SHOALHAVEN BICYCLE USERS GROUP A HISTORY IN THREE PARTS
PART 1 EARLY DEVELOPMENT STAGES
Before the early 1970s
Bicycles were used in many ways, for transport, recreation, and for competitive racing. Cycling of one sort or another has been in existence since early in the 19th century, but, before the 1970s; cycling clubs concentrated mainly on on-road riding and racing, and Mountain Biking (MTB) as we have come to know it did not even exist.
One exception was Cyclocross, a form of cycling in which crazy cyclists were willing to risk life and limb by riding ordinary bikes off-road in difficult and dangerous terrain – only for the foolhardy, of course!
During the 70s and 80s, some American bike companies such as Gary Fisher and Specialised had been experimenting with the production of bikes specially built for recreational use, but it wasn’t until 1978 that they and their subsidiaries had been credited with introducing the first purpose-built Mountain Bike (MTB). By 1986, MTBing had been launched as a separate sport, and it quickly spread worldwide. Consequently, throughout the 80s, 90s, and first two decades of the 21st century, MTBing has moved from a little-known sport to a mainstream activity.
A cycling enthusiast arrives in the Shoalhaven – 1993
In 1993, Terry Threlfall, an MTB enthusiast previously employed by Defence Department, had left the profession and had established a new recreational cycling business in the Shoalhaven region, This had two separate elements, number one was to operate a ‘bike hire’ service, and the other was to operate ‘one-day MTB adventures’ for holidaymakers or visitors, where he would both organise and lead the rides.
To do this, he bought his first set of MTBs from Bomaderry Cycles, then owned by Doug Holland, former professional road cyclist, and founder/secretary of the revived Nowra Cycle Club (NCC). Doug had an idea that might help Terry’s new project and showed him recent correspondence from Bicycle NSW which had asked him, Doug, to call a meeting to try to set up an off-road cycling group for his NCC members.
In fact, the Bicycle NSW request was a general one sent out to prominent community members like bike shop owners to encourage them to set up ‘cycling groups’, the precursor to the Shoalhaven Bicycle Group (SBUG). However, because both were too busy with their other interests at the time, nothing much happened.
A couple of years later, now aware that Terry was having success, Doug again called him about running one-day MTB adventures around the Shoalhaven and asked him specifically about helping his contingent of young NCC racing members. The fact was that now many of them now also owned one of these new-fangled MTBs, but had no idea where they could ride them to their full potential.
Doug’s motivation was possibly not entirely altruistic – perhaps he may have felt he was in danger of losing some of his young members to clubs in Sydney and elsewhere because he knew that organised mountain bike activity was already thriving there!
Terry joins the NCC
Terry then officially joined the Nowra Cycle Club not only to advance and implement his future plans but also for insurance and public liability purposes.
He then started organising monthly Sunday morning off-road bush rides (quite challenging for himself) in places like Currambene forest, Bamarang, Yalwal, Comberton Grange, and Jervis Bay. Doug Holland was right, the rides took off spectacularly, and on some Sundays, between twenty and thirty riders turned up. All were much younger, fitter, and faster than Terry himself, so the normal ride pattern was that he would give directions for the first few kilometers, the group would go off at a cracking pace, and then Terry, panting and puffing, would catch up with them sitting on their bikes, arms folded, waiting for further directions.
As word got around over the next two years, they were joined by other recreational bike riders, without any particular connection with the NCC, many just looking for some group to go cycling with. In contrast, and simultaneously, Doug’s young fast, racing club-based riders began drifting off, having gained the knowledge to organise their own challenges, like racing up and down Meryla Pass after work!
Now the puffing and panting group had grown to include much older people like Jim Florence, Tony Farmilo, and Tom McDonald.
Pre – SBUG Launch – 1997
In addition to the above proceedings between Terry, Doug, and the NCC, a number of other enthusiasts had become very much involved in establishing a regular Shoalhaven cycling social group. Foremost among them was Naomi Spencer, a Naval Social Worker, and three military men, Chris Langmaid, Jim Florence and Tony Farmilo. The latter, newly posted to Albatross, had heard the talk about the need for an organised Shoalhaven recreational MTB group, took the initiative and discussed the issues with the cyclists he met during those earlier NCC rides. Naomi Spencer, in her Navy Social Worker role, and amongst her other commitments, was aware of the need to extend cycle paths and promote cycling as a credible alternative to driving to work, because too many young families were stranded at home with dad taking the car to work. This led to weekly lunch time meetings at Albatross over a period of 18 months, during which time people joined/left and contributed to researching and planning for our BUG. Meetings were held during 1996 and early 1997. Terry, Tony and Jim obtained the appropriate paperwork from Bicycle NSW, and having worked through it, called a public meeting to form such a group. All the above mentioned people were amongst those present at the inaugural Meeting, which was held one evening in August 1997 at Bridgeton House in Berry St Nowra (the meeting room of the Defence Community Organisation). More than thirty people attended, the Shoalhaven BUG was launched, and the first committee positions duly filled, with Tony as Secretary, his wife Donna as President and Chris Langmaid as Treasurer.
