In July 1869, the first two mile velocipede race at the Melbourne Cricket Ground was held in Victoria (VIC) was won by the Barb, a cycle built and ridden by James Finlay.
With that success Barb cycles would carry a tradition for building fine bicycles.
James Finlay, a blacksmith by trade built and sold bicycles to be used for transport and for sporting events, it is said that he named his winning barb cycle after the 1866 Melbourne Cup winning horse “The Barb”.
Operating a successful business with country sales and sponsoring racing events the Barb cycles name would become a popular choice and feature prominently in cycle displays around Victoria. In 1910 he was awarded a certificate of Merit from his display of cycles.
In the Open Road Race Easter Monday of 1914, Barb Cycles scooped the pool with eleven out of twenty-six starters riding Barb cycles.
By the 1930’s Barb cycles were advertising their newly released models and were adapting to cycle trends of club sport racers, roadsters and family bikes.
Barb bicycles were located on Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, it housed its showroom displays and also was their main workshop, they would later move to larger site.
Bob Finlay (the youngest of the brothers) also a successful Victorian cyclist was also an innovator who designed many unique designed cycles, he took invention to another level of cycle building when he introduced the Barb “Monotype” one-piece frame with the special cross-over rear stays; and single-crown front forks, both these features were patented.
To prove the frames great strength, the Melbourne University subjected these two features to vigorous tests and figures proved that the Barb “Monotype” frame had almost twice the strength of ordinary frames.
His other design a frame with a rear suspension called the Barb “Sprung frame”.
The frame embedded a rear pivot and incorporating flat chain-stays which flexed to take the shock while the spring at seat-stays absorbed it.
While these frames were not built for full racing they proved popular among sporting enthusiasts.
Bob was also actively involved with Motor pacing, he was also seen periodically riding the motor bikes at many speed events.
The war period saw many cycle shops in short supply of materials and Barb cycles were no different however post war saw heavy advertising of cycling and was starting to pickup, most likely because bicycles became affordable and the depression years had surpassed.
Barb cycles often featured a round head badge but models also had transfers on the front, lug designs are various with some models incorporating a brazed on attachment for Jem “V” brakes and hidden cabling.
Barb cycles also sold and assembled motorcycles which carried till the 1950’s where cycle production ceased around that time, a fine effort of 50 years of cycle building by the company with cycle innovations along the way.