Finlay Brothers history site

Barb Cycles
Preserving the bicycle and
motorcycle heritage of
Finlay Brothers, Elizabeth St
Melbourne, 1900-1961.
Barbs in motorpaced cycling
Barbs in motorpaced cycling

The caption reads: "ATTEMPT ON CYCLING RECORD - R.W. Lamb will try to establish a new world's record for five miles motor-paced cycling at the Motordrome to-night.  The cyclist tested yesterday the special gear and silken tyres which he has had fitted to his machine.  He is shown behind Bob Finlay, who will pace him during the event.  Lamb expects to cycle at 70 miles an hour."

Is it a Barb? Unfortunately we are not sure.

This photograph appeared at a time when Lamb had a close association with Finlay Brothers, and he certainly rode Barbs during some of his record setting rides. But... regardless of the make, the photograph is a fantastic glimpse of Bob Finlay, Lamb and the motorpaced cycling era.

Source:  The Argus (Melbourne, Vic: 1848-1956), February 20, 1932, 21.

"...We disturbed a placid Saturday
evening at Melbourne Motordrome
with a desperate two-man race. 
Finlay was always smart in a 'get-away'
and took me into an early lead..."1

Barb Cycles were certainly part of the motorpaced cycling scene of the early 1900's.  As shown in the photograph above, motorpaced cycling involves the cyclist riding very close to a roller at the rear of the motorcycle, with the intention of gaining higher speeds by being in the wind-shadow of the motorcyclist.

Some of the interesting references to Barb's being ridden in motorpaced races and record setting attempts include:

  • 1913 - Bob Finlay - Later becoming one of Melbourne's leading motorcycle pacers, Bob Finlay originally entered the scene as a rider.  Rivalry and competitiveness must have been fierce, as this report indicates:  "The well-known Victorian racing cyclist (R. Finlay) last week established a new Australasian paced record by riding the mile in 1min. 21 1-5sec.  The previous figures stood to the credit of the New South Wales pace follower (A. H. Shepherd), who recorded 1min. 22 2-5sec. some three years ago.  Finlay recently challenged Shepherd to a motor paced match for £50 a ride to decide the Australian paced championship, but the New South Wales crack would not consider the Victorian's proposal until Finlay had lowered his mile record.  This Finlay set out to do on the Melbourne Amateur sports ground (late Friendly Societies track), and ably paced by G. Palmer on a motorcycle, he easily reduced the existing record.  Finlay rode a "Dunlop" shod "Barb" fitted with 6 1/2in. cranks and 120in. gear.  He now intends repeating his challenge to Shepherd."2


  • 1933 - "Fatty" Lamb - In February 1933, Lamb supposedly rode a Barb3 at the Melbourne Motordrome, during his successful attempt to set a new professional one-hour paced record, with Bob Finlay as his pacer.4  It was reported that he rode 60 miles 575 yards in the hour, exceeding Hubert Opperman's previous record.5  The attempt began after five false starts due to problems with the pacing machine's engine.6  Lamb was a well known local and overseas competitor having been on Australia's Tour de France team. 


  • 1933 - Fred Armfield - Soon after Lamb's ride, Armfield set two further records on the Melbourne Motordrome, most probably riding the same Barb bicycle that Lamb rode in the attempt described above.  Armfield - an amateur cyclist - set a new one-hour,7 and a 10-mile8 motorpaced record, with newspapers stating that for both attempts he was both planning to use the same cycle ridden by Lamb, and be paced by Bob Finlay.9 10  Armfield was also reported as being coached by Lamb for the 10-mile attempt.11  Later advertising by Finlay Brothers also supports theory that Lamb and Armfield rode the same Barb, with Armfield also noted to be working at Finlay Brothers (see advertisement below).12

Fred Armfield in c1933 - standing at right - with a young Swan
Hill cyclist that he was coaching.  The bicycle is likely to be a
Barb, as the photograph also appeared in a Finlay Brothers' Barb
Cycles advertisement.
Source: Souvenir Program of the Swan Hill Amateur Cycle
Club 1933.  Courtesy of the Armfield family.
Fred Armfield not only rode with Bob Finlay as his motorpacer in many events, but also worked at Finlay Brothers himself.  His family recall that he completed his motor mechanics apprenticeship with the firm13, working his way up to become the Workshop’s head mechanic14 during his many years of his employment there.  The advertisement below also indicates that he was involved in the firm’s sales of Barb bicycles.15

Armfield was also a proficient motorcycle rider and was part of several B.S.A. record rides, including the Sydney to Melbourne all-powers sidecar record in 1931 with Alex Finlay16 and the lightweight B.S.A. economy test from Melbourne to Sydney, and return, in 1933.17

In around 1935, Fred Armfield opened his own business – Armfield Motors – in Barkly Street, Footscray.18  He initially sold B.S.A, Panther and Royal Enfield motorcycles19 and his own design of “lugless” bicycles,20 moving on to selling cars and later offering servicing and spare parts sales.21  He continued to run the firm until just prior to his death in 1987.22  He had an ongoing interest in race horses23 and is remembered as a significant businessman of the Footscray area.

Source: Australian Cycling and Motor Cycling, March 9, 1933, 26.


1. A quote from an Australian cycling great - though this does not refer to Barb Cycles in any way.  Hubert Opperman, Thrills and Spills in Cycle Races, Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW: 1888-1954), May 10, 1941, 6.

2. The Queenslander (Brisbane, QLD: 1866-1939), January 25, 1913, 16.

3.   From an advertisement by Finlay Brothers. Australian Cycling and Motor Cycling, March 9, 1933, 26.

4.   The Argus (Melbourne, Vic: 1848-1956), February 9, 1933, 12.

5.  Ibid.

6.  See note 4 above.

7.   The Argus (Melbourne, Vic: 1848-1956), November 6, 1933, 5.

8.   The Argus (Melbourne, Vic: 1848-1956), February 16, 1933, 11.

9.  The Argus (Melbourne, Vic: 1848-1956), February 14, 1933, 12.

10.  The Argus (Melbourne, Vic: 1848-1956), February 21, 1933, 12.

11.  See note 9 above.

12.  See note 3 above.

13.  Information provided by the Armfield family.

14.  Sunshine Advocate (Vic: 1924-1954), April 8, 1938, 2.

15.  Australian Cycling and Motor Cycling, March 9, 1933, 26.

16.  Finlay Brothers, "Sydney to Melbourne in 12 Hours 36 Mins.", Floatette News, December, 1931, p 3-4.  Reproduced by the B.S.A. Motorcycle Owners Association Inc. in 2003.

17.  Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, N.S.W.: 1888-1954), September 19, 1933, 2.

18.  The Western Times, February 18, 1987, 5.

19.  See note 14 above.

20.  The Mail/Advertiser, September 2, 1987, page unknown.

21.  Ibid.

22.  See note18 above.

23.  The Sun, May 7, 1979, 76.

Barb Cycles