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Cycling ambassador sings the praises of Kiwi hospitality

13 Feb 2012 12:07 pm

Oamaru’s penny farthing ambassador David Wilson made an overnight stop in Warkworth on January 30, on the final leg of his marathon journey from Stewart Island to Cape Reinga.

Dressed in the wheelman uniform of the Victorian era, his ride down Warkworth’s main street drew many admiring looks, not to mention photographers.

It’s the sort of attention David says he has had to get used to. Part of his journey is set to feature in an upcoming documentary on some of NZ’s heritage stories.

He said the purpose of his endeavour was two-fold.

“Oamaru has the greatest collection of Victorian buildings in Australasia and this trip is about letting the rest of NZ know about that,” he said. “And secondly, the Oamaru Penny Farthing Club will celebrate its 20th year in 2014 and we’re looking to organise an international gathering of penny farthing enthusiasts. Part of the celebrations will be tours in both the North and South Islands, so this trip is partly about scouting out some possible routes.”

Although a bit saddle sore, David described his journey as a ‘trip of a lifetime’. Apart from a minor scrap on a South Island bridge, it had been without mishap.

“On the contrary, the reception and hospitality I’ve received along the way has been fantastic.

“Coming into Taupo, for instance, everyone at the outdoor cafes stood up and cheered and applauded as I rode along the waterfront. Likewise, when I pulled into the Puhoi Hotel, there were about 25 motorbikes lined up outside. I parked the bike beside them and when I got off, the bikers gave me a standing ovation!”

The bike David’s riding is a replica of an 1882 penny farthing, which in its day was a common form of transport.

He said while riding the bike was relatively simple, mounting and dismounting did take a little practice.

The bike has a 54-inch front wheel including a solid rubber tyre, no suspension and limited braking power. Going up and down the North Island’s winding hills has been a particular challenge, which mostly involved dismounting and pushing the bike.

A factory in Oamaru produces about six penny farthings a year and the average one sells for around $3500.

David’s 2000km odyssey started on November 14, although wet weather, bike repairs and rest days meant that by the time he reached Warkworth, he was on his 39th day of actual cycling. He was averaging 30 to 40kms a days, although on a good day on flat roads he has done up to 80kms. He was due to reach Cape Reinga some time this week.

“I’m sure this ride will be one of my life’s most cherished memories.”

Picture gallery: Carrying only one change of clothes and minimal equipment for camping and making repairs, David said even the whiskey flask was left at home in order to keep the bike as light as possible.