Harry makes Great Vic Bike Ride history

RACV RoyalAuto Magazine

Harry Sheldon was responsible for the two bangs that caused the false start to the first Great Victorian Bike Ride in 1984.

It happened in Wodonga. Harry was in a queue to buy food when he heard the bangs coming from where the cyclists had gathered. Harry had left his bike with another rider. When he returned he discovered he’d had a couple of blowouts.

“I went to this man and asked where I could find a bike shop for spare tubes and his eyes bulged and steam came out of his ears. ‘Is that your bloody tyres that started the bike ride?’ he asked me.”

Inaugural bike ride

Harry is the only person to have taken part in every Great Victorian Bike Ride, and besides the false start, he has other strong memories of the inaugural event in 1984.

There were 2100 participants, the entry fee was $75 and meals and toilet facilities were provided by local communities between Wodonga and Melbourne.

“We weren’t cyclists. Very few people had multi-speed bikes, he says. “People dug up old bikes from the garage and most of us wore ordinary shorts and suffered the consequences. The chaffing was awful. It didn’t take long to persuade people to wear Lycra.”

One-off becomes annual event

The ride was meant to be a one-off event to celebrate Victoria’s sesquicentennial but it proved so popular that it became an annual event. Harry is its unofficial historian.

“There was a chap on the first ride who … wore shorts and a shirt. On the shirt he wrote his name, the name of the town he came from and that his occupation was a farmer.

He also wrote, ‘Please talk while passing’, and all day people chatted to him as they rode next to him.

“It was such a clever idea and I remember it 32 years later. Nowadays people don’t say, ‘G’day, how are you?’ Now it’s, ‘Passing’,” Harry says.

Family event

On Saturday 26 November, at the age of 63 and with his fifth bike, Harry will be beginning his 33rd ride and seeing some familiar faces.

“It becomes a bit of a family,” he says.

Families, school groups and individuals take part in the nine-day ride that now regularly attracts around 4000 participants. Harry says RACV’s sponsorship of the event has seen a huge and noticeable increase in local communities’ involvement. It’s something the riders appreciate.

In the weeks leading up to the ride, Harry will begin his training routine of two 40-kilometre rides a week.

“I always do the Warby (Warburton) Rail Trail and how I go there is a good indicator of how I will do in the Great Victorian Bike Ride.”


Join the ride

The 2016 RACV Great Victorian Bike Ride starts on Saturday 26 November and finishes on Sunday 4 December.

The ride is from Halls Gap to Geelong, via Dunkeld, Mortlake, the 12 Apostles, Apollo Bay, Bellbrae and Queenscliff. The full ride, including overnight camping, takes nine days. Three-day and five-day options are available. RACV members can save $100 on the current entry fee* as well as 10% off all merchandise during the event. Register at bicyclenetwork.com.au.


*Conditions apply. This offer applies to online registrations from 23 August to 26 October 2016 and is subject to availability. RACV member discount code (RACVGREATVIC) and RACV member number must be provided at time of booking. Merchandise discount only applies to purchases made at the event.

Written by Verica Jokic, Photo Kim Tonelli
September 01, 2016