Sarah Maddock talks with The Bicycle Show on 94.7 FM 'The Pulse'

Mulga News

Sarah Maddock and Mark Arundel (Mulga Bicycle Tours) talk with Maria Neyenhuis and Heather Howard from The Bicycle Show at the completion of the Sarah Maddock Sydney to Melbourne Commemorative Cycling Tour on Wednesday 10 September, 2019.  Sarah explains the background behind the the tour and together they talk about the tour highlights and Mulga Bicycle Tours plans to run the tour on an annual basis.

Listen to the program here. Originally broadcast on 94.7 FM, 'The Pulse' on Saturday, 21 September, 2019, at 11.00am


MARIA:      You're on The Bicycle Show, 94.7, The Pulse. So, our guest today is Sarah Maddock. Now Sarah, you've done an awesome ride from Sydney all the way to Melbourne. So, the reason for the ride, you'd might like to mention to our listeners.

SARAH:     Well, it was back in 2003, and Google was just a new thing. So, I didn't know what to look up. So, I put my name in, and the first thing that came up was a listing for another Sarah Maddock who I discovered was a cyclist, and she happened to be the first woman to cycle from Sydney to Melbourne in 1894.

MARIA:      1894. Now I believe she didn't exactly wear Lycra.

SARAH:     No. So, it was still in the times of skirts and blouses, and she would have worn a corset as well. But she did say it was a breathable corset. So, it wasn't as tight as maybe an everyday corset.

MARIA:      And bloomers.

SARAH:     Yes, bloomers underneath, yes.

MARIA:      So, (the skirt), did she have a guard on the chain?

SARAH:     Yes, so she did a couple of things to stop the skirt catching, and she did, she had a guard over the chain on the back wheel. I believe she secured her skirt up sometimes, in the front, so it wouldn't billow out as much, and I've also read that in between towns she would take her skirt off, which I can imagine is a bit risqué, and ride with that on the handlebars, and just ride with the bloomers on, and then, yes, when they were approaching town she'd put the skirt back on.

MARIA:      And really, there would have been a lot of outback places from Sydney and Melbourne back in 1894, wouldn't there?

SARAH:     Yes, there would have been a lot of long gaps between towns, I'm sure.

MARIA:      Yes, because it wouldn't be easy cycling in a skirt, gosh. I like my Lycra, because it's easier. And it breathes and moves.

SARAH:     Yes, very…

MARIA:      But what made you then decide to do this ride?

SARAH:     Well, when I discovered my name, it did plant the seed that I was just inspired by this woman and her achievement. And given the circumstances at the time, like the outfits we mentioned, the bikes would have been very basic at the time too, and I just had so much admiration for the achievement that she had done that I decided I wanted to undertake this too. But at the time, being only a commuter cyclist, the idea was a long way from the actual reality of putting it, yes, into practice. Yes.

MARIA:      So, you just cycled to work or to [overtalking]…

SARAH:     Yes, I was just doing little commutes. Yes, ten Ks or so.

MARIA:      Wow. So, you did a bit of training?

SARAH:     Yes, so in 2016, 17, or so, started thinking now is the time. So, yes, started slowly building up the Ks to get to the point where we've just finished the ride.

MARIA:      It's a long way, and you had lots of weather. Some good weather, some bad weather.

SARAH:     Yes.

MARIA:      So, what was some of the hassles, or some of the difficulties you had with the weather.

SARAH:     So, being spring, it's been quite variable, and predominantly in Victoria actually, when we started going through the Alpine region, one day we were climbing up to 700 metres or so, and the snow was from 900 metres. The temperature was dropping quite a lot as we were climbing. So, that was a new challenge for me. The other thing was the rain. So, we did the rail trail recently to Yea. And it's a unsealed crushed gravel kind of track.

MARIA:      Yes, some of it's a bit rough.

SARAH:     Yes. In rain, you bog down a little bit. And so, constant pushing on the pedals, yes. So, that day we finished frozen and muddy. But I have to say, despite all that, yes, I had a ball.

