Cycling in Southland has a long and colourful history stemming from the late 1880's and the following is a brief overview of the transformation of the sport of cycling in the region.
Prior 1948, Southland cyclists raced in the Otago colours and it was not until 1948 that Southland was recognised and involved in a new region titled Otago - Southland. In the inaugural year, Southland cyclist Bill Hoffman won the Five Mile title in Dunedin.
Track cycling was carried out at various venues in the Invercargill area with the Invercargill Showground's and Rugby Park used in the 1930's and early 1940's. The South Invercargill Borough Council Recreation area on Elles Road was then developed into a cycling track and 1949 saw the official opening of this facility. The track is remembered for being relatively flat, having no fences which regularly saw riders disappear over the edge during racing and also featured a hill in the back straight where riders would almost disappear from sight before reappearing some distance later. Over the years, the cycling track was further developed and featured a sealed surface with raised bankings. An official opening of the new-look track, now titled Kew Park Cycling Bowl, was held on March 9th 1954 with guest appearances by New Zealand Olympic Games representative Colin Dickinson and North Island Champion cyclist, Gordon Sharrock from Wanganui. In 1956, Kew Bowl as it had become known, was resurfaced in concrete and was regarded as possibly the fastest track in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Southland Centre of the New Zealand Amateur Cycling Association was formed in 1963, after sufficient Clubs had been created in the region to meet the criteria of forming a new Centre. The new "Centre" was instantly recognised when local cyclist Tony Ineson won the 100 mile National road title in Wellington in September 1963.
In the mid 1960's, the Southland Centre purchased a five acre block of land in McQuarrie Street from local dairy farmer Mr Dickson. In a deal struck with the South Invercargill Borough Council, the deeds of the McQuarrie Street property and the Kew Bowl property were swapped. This allowed for the Kew Bowl facility to become free hold and enabled the Southland Centre to borrow necessary money to further develop the facility, including the building of the grandstand and hall.
1964 saw Southland host the first New Zealand Track Championship at Kew Bowl with local Southland riders featuring prominently on the presentation dais. This period was regarded as the hey-day of cycling in the south with big crowds regularly turning up to watch the high class cycling action, including many top international cyclists competing against the best of New Zealand. Riders such as Aucklander, Warwick Dalton who had been advised to come south and race in Invercargill, became an absolute legend in the sport. Dalton was so impressed with the standard of racing here, he stayed for three years married a Miss Brazier from Nightcaps. The Daltons are still happily married and living in Auckland and both have very fond memories of the racing at Kew Bowl. Dalton was arguably one of New Zealand's best ever cyclists and was a huge crowd puller to the Kew Bowl facility.
Cycling Southland was formed in 1996 following the amalgamation of the three remaining "Clubs" in Southland, the Invercargill, Glengarry and Murihiku Novice Wheelers Club. Former clubs such as Waikiwi and Mataura had gone into recession by this stage and the restructure was made to modernise and streamline the operation of the sport in Southland. Strategic planning meetings held shortly after the formation of Cycling Southland, put together some visionary concepts which many thought were unachievable but through dedication and determination, many of those points have now been achieved, including New Zealand's first indoor cycling facility - the Invercargill Velodrome.
Cycling Southland continues to be a leader of the sport in New Zealand and this is a reflection of the forward thinking administrators plus a dedicated team of volunteers who have served the sport throughout its history and who have worked tirelessly for the needs of the present day cyclists plus the generations of future cyclists.