‘He’s terrific’: Mates wish 96-year-old cyclist a wheely happy birthday

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Next time you don’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning to exercise, think of Kelvin Chamier.

On his 96th birthday on Friday, his friends threw him a party at a cafe in Mont Albert in Melbourne’s east, and how did he get there?

The oldest Banyule Bicycle User Group member Kelvin Chamier on his 96th birthday with friends at Churchill cafe, Mont Albert.Credit: Eddie Jim

He cycled 15 kilometres from Heidelberg in Melbourne’s north-east, and 15 kilometres home afterwards.

He said he felt well, and it was “just a starter” distance for him: he cycles up to 100 kilometres a week with his group, the Banyule Bicycle User Group, or BUG, and has done days-long cycle trips with his family.

His 96th birthday party, at Churchill Cafe, was a splendid tour de fork.

There was a cake. A barbershop-style choir called Chordite sang the 1940 song Java Jive by the Ink Spots and led 25 cyclists (wearing their Banyule BUG jerseys with ladybugs on them) in singing Happy Birthday.

Chamier joined Banyule BUG nine years ago at age 87. It was the first cycling group he had ever joined.

Banyule BUG president Peter Gurney said Chamier, who is the oldest member by about 10 years, inspires the group with his zest for life.

“He’s terrific,” Gurney said. “Most people, as they age, they tend to retreat – men particularly – into their comfort zone, and don’t take on things that are adventuresome and a little dangerous. But Kelvin does,” Gurney said.

Chamier’s son-in-law, retired emergency physician Robin Endersbee, said Chamier inspired him to join Banyule BUG a few weeks ago.

Kelvin Chamier (right) arrives at Churchill Cafe in Mont Albert after cycling for 15km from Heidelberg.Credit: Eddie Jim

Endersbee, 67, has previously been on many long family rides with Chamier, including a 300 kilometre ride from Adelaide to Quorn in South Australia.

“He’s massively fit,” Endersbee says. “He can out-ride me, and my daughters, who are 26 and 27.

“We will go on a three-hour bike ride, and we will be flushed, I’ll be needing a break, and he won’t have taken his jacket off.”

He said Chamier exemplified the saying “live before you die” and didn’t wrap himself in cotton wool.

Chamier, a retired engineer, of Eaglemont, bounced back from setbacks that might have caused others to quit.

With help from his friends, Kelvin Chamier, holding his bicycle, at his 96th birthday party in Mont Albert.Credit: Eddie Jim

His wife, Gwen, died three years ago.

Soon after, when he rode a non-electric bike, he cracked his pelvis when he fell while getting on his bike in his driveway. But within a month, he was back in the saddle, albeit on an electric model, but he still pedals.

Last month, his bicycle was stolen from the Preston Bunnings store. “It annoyed me. It didn’t deter me,” Chamier says. “Cycling’s so important that I went and bought another one.”

Chamier said you’re only as old as you feel. He feels fit and can’t believe he’s 96.

Kelvin Chamier pictured in April 2022 on his 300km cycling trip from Adelaide to Quorn, South Australia.Credit: Robin Endersbee

“The fact that I keep going means that it’s a wonderful activity. It’s a physical activity and social activity.”

It felt good to spend his birthday cycling.

“The Banyule BUG are a great lot of people. I can’t think of anything better, for my birthday, than to be with all my friends,” he said.

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