Neville Stumbles and the Overton Bike

Recently I was contacted by a former member of the Western Suburbs Cycling Club, Mr Neville Stumbles.

Those were the days when the McCabe Park track hosted carnivals every Saturday night during the summer, and the winter club road races started at an International truck agency at Unanderra, and proceeded down Princes highway with return points at Albion Park Rail or the bottom of Bombo Hill, depending on the length of the races.

I had raced Neville back in the 70 & 80’s, and he was known as a very strong rider. Neville was enquiring as to what he should do with his original race bike, an Alf Overton handmade road bike.
Our readers will remember the story that was posted about Alf Overton on our club website in 2020.
Neville first met Alf Overton in March 1952, after he transferred from the Illawarra Amateur Cycle Club to the South Coast Bicycle Club (professional).
Neville stated, ‘I was 15 years old and riding in the Juvenile division and Alf, 10 years older than me, was a senior’. Other riders of note from that era were Claude (Buck) Jones, Brian Rudd, Ron Lawless, Ken Hobbs, (Ken’s story about young Ken Dinnerville is on the club’s website),  Norm McCloy, Stan Tubman, Jim O’Connor, John Connolly, and John Graham.

Following my 16th birthday, I rode in the Junior division and bought a 5 Star Malvern Star from the Bruce Small agency on Western Crown Street. Jack Spearman (now Giant Wollongong) was building racing frames at his shop, also on Western Crown Street, and these two businesses sponsored local teams in the races.

The Spearman Team leader was Ken Hobbs, while the Malvern Star team included Claude Jones, Brian Rudd, and Nev Stumbles. Alf Overton and Jim O’Connor were riding bikes built by Jim’s father, Tom O’Connor who had a bike shop on the highway near the Figtree hotel.

Although Neville was quite successful on both track and road, competing as a Junior and a Senior, he left the bike scene and commenced racing motorcycles and sidecars in 1958, both here in N.S.W. and in other states, including Mount Panorama at Bathurst, Winton in Victoria, and Lakeside in Queensland.

Then, in 1976, my son Paul decided he wanted to race bicycles, and I decided to return as a veteran, and we joined the Berkeley Cycle Club and began racing on the Albion Park – Huntley course. At that time there were still two separate cycling groups, amateur and professional, and the club later changed sponsors and aligned with the Western Suburbs Leagues Club at Unanderra.

I had purchased a Viscount bike from Jack Spearman’s business on Crown Street, and it was a very acceptable bike for racing. However, I decided to have a frame specially made for me, and in February 1978 Alf Overton made the bike which I recently gave to Jamie Overton. A year or so later, I had Alf build me an identical frame for training purposes, and it was recently reported as being on display at Tiger Putt Putt at Albion Park Rail.

The racing frame, the subject of this article, was constructed using lighter than usual tubing. From memory, most of Alf’s frames were made of 0.19 tubing, and my frame was made using 0.17 tubing. Consequently, this racing bike had a degree of flexibility whilst the training frame was more rigid. All the component parts were bought from Alf’s shop in Addison Avenue, Lake South, including Sugino cranks and chain set, Dura-Ace brakes and derailleurs, wheels, hubs, and singles (Silk 6 tubular) tyres.

The Overton bike served me well, and was used in club races every Sunday morning and veteran races at Leppington or Nowra every Saturday afternoon. However, I was not satisfied just racing in veteran events and raced in many open professional races as well, including the following:

Goulburn to Sydney 1980, 1981
Nyngan to Dubbo 1978, 1979
Cootamundra 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981
Bathurst to Penrith 1981
Parish 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981
Dinnerville 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982
Leppington 3 Day Tour 1979, 1981, 1982
Yass Tour 1978
Picton to Liverpool 1978
Temora to West Wyalong 1979
Various Australian veterans’ championships including Warriewood (1979) and Surfers Paradise (1981)

I asked Neville, how he felt about donating the bike to Jamie Overton.

“It has been an absolute pleasure and privilege to give the bike to Jamie because it has been returned to the son of the man who made it, and I like to think of it as paying tribute to Alf and Lyn Overton, a couple for whom I had so much affection and respect.
The bike is in absolutely original condition, exactly as I received it from Alf in 1978 except the singles, which are unsuitable for social riding, have been replaced with new rims and 700 C tyres. Even the paint work and transfers are original, so this bike is a true testimony to Alf and his expertise. And Alf was also a great bike rider, on track and road, and it was my privilege to be a member of the committee which arranged a testimonial dinner for him back in April 1979. I was able to secure the services of Sir Huber Opperman as the guest speaker, and in excess of 100 past and present bike riders attended the dinner to pay tribute to Alf, for his long and successful riding career and also his two wins in the Goulburn to Sydney classic bike race.
Alf Overton – a bike enthusiast and a true gentleman”.
Nev Stumbles
December 2021

On behalf of the Illawarra Cycle Club, I would like to thank Neville for taking time out to talk about his riding days, and for making Jamie a very proud owner of a bike he’s dad had made so many ago. Jamie is a member of the Nowra Velo Club.

Safe riding

Terry Wall