MARIA:      You did?

SARAH:     Yes.

MARIA:      Despite…

HEATHER: Now I've just been… Someone's just mentioned that it's a birthday today.

SARAH:     It is, yes.

MARIA:      Oh, happy birthday. How wonderful.

HEATHER: I refuse to sing happy birthday. People do not wish to hear my voice. What is it, the 20…

SARAH:     So, tied it in with my 40th birthday. So, I finished, yes, I finished the ride on my 40th birthday. Because I…


MARIA:      Oh, [overtalking].

HEATHER: It actually says 20th here.

SARAH:     Oh, that would be lovely. Two times 20.

MARIA:      That's Mark in the background, isn't it Mark?

MARK:       Yes.

HEATHER: Yes. Is that Mark's fault, the…

MARK:       No, I wrote 40. That's… You can't read my writing.

HEATHER: I can't read your writing.

MARK:       Yes.

SARAH:     Yes. So, I thought by ending on my 40th, I'd either be very happy to get off my bike, or excited that I'd achieved such a…

MARIA:      So, it's the latter, isn't it?

SARAH:     A great… And it's definitely the latter.

MARIA:      So, in saying that though, would you be in a hurry to do another ride?

SARAH:     I've surprised myself, and I'd say yes. I'm very interested in another long distance cycle ride now. Yes, it's really opened up a new way of travel, and exploring, and yes, for me…

MARIA:      So, how did… Mark, how did you come on board? Mark from Mulga Bicycle Tours. How did you come to liaise with Sarah?

MARK:       Sarah rang us up one day and started picking our brain. Yes, we started to go, Sarah, I think we'd like to come along too. And that's how it happened.

MARIA:      So, you were thinking of doing it solo first?

SARAH:     Yes, and just one other friend potentially. So, looking into that, and I was realising what a big leap that was, really, to do it unassisted. Yes, and so, it was great having Mark and Denise on board who've got the knowhow, the knowledge of the roads. Done long trips themselves.

MARK:       So, we've opened up a route, we think that we're going to do this again.

MARIA:      Right, from Sydney to Melbourne?

MARK:       From Sydney to Melbourne. In fact, we're going to do it from the harbour, Sydney Harbour to here.

MARIA:      That was the…

MARK:       This time we did it from Camden. Having spent the time finding the shared paths that go through Melbourne all the way into Federation Square, we realise now we need to find them at the other end. Yes…

MARIA:      So, how long was the tour, the journey?

MARK:       So, we allowed 14 days. Yes, old Sarah as I call her.

SARAH:     Cycling days, yes.

MARK:       Did it in ten.  … Yes, we had two rest days, because we're a bit more relaxed.

SARAH:     Yes, relaxed, they had no rest days.

MARIA:      So, what sort of kilometres a day would you do?

MARK:       The longest we did was 130.

SARAH:     Yes.

MARK:       And probably the shortest would have been around about 60 to 70 kilometres.

MARIA:      Right, okay.

MARK:       But we came through at the right time of the year. Particularly through New South Wales. And the wheat belt, and yes, Harden Murrumburrah, Cootamundra, Junee. The Canola [flowers] is just out there, and sitting in the car at the front doing the escort and looking in the mirror and watching this lady's head come up over a hill with yellow, stuck out.

SARAH:     Yes. Yellow. It was stunning.

MARK:       But that was a long day. And we took people away from all the main roads. And so, you probably could count the number of cars on one hand that would pass the [overtalking].

MARIA:      That's the way I want to ride.

SARAH:     Yes, we had the roads to ourselves.

MARK:       And I think that was a special day for a lot of people. Very picturesque.

SARAH:     Yes, it's like a sea of gold. And it Sarah:elt beautiful as well.

HEATHER: So, everybody else enjoyed themselves too, I'm assuming.

SARAH:     Yes, it was a great crew. We've all come from different states, all different ages, and different experience in cycling. But yes, because we had this common interest of cycling, yes, it's been amazing, yes.

