The Human Motor

The life of famed Australian Cyclist, Sir Hubert ‘Oppy’ Opperman

Dr Daniel Oakman

Known to most Australians as ‘Oppy’, Hubert Opperman (1904-1996) was one of the greatest cyclists of his time – as popular as cricketer Don Bradman and racehorse Phar Lap.

Historian and curator Daniel Oakman delves deeply into the life of this accomplished figure in Australian sport. He considers why Oppy became a national hero: a symbol of Australian fortitude who transformed popular understandings of human endurance.

Daniel also reflects on the legacy of Opperman’s later political career, the challenges of writing the first complete biography of this iconic Australian, and what Oppy’s life might mean for us today.


Dr Daniel Oakman is a curator, historian and keen bike rider. He has curated exhibitions about bike, cars, cities and urban design; including Freewheeling, a travelling exhibition about cycling in Australia. Oppy: The Life of Sir Hubert Opperman is published by Melbourne Books.

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