New find rewrites Orienteering history: bike orienteering started first!

Some fascinating information about the very start of Orienteering has recently been unearthed in Austria. It has been discovered that two issues of the newspaper Radfahr-sport, published in Vienna, report a public bicycle-racing event with maps and route choice held on 24th September 1893, four years before the first known public Foot Orienteering event held in Oslo. Until now, the oldest documented Bike Orienteering race was believed to be an event in Hungary in 1954. This Austrian event precedes it by more than 60 years!

Sandor Talas takes up the story:

”The 1 October and 15 October 1893 issues of Radfahr-Sport, published in Vienna, reported a new type of competition they called Terrainfahren that was organised as part of the event of the Bund deutscher Radfahrer Oesterreichs. The event took place as part of the Gaufest bicycle competitions in the Waldviertel region, where WMTBOC was organised 125 years later in 2018. It seems that it was an open public event, not a military one.

There were 7 participants on the 5km-long course to a finish location that was only announced at the start. Every participant received a map that showed all the roads and tracks in the area, and they were free to choose their route.

Richard Meidinger (Wiener Cyclisten-Club) was the winner with a time of 15:50, beating the second placed rider by 2:10. The 15-October article states that Richard won by choosing a longer route on better roads where he could ride at speed, while the others struggled on shorter but more difficult field roads and mule tracks.

This is a great addition to the history of Orienteering.”

Research is ongoing in Austria and Hungary to determine what base map would have been available for the riders at that time, and to see if there are reports of other races in the following years.

Extract from newspaper


Road race in the district of Langenlois, Lower Austria of the Federation of German Cyclists Austria,
Sunday September 24, 1893.

Terrain race about 5 km. 2 prizes. The starters are given the destination immediately before the start and are free to choose which routes they take with their bikes. Every starter receives a detailed map that shows all the paths leading to the finish.
1. Richard Meidinger (Cyclists Club) 16.50
2. Gustav Stingl (R.V. Favorita) 18.00
3. Josef Jostal (Wr. R. a. Schottenfeld) 19.00
7 started

Thanks to Sandor Talas HUN,  for the information.