MARK:       So, from a young forty year old to a 70 plus year old lady.

MARIA:      Oh, I'm in that age bracket, so there you go. So, I could do it.

MARK:       Yes, so… And everybody gets on so well didn’t they, yes. It's just lovely.

MARIA:      How many did you have in the group?

MARK:       We had nine.

MARIA:      Nine, okay.

MARK:       One person could only get halfway because he had job commitments. So, I understand that he's been watching from [overtalking]…

SARAH:     From afar. Getting good photo updates, and…

MARK:       From afar and drooling with all the photos.

MARIA:      So, did everybody do the 130 K day?

SARAH:     Yes, we did.

MARIA:      Well it would have been a long day.

SARAH:     We were lucky with that day. It was fairly flat, and no headwind that day. So, that was good.

MARIA:      [Overtalking] Oh that’s amazing because you hit the windy season, didn't you?

MARK:       Yes, we can't do much about it. But really, for the… Sarah and Ernest, they did it the wrong way. It should be Melbourne to Sydney with the prevailing winds. Yes, there was only one problem we had, was that there was someone who used to keep taking a lot of photos.

MARIA:      Oh…

SARAH:     Don't know who you're talking about there.

MARIA:      Heather's turning around already, because she knows that I'm the same. I just did the Great Ocean Road, and my friend said, I'm leaving you to it. And I got in an hour and a half or two hours later, but I got all the photos.

SARAH:     We're kindred spirits then.

MARIA:      She got none.

HEATHER: Every time I looked over, she was stopping for another photo.

MARIA:      I was. And I'm still the same.

SARAH:     Yes. I couldn't help myself. Beautiful.

MARIA:      That's the experience, the journey.

SARAH:     It really is.

MARK:       It is. It's the journey, yes.

MARIA:      It is.


HEATHER: And you had two of the grandchildren, of Sarah's grandchildren, did they come too?

SARAH:     So, I've tracked down quite a few of Sarah's great grandkids. And they came and saw us off. And that's been awesome. Because when I met them, they initially didn't know that their great grandmother had done this ride. Yes, so apparently she didn't… A couple of them did meet her. And she didn't talk about it much. And they knew her up until, they were in their early teens when she passed away. So, yes, it's been a coming together of that whole Sarah Maddock family as well and sharing all the stories as well.

MARIA:      Just through you researching.

SARAH:     Yes, just through that research.

MARIA:      Well yes, haven't they benefitted from it too.

HEATHER: And you turned out not to be related, which was even more ironic.

MARIA:      Yes.

SARAH:     Yes, exactly, yes. But I've become their non-cousin is what they now call me.

MARIA:      It's not exactly a common name, is it?

SARAH:     No.

MARIA:      Like Sarah:ith or Brown.

HEATHER: I didn't realise that she was also in the Pioneer Hall of Fame in Alice, yes.

SARAH:     In Alice Springs, yes. And she's got a street named after her in one of the suburbs in Canberra as well.


MARIA:      Oh, okay.

SARAH:     Yes. So, there's a few pieces of places where she's been recognised in history.

HEATHER: But she didn't do just the one. She did about three rides.

SARAH:     Yes. So, before the Sydney to Melbourne, her first ride after only three or four months of cycling was actually Sydney to Bega. And then the following year, Sydney to Melbourne. And then Sydney to Brisbane actually, the year after. And with all three, she was the first woman to do so in her time, yes. So, a lot of firsts.

HEATHER: The interesting thing was she had children as well too.

SARAH:     She did, yes. She had at least two kids at home when she did the Sydney to Melbourne ride. So, I could imagine it would have been a big hoo-ha, probably, leaving the kids at home.

MARIA:      In those days, [overtalking].

SARAH:     Yes, there was a lot of social norms.

HEATHER: I think if she probably, if she had the money to do that, and the bikes during that period, then there was probably a nanny somewhere, or an unmarried sister somewhere in the offing. Because they were very useful, unmarried sisters.

