I recently had a chance to visit an exhibition on cycling in Canberra, Australia, called Freewheeling which explored the history of the sport in the country for the past 157 years.
I thought of sharing my experience with my friends who enjoy the sport like I do, though not really in the same sense. I mean, I am neither a long distance cyclist nor a mountain biker but I do enjoy being on my bike and I cycle for fun.
Cycling in Australia dates back to 1860, when the cycles first arrived in British colonies. By 1890, the cycle craze had set in when people realized that it was a safe and cheap mode of transport. Cycle Clubs and Riding Clubs were formed across the country.
Arthur Richardson was the first person to go around Australia on his cycle. He left his home in Perth on 5 June 1899, with 2 kgs of luggage including a pistol and returned home on 4 February 1900 after cycling for 18507 kms.
Women also took to this sport and the pioneer in this field is Marion Sutherland, who rode her cycle designed by her husband, in 1900 both for pleasure and for running errands. Another name worth mentioning here is of Olympic sprint champion Anna Meares.
Children on bikes
Children too rode but their cycles were not mass produced till up to 1950. They rode on their tricycles and some even on adult bikes.
People in Australia love exploring the wild side of their country, so in came the mountain bikes. After the number of cars increased on the roads in 1950 people pushed their bikes “off road” and mountain bikes appeared in 1980. Cadel Evans made a big name for riding cross country and he was known as “the Lung” due to his exceptional lung capacity. He later turned professional.
Bicycle Motocross (BMX) started in 1920, when people started modifying their cycles to follow their heroes of speedway motorcycling racing. In 1980 it got a further boost when a film called BMX bandits was released.
Long Distance Cycling
One prominent name in this branch of the sport is Hubert Opperman, Australia’s most successful long distance cyclist of international fame, for his performance in Tour de France of 1928.
The exhibition also tells of a story of how after the World War II, people started using cars more and cycling became a little less popular. However after 1980 when cross country cycling became popular, there has been no looking back.