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Journeys : Jun Jul 2011
Much has transpired since a quiet Sunday afternoon in 2008, spent scrubbing away the petrified layers of gr it and grime from the back wheel of an old bicycle found at the local tip shop. Battered and grimy, the bike had caught my eye because of its hand-painted pin-striping and ‘Aero-Flyer’ letter ing, and so it came down from the tip shop wall and into the boot of the car, to become yet another project gather ing dust in my ow n garage. Following an initial flush of enthusiasm, turning the handlebars back around to a racier aspect and pulling away the battered mudguards, I had left the bike sitting for some months before making the time to poke about between spokes, str ip away tattered cloth bar tape, and free the rusting brake cables. Along with the hand-painted details, it was the handlebar shape that had really caught my attention, curling elegantly from the head stem upwards and then around into deep hooks in a style favoured by the legendary Australian interwar cycling champion, Sir Hubert Opper man. This handlebar shape was popularised by Oppy during the 1930s and used to set many distance and speed records (quite literally) across Australia and the UK. Under a solvent-soaked rag, pushed between crossing spokes, the designation AW-9 came to light, stamped into the outer chrome shell of the Sturmey Archer rear hub. Five minutes later and Sturmey Archer’s own web page confirmed that the hub dated from the late 30s, while other frame details pointed to a bike constructed in this pre-war period. The thought of Oppy and the 1930s brought to mind the story of the oldest and longest single stage cycling race, the Paris- Brest-Par is. Having fished the stor y from the depths of a musty box of twenty year- old cycling magazines, I sat amongst the spare wheels and old tubes, smudging black finger prints onto yellowing pages, reliving the story devoured so eagerly as a teenage bike-racing fanatic. Twelve hundred kilometres or 750 miles, two continuous days of racing, and a sprint victor y on the line to Oppy, in August 1931. Some more inter net time revealed that Paris-Brest-Paris is very much alive and well, conducted every four years and still considered the queen of long-distance cycling events. The 17th edition, scheduled for August 2011, falls almost eighty years to the day since Oppy’s tr iumph. Looking from grainy images of Oppy to the Aero and back again, my mind reeled with the coincidence and romance of the possibilities. Why not take genuine 1930s bicycles to France to celebrate Oppy’s w in and in a small way, experience something of his effort and achievement? The Aero had been parked alongside another pre-war bicycle project languishing in the dustier corner of the shed, a rare and equally battered ‘Cressy’ from Whatley Cycles. Although I had not set out to become a collector of bikes from this (or It started in a tip shop Scott Dickson explains why three Tasmanians are planning to pedal vintage bicycles 1200 kilometres across France Craig’s bike comes home to the Whatley Cycles workshop in Cressy, where it was built At the New Town track Destinations 16 June / July 2011
Apr May 2011
MNJ Aug Sep 2011