Louis Elder was born in Londonderry, Ireland on March 10, 1905. At the age of seven years old Louis moved to the Dominion of Canada with his family and they settled in Toronto. When he was eighteen years old, in 1923, Lew started his racing career as an amateur in the Dunlop Road Race, an annual race held on Danforth-Kennedy roads in Toronto that would attract over 20,000 spectators. Between 1923 and 1928 Elder won ten Ontario and Dominion cycling titles and set world records for the ½ mile in 26.2 seconds and the 25mile race in 59:51. He also won a major race in Buffalo. With these credentials in 1928 Lew joined the Canadian Olympic Cycling Team with Joe LaPorte from Montreal, Torchy Peden from Victoria, Jim Davis and Andy Houting and competed in the Amsterdam Olympic Games in the Men's Pursuit. The Canadians came in 7th. Also Lew competed in the Men's Time Trial and came in 10th place. After the Olympics Torchy Peden and Lew toured Europe and participated in races in Warsaw, Poland and Herne Hill, England.
In 1930 Lew turned professional and with Torchys' prodding joined the six-day racing circuit. Lew quickly showed that he was a natural for the pine saucer with his excellent bike handing skills. Lew raced three times in 1930: Montreal in the spring where he came in 2nd partnered with William 'Torchy" Peden and in October at the Montreal 6-Day Bicycle Race where he won, partnered with the Australian Horace Horder.
In November 1930 he traveled to Europe with Horder and raced in the Berlin Sechstagerennen. In the following year Lew was again on the podium winning at the Vancouver Six-Day Bicycle Race with the Swiss rider Freddy Zach. After this spectacular professional debut Elder ran into a spate of bad luck where he was involved in several serious crashes and spills on the track. Edward A. Harper (Ted) in Six-Days of Madness (1923) writes: "Another rider with hard luck was a Toronto rider by the name of Lew Elder, who was injured several times during his career. He almost died from injuries suffered in a race in Montreal (1934), where he went over the rail on the high bank, after he tangled with several other fallen riders. Many veterans of the six-day game claimed that this was the most spectacular spill of all time". (p.43) Lew was an expert bike handler and his spills and crashes were not his fault, he just had some serious hard luck.
In total Lew Elder raced in 24 six-day races, finishing 12 races and winning two. Elder competed in 6-day bicycle races in twelve different North American and European cities between 1930 and 1937. Lew started his six-day racing career at 25 years old and competed in his last six-day race, at 32 years old, was at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1937 where he partnered with Canadian Ted Harper. Lew had two crashes the first day and was forced to abandon because of his injuries. Lew never raced a 6-day race after that. He stayed involved with the game and could be seen often at the CNE grounds or training rides coaching and mentoring younger riders to develop their racing skills.
In 1999 when the Canadian cycling magazine compiled a list of the top Canadian Cyclists of the Century Lew Elder was rated 13th. Lew Elder has made an important contribution to Canadian cycling as an Olympic athlete, world record holder, provincial and national cycling champion but his greatest contribution as a cyclist was his six-day racing.
Newspaper Clip Text:
Bicycle riders entered in the six-day race at the Minneapolis Auditorium tested out the wooden track, erected in the building, Saturday afternoon. Four riders who will compete in the grind starting Tuesday evening are left to right: Lew Elder, Freddie Zach, Brask Anderson1 and Bernhard Stubecke. Several other teams also are entered. - (NOTE 1: 3rd. signature is Reg Fielding.)