Freewheeling: The exhibition built for Canberrans | HerCanberra

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Freewheeling: The exhibition built for Canberrans

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Everyone should learn to ride a bike.

For many of us, it’s as close as we’ll ever get to flying and the fastest we’ll ever go – under our own steam at least. In general, Canberrans know quite a bit about the freedom of cycling. We have miles and miles of cycle paths to enjoy, stretching through the suburbs and around the lakes. Some enjoy the paths on their commute, others with their family, some just for the joy of feeling the wind in their hair.

Having celebrated its opening at the National Museum of Australia yesterday, Freewheeling: Cycling in Australia is an exhibition exploring the story of cycling in Australia, beginning with the first bikes brought to the colonies in the 1860s, and bringing us through 140-odd years of cycling to the present age and the (very cool) culture of modern bicycles.

Shirley Duncan and Wendy Law

Shirley Duncan and Wendy Law

The exhibition illustrates the evolution of the bike, from the penny-farthing to the first chain-driven cycles, to the recumbent bikes and carbon-fibre racing models we regularly see today. Here’s why it’s a must-see for any type of cycling enthusiast.


For those MAMILs (Middle Aged Men in Lycra) or just anyone who spends their weekend cruising, Freewheeling looks closely at the people of Australian cycling, such as Tour De France winner Cadel Evans, BMX Olympian Caroline Buchanan, Paralympic cyclists Michael Milton (a local hero, also a Paralympic skier) and Sue Powell, all of whom have bicycles or cycling accessories displayed in the exhibition. Also displayed are trophies and medals from the weekend warrior club competitions that started appearing in Australia in the 1880s.

Three Children in Goggles Riding Bikes on Footpath, Brighton East

Three Children in Goggles Riding Bikes on Footpath, Brighton East

This is the time for you to get up and close to your personal heroes.


There are also lesser well-known inclusions across the exhibition, which will impress those with a keen knowledge of the sport, such as the story of Canberran long-distance recumbent rider, Peter Heal, former Pedal Power ride organiser, Greg Cunningham and Pedal Power’s Gillian Helyer.

Bike nerds will also get excited by gear from continent-wide tours and traverses by people such as Hubert Opperman, famed for his performance in the 1928 Tour De France, and the story of Kate Leeming, the first woman to solo-cycle the 1800km Canning Stock Route in Western Australia.


Cadel “The Lung” Evans has two pieces on show: his mountain bike from the ’98 and ’99 Mountain Bike World Cup events, and his 2008 Tour De France road bike, on which he took out second place in the event.


The exhibition also includes a children’s bicycle from the 1950s and a tricycle dating back to the 1930s that have served generations. Littlies will be fascinated to see how their personal trike has transformed across the years and perhaps how lucky they are to have the easy riders they do now as opposed to the bikes of yesteryear.

Lady cyclists

Lady cyclists

The National Museum of Australia will be the final destination for Freewheeling, which has been touring Australia since November 2014.

Visitors can expect to leave Freewheeling inspired by the history of Australian cycling. Time to break out the bike pump and stack hat.

the essentials

What: Freewheeling: Cycling in Australia
When: Showing now from 9am-5pm every day until 9 July 2017
Where: The National Museum of Australia

All images courtesy of the National Museum of Australia

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