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About Cycling in Australia

The National Museum's Cycling in Australia project aims to explore how objects from our collection help to tell the story of Australian cycling, to share Australians’ adventures with their bikes and to bring together people who are interested in cycling’s past, present and future.

Two people ride bikes, side by side, on a sealed path beside a backdrop of green grass and trees.
Cycling by Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra, 2013. Photo: Jason McCarthy.

Cycling in Australia was launched in early 2013 by the National Museum's People and the Environment program.

We hope to engage with cyclists of all forms, abilities and persuasions, whether your style is a gentle commute to work, a weekend credit card and toothbrush tour around your region, carving a single track in the bush or the thrill of a hammer fest with your local racing club.

Explore our website to learn more and find out how you can get involved. Join our People & Environment Blog so we can keep you up to date with news about cycling collections, stories and events.

Part of everyday life

Bicycles have been a part of Australian life for more than 140 years. The bicycle first arrived in the colonies in the 1870s and soon began competing with the horse as a convenient and economical way for people to get around.

A solitary man walking beside a bicycle makes his way across a muddy road bridge. Water is pooled either side of the bridge, and dense bushland forms a backdrop.
A lone cyclist captured in a postcard image by Woy Woy photographer WE Phegan, around the 1920s. National Museum of Australia collection.

By the end of the 19th century, bicycles were an everyday part of life for most Australians, shaping how people worked, where they lived, and what they did in their spare time.

The bicycle changed Australians’ understanding of just what people could do, enabling them to discover that their bodies could go faster, further and for longer than they had ever imagined.

Thousands of men and women became involved in racing and touring. Hardy individuals who cycled thousands of miles across the country and between the major cities transformed our ideas about human physical capacity and the continent itself.

Cycling's resurgence

Cycling declined in popularity after World War Two, as cars became more affordable, but the 1970s saw a resurgence of interest. More and more Australians are now exploring bicycles as commuter vehicles.

Two men on road bicycles. Both wear small leather helmets.
Russell Tankard (front) racing for the Brunswick Cycling Club in Melbourne, 1975. Photo: Russell Tankard.

Australia, like many other countries around the world, faces challenges of traffic congestion, obesity and climate change. In this environment, cycling has re-emerged as an important element of future urban design and more active lifestyles.

Competitive and recreational cycling has also boomed in recent decades, with designers developing new forms of the bicycle for pursuits such as road racing, mountain biking and BMX.

Increasing numbers of people are participating in amateur racing and touring and Australian cyclists continue to capture the world’s attention on the international professional circuit.

In July 2013, more than six million Australians tuned in to their televisions to watch the world’s premier long-distance road race, the Tour de France.