SARAH:     For that type of work. I think you're right, because her husband was a kind of legal clerk. And even looking into the price of her bike, it was a Conqueror that she imported from the UK. I found an ad for a second-hand version of that, in around 1895, and in today's money, even second hand it was three or four thousand dollars. So, this was before the bicycle craze took off in 1895 when they were mass produced, and yes, became a lot more affordable.

MARIA:      So, how many gears did she have on her bike?

SARAH:     Three or four probably.

MARIA:      Yes, I thought it was about right.

SARAH:     Yes, not that many.

MARIA:      Wasn't a fixed wheel.

SARAH:     No.

MARIA:      It was just three or four. Gosh I'm at 27.

SARAH:     I know, and even hitting the hills we did, I was always disappointed when I realised I'd reached the bottom gear.

HEATHER: Yes, but they were longer framed bikes in those days. She would have not hurried. I always look at that particular ad for Zwift, which says “fast is fun”. And I go, no, it's not. … Slow and steady…

SARAH:     Slow and steady.

HEATHER: And look at the scenery, and have the coffee, it's better.

SARAH:     Take a few photos.

HEATHER: Take a few photos, yes.

MARIA:      Perhaps Mark could just mention his bicycle tours for those who may be interested. It sounds pretty exciting. And it's very well organised by the looks of things. Or you both are.

MARK:       Well, we try to be organised. I think, yes, we sometimes turn around and say we're leaving at nine o'clock and everybody's there diligently at nine o'clock, except for us. But that's…

HEATHER: That's it, that's the way it works.

MARK:       But we're usually there…

MARIA:      I did see the sign on the back though, relaxed start in the mornings.

MARK:       That's right. It's the most important thing.

MARIA:      So, very relaxed.

MARK:       That we really do try to cut it as someone described on this particular trip. They described it as banker's hours. We're not out there at seven o'clock in the morning. Yes, we run Mulga Bicycle Tours. We started running tours in 2017. And we have a suite of tours that we run from the Northern tip of Australia, Cape York, from Cairns to Karumba. We do that in July each year. And then we have tours spread out along the East Coast down to the Eyre Peninsula, it's going to be a new tour this year, and it's going to be run on the first two weeks of December.

                   So, it'll be running from Ceduna all the way around the West Coast, down to Port Lincoln and then up to Cowell, finishing there. And we will be zig zagging in and out of the inland, and with our tours, we try to do things not just bikes. So, on this one we're offering cage diving with Great White Sharks. Now, I might not want to do that, but there'll be people out there who probably will. And we're doing it with a company who offer it with wet diving in cage, or they have a glass bottom boat where you can get in and…

MARIA:      Oh, that'd be me.

MARK:       And you do it with cheese and biscuits, and wine. Which to me sounds very laid back and cultured experience.

MARIA:      That's very…

HEATHER: That's more civilised.

MARIA:      More civilised, yes.

MARK:       Yes, and then this year we did a tour for the first time to Carnarvon Gorge. So, we did from Saint George through to Emerald for ten to 12 days. We had three nights in Carnarvon Gorge. We partner on our tours with a local company, and so, in this case, we worked with Australian Nature Guides, and they took our people up through the Gorge for a 14 kilometre walk, one of the best art galleries.

MARIA:      I did that last year. Yes, it's beautiful.

MARK:       Beautiful. And it's really lovely. And then one night we went spotlighting for Greater Gliders, and Yellow Tailed Gliders, and Squirrel Gliders.

HEATHER: Sounds exciting, doesn't it Sarah?

MARIA:      More tours for you?

SARAH:     Yes, exactly.

MARIA:      You're hooked now.

HEATHER: I was just going to say, are you off on another one next year?

SARAH:     Well I always thought I'd wait till I get to the end of this one to work out how do I feel about this. But yes. I am thinking, okay, what is next. I really fell in love with the high country and Victoria, and I'd love to get back there, and explore around Bright.

MARK:       But isn't it great to hear the enjoyment that she's got to have a try.

MARIA:      But you've got to have that, haven't you? You've got it now, haven't you, the bug?

