It’s April 1982 and a few score people gather at the South Australia Museum lecture rooms to discuss forming a club to share their enjoyment of cycle touring.
Seems simple enough. The minutes taken and agreements made are no Declaration of Independence but that meeting of like-minded souls has now grown to a statewide organisation with a history spanning 40 years, with thousands of members and, while still passionate about cycle touring, engaging in cycling activities, advocacy, policy and education across the full spectrum of bike riding.
Forty years. It’s easy to say it’s a lifetime’s achievement or commitment. But in the true spirit of Bicycle South Australia, even that accolade is lacking.
Because the Bicycle SA we are all a part of today is the culmination of thousands of people’s hard work, commitment, collaboration, goodwill, generosity, enthusiasm, passion and community spirit.
We may have evolved from a club into an incorporated organisation, but the true heart of Bicycle SA is and always has been our corps of dedicated volunteers – without whom we simply could not function at the level we do – and volunteerism permeates all our activities.
As our volunteer co-ordinator, Bicycle SA’s president Maureen Merrick – herself a prolific volunteer – has long had a soft spot for our Red Shirt Brigade. “Our volunteers are the backbone of everything we do here,” Maureen said. “From answering phones and doing our mailouts to riding the full length of the Mawson Trail as a ride marshal, they pitch in and always put others first. And the maintenance crew work hard to keep all the bikes we use in top condition.”
The early days of the SA Touring Cyclists’ Association – our name from 1982-93 – was about venturing far and wide, riding, camping, exploring new routes and new destinations (as some of our most long-standing members recall on pages 6 & 7).
Events like the evergreen Grand Slam series and the Annual Tour were developed in the early ’80s and have come to define what Bicycle SA offers to its members and the wider community. But two other significant developments – for the organisation and SA in general – followed in the early ’90s that expanded our profile, our community engagement and the opportunity for cycling exploration to venture to new and spectacular parts of SA.
In 1990 Bicycle SA was an intrinsic part of establishing the Mawson Trail between Adelaide and Blinman (see full story page 11) which evolved into the foundation of one of our flagship events, the Outback Odyssey, in 2002.
And in 1995 our Bike Education program was implemented, making its first steps with a volunteer crew of instructors towards the thousands of school students per year it reaches today (see full story page 14).
The Mawson Trail work was just the beginning of Bicycle SA’s innovation and diversifying from road touring to include the enormously popular advance of mountain biking. It was a Bicycle SA initiative to create the Fat Tyre Festival, which began in 2005 at MTB destination Melrose at the foot of the aptly named Mount Remarkable in the southern Flinders Ranges.
And we have long collaborated with Forestry SA to enable the development of MTB trails, particularly at Fox Creek Bike Park at Cudlee Creek which, after its bushfire devastation, is fighting back to become a world-class MTB destination.
Similar collaborations with another State Government department – The Office for Recreation, Sport and Racing – created Eagle MTB Park at Eagle on the Hill and Bicycle SA is eager to continue such work as plans emerge to expand the opportunities – and the cycle tourism potential – of cycling trails throughout the Adelaide Hills and beyond.
Achievements across the board in the realm of improvements in cycling infrastructure, safety and opportunity have involved a wide range of departments, organisations and clubs throughout the state and Bicycle SA is proud of the role it has played in working with them.
The uninitiated may think that the whole organisation revolves around long, lazy bike rides, events and celebrations of all things bike, but that would be selling us far short. Advocacy, safety and representation have long been core tenets of the Bicycle SA DNA and they remain so.
Programs like the Be Safe, Be Seen lunchtime road safety program in partnership with the Motor Accident Commission, which won the 2014 National Road Safety Award, spread the safety message and gave people the confidence to commute by bike instead of adding to the motor traffic – a double success.
Bringing the 2014 VeloCity Global cycling conference to Adelaide was similarly a multi-pronged achievement. Not only did it raise the profile of cyclists and cycling before, during and after the conference, it also brought the issues of road safety, infrastructure and modern, inclusive city planning into the spotlight.
And sometimes the events we do run double as advocacy and representation drives, for which there is no better example than our Gear Up Girl ride which began in 2009 to encourage more women to ride.
“Bike SA and Gear Up Girl have done so much good over the years in a variety of ways to improve the opportunity for women to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of cycling,” GUG Ambassador and cycling coach Margaret Boylan said. “Many of my clients at First Principles Coaching have used Gear Up Girl as a training goal and have loved the supportive and fun atmosphere it has every year.
“Gear Up Girl is not just any other weekend ride. It’s an event and it has a real sense of occasion and gives more and more women the confidence to come out and ride.”
We have made every effort to change with the times while keeping our core principles resolute. This magazine was first published in colour in 2019, we have adapted to social media, websites, blogs and any other ways we can avail ourselves of modern technology to better serve our valued members. And with new CEO Brett Gillett having come on board in February this year with new energy and new ideas, we are determined to continue to pursue that agenda.
Two of our latest events – La Grande Gita, which debuted last November in partnership with the Adelaide Italian Festival, and Flinders Escape, which rolls out for the first time this May – also epitomise this finger on the pulse of change. With the enthusiasm for gravel bikes surging, both events are hybrids, catering to road, gravel or mountain bikes and offering fun and adventure regardless of what bike you throw your leg over.
Our history is proud. Our future is bright. We are Bicycle SA and we thank all of you for being part of the journey that has made us what we are.