Backward Glance - Pedal Power, Bicycle memories
  • Wednesday 14 February 2018

The Sunshine Coast has many avid bike riders and clubs where local and visiting cyclists can ride for enjoyment, fitness and competition.

Recently, cycling on the Coast took a major step into the professional side of the sport with the launch of the Australian Cycling Academy-Ride Sunshine Coast team.

Whether young or old, amateur or professional, cyclists enjoy the wind on their face, the freedom of a downhill glide or a quiet path to pedal along and relax. 

It’s all about fitness and having fun, as well as enjoying their chosen sport. 

Childhood memories might involve a bike under the Christmas tree.

A dragster bike with ribbons on the handle bars or a Speedwell bike with a bell and basket attached was on every child’s wish list. 

In the 1860s, the cycling craze was starting to take off on the other side of the world. It would take some time to reach Australia.

In those times, riders had to have some level of spirit when the velocipede, also sometimes known as “the dandy horse” or “hobby horse”, was introduced as a forerunner to the modern bicycle in about 1868.

A rickety jarring ride was experienced but the prestige perhaps outweighed the discomfort of a “sore seat”.

In 1869, solid rubber tyres and the term “bicycle” was introduced.

Solid rubber tyres and hollow frames reduced the weight and made the ride much smoother.

These types of bicycles were first imported to Australia in 1875, sparking the establishment of a bicycle club in 1878 in Victoria.

In Australia, Charles Bennett and Charles Wood were both penny-farthing enthusiasts who rode in club races in England before migrating to Sydney in the 1870s.

They realised the potential and set up a commercial enterprise, opening a store in 1882 in Sydney.

Bennett and Wood sold imported Rover and Raleigh high wheelers.

Pneumatic rubber tyres came into use in 1889, which greatly assisted those who rode or attempted to ride this latest form of transport.

In 1892, Americans Wilbur and Orville Wright opened a bike shop, fixing bicycles and selling their own design.

The brothers had shared a passion for bicycles and began designing their own prototype.

The brothers always took shared credit for their innovations and later became very successful American businessmen. 

Bicycle riding grew rapidly in the early 1900s, particularly after the bike as we know it today was designed.

Bikes were expensive and could cost a worker about five weeks’ wages.

Credit must be given to the pioneering spirit of the early days when roads were rough and transport was not regular.

Hardship was second nature to many and to own a bicycle in the years of the Great Depression was fortunate.

Bicycle riding was a popular form of transport for many out of work as they moved between towns in search of a job.

Many did not even have a bicycle, so walked the roads.

If the job seeker without any source of funds encountered a flat tyre, practicality set in and many were known to stuff the tyres with grass until they could purchase a new tyre or fix the old one at the next town or job.

Bicycles were also an important transport option in the community.

The sound of a postman’s whistle brings back memories of the mail or a telegram being delivered to our front door on a red PMG bicycle.

In their day, telegrams were a vital part of Australian communication.

Telegrams were quicker than a letter because they were rung through to the local post office and delivered the same day.

If an urgent telegram was sent, it cost far more and was generally delivered within an hour. 

The telegram boy in large towns wore a postal uniform and blew his whistle when he delivered the mail to each house daily.

Unfortunately a telegram could sometimes deliver bad news, so the telegram boy had to be sensitive when delivering whatever was in the sealed envelope.

During the war, thousands of telegrams arrived advising the loss or injury of a close family member – many feared the delivery of that terrible telegram.

The post office was always open Saturday morning and it was often the busiest day of the week for telegrams.

It was tradition to send a newly married couple a telegram which could be read out at the reception. 

Some telegrams at this time were a “little saucy” but discreet with good intentions and wishes.

Due to more modern technology, Australia Post discontinued the telegram service in 1993.

Sir Hubert Opperman, a federal minister of Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies’ era, was Australia’s first cycling superstar.

He became the face of Malvern Star and first won the Australian Road Cycling Championship in 1924, and again in 1926, 1927 and 1929. He also made a name for himself cycling internationally.

Another cycling champion is the sportsman Cadel Evans who won two world mountain bike championships and competed in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics before switching to bicycle road racing.

He then became the first Australian to win the UCI PR Tour in 2007 and Road World championships in 2009.

In 2012, he won the Tour de France and is remembered as being one of five of the oldest winners in the race’s tough and enduring history and the only Australian to do so.

Australian Anna Meares became a gold medallist in the women’s 500m time trial in a world record time at the 2004 Athens Olympics. She also won three world championships in the same event.

A woman of courage, she broke her neck in a cycling accident in the World Cup.

In January 2008, she fought her way back to win silver in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Stay safe on the roads whether you ride a bike or drive car. Look out for each other.

Image Captions 

Hero: Elinor Williams and friend bicycling at Moffat Beach, Caloundra, 1960s

Image 1 - Currie Street, Nambour, looking south along western side towards Club Hotel and Royal George Hotel, 1915 

Image 2 - Main Street, Buderim looking west, 1916

Image 3 - Jim Grimes riding a bicycle to school, Nambour, ca 1920

Image 4 - Imberger children playing - one on a bicycle, one on a tricycle and the other pushing a billy cart near their home at the site of Imberger's Enterprise Sawmilling Company, Landsborough, ca 1920

Image 5 - Grace Hodgens on her Ashby bicycle in front of the Beerwah Hotel, ca 1925

Image 6 - Travelling family from France in front of the general store at Tewantin during their world cycling tour, 1934

Image 7 - Tilney family from Conondale at Tooway Lake, between Moffat and Dicky Beaches, Caloundra, ca 1935

Image 8 - Godfrey Lowesby pictured with Beryl Slosh while home on leave at Caloundra, during WWll, ca 1940

Image 9 - Decorated bicycle competition at Coolum Beach, 1950.

Decorated bicycles and sand garden competitions were among the popular events held at beaches across the Sunshine Coast during holiday season.