Finlay Brothers history site

Barb Cycles
Preserving the bicycle and
motorcycle heritage of
Finlay Brothers, Elizabeth St
Melbourne, 1900-1961.
Bob Finlay as an early Barb racing cyclist
Bob Finlay as an early Barb racing cyclist

A very early photograph that most probably shows Bob Finlay around
1905-1910 with a Barb bicycle.  Photographer unknown.

In 1915, a newspaper wrote:

"...During his pedal cycling career he was seen to the best advantage as a pace follower, and holds the Australian record behind motorpace for  1 mile in 1m. 21 1-5s., a speed of 44 miles per hour.   On the path his principal success was the Melbourne  Eight Hours Wheel Race, of 1908, and on the road his second place in the great Warrnambool to  Melbourne road race.  After returning from a visit to  America, where he successfully followed pace, he  retired from the professional ranks..."1

Bob Finlay - one of the firm's founding brothers - was an early Barb cyclist.  His race placings have been referred to on other pages within this website  The above article refers to his first place in the "Melbourne Eight Hours Wheel Race, of 1908" - but this is more likely to have been the 1907 race - over two miles on a sports day held on the Melbourne Exhibition Grounds held to celebrate the Eight Hour Day.2 

Bob Finlay certainly came second in the Warrnambool to Melbourne cycling race of 1905 - then called the Dunlop Road Race. Almost without doubt, he was riding a Barb Cycle, as may have a few of the other riders (as displayed in the second advertisement on the
"Barbs in road races" page).

A newspaper article describing the amazing conditions of the race was published in Melbourne's Argus newspaper, and is a great illustration of road racing of the time. It contains a lot of information not related to Barb Cycles - but the experiences related by the winner, W.E. Hawley, would have been similar to those of Bob Finlay.

It has been re-written here due to the poor clarity of the digitized copy, and it is likely that some transcription errors have occurred due to it's extremely blurred type. We are waiting for a photocopy of an original copy to try to confirm some sections.

Photographs of Bob Finlay during his time as a pace cyclist in Utah, America, during 1913, are available on digitised newspapers on the US Library of Congress website - The Salt Lake Tribune - June 8, 1913 and The Salt Lake Tribune - June 18, 1913.


A 1909 map of the Dunlop Road Race route - difficult to decipher, however some of the major areas listed in the race description below are shown.
Source: The Argus (Melbourne, Vic: 1848-1956) October 4, 1909, 8.





What is now the most important event in the Victorian cycling world was decided last Saturday, when W.E. Hawley, of Elsternwick, from a handicap of 25min., won the Dunlop Road Race over the course from Warrnambool to Melbourne, his actual riding time being 7h, 52min, 26sec, for 165 miles. These figures are outside the record established by J. Arnst (N.Z.) in 1903, when, from scratch, he covered the course in 7h, 43min. It ranks, however, as the third fastest time registered, being eclipsed by T. Larcombe in last year’s contest, who occupied 7h, 48min, 7sec. Hawley, it will be remembered, secured championship honours on the Saturday previous, when he won the 25 mile Road Championship of Australasia from an array of talent that had never before competed here on the road. In the event he met all, or nearly all, the cracks who had been selected in the several states and New Zealand, and who had been sent hither to represent their respective places in the Warrnambool event.

A conspicuous feature of last Saturday’s race was the comparative failure of the scratch and back divisions, which, this year, were considered particularly strong. There were five men each on the scratch and 8min marks, but owing to several mishaps the backers became disorganised. The scratch men were particularly unfortunate. At Panmure, 16 miles, H. Arnst (N.Z.) fell heavily bruising and lacerating his arm to such an extent that he had to desist for a while, and have it dressed. At Garvoc, 22 miles, where there is an awkward dip in the road, and which was in a very greasy state, R.W. Morgan, Chappell, and two others fell heavily, leaving J. Arnst alone, and taking every advantage, he kept on his way at a great pace, reaching Camperdown, 43 miles, in 1hr, 57min. Morgan and Chappell quickly remounted, and although the former was cut and bruised about the head, they paced about, and were but two minutes behind Arnst at Camperdown. Six miles beyond, at Weerite, a roadside station, Morgan was forced to give in, the shaking and wounds sustained by his fall having overcome him. Chappell still pursued the flying New Zealander, but in reaching Colac, 73miles, had lost another minute, and thence seems to have died away. Arnst, however, made very fast time through Winchelsea and Geelong, but his forced solitary ride made great inroads in his form, and this, combined with trouble in the shape of a couple of punctures, placed him well back in the list of finishers.

