John Michael ( Count ) Strafford was born in 1900 in Norwood, South Australia.
A member of Payneham Cycling Club he began cycling at the age of 16 and would become one of South Australia’s finest cyclists during the years 1926 – 1930 with numerous wins from 1/2 mile to 50-miles.
In 1926 a youthful Strafford won the Grandstand Handicap, a 2-mile race at Payneham Oval after a grand struggle for the line, with constant training by 1928 he celebrated his twenty-eighth birthday by breaking the 100-mile Australasian dirt track cycling record by 14 mins, 18 secs at Payneham Oval. His time of 5 hours 17 minutes 42 seconds beat the previous record, made by T. Rodgers (QLD) of 5 hours 38 minutes 19secs.
Feeding on sugar and raisins during his ride he also ate two baked rabbits and drank tea from a flask on the front of his machine by means of a rubber tube.
By 1929 Strafford had become a regular on the racing scene and one of the well-known men to beat, Stafford was also a competitor in motor-pacing and was common to have line-ups with other top guys on the circuit, a planned match race between Dean Toseland and Strafford was one of the highlights of the racing fixture.
A record run by Strafford in 1930 from Broken Hill arriving in Adelaide in the time of 7hrs, 20mins ahead of scheduled time proved his performance was exceptional; the same year considerable interest was displayed in the roller cycling contests held by the Pt. Pirie Cycle Club with sixteen riders taking part in the State 1/2 mile Championship with the star performer G. Williams competing. The challenge match between Strafford and V. Keelan (holder) for the Half Mile Championship of Australia ended in a Victory for Strafford with the main challenge to take place with G. Williams.
Strafford securing the honours and lowering the record time.
In 1931 after a gruelling two days riding Stratford and R. A. Jeffries of Prospect (SA) won the marathon cycling race at Payneham. They covered 446-miles and although many of the competitors showed signs of fatigue they continued the gruelling contest.
Stafford menu consisted of eggs and tea with a day’s race outing consuming seven dozen eggs.
In 1932 Stafford rode a brilliant ride in the 30-mile state championship at Moonta (SA).
The weather not favourable for riders as it continually rained, roads were terribly rough and were covered with mud and water putting the riders in miserable riding conditions but determination gave Strafford a placing from C. Cassellholm and k. Lindner.
Arne Bate gained fastest honours and was awarded the overall 30-mile championship. Strafford with his on-going performances landed a spot with C. IIhaupt to represent South Australia in the Warrnambool to Melbourne cycling race. Stafford having had plenty of training and was considered of at least gaining the prize for the fastest Interstate rider.
In 1933 Strafford rode incredible 5000-miles in 33 days, establishing a world record, after returning from the final stage of 126 miles from Adelaide to Kapunda Strafford weighed 8st. 111b. having lost five pounds since he set out. ‘I feel none the worse for it,’ he said . His write up of the incredible feat below –
“I have been cycling for the past 15 years and have had some very hard rides during that time, but the few lines I am about to write of my experiences during my month’s cycling are very much harder but I will do my best as I have always done as a cyclist, so here goes
On March 1, at 6 a.m. I started from the Adelaide G.P.O and was sent away by the Chairman of the League of S.A. Wheelmen, amid the great cheers of the crowd that had assembled early in the morning. My first ride was to Clare and return, a distance of 168 miles.
The first day went off quite well I reached Adelaide at 5.30 p.m. The roads were excellent, being of bitumen. I was quite happy that night and contented at what I had done.
The second day’s trip consisted of out-and-home trip of 166 miles, starting at 6 a.m. and arriving back at 5.30 p.m.
The third day 148 miles were covered but I was suffering severely from sun and windburn, and during the night could not sleep, and at 1am. I found that when I got of bed I could
not walk and collapsed on the floor. The reader, no doubt, can imagine my plight. It was nothing less than a nightmare to me, but at 6 a.m. I, by some unknown power was able to ride my machine again but alas, the weather was terrible on that day. There was three quarters of an inch of rain, so just imagine the pain I went through with, blistered, sunburnt legs and now sand, mud and rain. This made me feel like quitting, but I thought of Oppy’s words, “The job has to be done.” However, I rode 160-miles that’ day, “reaching Adelaide at 6.55p.m. but now it was impossible for my trainer to massage me owing to the blisters on my legs.
On the sixth I again rode 150 miles to Kulpara and returned. The seventh, 157 miles on a round course. The 8th, 156 miles. The way people were welcoming me, school children and the thousands of friends I was making, helped me very much indeed, just when I was in a bad way. My trip to” Peterborough and return, a two-day trip, was a great help to me. I was a new rider after the reception I received from everyone I met, and this made my job much lighter, so the days went on slowly and the mileage went up. I passed my 1,000 miles in 6 1/2days and appeared to be riding at my best. A three days’ trip on Thursday, Peterborough, 156 miles; Friday, Peterborough, Orroroo, Pekina, Tarcowie, Jamestown, Peterborough, then back to Caltowie Sports, 145-miles after a five mile exhibition on the track, was applauded by thousands of people. Here again, I made thousands of friends. On Saturday I travelled back to Adelaide, a distance of 168 miles, riding one mile at Kapunda St. Patrick’s Sports, reached G.P.O. at 8.55 p.m., very tired, but sure was happy with the interest and friends’ I was making. It was after riding 2,276 miles that I had my first puncture.
