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.
1939 BSA Opperman Special
Cyclo 3-speed gear
26 x 1 1/4″ Wheels
Frame No K5261
Hubert Opperman provided a welcome boost for BSA’s publicity department in the 1930s with his racing victories. Priced at £10 17/- 6d, the ‘Opperman Special’ was the company’s top bicycle in 1936. And with this bicycle, you truly can, in the words of BSA’s advertising copywriter, “follow Oppy’s lead”.
The ‘Opperman Special’ is an older restoration and, as you can see in these photos, is still in excellent condition. The only ‘nit-picking’ I can offer is that the Opperman signature transfers (decals) on each side of the down tube are vinyl rather than waterslide. If I was keeping the bicycle I would have waterslide transfers made. I bought it without celluloid mudguards, but I have an appropriate set of original Bluemels in black with all the stays, which I’ll sell with the machine. (I’ve not fitted them to save them getting damaged).
The K prefix dates it as 1939, though in that year, they were fitted with caliper brakes and ‘Cyclo Oppy’ gear rather than Resilion brakes and the normal Cyclo gear as on this example (which were pre-1939 Oppy spec). The handlebar stem was an option on 1935 Opperman machines, though not specified in the 1939 catalogue. Another anomaly is the front fork which is a style fitted to top end racing bicycles, but slightly different from the Oppy. 1939 being the year that war was declared (and the final year of Opperman manufacture), it’s possible that there was a shortage of parts. Or this Oppy may have been exported: many British bicycles sent to Australia, for example, where there was a big market for BSA bicycles, were fitted with older spec components.
1939 BSA CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
ON THE OPPY TRAIL