The conditions of the weather during the progress of the race were, over the first 75 miles, very bad. It had rained along the coast in the early hours of the morning, and although the showers kept off while the men were being sent away, the road, especially up to Terang, 30 miles, was in a shocking state, the mud in places being inches deep. This was very noticeable about Garvoc, 22 miles, there being only a strip in the centre of the roadway available to the riders. Several, in their effort to pace others, left the crown and rode in the wheel tracks, but in almost every instance this brought them down to a walking pace. The ride through the Camperdown district was cold and showery, and, running due east, the competitors were subjected to a slashing side wind, which drove the hail and rain against them with great force. Through the Stony Rises, where the road dipped slightly to the S.E., was a hard section for many, but after the turn N.E., from Colac the conditions were much easier, for the wind was fairly well behind the riders, and the road almost perfectly dry, even right on to Melbourne.

The limit men were sent away by the starter, Mr G.S. Mackay, mayor of Warrnambool, at 10min to 6a.m., the rest following at various intervals till 7 o’clock, when the scratch division were dispatched with ringing cheers from the several hundreds of the townsfolk who had congregated at the starting point. The majority of the riders pushed themselves almost to their limit over the heavy section up to Terang, but an analysis of the time between the subsequent sections shows that this indiscretion cost them dearly. The winner, W.E. Hawley, was a noticeable exception. He started with four others, who set such a willing pace that he was content to see them go, with the result that at Camperdown, 43 miles, he was 6min behind, his time being 2h., 4min., as against Guerin’s 1hr., 58min. As a matter of fact, this latter time was only beaten by J. Arnst, who clipped one minute off it – a good performance considering the state of the road. Hawley, however, was riding well within himself, and over the stretch between Camperdown and Colac, 29 miles, he registered the best time, taking 1hr. 32min., as against Guerins’s 1hr. 34min., J. Wright’s 1hr. 35min., and 1hr. 37min., by J. Arnst and C. Baulderstone.

Hawley materially improved his position over the next stage of 23 miles to Winchelsea, and, as before, made the fastest time, the various readings being – Hawley, 1hr. 7min., J. Wright, 1hr. 10min., H. Arnst and Baulderstone, 1hr. 12min., J. Hird and R. Finlay, 1hr. 13min., J. Arnst 1hr. 16min., Turner, 1hr. 18min., Craw, 1hr. 21min., and Guerin, 1hr. 23min. At Camperdown, the limit men, Gaynor and Taylor (70min.) were leading, but at Colac, 73 miles, Turner (50min.) and H. Lloyd (52min.) had displaced them. While Hawley was about the 80th man to pass through Camperdown, he was but 30th at Colac, for that stretch of nearly 30 miles between affected many of the riders after the hard plug through the wind from Warrnambool, the wind being side on, and even slightly against them in places. After that fast run across the Birregurra Plains to Winchelsea, Hawley was in the third position with J.C. Lloyd, Turner preceding him by 5min. In the following run of 23 miles to Geelong Turner still led Hawley by 3min., while Finlay, eighth at Colac, fourth at Winchelsea, reached Geelong with Hawley, both of these riders traversing this stage in 1hr. 5min., as against Turner’s 1hr. 7min., and 1hr. 6min. by Arnst and Baulderstone. At Werribee Hawley had assumed the lead, Finlay, Turner and Sargent being 5min. behind, Hawley again making the fastest time over the 26 miles from Geelong, his record being 1hr. 12min., as against 1hr. 17min. by Finlay, 1hr. 18min. by Baulderstone, 1hr. 20min. by Turner, and 1hr. 24min. by R. Hird. Over the last stage to Melbourne he increased his lead, finishing 10min. before the second man.

No very serious accidents were reported, although falls, punctures, and broken chains were numerous. Many of the riders carried spare chains and tyres, as one of the conditions was that the same machine had to be used throughout. To ensure this each cycle was sealed by the officials at Warrnambool.

The arrangements made by the promoters in Warrnambool for the comfort of the riders were complete. When the acceptances closed the probable number of those who would visit Warrnambool was known, and accommodation secured at the various hotels. In addition to this the officials, after instructing the competitors to have their spare clothing parcels tied up and labelled, engaged a wagon, and called at the various places and collected the luggage, conveyed it to the railway station, and placed it in a van attached to the ordinary train. At the Melbourne end a conveyance was waiting, and on arrival the clothing was taken to the City Baths, ready for the racers when they had completed the journey.

The contestants were further relieved by having food supplied to them at six different places along the route. The first station was Camperdown 43 miles, when the road rises over a spur of Mount Leura, and here each man secured a satchel containing three bananas, four oranges, ¼ lb each of chocolate, muscatel raisins, and specially prepared beef sausages, a quantity of celery, and a pint tin of warm milk and bread sweetened. At Mount Gellibrand, 86 miles, milk was served out; at Winchelsea, egg flip (half a pint) or plain milk was obtainable. At Geelong North, 122 miles, another satchel and warm bread and milk, as at Camperdown, was picked up, while more milk was dispensed at Little River, 135 miles, and bovril and bananas at Werribee, 145 miles, upon which they covered the last 20 miles.