Regular SBUG Rides start under the new name
In 1997, the monthly Sunday morning rides previously run by Terry for the benefit of the NCC young riders were discontinued and immediately became the first official SBUG rides under their new name. A new format was soon established and implemented, which included a number of special features. First, and by far the most significant feature, all rides were MTB only. Almost all the regular riders were now older, although with just one exception, all were under the age of 60, and all were in full or part-time employment. There were also a small but significant number of school-age riders. Second, whereas initially there had been just one monthly ride, on Sunday mornings, rides now took place every Sunday morning Third, Tony planned and led all the rides. In the latter days of the NCC rides, the starting point was usually Rotary Park South Nowra. However, when the weekly SBUG rides began, the starting point was usually the Shoalhaven Council Administrative Centre car park in Bridge Road. Fourth, as time went by, many routes became far more ambitious, and the starting locations were now often more distant from Nowra central. Within a year Terry presented a total of about 60 regional MTB rides to a committee established by Duncan Marshall, and which now included SBUG members such as Jim Florence and Tony Farmilo. The list of rides was eventually whittled down to about 35 and in year 2000 they were published in a booklet and on a CD entitled Shoalhaven Cycling Guide, and made available to the general public from the Shoalhaven Visitor Information Centres. They were both wide ranging, comprehensive, and became very popular. Terry was paid for his contribution but somehow Duncan managed to do it all within his otherwise impossibly busy road safety job.
Summary of the first 10 years
From 1997 to 2000, the SBUG membership continued to increase, although there was still only one Sunday ride weekly,. This situation changed when, on Tom McDonald’s retirement, he was asked to establish and lead a new Wednesday mid-week MTB ride, which operated quite successfully for the next few years. Though the numbers were usually moderate, these mid-week rides soon became accepted, and have continued to this day, currently led by Jan Furyk and Rod Pierce, though now on Thursdays. This was the basic pattern for the first ten years, but, by no means, does it tell the whole story. For example, when Squadron Leader Farmilo was posted around 2001, the SBUG experienced a minor crisis, due to the fact that he had managed just about everything during those first few years. Terry then proposed the setting up of a new structure, which was duly accepted by the Committee. Now officially appointed ‘Rides Coordinator’, Terry, would be responsible for planning one month’s rides well ahead and having them published in “Push On”, incorporated in the Bicycle NSW monthly Magazine which all members received, Committee members and experienced riders then took turns to lead the rides, and their details were also published in the “Push On” section After a few years, Paul Coombes took on this task, and the feature continued until the magazine moved on into the email era.
Terry adds to his business interests
At this point, it’s both important and necessary to point out that the next two paragraphs describe events which, strictly speaking, are not actually part of SBUG’s history, but because they had such a massive positive impact, albeit indirect, on the group’s overall success, it would be remiss if they were not included. The important change is that, in addition to his bike hire business and one-day MTB rides, Terry had also simultaneously expanded his business interests by operating a third and very much bigger element, officially known as “Terry’s Cycling Adventures”. These were almost exclusively multi-day rides, essentially 14, 5 or 3 days duration, and actually started just before the formation of the SBUG, the first one being from Nowra to Melbourne In 1996. They continued throughout those first ten or eleven years, and covered a huge geographical area from north of Brisbane to south of Adelaide. The 14-day rides were usually about 1,200km, with commensurate distances for the others, and the final one-off ride of nearly 2,000km took place over three weeks in 2007. Again, with few exceptions, they were exclusively MTB rides and many SBUG members participated. Overall, these spectacular rides comprised more than one visit to the summit of Kosciusko, the Great Ocean Road, The Murray Valley, the Otway Ranges The Coorong Coastal Desert, the Brisbane area, Power’s Lookout, the Adelaide area and numerous mountain climbs and highlights in the Great Dividing Range from the Victorian High Country to west of Toowoomba in Queensland. And there were many others! Sydney to the Gong also started to become a regular ride, as did The Harbour Bridge Ride.
An Impressive Very Special SBUG Ride
The single most impressive SBUG ride was the Centenary of Federation Bike Ride in May 2001, when 35 members and friends rode from Nowra to Canberra via Nerriga and Tarago over a period of three days. A few were lucky enough to have 3 more days to ride back to Nowra after the celebrations via the Araluen Valley, Moruya and Batemans Bay. In Canberra, we were joined by many thousands of other cyclists who had ridden from every corner of the continent to get there. Two cycling friends of the Shoalhaven SBUG, Luke and Marie Wensing, both senior professionals at the Australian National University, took a complete year’s sabbatical to organise that huge undertaking.
