Keith & Max Rowley


Champion road cyclists in 1940s and 1950s

    In the 1940s and 1950s Max Rowley was a household name when he and his older brother Keith dominated the Australian cycle racing scene.  Max proved a champion over sprints, short races, long races and staged long-distance events. He won virtually every professional event in Australia, often with Keith taking the back seat to let Max cross the line half a wheel length in front.

      In 1939, when 16, Max sprang to prominence by winning the Sheffield Wheel Race and scratch event in Tasmania after having been a top Gippsland rider for several years.
      In 1940, he became the youngest rider ever to win the coveted LaTrobe Wheel Race in Tasmania. A year later he was Victorian five-mile track champion.

      The war years intervened but when professional cycling got under way again, Mr Rowley quickly showed that the promise shown as a teenager was only a glimpse of what he could achieve.
      In 1946 he won the Australian long-distance professional road cycling championship raced over 301 miles (480km) from Melbourne to Horsham. He won the Melbourne to Wangaratta and picked up a second Latrobe Wheel Race.
      From then on the victories kept piling up and Mr Rowley was soon seen in newspapers throughout Australia promoting Hartley bicycles and MacRoberson chocolate blocks.  When Hartley manufactured "Max Rowley" special bicycles, Max received two pound 15 shillings for each one sold.
In 1948 Mr Rowley was named Australian road rider of the year and was third in the Australian sportsman of the year title.
By 1949 the Rowleys were almost unbeatable with Max winning the Australian long-distance championship from second placed Keith before 50,000 spectators.

      But more was still to come. One of Mr Rowley's most successful years was 1950 when he won the gruelling 510 mile (816km) "Tour of the West" in NSW and then only a week later won the prestigious "Melbourne to Warrnambool", taking both the line honors and fastest time from scratch. 
      Max was second to Keith in the 1952 Sun Tour after leading going into the final day. On this occasion he could not keep up the cracking pace set by his brother who won and immediately announced his retirement. 
      Max continued racing with success until 1954 when he too retired to work his farm at Upper Maffra West.  He still took his "Max Rowley" Sun Tour bike on regular outings around the district.

      Max Rowley served 15 years as a Maffra Shire councillor and was Shire President twice. He served on many community and school groups over the years and all who met him were always impressed by his quiet nature.
      He died in August 1987 just before his book “The Max Rowley Story: my golden years of cycling” was published.

Page modified 15/02/2012