80-year-old Joyce Webster riding for her life

AS THE WHEEL TURNS: Eighty-year-old Joyce Webster on her beloved Hobbs of Barbican four-speed. “YOU have nothing to lose but your chains.” These words are written across the top of a postcard that shows an assembly of proud early 20th-century cyclists posing for the camera.
Nanjing Night Net

The postcard sits on a mantlepiece in the home of Tamworth’s Ron and Joyce Webster, and seems to embody not only their passion for the sport of cycling, but the spirit in which they choose to live.

These “unchained” 80-year-olds are enthusiasts of the highest degree, and in casual conversation demonstrate an impressively detailed knowledge of the history of the sport they love.

The free-wheeling Joyce Webster is a well-known figure on the streets of Tamworth as she clips along at an average 20km/h on her antique Hobbs of Barbican four-speed road bike.

It’s her prized possession.

Despite owning a modern Avanti, she vastly prefers the bike, built in 1948, that her husband presented to her in 1951 and which she rides most days.

Joyce has clocked up an impressive 15,755km on the road since 2012.

“I started riding when I was about six,” Joyce said.

“I used to ride to school as a young girl in England and later it became a favourite pastime.

“In Staffordshire I would ride 60-80 miles on a Sunday with friends on a Viking I owned.

“When we moved to Derbyshire, I joined the Derby-Ivanhoe Cycling Club, which was formed in 1899, and that’s where I met Ron.

“He’s the real cyclist of the family. He was the 1956 British five-mile grass-track champion and he broke the record for the fastest lap at the Isle of Man.

“We used to ride our bikes to the events we raced in, changing to racing tyres when we got there. Sometimes we would ride 30 miles to get to an event and then compete in a 10-mile time trial.

“In those days you wouldn’t win trophies, but prizes. We would win clocks and cutlery, sheets and blankets, table lamps and the like.

“Once Ron won an armchair. We had ridden to the race on our bikes, so there was obviously a bit of a problem getting the armchair home.”

When the Websters’ first child, Hilary, was born, adjustments had to be made, and so Ron organised for a trailer to be fitted onto the back of a bike (see picture). Hilary remembers it well.

“We didn’t have a car in England, and I rode all over the countryside in that thing.”

The Websters came to Australia in 1963 as “£10 Poms” and headed straight to Tamworth, where Joyce had a pen-friend. They moved into a house in East Tamworth and have remained there for more than 50 years.

“Back then it wasn’t great for riding, most of the roads were dirt.”

Joyce began working at the old Tamworth library in Marius St and stayed there for22 years.

Ron was an electrician by trade and took up a position with the then-Peel-Cunningham County Council.

Back in England he had been an electrician, keeping an eye on the floodlights at the famous baseball ground, home of his beloved Derby County football team. In Tamworth, he was given responsibility formaintaining the city’s first traffic light on the corner of Kable Ave and Bridge St.

When Joyce’s four children were growing up, she drifted away from riding for a time, concentrating her sporting efforts on the hockey field, a game she played for 50 years, until she hung up her stick at the age of 72.

Daughter Hilary remembers her mother playing hockey in her 60s and 70s.

“It wasn’t as if she was just out there for a bit of exercise. She wasn’t hanging back in defence. She was right into it, sprinting down the wing, always fiercely competitive.”

While Joyce was out of the saddle, her classic green bike got handed around the family, two of her children taking it off to university in Armidale at different times.

In 2008 Joyce developed breast cancer. She was diagnosed with angina in late 2011, requiring a stent in January 2012.

As part of her rehabilitation it was recommended she take long walks, but Joyce found the pace a little ponderous, and decided it was time to get the old Hobbs of Barbican back on the road again.

Joyce Webster defies common perceptions of ageing.

She remains remarkably fit and regularly demonstrates the sharpest of wits.

“I’m an OBE, you know (Over Bloody Eighty).”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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