17 Oct 2017

Visitors to a new exhibition will be able to see some of the rarest bicycles in the world thanks to a local collector.

Organised by the Council, Ride On: A pedal through Christchurch's cycling history is at the Arts Centre gallery Pūmanawa until Monday 23 October is one of several key events happening during Beca Heritage Week.

Keith Guthrie tries out his Raleigh Chopper from the 1970s which is part of the

Keith Guthrie tries out his Raleigh Chopper from the 1970s which is part of the Ride On exhibition during Beca Heritage Week.

The exhibition features heritage bikes along with stories and photos illustrating Christchurch’s cycling history including early bike races, local manufacturers and retailers, and a look at cycling fashions.

Local collector Keith Guthrie, who owns the Cycle Trading Company on Elgin Street, is lending several of his bikes to Ride On, including a velocipede, or ‘boneshaker’ which dates from the late 1860s, and a penny-farthing dating from the 1880s.

There are also some more modern examples for a burst of nostalgia – an iconic Raleigh Chopper, of which about 1.5 million were sold in the 1970s, and an unusual Raleigh tandem also from the 70s.

Mr Guthrie, who says his collection of more than 100 bikes is the largest in New Zealand and the second largest in Australasia, has about 30 very rare models, some of which are “irreplaceable”. He is lending six of these to Ride On.

He bought the Crooke collection, collected by Pat Crooke in the 1930s, about 30 years ago and has been collecting bikes ever since. He has worked in bike shops his whole life - his father's and his own - and has become a bike restorer, collector and historian.

“I’ve made a lot of friends throughout the world with them and been to conferences overseas. But we’re not a big group, there are only about 50 people around the world who are really die-hard idiots like me.”

The Ride On exhibition is a welcome opportunity for him to share some of his treasures with the public.

The bikes on show demonstrate how quickly designs developed from the ‘boneshaker’ velocipede, an early form of bicycle propelled by pedals on cranks fitted to the front axle and named for its rough ride, to the penny-farthings and so called safety bikes of the 1880s and '90s with a chain-driven rear wheel, that resemble today’s bikes.

“Within 20 years bikes morphed from having solid steel wheels into something that we could ride around on the streets and wouldn’t look too unusual today. The change in technology in the 1870s and 1880s was very quick,” Mr Guthrie says.

Other heritage bikes in the exhibition include a restored Raleigh Popular Model No.1 from the 1950s owned by Council Heritage Advisor Gareth Wright and some lent by the Munro family, Action Cycle Club and Around Again Cycles among others.