Big changes take place after 2007.
There are considerable differences in the way SBUG has operated since 2007. At that time, two unrelated events occurred which together significantly changed the status quo. First, after Terry decided it was time to call it a day after his hectic and amazingly successful 10 years, which included him leading no less than fifty two-week rides alone. Simultaneously, he reduced his overall involvement in all routine SBUG matters, and consequently some important changes were inevitable. Second, though the two events are not connected in any way, two regular members, Bob Burton and Tom Hemington, both dedicated MTB riders, suddenly decided to dust off their road and racing bikes on Saturday mornings and started a regular 40km road bike ride to and from Greenwell Point. Originally the ride included a significant coffee break at Linda’s Anglers Rest. This road ride soon became an established fixture on the SBUG rides calendar. Third, at approximately the same time, two more regular mid-week rides were launched, one a 30km ride on Wednesdays to the Comerong Island ferry and the second on Mondays, a 50km ride to Berry and back via Broughton Creek, Back Forest and Bryce’s roads. During the first few years of the latter, there was still several rough unsealed kilometres on the Bryces/Back Forest section, which prompted most riders to continue using their MTBs, and this in turn gave them the opportunity to negotiate Swamp Road’, a short cut yes, but more often than not a very wet one! Thus the single regular MTB ride left was Jan Furyk’s mid-week one, though on Sundays there are still regular combined MTB and road rides.
Current regular one-day rides
Summarising, the current situation is that the SBUG now has five regular rides per week, with one every day except Tuesday and Friday, but with one dedicated MTB ride, plus an occasional Sunday combined road/MTB ride.
Other multi-day rides and social activity
During the past five or six years, several entrepreneurial members have added a welcome new dimension to our range of activities, not experienced since the early SBUG years. Some have since left the Group, but others have taken their place and successfully organised a wide range of activities. Foremost among them are the organisation and management of three, four and five day rides, but they also include the organisation of a diverse range of social and cultural interests. For the majority of this latter activity, SBUG is indebted to the contemporary and continuing efforts of Les and Anne Cornish and Wayne and Kathy Beckenham. Regions visited include the Central West, Far South Coast of NSW, Victorian rail trails and High Country. Various places of interest have been visited, concerts attended, funds raised for charitable institutions and advocacy work carried out toward the improvement and betterment of road conditions and cycleways
PART 2 OFFICE BEARERS AND MEMBERSHIP
During the life span of the SBUG many hundreds of bicycle riders have participated in at least one ride, By the year 2000, less than 4 years since the Group was launched, 536 cyclists had taken part in at least one SBUG ride! Clearly it is beyond the capacity of this document to name most of them. However, almost a complete record of correspondence, AGM and Monthly Minutes have been saved ‘on line,’ during the entire 20 year period, which would facilitate any research into other matters pertaining to the life of the BUG should there be a requirement. Nevertheless it would be remiss not to acknowledge those who have made both a significant and lengthy contribution to the overall success of the Group during the years since its formation. Many of them have made a positive contribution to a particular position, though often, for only a very brief period, and again too numerous to mention. In contrast, other members have held executive committee and other positions continuously for many years, as listed below.
Life membership is an award given to a member who has given long and meritorious service to the SBUG above and beyond normal expectations and or has made an outstanding contribution to the aims and objectives of the SBUG. Four SBUG members have received this award:
Tom McDonald 2007
Jim Florence 2014
Judi Puru 2016
Peter Hewlett 2019
Patron (Position initiated in 2007)
2007 to Tom McDonald
1997 to 2000 Donna Farmilo
2000 to 2001 (April) Chris Langmaid
2001 to 2008 (September) Cathy Bennett
2009 to 2010 Cindy Florence
2010 to 2014 Jim Florence
2014 to 2021 Mel Gillott
2021 to Sharon Whittaker
2011 to 2015 Bob Lavender
2015 to 2016 Tony McCourt
2016 to 2018 Amanda McFeeters
2019 to 2021 Kathy Beckenham
2021 to Mel Gillott
1997 to 2010 Jim Florence
2011 to 2012 Maggie Cooper
2014 to 2015 Geoff Vercoe
2015 to 2017 Julie Bourke
2017 to John Wooster
2000 to 2019 Judi Puru
2019 to Anne Cornish
2018 to 2019 Anne Cornish
2012 to 2018 Kathy Beckenham
2013 to Wayne Beckenham
1998 to 2005 Kathy and Wayne Beckenham
2005 to 2013 Jan Furyk
2013 to 2015 Wayne Beckenham
2015 to Jim Florence
2011 to 2013 Maggie Cooper
2014 to Peter Hewlett
Social Secretary – now Social Co-ordinator
2014 to 2015 Paul Taylor
2015 to 2021 Les Cornish
2021 to Dawn Chamberlain
2014 to 2015 Bob Lavender
2015 to Wayne Beckenham
Master Ride Leader
2021 Wayne Beckenham
2021 to David McCorkell
Members remaining active since the Group’s foundation in 1997
Jim Florence, Tom McDonald, Cathy Bennett, Wayne Beckenham, Kathy Beckenham, Peter Hewlett, Peter Steele and Naomi Spencer.
