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Australia's first bikes

The first bicycles arrived in the colonies in the 1860s and Australians were quick to embrace this new technology. By the late 1890s, the 'safety' bicycle offered people a cheaper and more comfortable ride and the cycling craze had taken hold. Riding schools and touring clubs formed and cycle racing became a big business.

Exhibition highlights

Freewheeling tracks the arrival of velocipedes, penny-farthings and the revolutionary safety bicycle. It also features the story of Harry Clarke's passion for his vintage penny-farthing, 'Black Bess'.

  • An illustration of a velocipede race at Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1869.
    'Velocipede race', 1869
  • A group of men pose with penny-farthing bicycles.
    Melbourne Bicycle Club, 1878
  • Harry Clarke riding his penny-farthing.
    Harry Clarke, 1984
  • Studio image of a penny-farthing bicycle.
    Harry Clarke's penny-farthing, 1884
  • A black and white photo of a group of men and women standing with their bicycles.
    Safety bikes, about 1900
  • A black and white photograph of a man with a bicycle.  Handwritten text at the bottom of the photo reads: 'A shearer, moving camp.'
    Safety bike, 1900


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