The total quantities of food supplied by the Dunlop Company were as follows:- 90gal milk, 20 loaves bread, 21lb sugar, 10lb Bovril, 65lb specially-prepared beef sausages, 90 dozen bananas, 160 dozen mandarins, 66lb muscatel raisons, 66lb chocolate, 12 dozen eggs, 20 bunches celery, and half a gallon port wine. In addition to this a quantity of edibles was provided at Colac, for owing to the cold and hard ride from Camperdown many of the riders had eaten all supplied to them at the latter place, and were hungering for more. No less than 40 checkers and food-distributers were engaged along the route.


Owing to the heavy rains, it was expected that the winner would not reach the Haymarket until considerably later than a quarter past 2 p.m. – the time fixed for the finish under favourable conditions and when, a few minutes after that time, a solitary cyclist appeared over the hill near Royal-park few of those awaiting the winner’s arrival thought of connecting the rider with the race. He was comparatively close when he was recognised as a competitor, and a loud cheer burst forth as police and officials cleared the way. As the rider approached, riding strongly, on a sweeping high gear, a shock of curly auburn hair was recognised through the mask of mud that enveloped his head. “Hawley! Hawley!” yelled the crowd delightedly, for the win was a most popular one. There was a sustained burst of cheering as he rode across the line, and hopped off his machine as if he had ridden a couple of miles, to acknowledge the congratulations of his friends. Hustled away to the comparative quietade[?] of the Haymarket, Hawley was posed beside his machine and photographed. Ten minutes later Findlay [sic] and Turner hove in sight, and had a head to head tussle for several hundred yards, the former eventually gaining second place.


Hawley is 22 years of age, and is employed in the office of the Brighton Gas Works. He has been riding for about five years, with varying success, and it was not until the present season that he attracted attention as a road rider of the first rank. Since he commenced training three months ago he has carried off the East Melbourne Cup for 25 miles, and his sensational win in the 25 miles road championship at Campbellfield a week previously led to his chances being strongly favoured for the big handicap, wherin he had a start of 25 minutes. “I want a drink,” remarked Hawley, as at last he broke free from the photographers. “I have eaten only six bananas since starting, but I drank everything I could get hold of. Ah, that’s better!” he added setting down his glass and removing a sufficient quantity of mud from his mouth to enable him to speak with ease. “I thought I might have broken the record,” he said, with a shade of sadness. “I felt satisfied when I passed the leading man the other side of Little River that none of the back-markers would ever catch me; but I went at it all I knew for the record. I was feeling pretty confident about that, too, till I came up to the clock down the road here, and saw that I was too late. Arnst turned off the distance in 7 hours 43 minutes a couple of years ago, and my time to-day was 7 hours 52 minutes 26 seconds, so I was nearly 10 minutes longer than he was.” Among a class so worldly and material as racing cyclists, Hawley stands out as a believer in signs and omens and a mysticism almost Celtic. “This is the fourth Warrnambool road race I’ve been in,” he said. “The first time I ran twelfth, the second I ran eighth, and the third nineteenth. Well, twelve and eight’s twenty, nineteen from twenty leaves one, so I said to myself my place’ll be one this year. Then I was No. 165 on the programme, and it’s 165 miles from Warrnambool. That was something, too. Why, I couldn’t help winning.”

Hawley described that he and four other riders started with 25 minutes start, and two, Dotzaner[?] and Guerin, at once dashed away and left him. Satisfied that they could not maintain the pace, Hawley rode steadily after them, and caught them at Stony Rises, between Camperdown and Colac. He did not fall, and was not interfered with at any stage. “I had a go with Hawley when he caught me at Lara,” explained Turner, who finished third, “but he was too fast for me, and I couldn’t hang on.” Hawley rode on alone with the wind behind him, intent on the world’s record, held by Arnst. But he was fated to fail in this. “I never had a yard’s pacing from start to finish,” he concluded. In addition to the prize for the race, Hawley won that for the fastest time.

About 60 competitors finished, including W.H. Oakes, a one-armed rider; but, unfortunately, the back-markers, with the exception of A. Hardman (T.), who finished 19th, with a start of 8 minutes, were unable to get into leading positions. This was largely due to the accidents which occurred among the competitors of the back division early in the race.

Directly transcribed from: The Argus (Melbourne, Vic: 1848-1956), October 2, 1905, 6.


The Mail (Adelaide, S.A: 1912-1954), June 19, 1915, 21.

2. The Advertiser (Adelaide, S.A.: 1889-1931), April 29, 1907, 5.

Barb Cycles