Day 366 | better do something constructive: time to research those cycling pioneers

Esperance Day 68

After a year on the road I’ve finally spent some time to research the true pioneers of long distance bike riding in Australia. It makes interesting reading.

The first to circumnavigate the continent was Arthur Richardson. He’d warmed up in 1896 by doing the first ride across the Nullabor from Coolgardie to Adelaide taking 31 days. Carrying only a small kit and a water-bag, he followed the telegraph line.

In 1899 Richardson set out to be the first to ride round Australia. He left Perth on 5 June, heading north, carrying “not more than 25 pounds (11.4 kg) of luggage” and a pistol. Heavy rain slowed his progress in Western Australia, and later in the north, where the black-soil plains were unrideable for several days. He had to push and carry his bicycle through much sand, and encountered ‘hostile blacks’ across the north. He arrived back in Perth on 4 February 1900 after travelling about 11,500 miles (18,500 km).

That’s 253 days by my reckoning at an average of about 42 miles, (73km) a day, through country that had no sealed roads and often no roads at all.

There’s an unhappy ending: Richardson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, after first shooting his wife.

Maybe it wasn’t the long distance cycling that drove him mad.