Example of No 8 wire ingenuity

01:40, Dec 26 2012
Mr Mitchell
Mr Mitchell riding John Vorbach's bicycle. Do you recognise this photo? What year was it taken and why is Mr Mitchell riding the bicycle? email us mailbox@marlexpress.co.nz

John Vorbach's bicycle, built between 1880 and 1900, was the first bicycle made in Renwick and possibly the first made in New Zealand.

In typical Kiwi style, it was created from No 8 fencing wire and whatever materials Vorbach could source at the time, resulting in a big driving chain and widely spaced cogs, equally large cotter pin for adjusting the chain, an iron frame and wheels, a wooden seat and large wooden pedals.

Comfort may not have been on the top of Vorbach's list, but the bicycle served him well for trips around Renwick.

John Vorbach
Allan Vorbach pictured with his father John Vorbach

Those who have ridden the aptly labelled boneshaker since then reported the pedals were "efficient and comfortable", according to the Renwick Museum and Library, where the bicycle is a popular display.

Vorbach worked as a wheelwright and blacksmith in Renwick. His workshop was located on what today is called Memorial Corner, or the corner of Uxbridge and High streets.

Besides his daily work, he was an inventor and his creations included a pea harvester, which was said to have revolutionised the pea-growing business, a spring clothes' peg and children's hoops.


John Vorbach's bicycle
Two wheels good: John Vorbach’s bicycle on display at the Renwick Museum and Library

One of Vorbach's hoops can be found on display at Renwick's museum.

Vorbach died in 1938 aged 92, but his bicycle has travelled far and wide since.

After it was donated to Renwick Museum in 1968 by Roy Mitchell, the bicycle was specially chosen to be part of the Mau Mahara national travelling exhibition in the early 1990s that celebrated the lives and memories of New Zealanders..

Renwick Museum and Library, High St, open Mondays 10am to 3pm.

The Marlborough Express