Willunga is a small South Australian town 47 km south of Adelaide. From a cycling perspective, it’s most famous for being nestled at the base of Willunga Hill, which for 20 years since its inception has hosted the ‘Queen Stage’ of the Tour Down Under.
But there’s now a new cycling attraction which rather than lasting for one day, will stay in town 365 days per year.
The Australian Museum of MTB is a brand new museum focusing on the ‘golden era’ of mountain bike development, the 1990’s.
It’s the brainchild of two mountain bikers who enjoyed racing during that era, Joe Mullen and Krischan Spranz.
Krischan is also known to the bicycle trade as the founder of bicycle and P&A importer/wholesaler, Eighty One Spices.
We recently visited Krischan and Joe at the museum, which is housed in a rambling complex of former farm sheds, the oldest part of which dates back to 1854.
Joe explained how the museum came into being. “The idea has been there for 10 plus years,” he said, “We’ve been collecting retro mountain bikes – retro being the 1990’s, which is what international mountain bike museums classify retro bikes as.
“We both had significant collections, but it felt like it was time for a contemporary museum.”
Krischan gave more details. “We’ve got between 50 and 70 bikes,” he said. “They key is to have the majority of them built up with era correct parts, that everyone remembers or used at the time, or to just have certain frames as framesets.”
Although the collection is already very impressive, as you can see from the photos that accompany this article, Joe and Krischan are the first to acknowledge that there are many missing links – iconic bikes and components that are not yet part of the collection.
They’re happy for any bike shop owner or other industry member to contact them, whether it’s to donate or lend a bike or simply to ask for advice or share information.
Joe continued, “When we look at the golden era there was a lot of experimentation, a lot of one off parts or unique elements.
“That’s missing in the high production, highly commercial mountain bike sales arena of today.
“I think bike shop owners hated that era when they look back and think, ‘What were we doing?’
“We’re certainly here to help if a shop has questions or they have a customer who is passionate about retro mountain bikes, because sometimes bike shop owners don’t have the time to talk to their customer for hours about their bike!”
Krischan added, “If they’re ever in South Australia and want to learn something about mountain biking history we’re always happy to spend some time and show them some bikes that they’re unlikely to see otherwise.”
And if you have some parts tucked away out the back of your shop or even a bike…
“We’re happy to help them make some space!” Joe enthused. “Get in touch and we’ll talk about getting things freighted over here. And tell us your stories too, because there’s bike shops that have been around for a long time. Some of them are really passionate about what got them into opening a bike shop, whether it was a brand or a particular bike or particular discipline.”
Krischan agreed, “We love to have bikes with a story. If a bike shop owner is passionate about this era and have bikes from this era we’re happy to have the bike in the museum, write a story about it and share it with our audience.”
Joe explained, “We’ve got some processes in place for bikes being on loan, insurance wise. We can talk through this and we’ve got some space in mind to dedicate to particular bikes owned by other people.”
The museum is not just about physical objects, there’s also a Spotify channel with a new podcast coming called Shred Time Stories. This will include conversations with ‘back in the day’ Australian riders and racers who are going to share a little history.