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Ballarat celebrates its bicycle madness this spring

Alia Parker's picture
A penny farthing in the historic streets of Ballarat. Cycle Traveller

Ballarat, sitting in the western foothills of the Great Dividing Range in Victoria, is synonymous with gold. The ornate streets of this famous gold-rush town ring with history, of a time of great wealth and rebellion, of the Eureka Stockade.

But while the pages of our history books hone in on this important era of Australia's past, there is much more to Ballarat's history than gold alone, and it's a history bicycle lovers will find very appealing.

For instance, here's something you probably didn't know: as the gold rush and mining industry petered out, the former metal miners of Ballarat turned to a new venture, becoming a hub of production for what was then one of the most technically advanced forms of transport; Ballarat was one of Australia's leading centres for bicycle manufacture in the 1890s, with no less than 11 companies operating there by 1907.

Cycling has been, and remains, an important part of Ballarat's culture. While the manufacturers are gone, seven bicycle stores still service the town – a large number for a regional area.

Two great bicycle exhibitions

To celebrate Ballarat's love of the bicycle, two cycling exhibits are about to open at the Gold Museum.

The first, On Your Bike! is a celebration of Ballarat’s love of cycling. Visitors will be able to see a number of historical bicycles, photographs and bicycle accessories from the Gold Museum’s collection and private collections held by Ballarat’s bicycle collectors. The exhibition will take cyclists on a ride from the early velocipede to the 20th century racing bicycle.

penny fathing, Cycle TravellerWhat: On Your Bike!
Where: Gold Museum, Bradshaw Street, Ballarat
When: 31 October 2015 to 3 April 2016,

The second exhibition is the National Museum of Australia's Freewheeling: Cycling in Australia.

This exhibition has been travelling the country showcasing over 140 years of Australian cycling history, from the introduction of the first human-powered, wheeled vehicle known as a ‘boneshaker’ in the 1860s, to penny-farthings, ‘safety bicycles’, mountain bikes, tricks bikes and light-weight racing bicycles.

What: Freewheeling: Cycling in Australia's
Where: Gold Museum, Bradshaw Street, Ballarat
When: 31 October 2015 to 31 January 2016

Festival of Spokes

Kicking off the celebration of all things bicycle is the Festival of Spokes Community Day – a free day for the entire family.

What: Festival of Spokes
Where: Gold Museum, Bradshaw Street, Ballarat’s
When: 31 October 2015, 10am to 3pm (one day only)

You can visit the Gold Museum for free on the opening day of both cycling exhibits as well as take part in other activities, such as learning about bike safety, or riding tips from the experts at The Squeaky Wheel, bike maintenance and cycling fashion. Make sure to bring your bike along so you can take part in the bike parade.

And what would a cycling festival be without a race! See cyclist Damien Kierl try his luck on a penny-farthing against a modern cyclist and a hobby horse rider. Then sit back, and enjoy Ballarat and a little piece of its lesser-known history.

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