PART 3 OTHER HISTORIC EVENTS
2 July 1997
Steering Committee is formed with Guy Cooper, Naomi Spencer, Rod McDonald, Chris Langmaid, Duncan Marshall Tony Farmilo, and is tasked with defining the role and rules of the new SBUG.
24 September 1997
Group holds its inaugural meeting to elect a committee. This meeting also doubled as the inaugural AGM and 14 members attended. Of the 14, only Jim Florence (elected Secretary) remains a Group member 20 years on.
22 September 1999
Group lobbies hard for the construction of the Collingwood Beach cycleway, which was opened a year later in September 2000.
During the early part of the century, Ernie Fenske, a retired engineer and keen Group member with a passion for MTBing, single-handedly, voluntarily and comprehensively surveyed the local Currambene Forest in order to establish mountain bike trails. The project took a year to complete and the result was four different trails, with four different degrees of difficulty, all carefully marked with colour coded triangular metal discs. Relevant detailed maps are held and distributed by the visitors Information Centre.
The ‘Sydney to Gong’ ‘RTA Cycle Sydney’ ‘Centenary of Federation’ rides were all four very significant events held in one calendar year and which were extremely productive in furthering SBUG’s progress. The publication of the ‘Shoalhaven Cycling Guide’ also occurred in the same year.
With the assistance of a few SBUG members, Terry Threlfall organised the collection of hundreds of unwanted bicycles, all models and makes, and for male, female, young and old. The team serviced and repaired them, and they were then shipped for distribution to the citizens of East Timor.
SBUG participates in fund raising by way of ‘Relay for life’ organisation, in conjunction with the Australian Cancer Council.
The Group sees the end of an era with the sale of Terry’s Cycling Adventures
Group Vice President, Bob Lavender was the SBUG representative on the RMS community forum, a role which was concerned with the aim of getting the ‘Shoalhaven Bike Plan’ resurrected, in addition to his initial role in getting the SBUG website up and running, and as the ongoing task of webmaster.
Monday, Thursday and Saturday rides are now well established
In that year Social Cycling Weekends were almost exclusively organised and managed by SBUG Treasurer Judi Puru, Each attracted about 150 participants. A hundred plus cyclists riding down Junction Street was a sight to see. During the weekends, visits to the Fleet Air Arm Museum were arranged and conducted
In our other role as representatives of the local cycling community, Jim Florence played a leading role in pushing the Shoalhaven City Council to formulate a long overdue Bike Plan. Group still needs to monitor its development to ensure the Council maintains its commitment.
When the Group became incorporated in 2011, as a requirement of the Department of Fare Trading, it was a milestone in the SBUG history, as the Group then became a legal entity with a formal Constitution. Consequently, the Group now also has a membership roll with a modest yearly fee rather than the gold coins we used to collect on Sundays and Thursdays. Finally, being incorporated and a legal entity also gives us more credibility when working with others such as the Council and RTA.
SBUG Website established
Revised membership renewal and subscription format introduced.
During March, at a special social celebration, SBUG celebrates its 20th anniversary. Certificates of appreciation were presented to Naomi Spencer, Duncan Marshall and Terry Threlfall, for their contribution during the Group’s earliest beginnings.
In April Wayne Beckenham became the first SBUG, Bicycle NSW accredited, Master Ride Leader. This appointment enables SBUG to arrange our own Ride Leader training courses without the need to travel to Sydney for training.
SBUG 25th Anniversary.
1. This history would not have been possible without the most valuable assistance from Jim Florence, Wayne Beckenham and Terry Threlfall. Jim has faithfully and meticulously kept the Group Minutes and Correspondence during his long years as Secretary, for which I am truly indebted.
2. The Group is a dynamic organisation, well led and managed, with an enterprising and hard working executive committee, wholly committed to ensure its continuing success.
3. Though much research has gone into the accuracy and recording of names, places and events which are the subject of this initial historical document, there will no doubt be a number of discrepancies in the detail, both in commission and omission, for which the author apologises.
4. Therefore, with regard to item 3, the author will be pleased to receive constructive comments or clarification, and the necessary corrections will be implemented wherever possible and applicable.
Tom McDonald – November 2017 firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated – July 2022