Available now from this website
200pp, 120 illustrations; ISBN: 978-0-9871437-1-6
Wheeling Matilda: The Story of Australian Cycling
by Jim Fitzpatrick, is a comprehensive history of the bicycle in Australia. From its first introduction to this vast country, the bike has been an integral, if not always conspicuous part of Australia's story. Explorers, gold-miners, trail-blazers and record-setters, preachers, sheep-shearers and early film-makers covered amazing distances in the most challenging conditions, mounted on two wheels and powered only by human energy. International cycle racing from the nineteenth century to the present day, and Australia's military use of the bicycle since the Boer War are also covered in this fascinating and highly-illustrated new book from Star Hill.
The final chapter looks at the status of the bicycle in Australia today.
The island continent of Australia and the bicycle seem almost to have been made for one another. Among other things, from 1893 the machine was adopted over the next two decades for more varied uses, and was routinely ridden over greater distances as part of daily rural life, than anywhere else on earth.
At the turn of the 20th century, cycle racing -- centred in Europe and North America -- was the most popular, lucrative and widely followed sport internationally. Yet, half a world away, Australia sponsored the world's richest race and still holds the oldest track race and the second oldest road race in existence. Today the small population (23,000,000) produces some of the top riders on the international racing scene.
The bicycle saw its first significant military use during the Boer War (1899-1902), in which experienced Australian bush cyclists demonstrated the machine's wartime value. And by 1896 there was an extensive and well used bicycle path network in Western Australia that linked communities over an area the equivalent of Arizona and southern Utah (or Germany and Denmark) combined.
It is a remarkable cycling history.
General Store at Bullfinch, Western Australia, circa 1896
A Melbourne city street during World War II, with petrol shortages
A bicycle pad south of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, part of a system dating from 1893, portions of which were still in use in the 1930s
Two Tasmanian shearers who worked the New South Wales shearing circuit in the early 20th century
Cycling on George Street Sydney, then and now.
The Speed Dome, Western Australia