Joyce Beryl Barry was born in 1919,
Miss Barry grew up like any other child, she was employed as a typist and at 15 years of age she was recommended to take up cycling by her doctor as her lungs were weak after an attack of Pneumonia. The doctor advised her Mother to buy her a bicycle so that she could ride her way back to health, little the doctors knew that that Miss Barry was to become one of Australia’s leading female cyclists.
Three years later in 1937 Miss Barry was training under arrangement from Hubert Opperman, the renowned Australian cyclist, her object to break records with the assistance of Mr Bruce Small. She stood at 5ft 10inches and weighed 11 stone.
In July, Miss Barry rode through a headwind to establish a record from Newcastle to Sydney in the distance of 104.6 miles in the time of 6 hrs. 34 mins. and 36 secs.
Miss Barry rode the same bicycle of Hubert Opperman, a 3-speed geared Malvern Star bicycle equipped with 62, 69 and 77 ratios. The climb proved difficult at Gosford (NSW) with cramp which started to affect her but with a small rest and a stop for a massage she was able to get back and step up the pace and finish looking fresh.
By the end of July, Miss Barry had 11 starts and was not defeated, winning six handicaps from scratch, and five invitation scratch races.
In the following month Miss Barry rode from Orange to Sydney creating a new record in the time of 10hrs. 19min. 26secs. The ride was met with obstacles with deviations between Orange and Bathurst and later followed with a change of cycle as a car threw up a stone and damaged the variable gears of her cycle. Miss Barry averaged 16 miles an hour for the 168-mile distance.
In September Miss Barry challenged to break the 568 miles women’s unpaced record from Sydney to Melbourne and was successful in her attempt in the time of 2 days 2hrs. and 47mins. Miss Barry began the event suffering a slight case of Ptomaine (food poisoning) and losing two minutes to a puncture in the first mile but she was able to proceed at great pace at her attempt. Stopping alongside the road for billy tea by swagmen and facing slight windy conditions she pedaled till she reached the Elizabeth Street Post Office in Melbourne, with only three hours of sleep.
Miss Barry also established a new record from Sydney to Albury of 33 hrs. 55 mins and an Albury to Melbourne record of 16hrs. 52mins.
Aided off her cycle she to the crowd and feeling good she said ‘I almost feel that I could turn round and ride straight back to Sydney and asked for some ice-cream.
In May 1938 Miss Barry broke the record from Launceston to Hobart (TAS), the distance of 245 miles. The start was delayed because of her belongings and cycling gear were left behind at Melbourne but was expected in the following days. Concentrating on her attempt she managed to start and rode the course in cold weather and headwind conditions. Miss Barry rode strongly in the last section of the course.
During her ride to Hobart a flock of sheep was encountered at Pontville with one of the flocks headed for Miss Barry’s bicycle, and it was only by careful manoeuvring that the sheep was avoided. She also revealed that she lost 11 pounds during her 18hr ride.
Following her record ride in Tasmania, Miss Barry travelled up north in June where she had her sights on to break the 483 mile record from Brisbane to Rockhampton.
The record was held by a male and Miss Barry was certain she could beat this. With her Malvern Star “Ballooned” type tubular tyres and sporting a 3-speed gear setup, with the lowest ration measuring 54-inches she departed from the Brisbane General Post Office.
A puncture at Kenilworth (QLD) and needing to dismount twice for her safety due to slippery conditions she continued riding strongly with determination.
After an agonising 79 hours and 25 minutes and feeling the effects of pedalling over corrugated roads, bandaged ankles, knees and wrists Miss Barry broke the record by 23 hours, established seven years by male contestant W. Withers. Her time 32 hrs. and 55 mins.
July was followed with more records, completing 185 1/2-mile trip from Stanthorpe to Brisbane in 11 hrs. 46 mins. and she also claimed the first woman to average 15 1/2 miles an hour.
Miss Barry was very athletic and also took honors at foot running, walking, and rifle shooting, she was also an accomplished dancer and skater, her diet was very strict and she watched her intake of foods. It was common during her rides she ate mostly egg flips, these contained three eggs and about a pint of milk. Off the bike her diet was filled with large quantities of fruit, celery, whole meal bread and a meat diet included chops and sausages with Ice-cream to finish off. Her chef while on the road was Mr Bruce Small.
August 1938 Miss Barry set her mind for more records, Orange to Sydney and Bathurst to Sydney and from January she had clocked up 11,153 miles.
Hubert Opperman and Miss Barry travelled around the states together promoting the Malvern Star name, she was often referred to at times as “Miss Oppy”.
In October Miss Barry broke two State women’s unpaced road records in Western Australia from Bunbury to Perth and for the 100 miles and she narrowly missed another record attempt for the Northam to Perth record by nine minutes.
In November a bad smash resulted Miss Barry hospitalization, it occurred on the eve of attempting her record from Kalgoorlie to Perth, both Hubert Opperman and Miss Barry were both in training when the pair were going at top speed and were close the finish when a child crossed the track, Opperman swerved out of the child’s way however Miss Barry collided with the rear wheel of Oppermans. She suffered abrasions, shock and some concussion. The injuries kept her off the bike for a few months.
Determined as ever, Miss Barry was back on the bike after recovering, in August 1939 she covered 20 miles in an hours ride on rollers but her effort was not supervised by officials and therefore wasn’t recognised as a record.
In September Miss Barry set out to establish a women’s seven day cycling record, never before had this been done either in Australia or overseas. She would ride a 35 mile circular course around Sydney and suburbs, her plan to cycle for as many hours in a day of a possible 24 hours and would take her sleep between the hours of 2am and 9am.
In her first 24 hours she covered 166 miles, after 72 hours covering 503 miles and 96 hours a great feat of 664 miles. After a week Miss Barry had ridden 1107 miles to claim the title of a weeks worth of riding continuous by a woman.
Miss Barry was of celebrity status, she signed many autograph books and always gave a number of very useful hints to members, she had many sponsors including the Milk Board, she always encouraged aspiring female cyclists and though she was a champion she had no intention of allowing her sporting records to make her masculine in outlook or outline.
Miss Barry passed away on November 23, 1999 on her 80th birthday.
Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW – NCY48/95