Trophy presented to Donald Mackay
In 1900 Donald Mackay, became the third person to cycle around the continent setting a new' around Australia cycling record' of 240 days 7 hours and 30 minutes. Mackay pedaled his Dux bicycle, now in the Museum's collection, north through Queensland, across the Northern Territory, down the west coast of the continent, across the Nullarbor Plain, then up the eastern coast. This ride was the last of a series of long distance cycling trips in Australia between 1897 and 1900 to prove the suitability and utility of the bicycle as a means of rural and outback transport.
After the trip Mackay referred to his Dux bicycle as the "best little wheel I ever rode" and "although I humped it over rocks, through great swamps, and crashed into stumps and logs on a thousand occasions it stood up every time and never needed the slightest repair". The linking of bicycle advertising to record performances and the endorsement of bicycle tyres and peripheral items was common. One writer at the time in the 'Austral Wheel' noted wryly that: 'When a champion pulls down a record the credit of his victory is claimed by the builder of the his machine, the maker of his tyres, the patentees of his saddle, and the manufacturer of his chain. Then the oil with which the chain was lubricated, the tow-clips which kept his feet on the pedals, the shoes he wore, the training oil used by him, the soap he patronised, the pills which set his liver right, all have a share in the victory. The man himself is little else but a pedaling advertisement.'
The endurance rides of Australian bush cyclists, particularly the overlanders, were likewise exploited. Several early riders commenced journeys without fanfare or official acknowledgment. Afterwards the cycle and tyre manufacturers all received unexpected but valuable publicity. The reputation of the German bicycle, the Electra, was immeasurably enhanced in Australia after it was found that Jerome Murif rode one in the first Adelaide to Darwin crossing in 1897. Similarly William Virgin helped the Dux Cycle Company after his successful first ride from Perth to Brisbane on one of their bicycles in 1897.
The tyre and cycle companies sought out proven overland riders and supported them with equipment and administrative aid for subsequent efforts. However, unproven riders like Mackay, were told that official endorsement and reimbursement would come only if they were successful. The firms were anxious to protect themselves against adverse publicity should the ride fail. The long distance overland rides offered particularly valuable advertising potential, as opposed to events in which racing bicycles were used. This was because in nearly all overland rides, cyclists used the standard roadster and touring models most commonly bought by the general cycling public.
Assistant Curator, Transport