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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

"You'd be Better off on a Malvern Star"

The ladies in the Sepia Saturday prompt this week look very stylish. I don't know how they managed to keep their voluminous skirts out of the spokes even assuming that skirt guards were in use in those days! I don't have any old photographs of grandparents or previous generations riding bicycles in my family collection, but I do know my grandmother Mona only learnt to ride in her fifties. I also don't remember seeing either of my parents riding, and if they did, there's no photographic evidence of it, although I have previously shown a photo of my mother's brother Ken riding his bike in Christchurch in the snow in about 1930, which you can see here.. The photo below shows my mother-in-law Mary and her brother-in-law Winton on bikes outside the home of their parents-in-law, in Little Myers St Geelong, in about 1947. They were probably setting off on a ride around Geelong, perhaps including a picnic by the river, presumeably with their respective partners Bob and Jean.

The shot is taken looking cross the street to the houses opposite, next door to Taylors timber yard that was located there. Mary well remembers that loud hooters sounded from the yard signalling early morning starts, lunch and finish times.  It's hard to read the brand on Win's bike but I think it could possibly be a Malvern Star, which I find interesting because we now live close to the Melbourne suburb of Malvern, where those bikes were originally manufactured.

According to the local Stonnington History Centre web site, "[t]he first Malvern Star bicycle was made in a shop [at]185 Glenferrie Road, by champion cyclist Thomas Finnigan in 190[2]. World champion cyclist (Sir) Hubert 'Oppy' Opperman joined the business after it was sold to (Sir) Bruce Small in 1920. The partnership of 'Oppy' and Small made Malvern Star a household name and the business grew to become a bicycling empire unequalled in the Southern Hemisphere." There are several photographs on the site on the subject of the Malvern Star, including this one here of Tom Finnigan on his bike, and of course there is more information about the history of the company he founded on  Wikipedia.

Advertisement from the Argus, 21 Oct 1955

Above and below are a couple of advertisements for Malvern Star from the Argus newspaper.

From The Argus, 14 Dec 1940, Malvern Star advertisement, found on Trove web site.


The place where Malvern Star bikes were first made. Those 3 Rs don't stand for Ride, Ride, Ride, but for Readings, a Melbourne book store which has been there since 1969, Malvern Star has been re-born since then however, and for yet more information and old photographs click here to go to the company web site.

Following on from the second advertisement, here is a photo of yours truly with the Christmas present I received in 1962, which may or may not have been a Malvern Star. I'm sure I wanted one, as that was THE bike to have, but I have a feeling that Dad may have bought mine second hand and done it up for me. I enjoyed riding it to primary and high school. I remember learning to ride in a vacant block near where we lived, with the help of some neighbourhood friends, and once you learn, you never forget how to ride.



Daughter Claire with her new bike, Xmas 1988

Here's a collage showing a few family riding trips in various locations over the years, such as along the beaches of Barcelona, beside the Mosel river in Germany, around  Dubbo Open Range Zoo and along the Bass Coast Rail Trail in Gippsland Victoria.

We are off to Canberra for the Easter weekend, with our bikes loaded onto the car bike rack. Canberra these days has a very good network or cycle paths, although that wasn't the case when I grew up there. 

To read more blogs relating to cycling in parks, mass riding, ladies in long skirts, or other similar subjects, just get 'on yer bike',  head over to Sepia Saturday #273 , and have a very happy Easter!

            Postscript: just remembered this photo in my mother's collection from her college days in Auckland including a couple of the students' bikes, from a similar time to the first photo here, circa 1946. Good to begin and end in sepia.                                                     


  1. I received my one & only bike for my 12th birthday & like yours, mine was 2nd hand but fixed up by my dad - repainted & outfitted with special handle grips & a shiny new front basket, etc. I loved it & rode all over heck & gone on it. Funny, I never thought about it till just now, but neither of my sisters ever wanted a bike, nor did my brother! How odd? Anyway, hope you have lots of fun riding around Canberra!

  2. You and your first bike reminded me as a 12 year old, longing for a bike and always looking at them in the bike shop. One day I saw one with our family name written on a label attached to a bike. rushed home all excited only to be told that would be the other family of the same name from out in the country. Come birthday time the deception was revealed and i had my first (and last) bike. - boundforoz

  3. You look so proud with your bikes. I was 14 when I got my first two wheeler
    - so quite old when all my friends were confident riding around our village. My father did not want me to have a bike, but Mum persuaded him otherwise, and I was so proud of my bike dark green with a basket on the front. It meant I could enjoy getting about with fellow Guides.

  4. Great bike stories, Jo. I remember riding my bike absolutely everywhere in the school holidays, but after getting thoroughly fed up with the number of punctures I used to get when at university, I've never really recovered my passion for bikes.

  5. I had only one bike but no photos of me with it. It's interesting that the brand of bike made a connection to where you live. So often when I'm looking for inspiration in an old photo, it's not the subject of the photo but some little odd detail that grabs my attention.

  6. Learned to ride a two-wheeler on my friend's bike; got my own at Christmas, 1955...that was a problem, cause we had a couple of feet of snow -- so my mother let me ride through the living room, into the kitchen, through the pantry, into the dining room and back into the living room. Yikes!

  7. Great to see traveling bike pictures...I didn't ride my first bike anywhere but around the block in a suburb...very dull for a teen. But when I went to college, then I really needed one with gears to go to classes and up and down hills. Funny, I got another one years later when I returned to college, since parking on campus was impossible.

  8. Such an interesting post. For some reason I had never absorbed the fact that the Malvern Star was named after the place it was made - probably because I wasn't a Melbourne person or familiar with Melbourne suburbs. I am delighted to say thought that I'm pretty sure I have been to Readings bookshop with my son a couple of years ago...a fabulous store if I remember correctly.

  9. Winton and Mary could be modeling for the next Malvern Star bicycle company ad. Hope your holiday has great cycling.

  10. Lovely stories and pictures and I’m sad that I never had a bike of my own (though I did borrow them from friends).

  11. I had several bikes. The first 1 I got for my birthday when I turned 8. I kept putting off learning to ride until my mother threatened to give the bike to my cousin. I learned the next day. Later I got a racing bike. I still like to ride but since moving to the busy, hilly city of Atlanta, I no longer ride.

  12. You have some great selections of photos with bikes. I appreciate seeing all the building from the area as well as reading about all the history too.

  13. An interesting blog and some fun photos. I had never thought about where the Malvern Star bikes were manufactured so I've been educated (as is usually the case with SS blogs).