Northam to Perth on a Tricycle

In March 1938, Alfred Williamson left Melbourne on a tricycle determined to ride to Sydney in 21 days. The story was widely reported and attracted national coverage in the newspapers. Reading about it in Western Australia was Roy Lunt. Months later, in June, he got into an argument with Ronald Fletcher about the ride. Ronald thought it was a “wonderful feat,” while Roy was of the opinion that he could easily do something similar. Arising from the dispute was a bet and a challenge. On 25 June 1938, he had to ride from Northam to Perth on a child’s tricycle.

If he completed the sixty-mile challenge, he would walk away with £25. Roy had never taken to cycling and immediately began training. The tricycle was donated by W.J. Lucas and was a standard model English tricycle with a 16-inch front wheel, a brake, and an outsize seat. The handlebars were raised so that Roy could peddle without his knees getting in the way. He was confident that he would be able to complete the journey in 12 hours.

The day before Roy’s departure from Northam, The Daily News declared that he was fit for the long ride and in “good trim.” He planned to leave between 9 and 9:30 am and would only receive the money if he completed the challenge in less than 15 hours. He expected it would only take about nine hours to reach Perth. The reporter noted, “If he completes the trip he will have made more than 150,000 turns of his legs…” It was also said to be the longest tricycle ride attempted in the state.

Roy on the tricycle

Roy was not going to carry out the ride on his own. Throughout the journey, Mr Lucas and several observers planned to follow along in a car. They would bring food and play music on the radio to keep Roy entertained.

The weather at Northam on 25 June was cold and wintry. With an official push from Mayor Hal Colebatch, Roy departed from Mr Mackay’s store opposite the Shamrock Hotel at 9:30 am amidst warm cheers from the locals. Much to their amusement, he began by peddling furiously. The 66kg man on the 4.5kg tricycle was on his way.

Boys, big and small, mounted on bicycles, formed an escort through the main street, the party growing as it progressed, and many followed the tricyclist out on to the Perth road.

The Northam Advertiser (WA : 1895 – 1955); 29 June 1938; Page 2; Local and General

Travelling via the newly gazetted Great Eastern Highway, Roy cleared the hill near Northam just after 10 am. Fifty minutes later, he passed through Clackline. At 11:20, and having pedalled for two hours without stopping, he arrived at Baker’s Hill. After Baker’s Hill, he ran into some trouble. While trying to turn a corner at full speed, the tricycle tipped over, and Roy toppled into a ditch. He wasted no time. He immediately righted the trike, hopped back on it, and continued riding.

At 1:20 pm, he reached The Lakes and stopped to eat some lunch. The wind increased, but he kept up the pace and arrived at Sawyer’s Valley at 2:45 and then Mundaring at 3:15. Roy was on schedule to arrive at the corner of Hay and Pier Streets in Perth at 7 o’clock.

Riding through Midland, Guildford, and Bassendean, he arrived at Maylands just before 7 pm. By the time he pedalled into Forrest Place, it was 7:25, and an assembled crowd greeted him with cheers and the tooting of horns. Roy completed the challenge in just under ten hours. He rested and remarked to a reporter, “I am quite fit and ready to do the journey all over again.”

I would like, first, to thank Bill Lucas for his kindness in making my ride possible by loaning me the tricycle, and also for the splendid way in which he looked after me on the ride. Secondly, I wish to thank all those people who cheered me on my way.

Mirror (Perth, WA : 1921 – 1956); 25 June 1938; Page 11; Trike Hiker

He then left for Gloucester Park, where a gymkhana was being held in aid of the Fremantle Mission to Seamen. At 8:45 pm, he was escorted onto the track, and with the help of a cheering crowd, he completed a lap on his tricycle.

Despite having completed the challenge, tricycle racing was not over for Roy. Before he had even arrived in Perth, Les Preitz announced that he was also going to ride a tricycle from Northam to Perth and attempt to beat Roy’s time. Initially, Roy wished him luck. Then, he had a change of heart. On 28 June, he walked into the office of The Daily News and issued a challenge to Les: a tricycle race from Northam to Perth with a £5 wager. Les accepted.

Les Preitz and Roy Lunt shake hands

On 16 July, Roy and Les departed Northam. This time, Roy did not have the same level of success as he did previously. He made it as far as Greenmount and then withdrew due to severe cramps. Les continued, broke Roy’s record, and won the race.

While the second race may not have been the result Roy wanted, he nevertheless helped start a craze. Throughout the rest of 1938, tricycle racing occurred in various towns in Western Australia. He can also boast of having the claim to fame of being the first man to ride a tricycle from Northam to Perth.

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