike on display in Laurie Dawe Cycles’ window.





Laurie Dawe Cycles November 1982.




Robyn aged 68

Robyn at Club Christmas party,

Ladbrooks, December 1998.











Crash results


Roger’s head saved by crash hat 2003.






The Red Devil

Roger at Eyreton in the winter 2005.




Ross Cameron persuaded Newstalk ZB to award Roger the Saturday Afternoon Sports Team of the Week prize in recognition of his Leeston win providing that he took Derrick and Sue, Bruce and Amy to dinner with him.





The anti-magpie crash hat incorporating advice from Bruce Stanton the possum tail and Ross Cameron the wheel trim ties.   So far it has worked well, long may it continue.