If there is one thing Mark Allan learned on the Oamaru Ordinary Cycle Club’s tour of the West Coast, it is not to ride too close to other cyclists.
“At least the crash landing into gorse was soft,” the first time penny farthing rider said.
Mr Allan was one of 14 cyclists who took part in this year’s Oamaru Ordinary Cycle Club tour, riding the West Coast Wilderness Trail on penny farthings and vintage safety cycles.
Club sub-captain Sophia Leon de la Barra said it was “quite an exciting expedition” from Greymouth to Ross.
“We all had one single gear,” Miss Leon de la Barra said.
“Every time we came across an electric biker on a mountain bike, they looked at us incredulously, thinking can’t possibly do this track on that’.
“There were definitely some harrowing moments on the journey, with some steep bits of track, gravel and some large rocks.”
First held in 1998, the annual cycle tour has taken riders to different places each year, including the Central Otago Rail Trail, Tasman’s Great Taste Trail, Akaroa, Stewart Island and the Catlins.
“The number of kilometres covered varies greatly, but this year was not too gruelling,” she said.
“There was plenty of time for enjoying ourselves.”
This year, Oamaru cyclists were joined by members of the Whanganui Ordinary Cycle Club and the Karamu Cycling Club.
“There was pretty much as many riders from the North Island as there was from the South Island, which was good to see. We also had a couple from Auckland tour with the Oamaru Ordinary Cycle Club.
“It’s sort of a party on wheels – it’s a jolly good form of group travel.”
Outside Oamaru, penny farthings were considered a curiosity and the tours provided an opportunity to showcase the club’s collection of heritage bicycles, and promote the heritage movement in Oamaru.
“It’s always delightful to talk with the people along the way, because everybody’s always a bit bewildered – ‘why are there penny farthings riding through our town’,” she said.
“We often tell them about the heritage movement here in Oamaru, share a bit of the work the Oamaru Ordinary Cycle Club has done to create an entire fleet of replica penny farthings and we also have some original vintage safety cycles on tour, so it’s an interesting talking point for people who don’t know much about the history of the bicycle.”
In Oamaru, the club keeps active by building, riding, teaching, touring and maintaining a fleet of full-size and learner-size penny farthings.
“We’re hoping to grow the cohort of lady riders in Oamaru, so if there’s any intrepid women who are keen to give it a go, get in touch,” she said.