I first met Paul and Charlie Farren on a Melbourne Tweed Ride when they turned up with a coterie of gasp-inducing vintage steeds (and dressed in 19th century cycling garb and tweed as well). Paul told me that these beautiful bicycles were part of a private collection of over a hundred rare and unique vintage bicycles that he had spent over 30 years amassing with his wife. Most of the bikes were older than 1900 with the newest being about 1910.
I couldn’t believe that this sort of collection was housed in Melbourne and other than for rare outings for tweed rides and exhibitions it’s not generally open to the public.
However, recently Paul and Charlie held an open day in their warehouse to celebrate the publication of their book, Bicycling through Time: The Farren Collection. The event was free and drew lots of bike aficionados and curious passersby who had no idea that one of the top 10 early bike collections in the world was housed in quiet residential Richmond.
The Farren collection includes penny farthings of all sizes, bamboo bikes, curious tricycles, women’s sidesaddle bikes, tandems/three seaters and “sociables” that allowed riders to sit side by side.
They are beautifully displayed with placards of information and even using vintage cast iron bike stands.
The collection’s oldest bike is a 1819 Hobby Horse which definitely doesn’t look comfortable.
This 1928 Malvern Star three person bike caught my eye. Having ridden a tandem before I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to get three people cycling on this contraption!
As well as bikes there is lots of vintage bike ephemera and equipment to gaze at – including old parts, equipment, posters, artwork and advertising material.
Each bike comes with a story and that’s how the book came about. The bikes themselves provide an interesting insight into society of a particular time and place and the stories of their discovery and restoration are also fascinating. Interestingly, most of the Farren collection have been purchased in Australia, from auctions to discoveries in rubbish dumps.
We’re so lucky to have a collection of this variety and importance right here in Melbourne. While you won’t be able to see the collection all the time you can now appreciate and enjoy these beauties through Bicycling through Time: The Farren Collection.