Hubert Opperman was Australia’s greatest racing champion. ‘Oppy’, as he was known to friends and acquaintances alike, had begun his racing career at the age of sixteen, in the same year that Bruce Small began building his bicycle empire. The first race that Oppy won was the Senior Cadet Road Championship in 1921, a ten-mile race. The following year, he rode the fastest time in the Launceston to Hobart race. His connection with Bruce Small and Malvern Star came in the 1923 Malvern Star 25-mile Event in which he achieved the fastest time. The following year, he again achieved the fastest time in the Malvern Star 50-mile Event.
He competed, with Malvern Star’s sponsorship, in an additional forty events by 1930. In 1936, he achieved a great feat in the Brisbane-to-Sydney event, a distance of 651 miles. He began on 15 October and completed the distance in 47 hours 10 minutes. In doing so, he lowered the road record by 45 hours 9 minutes. The previous record had been held by Les Cecil of Queensland, who ten years earlier had established the record of 3 days 20 hours 19 minutes. His previous year’s antics had occurred in England.
On 16 July, 1935, he broke the London-Bath-London record in 10 hours 14 minutes 42 seconds. That same month, on a similar ride over the same distance, he tandemed with another famous cyclist, Ern Miliken, and broke the previous tandem record held by C. Marshall and L. Cave of 9 hours 45 minutes 13 seconds. Miliken and Oppy’s time was 8 hours 53 minutes 34 seconds.
[At the bottom of this page, there’s a link to Malvern Star, with more photos of Hubert Opperman]
1939 BSA Opperman Gold Special
26 x 1 1/4 wheels
Frame No K95175
I’ve built up this Oppy with the best parts I had available at the time, including centre-pull brakes and, although the original spec was a Brooks Continental saddle, I’ve used a BSA Model 80 saddle as it’s a much rarer item nowadays. It’s also more comfortable.
It arrived with Sturmey Archer gears, which I’ve left on it, as I find them easier to use than Cyclo. When I come across nicer wheels I may change them.
The Opperman signature transfer (decal) is original; I think the BSA seat tube transfer was installed by a previous owner.
1939 BSA CATALOGUE
1938 BSA GOLD CATALOGUE
BSA OPPERMAN 1936-1938
Various detail changes on the BSA Opperman from 1934 to 1939 include:
1934 brazed on pump clips face backwards; from 1936 onwards they face forward
1938/1939: new style fork top. Forks described in the catalogue as: BSA Continental oval, special rake, panelled and chromium plated, with solid ends. Adjustable lamp bracket. The main apparent difference is that they are not completely chromed like previous years, nor do they have just the bottom tips chromed like the cheaper Gold models. The chrome starts around six inches from the top, with a distinctive V.
The BSA metal badge appears to have started in 1939 for roadsters, maybe 1937 for some of the sporting models, and 1938 or 1939 for the Oppy.
In 1938, BSA did not feature the BSA in the normal catalogue, but produced a separate ‘Gold’ catalogue.
1934 BSA CATALOGUE
1936 BSA CATALOGUE
1937 BSA CATALOGUE
1938 BSA CATALOGUE
BSA FRAME (SERIAL) NUMBERS
1948 MALVERN STAR ‘5 STAR’ TRACK BIKE