He was a gung-ho young man wearing stubbies and a T-shirt, no hat - which he later regretted - or helmet, and riding a heavy 10-speed bike.

Accompanied by girlfriend Debbie Jubber, who went on to become his wife, Bruce Jaine, 20, joined the 24 other riders lining up at the start line in Tongariro St in 1977 for the first-ever bike ride around Lake Taupō.

Organised by local school teacher, weather man and keen cyclist Walter de Bont, Bruce, a mechanic at Moller Motors in Taupō had heard about the ride and thought he'd give it a go.

He wasn't much of a cyclist - he never really began to love the sport until he discovered mountain biking in the early 1980s - and thought it looked pretty easy.

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"I was young and stupid," he says looking back at a black-and-white photograph of the original starting line up. "I used to have a bike purely to ride to rugby training so I could drink and ride home. I thought it [cycling round the lake] would be a piece of p***, wouldn't be difficult.

"I didn't train for it, just off we rode. It didn't seem a long way at that time, but it became quite a long way. As the day progressed it started getting a long day."

On Saturday Bruce will be the only one of the 1977 originals lining up at the start line to ride around the lake again, this time to mark the Lake Taupō Cycle Challenge's 40th anniversary.

Normally, he's the cycle challenge mountain bike director but this is a special year so he's back on the road.

While one of the 1977 riders went around the lake in six hours, most of the other riders took 11 hours, which Bruce and Debbie were quite happy with.

The day was perfect - sunny with no wind - and it was a good day out.

"The biggest drama was the next day I was burnt to bits because we were out in the sun for 11 hours. No helmets, no cycling shorts, no clip-in shoes."

The cyclists were followed by a support vehicle ("that was only to pick up the dead people"), but Bruce recalls the ride as being totally self-sufficient, with just one water bottle being carried.

"I must have carried something because I'm still alive. I think we just stopped at shops probably."

Bruce Jaine, pictured third from left, lines up in Tongariro St, Taupō in 1977 to begin the first round the lake ride. Cycle challenge founder Walter de Bont is pictured third from right (in cap).
Bruce Jaine, pictured third from left, lines up in Tongariro St, Taupō in 1977 to begin the first round the lake ride. Cycle challenge founder Walter de Bont is pictured third from right (in cap).

He says at some point on that first ride the cyclists who he describes as "average idiots on bikes" realised that although it was a long way, what they were doing was pretty unique and that they needed to carry on.

Bruce had been talking himself up beforehand and knew he'd get plenty of stick from his mates if he didn't complete.

Since then he has done the round the lake ride about 10 times - the record keeping in the early days was hit and miss, and on some rides he's simply recorded under his nickname Moose.

He was there on its 10th, 20th, 30th and now its 40th anniversaries and says he always finds the 160km a grind.

"Every time I've gone around, I've got to Turangi and thought I can't go on."

Even now Bruce isn't much of a fan of road biking. He finds it boring and gets freaked out because he can't control other traffic and would rather mountain bike.

But this anniversary is special, and to mark the death of cycle challenge founder Walter de Bont last month Bruce will be wearing a pair of Walter's famous satin boxer shorts outside his own cycle shorts.

Huka Cycles have also loaned him a cyclocross bike since he refuses to ride a road bike.

"I've done the 10th, 20th, 30th and now the 40th, and I just have to do the 50th and then I will have got the set."