1911 Anthony Horderns Bushman’s Universal Bicycle



Francis Birtles, the transcontinental cyclist, completed another great ride by his arrival in Sydney yesterday afternoon (states the ‘Daily Telegraph’ of December 21st). He left Freemantle in West Australia on October 28, 1909, to ride around the continent of Australia. Travelling eastward he made Sydney, a distance of about 6380 miles, and after a spell of a few weeks he left again on March 5th, and making a detour through Queensland and the Northern Territory, he came down to Perth (W.A) through the north-west, and accomplished his task of encircling Australia, a distance of something like 9200 miles, in eight days under the year, a wonderful ride. He was troubled at times by the natives, and once he had to run for his life. He also suffered from malarial fever. On this ride he was not out to break records.

After a rest of a few weeks in Perth, Birtles set out with the intention of lowering the long-standing Perth to Sydney record of 40 days 15 hours, established by Mr. Donald Mackay, a member of the Sydney Bicycle Club. Birtles did some great pedalling between Perth and Adelaide, his actual time for the 2200 miles to that point being 25 days 8 hours, an average of nearly 100 miles a day. Birtles followed the route of the proposed transcontinental railway line, and had one nasty fall, which badly twisted his knee, and forced him the take a day’s rest in the wild country north of Eyre’s Sandpath, which is 180 miles from the nearest food supplies. Birtles made excellent progress through from Adelaide to Sydney, and he pulled up at Messrs Anthony Hordern and Sons’ premises on Brickfield Hill, where the ride ended, at 5-42pm yesterday, having lowered the previous record between Perth and Sydney by just over two days, his actual riding time for the 3350 miles being 38 days.

The intrepid cyclist was continually in the saddle for nearly 14 months, and has only had a few weeks’ spell in Sydney and Perth since he started out to encircle Australia on October 30th, 1909. A week’s spell with malaria in West Australia was his only other spell.

The 13,500 miles he has covered on his round Australia trip, and the Perth-Sydney record ride, are mostly over unmade bush tracks, and his ride demonstrates what a wonderful piece of mechanism the present-day bicycle is to stand such severe usage. Birtles rode a Universal bicycle, fitted with Dunlop tyres, supplied by Messrs Anthony Hordern and Sons.

– Timaru Herald (Canterbury, New Zealand), 31st December, 1910


 1911 Anthony Horderns Bushman’s Universal Bicycle

Eadie Coaster Brake

22″ Frame

28″ Wheels



As you can see from the spec sheet toward the bottom of the page, a Major Taylor stem and Kelly handlebars were options. While Major Taylor designed the stem so he could lean further forward for racing, bushmen and shearers used the extension to make it easier to mount luggage. Although a two-speed Eadie Coaster was mentioned, this example has a normal single speed Eadie Coaster. The company advertised that machines could be built to order, and the Bushman’s Universal model was fitted as standard with twin rear stays and a front truss rod, described by Horderns as strengthening stays:

‘The strengthening stays stiffen the frame, making it the strongest model on the roads. This is a bicycle we can specially recommend to Bushmen, Shearers, etc, and will stand any amount of rough usage.’

This Universal is set up as a shearer’s machine.





1911 Horderns Universal 29


bicycle sheaer on the track 1911 horderns universal

Shearers covered vast distances to reach outlying sheep farms, and needed to carry a lot of supplies on their bikes. Observe the desert water bag on the front of one of the bicycles below.

shearers autralia bicycles













stewarts ball bearing clipper

The Ball Bearing Clipper needs two people to operate it, one to crank it and the other to shear. The ‘No 1’ is actually the horse shearer; but the difference is actually in the attachments, and a sheep shearing attachment was sold as an extra with the ‘No 1’ so that it could be used for either.


stewarts ball bearing clipper copy








1911 Anthony Horderns Universal 88





I was inspired to create a Shearer’s bicycle after reading Jim Fitzpatrick’s two excellent books on the history of Australian cycling Wheeling Matilda and The Bicycle and the Bush. As the author explains:

Australia, the size of the continental United States, but comparatively arid for the most part, had been basically explored by 1890. However, beyond the few inland towns of note, it was mostly the province of sparsely distributed agricul­turalists, pastoralists, miners, and keepers of isolated telegraph stations and government outposts. As a result, there was a need for travel between the widely spaced settlements and isolated homesteads, and the distances travelled were large by world standards; in few other countries did people move so far as part of their regular work routines.

The machine’s use ranged from rabbit fence and telephone line patrols, to being the main form of transport for shearers for nearly two decades. On the Western Australian gold fields in particular (an area the size of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah combined), the remoteness of early settlements led to the most unusual and extensive network of bicycle paths in the world at that time, based upon camel tracks used to supply mining settlements. Travellers and regularly scheduled cycle messenger services and ‘special’ mail service cyclists routinely rode 100 miles or more a day.

Wheeling Matilda jim fitpatrick



Please visit Jim’s website for more information – http://www.starhillstudioaustralia.com

The books can be purchased via ebay or amazon.