Aussie Focus

'Embracing everything': Brisbane Cycling Festival draws on history

Australia has a long history of racing festivals, the Austral stretches back to it’s first edition in 1887, but true cycling festivals - encompassing education, commuting and recreational riding have been more of a rarity until more recent decades.

Brisbane Cycling Festival

Getting ready for the Brisbane Cycling Festival Source: Brisbane Cycling Festival

Brisbane Cycling Festival Ambassador John Osborne OAM knows a thing or two hundred about cycling, having been a mainstay of the sport in Queensland since the 1970s. Organising numerous events, serving on the Queensland Amateur Cyclists Association Council, staging the successful Tour of Toowoomba and coaching riders gives just a hint at Osborne’s varied history within the sport.

He also staged the first Australian festival of cycling in Toowoomba in the late 1970s, bringing a new generation to the bike and a love of cycling.

“Back then, there were no frills,” said Osborne. “Cycling was very much a ‘Cinderella’ sport and had nowhere near the profile it does today.

“At that time we had an enormous number of 12, 13, 14-year-old kids having just taken up the bike. Their parents didn’t have a clue.”

Osborne’s festival of cycling brought knowledge of bikes and their care and maintenance, some of the top coaches in Australia to share knowledge, plus information on surrounding issues in time where reliable know-how on such matters wasn’t as easy to come by.

“Back in the day you had a road bike and a track bike,” said Osborne, “in the winter you race road and in the summer you race the track, so that was confusing for some. The diet, training and a whole host of things like that… so we based the festival around that sort of thing.

“It was very much a family thing, a couple of times we had some top riders speaking and a film night, but it was nothing like we’ve got today.”

Osborne was enthused by the growth of cycling festivals since his day, a product of government support on the back of growing interest within the community, seen in the long-term success of the Tour Down Under in Adelaide and now the growth of the Brisbane Cycling Festival, set to be run from March 24 to April 12.

“I’ve been in the sport about… 60 years now,” said Osborne. “I’m 77 now and I still ride my bike 250 kilometres a week. In all my years I haven’t seen it like this.

“The increase of bikes worldwide has been incredible, but especially here in south-east Queensland. People are finding that they need to order their bikes six months in advance… that’s unheard of in my years in cycling.

“You’ve got the government on board as well, the Brisbane City Council, the State government, the TMR (Department of Transport and Main Roads) and Tourism and Events Queensland.  The amount of money they’ve poured in to bike paths around the city is incredible.”

The Brisbane Cycling Festival is growing in 2021, with three weeks of events and bring something for everyone according to Osborne, more in the mould of proper festivals of cycling, rather than racing-focused events.

“The thing in Brisbane is there’s something for everyone,” said Osborne. “You want to ride, you want to race, you want to commute or you simply want to go along and watch some of the top cyclists in action.

“The Brisbane Cycling Festival is really unique, it embraces everything.”

The festival line-up is impressive, with elite events running at the same time as the festival village looks to cater to all types of athletes and those curious about the lifestyle and commuting side of riding. The National Track Championships will kick off the events on March 24, with the final day of the National Road Series event, the Tour de Brisbane to close proceedings on April 12.

Basing the festival around the anchor of the elite racing has proved to be a winning formula for the Tour Down Under in Adelaide and with Brisbane hosting a UCI Gran Fondo world championships qualifier, many will see the event as a good opportunity for their big cycling trip after the Tour Down Under saw depressed numbers of visitors with COVID restrictions uncertainty likely a big factor.

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4 min read
Published 1 March 2021 at 2:52pm
By Jamie Finch-Penninger