A MUSEUM exhibition is racing to success thanks to a little Olympic inspiration.
The Racing Bikes exhibit at Monkwearmouth Station Museum explores the development of cycling from the introduction of the Victorian Ordinary bicycle – commonly known as the Penny Farthing – to the hi-tech super bikes of the 21st-century Olympic Games.
The display looks back at a time when cycling was more popular than football and is on show until November 4.
Jo Cunningham, manager of Sunderland Museums, said: “It is so exciting to see our fantastic Team GB athletes excel at something so inherently British – cycle racing being the working man’s sport of choice since the first racing machines were ridden in Victorian times.
“With gold medals won by Sir Chris Hoy, Laura Trott and their sporting colleagues it is truly inspirational to us all – and in Racing Bikes you can see the fascinating story of how this sport has come to be what it is today.”
Racing on these precarious machines emerged as a major spectator sport for the working classes in the 1870s and was only overtaken by football in the 1890s.
Although cycling was expensive to take part in, it soon established itself as a popular spectator sport.
The first pedal bicycle appeared in 1865 – made of wood with metal tyres.
Poor roads made them hard to ride, so they were also used by enthusiasts in indoor racing rinks known as velodromes, and quickly the sport of bicycle racing became popular.
The first all metal machine appeared in 1870 with solid rubber tyres.
l THE first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896 and, as a popular sport at that time, cycling was included and has been included ever since. Cycling clubs started to establish in the 1870s.
l The London Games had 116 years of pedigree.
Track Cycling has had a resurgence of interest in the UK in recent years not least because Team GB dominated the track events, winning seven out of 10 gold medals at the previous games in Beijing. At this year’s Games, the cycling team won 12 medals.
l Paralympic Cycling: 50 medal events make up the Paralympic cycling competition, with 32 road and 18 track events. The Paralympic Games begin on August 29.