Thomas James Robinson was born 16th April, 1897 at Encounter Bay, South Australia (S.A). “Tommy” or “Robbie” as he was known was an excellent all-round cyclist and a regular starter in many SA racing events.
Robinson’s early cycling years showed great promise and determination around 1914, starting with a painful fall when his chain on his cycle broke he was heavily thrown off at Yongala (S.A) and his face was considerably cut and bruised however entering the 1915 road race conducted by the League of South Australian Wheelmen at Payneham oval he held his own among 35 entrants. Robinson was part of a large group of nine cyclists who raced to the finish in the gruelling race, Robinson finished in a close 3rd place with overall winner V. Elliott.
In September 1915 Robinson enlisted in the first World War after his friend joined.
Upon his return Robinson continued where he left and in December 1919 at Hindmarsh Oval (S.A), Robinson won the 1-mile Maidens event and also the 1-mile Harrison Stakes.
By 1920, Robinson took part in the Burra-Adelaide road race and after an eight year lapse because of the War it had a record entry of 35 participants. Robinson rode a fine race and though he did not win the event he managed to record the fastest time of 5hrs. 16mins. 45secs. A crowd of 2500 witnessed the race.
In the same year Robinson teamed up with the South Eastern Districts Team to compete in the Inter-Districts teams Championship, winning the championship he went on with the same team to win again in the 1921-22 season.
With persistence Robinson was triumphant to become the 1921 Champion of the Dunlop Road race.
In February 1925 at the Jubilee Oval a crowd of 8,900 people witnessed Robinson taking several heat wins in the 1-mile Alternate match however was also dealt with some bad luck with one of the racing events against Syd Rowe (S.A Champion) coming round the corner together and at speed colliding together with sent spinning, both uninjured they resumed riding. In the same year Robinson married.
Robinson also showed great promise and had a keen interest in Motor pace racing, he again entered the Dunlop road race in 1927 however punctured and lost 5 minutes among the field and finished 11th place.
In October 1933 Robinson finished second in the 60-miles Dunlop cycling championship, conducted by the South Australian league of Wheelmen, 34 riders took part in the gruelling race.
Robinson studied the sport of cycling and became employed by Super Elliott as their frame builder, building frames at the Gawler place premises he soon began to specialise frames for the Super Elliott team members. Offered in a variety of designs and upon request his designs featured special hand cut lugs which he incorporated into the frames, his designs varied and the Super Elliott Special “ E” was seen as their top model embossed on the front of the frame.
Robinson became known as one of Super Elliott’s top frame builders.
In 1947 Robinson was still an active competitive cyclist and had entered the 120-mile Burra-Adelaide road race, Robinson who was now 50 years old had entered this event on 15 occasions in the past, his consistency throughout the years had totalled to several placing’s and time honours conjured up for this event.
For this year it was longest distance on record for this event and was part of 62 starters of a race filled with punctures and a rough stretch between Burra and Clare.
The race featured other state champions including Keith Thurgood and Jack Conyers who both punctured and failed to reach Clare however an exciting battle between Phil Thomas and Deane Toseland took place during the course with Toseland outpacing Thomas but later puncturing and Thomas catching up, both Toseland and Thomas crossed the line at the same time.
Robinson added pace upon the finishing line but not quite enough to catch R. Woolston who was declared winner, Robinson finished in second place with only half of the entrants finishing the event.
Robinson was still working with Super Elliott past his retirement and had produced hundreds of frames for the store and by the late 1970’s Robinson was still riding his bike aged in his 80’s for Sunday lunch, it was his key to longevity and recalled “The war was the saddest part of my life” “The best part was the cycling”.Robinson style of riding was one of perfect form; he is noted for his 10 championships in one year and riding a 5-mile road race on a deflated tyre while still acquiring a race record for the distance.
Robinson a member of the 3rd Light Horse, 4th Division cyclist Corps and 1st Anzac Corps cyclist Battalion and was awarded Legion d”Honneur Medal by the French Government for service in France.
Tom Robinson died April 2001, aged 104.