This week’s photo is of an unknown Lithgow penny-farthing rider and his cycling machine.
He is accompanied by an array of silver household items he had received as prizes.
The photo was taken by Lithgow photographer Mr W. Bursle after the lad had won at a cycling competition at Bathurst. He also has three silver medallions on his chest. Someone may recognise this lad?
Few people these days realise the impact the bicycle made on the lives of people well over a century ago in and around Bathurst - in fact, all over Australia. From the penny-farthing to the specialist racing bicycle, the idea caught on very quickly - not just for men and boys, but for women and girls too (though the idea was initially frowned upon for the latter).
By the 1890s, the public’s interest in cycling had risen greatly during the previous few years due to the increase in the availability of bicycles.
It was also gratifying to see the numbers interested in being part of a club, including many ‘gentlemen’. The idea of forming a club devoted to the interests of racing was pure and simple.
By January 1888, there were two bicycle clubs in Bathurst: the Bathurst Bicycle Club and the Occidental Bicycle Club.
Some three months later, E. Webb and Co in George Street presented a magnificent silver trophy valued at £44 to the Occidental Bicycle Club to be competed for at annual meetings. This new trophy created a good deal of excitement among the local wheelmen.
Bathurst was still talking about the recent competition between Sam Clark and George Wiburd at the Bathurst Cricket Grounds on Saturday afternoon, January 28, 1888, for the “Cycling Championship of Australia”.
It was perfect weather except for the breeze and a considerable number of spectators were in attendance to witness the “real genuine exhibition of athletic skill”.
Both men were classed as “perfect wonders on wheels to do a mile in two minutes 40 seconds”. Then the younger of the two did 20 miles of the 50 miles in an hour.
Wiburd was six foot tall and weighed in at 12 stone and seven pounds, but Clark was much slimmer. The track was classed as “rather bumpy”. Clark stated that he had fairly met his match.
The cycling match commenced at 3.20pm and Clark won the toss and selected the inside track.
Wiburd used a Rudge Bicycle and Clark a Humber. Messrs Beavis Bros took a photo of the occasion.
Dr Machattie, mayor of Bathurst, was the judge and Mr E. Roos of Curtis and Company was the timekeeper. George Wiburd won the final race.
The winnings of £90 was handed over at a function at the Post Office Hotel in William Street to Mr Wiburd, who was described as “almost a native of Bathurst”.
In those days, most tracks around the state were, according to one commentator, “not much to speak of; the condition of all are remarkably bad”. But such conditions didn’t stop the keen ones, whether they rode penny-farthings or bicycles.
Some tracks were so bad that collisions seemed almost unavoidable on more than one occasion. Cyclists could be seen riding any decent buggy track as numbers of riders got themselves into form.
Many local bicycle dealers sponsored either part of or all the cycle races around Bathurst and district. Most dealers became known for their “pushbike repair service” and especially tyre repairs using glue-on or burn-on patches.
Respoking was another job carried out, as was chain repairs. They would lengthen or shorten or repair broken chains and replace damaged links.
Special bike chain repairing equipment was set up out the back of their workshops. Ironically, many of these stores went on to sell another craze for a time: the steel-wheeled roller skates.