Melbourne Tweed Ride at the Grainger Museum

May 16 / 182

The Grainger Museum was recently the starting point for the Melbourne Tweed Ride, an annual cycling event for lovers of tweed and vintage bicycles.

Earlier this year the Museum contacted the event organisers to propose that the Museum be the departure point for the ride, and to honour the occasion with a special event and viewing of the Museum for the participants. 

For the Museum the connection with the event was an obvious one – Percy Grainger was an avid cyclist who - according to Astrid Krautschneider, the Grainger Museum Curator – during his student days in Frankfurt relished the opportunity to go cycling in the countryside with his mother Rose and “delighted in taking the opportunity during these expeditions to paint and sketch the old houses, castles and ruins which abounded in the region”. 

The Grainger Museum collection also holds Grainger’s blue tweed sports coat and a green tweed suit, some of the 600 items of clothing in the Collection. It also boasts a beautiful watercolour that fifteen-year old Grainger painted of his beloved bicycle.

For this year’s event the Museum opened at 9:00am to enable the cyclists to view the current temporary exhibition Water, Marks and Countenances: Works on Paper from the Grainger Museum Collection, curated by Astrid Krautschneider and Brian Allison, as well as the Museum’s permanent exhibition which tells the story of Grainger, a celebrated Australian composer and concert pianist. 

Before their mid-morning departure for the ride, the cyclists enjoyed traditional lemonade, ginger beer, lamingtons and sponge cakes to the sounds of a 1926 gramophone, playing celebrated Grainger compositions such as Country Gardens alongside other jaunty classics of the early twentieth Century. 

The lively atmosphere and period dress was reminiscent of the Museum in another era (the Museum was built in 1938) and proved a wonderful example of the way in which the Grainger Museum connects with the broader community.

In total 42 participants took part in this year’s Melbourne Tweed Ride, with the diverse demographic creating some fantastic photographic opportunities, including with some of the proud owners of 10 penny farthings. 

Photographer Peter Casamento captured the fabulously decked out cyclists who had gone to great trouble with their outfits, including flat caps, bow ties, vests, vintage spectacle and goggles and of course all varieties of tweed. A small crowd gathered to farewell the cyclists as they rode past the front of the Museum heading north. Let’s hope they kept in mind the fatherly wisdom that John Grainger imparted to his son on 27 May 1897 which according to Astrid Krautschneider included; “when you ride the Byke [sic] please don’t sit like some idiots do just like a monkey, but sit straightly and gracefully and above all things do not go in for racing hard, it is ugly, bad for your health, and looks disgusting to my mind.  And if you get hot you are not to sit about but go straight home, have a bath and change your clothes.” 

The Grainger Museum is open Sunday to Friday, 12 – 4pm. 

See more photos of the event here.

Keep abreast of Museum events such as the Melbourne Tweed Ride and other news here.

Want to ride to work, with or without tweed? Find out more about the University’s support for bike transport here.

Story by Chelsea Harris

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