The Super Elliott was my best friend and of course the Barnet Glass Single Tubes were doing their work with equal ability. After this trip I became tired of it all, and the rough roads, sand and hills were sapping away my strength, and on top of this again, I encountered strong head winds’ which were making me very weak, and I had the longest trip yet to come to Port Augusta, a distance 213-miles, and hoped to ride it in one day. Fortunately for me, on the day before I met with good weather and rode 150-miles with ease, so on the 24th (Friday) I left for Port Augusta at 3.15 a.m. and reached Templars at daybreak. Clare I had passed at 9.35 a.m., and then was on rough roads again. I was at Yacka at 11.20 a.m., Georgetown D 12.50; Gladstone 1.25; Laura, 2.10, Wirrabara 3.14. The roads became terrible, but the wind was helping me, and at Melrose I stopped for tea at 5 p.m., and then went on to Wilmington, arriving at 6 p.m. I then had a four-mile hill to climb, which reminded me of the Black Spur in every way, even the roughness and loose sand. After reaching the top there was Horrock’s Pass to ascend, a very steep grade but bitumen, and then 21 miles to Port Augusta. It was just becoming dark, but I let the wonderful Super Elliott have her head and we were racing down the pass at speeds up to 60 miles an hour. Just about 100 yards from Port Augusta in the dark I got a three-cornered Jack and thus got my second puncture in 3.783 miles. Arriving at Port Augusta I was received by a large crowd of people who showed great interest. I had thus got to Port August in 16 hours, tired but happy at the way I had been welcomed right throughout the day. I was taken home by the President of the Port Augusta Cycling Club, Mr. Crighton, and after a well needed bath and food I was brand new. Just how many cups of tea I had drank goodness only knows. On Saturday, the 25th, I had to ride up Horrock’s Pass, which of course was quite a different matter than descending it.
On this trip I rode through Orroroo, Blackrock, returning to Port Augusta, where a dance was held at the evening. Here I was introduced and wished all the luck in the world. The friends I was making made me think the hard work was worth it.
On Sunday I left Port Augusta with a strong head wind, riding up Horrock’s Pass. This was cruel and I will never forget it. However everything comes to an end, as did the Pass, but it left me very weak and badly worn but I reached Clare at 7 p.m. and had 24 miles to Brinkworth yet to do and it was over rough metal sandy roads and dark. I reached Brinkworth at 8.45pm. and not too fresh after having ridden 155 miles against a strong head wind. But with some unknown; power I was again astride my Super Elliott at 6 a.m. next morning and left for Snowtown. Bute, Kadina and then 95 miles of bitumen to Adelaide, but after leaving Wildhorse Plains I became ill and was forced to stop for some time, but after coming around reached Adelaide at 7.45pm.
The next day, Tuesday, March 28, I travelled to Smithfield 21-miles and become ill and was forced to lie on the road for more than an hour, so had to return to Adelaide after only doing 42 miles. I was confined to my bed for the rest of the day Up to this I had ridden 4,270-miles and had four days yet left and now lost all hopes of doing 5000-miles in the month, but next day I was out again and the day spell had done me good as I rode 169-miles Wednesday, 168 Thursday, 195 on Friday.
This was the last day of the month, and I was riding 16 1/2 hours, 10 against head winds. On reaching the G.P.O. I went to Elliott Brothers shop at 147 Rundle Street, Adelaide, where some three or four thousand people were waiting to meet me, which kept the police busy. I had covered 4,812 miles and after being presented With gold sash by the secretary of the L.S.A.W., Mr. Parkinson, and being received in such a wonderful sporting manner by the large crowd, I decided to carry on and do the 5,000-miles.
The entire distance took me 32 days 16 hours. It was a very hard ride, but the hard work, late hours and sacrifices were made easy by the thousands of friends I made during the long ride. To my wife I owe quite a lot of the success for the attention she gave me right throughout. I also have Mrs. B. J. Elliott to thank very much for the wonderful way in which she helped to make my job much easier.
The opportunity was given to me by Elliott Brothers, who built my wonderful Super Elliott. I used Barnet Glass tyres, getting only five punctures in 5,000 miles, and Rossi cycle shoes. The same pair I used for 5,000 miles. Bo Vite was my main food throughout the trip. I will conclude by thanking the thousands of people and friends who have helped to make my job light for me”
Strafford was now the holder of the world record for a month’s continuous riding
5000-miles in 33 days. Stafford also won and recorded a record time for out the 100-mile Australian flat track and became the 30-mile champion of Southern District Cycling Club. Strafford was a Elliott Bros. sponsored rider.According to the cycling editor of “L’Auto” Strafford had applied to the prompters of the Tour de France for a place in one of the teams either the mixed one or as an individual rider. Stafford to prove his fitness for the circuit stated that he holds the world’s record for the longest distance covered within a month and also ridden 8,000 kilometres in 32 days for 16-hours. The writer went on writing that Strafford appears to be just the man they are looking for. The 4,500 kilometres of the Tour was accomplished in 27 days; thus the Australian would not only be able to break up the field but he should finish several days ahead of the first European competitor!.
By 1934 Count Strafford was training upcoming riders and also had an appearance in the Adelaide Police Court on a charge of having stolen a bicycle seat, valued at 6/6, the property of Elliott Bros. Strafford was remanded until a fixed bail of a personal bond of £25. Strafford was one of the early riders promoting the success of Elliott Bros. he consisting appeared in the local papers riding a Super Elliott and crediting his fame to a Super Elliott cycle.