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Ian Gray, a pivotal figure of Manawatu Cycling

From the Cycling New Zealand Spotlight Newsletter

Palmerston North’s Ian Gray has been a keen cyclist, cycle shop owner, cycling advocate, coach and mentor for over 60 years. Recently cycling historian and author can be added to his long list of contributions to the cycling industry and sport of cycling. His most recent book ‘WHEELS AGAINST THE WIND’ is a history of the Tour of Manawatu (1962-1981)

Ian has helped countless young people get into cycling and despite stepping back from directly running Bike Manawatu’s Track Cycling programme he is still involved in maintaining the club’s track bike library and setting-up and sizing bikes to riders, so that young people can participate in the ‘have a go’ days where riders catch the buzz of competitive track cycling. Perhaps Ian’s greatest contribution to the sport has been establishing the Novice Tour back in 1974, when there were few opportunities for young riders to compete and gain experience with multi-day multi-event ‘tour’ style races. 2023 was the 50th Anniversary of the ‘Novice Tour’ and once again this event was a powerful opportunity to nurture the talents of New Zealand’s young up and coming cyclists, many of whom have in the past gone on to become Kiwi champions.

Ian’s involvement in establishing the Novice Tour and in the ongoing mahi of Bike Manawatu represents an amazing legacy and provides a positive example and challenge to all of us who are part of New Zealand’s cycling community. If we want good stuff to happen, then volunteer, get involved and let’s work together to grow great events which enable all ages to enjoy the benefits of sport and recreational cycling – and the associated health, fitness and lifestyle benefits.

Unlike other sports which might have playing fields and clubrooms supplied by local councils, cycle racing often happens out on quiet country roads on Sunday mornings when traffic flows are low and safer. This means that cycling can be an ‘invisible’ and somewhat misunderstood and underappreciated sport. In addition, racing on ‘open roads’ means that the sport incurs the high-cost safe traffic management and all the associated administration, equipment and HR requirements. As a result we need lots of active capable volunteers and governance structures which empower widespread community involvement and tell our sport’s good news story….

Bike Manawatu’s conversations with local authorities seeks to highlight the community health and environmental benefits of our sport and fact that our events bring hundreds of competitors and their families and supporters – and the associated social and economic benefits – to our region each year. The annual ‘Manfield 6 hour challenge’ is a fun community engaged event which acts as a fundraiser for Arohanui Hospice. In 2023 the Novice Tour was re-positioned as an important lead up event to the National Schools Road Cycling Champs, which Bike Manawatu was proud to host and support. There is now a great synergy between these two critical events where New Zealand’s future sporting champions are nurtured.

Inspired by the vision and legacy of local legends like Ian Gray, Bike Manawatu will keep strategizing and doing the mahi to promote cycling and make it a more safe, fun sport for all ages. One of the exciting perspectives Ian Gray offers us as cycling historian, is to remember what a huge and massively popular sport cycling was historically. Back in the day, roads were not gridlocked with cars, but instead were lined with cheering fans for cycling races and the riders were local and national hero’s – aaahhh… the good old days!!!