Cycling in Queensland

France is of course world renowned for its famous Tour de France with cyclists competing from all over the world including Brisbane rider Robbie McEwen who has riden in 11 Tours and of course the 2011 Australian winner of the great race Cadel Evans

Queensland also has an active cycling history of its own…

The first shipment of tricycles arrived in Brisbane in 1870 and the first race is reported to have been between a cyclist and a Cobb and Co coach from Brisbane to Sandgate.  No official timing was recorded.

The initial Brisbane Bicycle Club meeting was held in 1881 at the Belle Vue Hotel.  High wheel bicycles including the Penny Farthing were the only bikes available and novelty Penny Farthing races were held in the Brisbane Botanic Gardens where more riders fell off than stayed on. By 1886 Brisbane had 200 bicycles and 50 of these were used for racing.

Group photograph of cyclists taken in Charters Towers, Queensland, ca. 1887  John Oxley Library image number: 75023  Penny-farthing bike races at the Exhibition Ground, Brisbane, ca. 1895 John Oxley Library image number API-095-0001-0004  Queensland cyclist, R. James on a rear steering rotary tricycle, ca. 1884 John Oxley Library image number 41584

The Safety bicycle most like the bicycle we know today, was introduced into Australia in 1891 and cycling clubs boomed in the 1890s with the Brisbane Cyclist published for members in 1890.  Tandem pacing, record breaking, century runs, cyclist versus runner and motor pacing were all features of the early years of cycling.

Leslie Cecil - John Oxley Library image number 40747  Illustrated front cover from The Queenslander, February 13, 1936 - John Oxley Library image number  - 506074  Ultimate speed on a racing bike, Clifton, ca. 1930 - John Oxley Library image number 260579

The first Queensland championship was held at the Breakfast Creek Sports Ground in 1891 and was won by Lou Isles.   Isles also rode long distance, riding from Brisbane to Sydney in 1891 a 700 mile trek which he completed in 7 days.  Imported bicycles cost  £30 although local bicycles could be bought for two pound ten. Successful Queensland riders of the day included Ben Goodsen, Billy Dowd and Percy Davies.

Cycling club members in a photographic studio, ca. 1923 - John Oxley Library image number 237336  Cycling at the velodrome circuit, Brisbane, ca. 1923 - John Oxley Library image number 237332  Cyclists from Beaudesert, Queensland - John Oxley Library image number 76575

In 1895 a record of 1 hour 2 minutes and 10 seconds was set by George Stombaco for a 34 kilometre race over rough dirt roads from Brisbane and Cleveland.  That same year, The League of Queensland Wheelmen  held a Christmas Carnival with over 8000 attendees.  Brisbane wasn’t the only town with a club as Maryborough, Townsville, Ipswich and Rockhampton also had successful clubs.

Karen Hind

Librarian, John Oxley Library

Posted in Miscellaneous, People Jo Browse John Oxley Library
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  1. Chris Martin

    Karen.
    Thanks very much for this great blog. I have put it with a link to my facebook page as my Dad, Grandfather and son were all keen cyclists. Thanks v ery much!

  2. Sharon Flynn

    My uncle was a QLD road cycling champion (not sure of what events / years, but have seen lots of trophies). I am trying to find more information about him. He was born in 1939 and passed away in 2008, would love to put some info together for his sister, my mum. If anyone knows where I could find out results etc from his years in racing I would apprecicate.

  3. Karen
    Wonderful to find this information about cycling in history, in particular reference to Maryborough. I am co-ordinating an historical display of cycling in the region for the inaugural Fraser Coast Festival of Cycling and these factual stories will compliment the personal stories I have gathered from long time residents.

  4. I inherited a number of years ago items from my great aunt and grandmother. They are hallmarked (possibly plate?) silverware, a coffee set, coffee pot, creamer and sugar bowl with a bone or ivory scalloped button top handles.. They are hallmarked and engraved as follows ” Kolacene Road Race Sandgate to Brisbane Aug 28th 1897 Second prize presented by Merchant & Co won by G Simpson” . Another is a serving bowl with lid (also hallmarked silver) engraved “presented to G Simpson Treasurer BBC from Members on his marriage 15th Nov 1899”. G Simpson was George Simpson my great grandfather, a one of the Simpson Bros who ran flour and saw mills in south east Queensland, most notably in Brisbane and Warwick. I have asked family if they want these items as my husband and I are older, no interest really. Could you point me to someone who would want to purchase them? I have been unpacking boxes long left unopened now we are downsizing. Kind regards Chrystal Benson

    • Myles Sinnamon

      Hi Chrystal – Thank you for your comment. I’ve passed your question on to our Original Content team. They will contact you shortly.

      Kind regards

      Myles Sinnamon, blog editor

  5. In 1902, Reginald Blunt opened a bike shop in Margaret Street. He had invented a Blunt ‘Safety Cycle’ previously and made his way to work at Pinkenba each day. He worked as an engineer at the Qld Meat Export Co. for four years. When the Meatworks ceased, he decided to make bikes. The frame castings were made locally, the BSA wheels, sprockets and chain were imported. The cycle was assembled by R.R.Blunt. In 1904, Reginald Blunt sold his business to Howards Motor Company and went to work for Wilson Engineering Works in Elizabeth Street.

  6. Pingback: Exhibition: ‘The view from here: The photographic world of Alfred Elliott 1890-1940’ at the Museum of Brisbane | Art Blart

  7. Beryl Roberts

    Karen, I am trying to track a comment about my great grandfather, George Ballard, who was apparently the first person to ride a bicycle from Brisbane to Melbourne in 1890. George Ballard was also the first Manager of the Spring Hill Baths.

  8. Sandra Crawford

    I’m looking for information on my grandfather William Wallis. He was a cyclist who competed in Brisbane and Queensland. I assume is was pre WW2 because my mother was born during the war. . He won four race medals. Anything on him would be appreciated.

  9. cliff murray

    My father was a 5 mile junior Queensland champion either 1948 or1949 his name is Thomas Clifford Murray also repsented Queensland at Australian champions I think 1950

  10. Kent Beasley

    I’m trying to find out what were the club colours for the Brisbane Bicycle Club in the 1880s. I believe they may have been blue and gold but would like any information you might have in regard to this. Thanks

  11. Ken Piaggio

    Thank you this blog site.
    I have a cycling medal belonging to my name sake grandfather Kenneth Charles Piaggio who was winner in the 1895-6 Season of the BSBC Club Road Races. At the time he lived in Brisbane and worked as a jeweller. He married in 1899 and moved to Beenleigh and died in 1905, losing the fight with tuberculosis. I would love to track down further information .

  12. clifford murray

    my dad thomas clifford murray was a townsville track sprint cyclist in the late 1940s early 1950s won the junior queensland 5mile championship in either 1948 or 49 and was in the 1951 national track cycling championships in 1951 repasenting queensland but can’t find information on it

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