As one of the oldest cycling clubs in Australia, Coburg has a proud history. Below you will find a series of articles and stories that shed light on activities of the club and club members in days gone by.
In the years preceding the formation of the Coburg Cycling Club in 1896 there were a number of events that occurred that may have contributed to the club’s inception.
In 1895, cycling was controlled by the League of Victorian Wheelmen. This included the Austral Wheel Race which had been run from 1887 on the MCG. The League of Victorian Wheelmen (LVW) was formed in 1893 to promote the interests of professional cycling and in 1896 it became the governing body for cycling in Victoria. Later, in 1917 a new body was established to promote amateur cycling in Victoria called the Victorian Amateur Cycling Union which would run side by side with the LVW under various name changes until their amalgamation in 1992.
There was some dissention that some members of the Melbourne Cycling Club did not wish to be affiliated with the League of Wheelmen for the coming year of 1895. A breakaway from the League would have serious repercussions as the League controlled the running of the Austral Wheel race. The race would be run by the Melbourne Cycling club and if it was not affiliated the repercussions would be large as League men were only allowed to race in League sanctioned races.
President Rolland was the proprietor of the Rolland Hotel in Coburg were many road races would start from in the 1890’s. Clubs like Victory, Melbourne, Fernside, and more importantly the League of Victorian Wheelmen (LVW) would start their races regularly at the Coburg pub. There was a documented race from Coburg on July 6th 1895 which was a 25 mile race from Coburg to Campbellfield and back. It was a handicap event and won by J Carpenter off 8 minutes. The event was run by the Fernside Cycling Club. This was a common occurrence at the time with multiple road racing events running from the pub such as handicaps and scratch races over 25 to 50 miles. In 1895 Victory listed its membership as 90 and growing. (Victory would become Brunswick Cycling Club). It is suspected that Rolland drove the discussions around the establishment of a new cycling club. The area was becoming quire prosperous with a large amount of growth of population to the north of Brunswick. Rolland was well a connected publican and despite a series of deaths in his pub, one from a murder over rent and the other the natural death of his mother in law.
It was a time where cycling, while popular, was still considered adventurous. There were regular advertisements in the Coburg Leader at the time advertising meetings at the Brunswick Town Hall calling for men and women interested in becoming proficient at cycling. The events were to be run by Raleigh and Springbrook cycles as a sales pitch but also to teach people how to cycle. This author hypothesises that this may have contributed to discussion around the formation of the Coburg Cycling Club
While the events of time preceding the advent of the Coburg Cycling Club and the first meeting are vague, the second meeting of the Coburg Cycling club was held on Thursday the 19th of March 1896 at the Fire Brigade rooms. It was run for the purpose of electing officers. There was a good turnout of local wheelmen. The committee was voted in unanimously:
- President: Mr F Rolland
- Vice Presidents: Messrs Wright, McGory, Berry and Colonel Bull.
- Secretary: G. J. Russell
- Treasurer: A Barton
Meetings were to be held be held on the second Tuesday of the month at the Fire Brigade rooms. The committee was an interesting selection of people, Mr Rolland was the local publican, Messers a local journalist and Russell a magistrate.
In the months following the second meeting Coburg held a documented interclub championship 28 mile race from the Rolland Hotel and won by South Melbourne. Thousands of spectators lined the start of the course with Carlton Cycling club and Northcote rounding off the top 3.
The Club created uproar early on in its history when one of the Victory Cycling Club members requested to join the Coburg Cycling Club. A letter was written to the Victory Cycling Club by Secretary Russell requesting a reference into the character of the man after which he was subsequently granted membership.
The Coburg Cycling Club held their 6 monthly meeting on 12th September 1896 with the main agenda item being whether to adopt the alliance with the League of Victorian Wheelman. The Secretary G. J. Russell oversaw the meeting where the vote was taken and affiliation with the LVW adopted – an affiliation that would remain for a long time. This decision to affiliate would continue to have repercussions late into the next century.
Footnote – The above article was researched from archived newspaper articles. If anyone has any information regarding the events that led to the establishment of the Coburg Cycling Club please contact Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org or the Coburg Cycling Club directly.