Film-maker to wind back the clock on Grafton Cycle Club
WHEN Danny Loyden looks out over McKittrick Park from the concrete grandstand, he can imagine a different sight to the football field before him.
He can imagine thousands of people crammed into the ground, gathered around a race track, where names like Corky Caldwell would be lining up, ready for the starter's gun, to take off and race against their opponents and the clock.
He can imagine a time when cycling was an exciting new invention, and hundreds of cyclists would join processions that would ride through Grafton's CBD and out to Bawden Bridge in their Sunday's finest.
He can imagine a time when cycling was king.
The rich history of cycling in Grafton is the subject of the local film-maker and avid cyclist, and Mr Loyden hopes to share his love of the two-wheeled sport and its place in Grafton.
"Grafton has got a strong cycling heritage and there's still a lot of quality cyclists here, and there's still a lot of folks who train every day on the roads, and if you talk to some of the older guys, Grafton has always been a cycling town," he said.
"There's a long history here. The Grafton Cycle Club started in 1892 and there's some wonderful photos of the club back in that era, and being a cyclist myself that's what got me interested, so it sort of went from there and being a film-maker I thought well, there's a story here."
Mr Loyden's time spent researching the history of the club has led him to meet some of the riders who took part in the races that made Grafton famous and help share the almost-forgotten past of cycling in Grafton.
"I got to meet some of the guys like Kevin Brindle who's 77 and still rides, he is still a very strong rider and Henry "Corky" Caldwell, who is 92, and he was racing at the track out at Fisher Park back before the war, and helped build the track at McKittrick Park, so he had some wonderful stories," he said.
"Meeting these older gentleman and looking through their photos and how much pride they took in their cycling was great to hear.
"I guess for me, I'm very intrigued by the early days, and in particular those old photos from the 1890s, and there's no-one around to tell us about those days, but I find it quite interesting that not a whole lot has changed.
"People still go out as a group and ride and I think there is still the same sort of competitive spirit and interest in how fast you were going and how far you went."
When Popeye Caley walked out on to the field of McKittrick Park where the track once was, even at 81 he could still remember the feeling of excitement of tearing around the track.
"It brings back memories for me, that's all," he said.
"Everybody knows me in town from years ago from cycling. That's all I was ever good at! I wasn't good at anything else, and I tried everything else."
Mr Caley was 17 when he took up cycling, and went on to win a Grafton Wheel race and a NSW one-mile title.
Keven Brindle meanwhile doesn't have to think back too far about his time cycling, because he is still a member of Grafton Cycle Club. At 77, he is one of the oldest members, but he doesn't let that slow him down.
"It's just something that I enjoy," he said.
"Popeye was one of the blokes that got me into cycling years ago, and I've been riding ever since."
Mr Brindle can still remember his cycling highlight, when he won the Grafton to Inverell in 1972, but the Australian and state titles were up there too.
"I've got a lot of great memories," he said.
"McKittrick Park is one of them. It's where I started as a kid, where I have ridden a lot."
Both men said after a lifetime of cycling, the friendships they made lasted just as long.
"You weren't friends on the bike, but off the bike we were," Mr Caley said.
"It didn't matter where you went either, it was the same.
"We're all still good friends to this day. It was great to have that rivalry, and those friends as well."
Mr Loyden said the attraction of cycling for riders today is still the same to that felt by those who got on their bicycles back in 1892.
"I think there's nothing like the freedom of jumping on a bike and going for a spin," he said.
"You're self-propelled and I think it showed back in those old photos back in the 1890s when people first jumped on a bike, they would bike to Coutts Crossing and back in a day, and it probably wouldn't have taken them much longer than it would have in a horse and cart, so it really opened people's worlds up.
"It's the freedom I think, the wind in your hair, it's a real buzz riding a pushy and you know if more people rode to work there probably wouldn't be a line-up of cars to get across the bendy bridge of a morning and people might feel a lot better about themselves."
Mr Loyden is still looking for any stories, photos or film on the history of cycling in Grafton. If you have anything you would like to share, email email@example.com to share your story.