SARAH:     The bug, exactly. Yes.

MARIA:      Got the bug, that's hard to let that go.

SARAH:     Yes, and it's crazy thinking this other Sarah Maddock has led me on this path.

MARIA:      Yes, just because you type it in the search engine.

SARAH:     Yes.

HEATHER: And that took off in a totally different direction. Did you ever get onto your own genealogy, and…?

SARAH:     No.

HEATHER: No, you haven't. No.

SARAH:     I haven't researched that at all.

MARIA:      You haven't had time, you've been busy training for this ride.

SARAH:     Yes, tracing someone else's family tree.

HEATHER: Well, you've got the genealogy sitting right beside you in your father.

MARIA:      Well yes.

SARAH:     Exactly.

HEATHER: So, don't let him get away. You question as many people as you can.

SARAH:     Yes, that's very true. Yes.

MARK:       When we stopped in Yackandandah, and…

MARIA:      Oh, that's my favourite little place there.

MARK:       And there's lots of cafés there. But this one café that we know that we walked into, and we went to introduce ourselves again to the owner, who we know. And he was saying, what are you here for? And we're saying, oh, we're doing a bicycle tour, Sydney to Melbourne, there was a lady called Sarah Maddock, did it first time, 125 years ago. This lady out here, her name's Sarah Maddock, and he just pauses, … my in-laws are Maddocks, and there they are.

SARAH:     Sitting in the café.

MARIA:      Oh my goodness. Were they related to you?

SARAH:     Well they could well be more likely related to me than the other Sarah Maddock because they're from the same part of the UK.

MARIA:      How about that?

MARK:       Isn't that amazing?

MARIA:      That's amazing.

MARK:       Isn't it? And we say with our business, we try to discover unforgettable stories, and that's what we try to tell people.

MARIA:      Well you have.

MARK:       When Sarah first rang us up, we went ah, here's a great story. And then the… All the way along the place, you walk in, and someone adds something to it. Sarah did a talk in Yea, at the library, and there was a lady there who'd had… Well, you tell the story.

SARAH:     Yes. So, her great grandmother, she discovered actually was one of the first cyclists that rode from Melbourne to Sydney. So, the other way around. Yes, she's not exactly sure what year, but again, it's sending me on this path of going, okay, when did she do it? So, yes, it's unearthing more stories in other communities.

HEATHER: Have to go home, go and look that up.

MARIA:      We have to check that out. That was a while back, the [unclear] out of…

HEATHER: See Rod's, might be in Rod's, Rod's book.

SARAH:     It would have been similar era to Sarah, yes.

MARIA:      Right, okay. Late 90s.

HEATHER: Might have been in Rod's book. We're of Many Wheels. Which is by Rod Charles.

SARAH:     Right.

HEATHER: Three volumes. Start…

MARIA:      He's a local in Geelong.

HEATHER: Started to be the history of cycling in Geelong and expanded into three volumes. And I think it's the history of everywhere. Yes, because people kept coming out of the woodwork with more stories, and more tales, and he kept connecting them all up. And I know he's very interested in the women's side of the cycling, because it's something which is forgotten.

MARIA:      Well, thank you very much Sarah Maddock, we've been speaking to, who has just done the bicycle tour from… guided, supported bicycle tour by Mulga Tours from Sydney to Melbourne. Thank you very much.

SARAH:     Thank you very much.


End  of interview.


MARIA:      You're pretty proud of her, aren't you?

UM             I'm supremely proud. A very proud Dad.

MARIA:      Talking about you on radio when he goes back to Goolwa, why won't he?

SARAH:     Yes.

MARIA:      Thank you very much.

MARK:       And we got her here safely.

UM             Yes. That's a plus.

MARIA:      I'm so excited because I love it when you hear people are, oh well, I haven't really ridden, but I've got the bug now.

SARAH:     Yes. Yes, that's a massive thing.

MARIA:      Because I… All the time we're traveling anywhere, I look for bicycle paths. And if I see one that looks nice, I'll want to be on it.