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Touring on a Penny Farthing?

Old 10-30-19, 02:26 AM
  #1  
FlippinFlags
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Touring on a Penny Farthing?

I know this guy went around the world on one.. maybe the second and only person ever to do it besides a guy in the 1800's..?

https://www.instagram.com/joff_summerfield/?hl=en

Anyone ever toured short or long distances on one?
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Old 10-30-19, 04:10 AM
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Originally Posted by FlippinFlags View Post
I know this guy went around the world on one.. maybe the second and only person ever to do it besides a guy in the 1800's..?

https://www.instagram.com/joff_summerfield/?hl=en

Anyone ever toured short or long distances on one?
I recently quoted to a Railroad cycling disaster thread on the Advocacy & Safety Forum:
Originally Posted by jitenshajin View Post
...I remember reading about Thomas Stevens, born 1854 in Hertfordshire, England. He was the first person to circle the globe by bicycle. He rode a large-wheeled Ordinary, commonly known as a penny-farthing, from April 1884 to December 1886. This made him the world’s first ever bicycle touring adventurist and one that traveled it in a very impressive way…

https://kickasstrips.com/2013/07/tho...thing-in-1885/

The tales of his exploits can be read in two volumes which are free to download in several formats at Gutenburg.org, Entitled "Around the World by Bicycle - Volumes 1 & 2."

Books by Stevens, Thomas (sorted by popularity) - Project Gutenberg
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
Years ago I read the first volume, of his trip across the US. I specifically recall he was certainly a man of his times. He carried a revolver, and once referred to an Asian man as “John Chinaman.” :

One memorable description was riding on a trestle railroad bridge, and as a train approached he had to hang on underneath dangling his penny-farthing bicycle.
My only personal experience with one of those contraptions was:
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
My first century, actually a double, was in 1971...After a few laps into the ride, at the main gate, a rider on a penny-farthing was dismounting, fell, and taco’ed my wheel. I don’t think he even apologized.

My mother was able to go buy me a new wheel and drove through the traffic maze to the island, which was obviously congested by all the riders, and delivered a new one in about three hours, so I did finish...

Last edited by Jim from Boston; 10-30-19 at 05:23 AM.
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Old 10-30-19, 06:02 AM
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I don't think any regular poster on here has. There is a famous journal on CGOAB of a guy who was touring on one in Mexico. He got robbed in the middle of nowhere and thought he was going to get murdered. The dudes stole his gear but not the bike, presumably because they had no idea how to ride it. Terrifying story. Didn't stop me from enjoying the hell out of Mexico though.

I think touring on a penny farthing is cool in that kind of live outside the box way, but it doesn't appeal to me. I've heard that the tires are a big drawback as there are no pneumatic tires available in that size, so you're just riding on solid rubber. No bueno over long distances and/or bad roads.
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Old 10-30-19, 07:31 AM
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People today may tour on a penny-farthing but Thomas Stevens back in the 1880s didn't, he toured on a bicycle. The clue is in the title of his book 'Around the World on a Bicycle'.
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Old 10-30-19, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Caretaker View Post
People today may tour on a penny-farthing but Thomas Stevens back in the 1880s didn't, he toured on a bicycle. The clue is in the title of his book 'Around the World on a Bicycle'.
Was that a joke, or are you unaware that what we now call a "penny-farthing" was just... a "bicycle" back then?
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Old 10-30-19, 11:49 AM
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Originally Posted by DanBell View Post
I don't think any regular poster on here has. There is a famous journal on CGOAB of a guy who was touring on one in Mexico. He got robbed in the middle of nowhere and thought he was going to get murdered. The dudes stole his gear but not the bike, presumably because they had no idea how to ride it. Terrifying story. Didn't stop me from enjoying the hell out of Mexico though.

I think touring on a penny farthing is cool in that kind of live outside the box way, but it doesn't appeal to me. I've heard that the tires are a big drawback as there are no pneumatic tires available in that size, so you're just riding on solid rubber. No bueno over long distances and/or bad roads.
A former poster to C&V liked to tour and do RAGBRAIs on one. Can't remember his handle now.
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Old 10-30-19, 12:29 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
Was that a joke, or are you unaware that what we now call a "penny-farthing" was just... a "bicycle" back then?
"Just a bicycle" ?

It was the bicycle of that era. Call it a 'high-wheeler' if you will but to Thomas Stevens it was a 'bicycle'.

This is no joking matter
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Old 10-30-19, 01:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Caretaker View Post
"Just a bicycle" ?

It was the bicycle of that era. Call it a 'high-wheeler' if you will but to Thomas Stevens it was a 'bicycle'.

This is no joking matter
Heh, I get your drift now.
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Old 10-30-19, 01:22 PM
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looks like painful touring, similar to pogo stick
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Old 10-30-19, 03:00 PM
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so Mr FF, where you live, have you ever seen a Penny Farthing?
Have you ever seen one being ridden?

Dont know about you, but I figure Ive seen more shooting stars or lightning strikes than a Penny Farthing.
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Old 10-30-19, 03:57 PM
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It's often said that you can go touring on any bike. I reckon that includes penny farthings.

Not that I'd recommend a penny farthing. That's mostly a stunt, IMHO, and unless you really enjoy riding one, I'd suggest riding something more modern.

Oh, and somebody hit the news in the last couple years for doing a cross-country ride on a unicycle. Obviously it can be done, since somebody did it. I wouldn't recommend that, either.
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Old 10-31-19, 05:05 AM
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Heres a pic of one used for touring I spotted mention of in a local Australian forum.

https://www.pbase.com/canyonlands/image/59771333
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Old 10-31-19, 06:48 AM
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Originally Posted by rifraf View Post
Heres a pic of one used for touring I spotted mention of in a local Australian forum.

https://www.pbase.com/canyonlands/image/59771333
That's Joff who's back touring again on his penny currently doing the NC500 in Scotland.
There's a few guys in our club who have their own penny farthing but they mainly use them for racing.
They don't climb hills well and as I've never ridden one with brakes, they are terrifying on downhills.
If you were hoping to attract lots of attention for a fundraising and you're a masochist then go for it.
A good Penny Farthing isn't cheap though and prices are between $3000 - $6000 AUD.
https://www.pennyfarthingdan.com.au/...penny-farthing
https://www.facebook.com/johnkitchenbicycles/
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Old 10-31-19, 07:12 AM
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If you are looking for a dangerous uncomfortable challenge, the coolness factor is high and I actually considered it at one time. There is a reason they were phased out though. There is a reason they and other designs of the time were called bone shakers. There is also a reason their replacement was called the "safety bicycle". Going over the bars on one would be really ugly. The ride with a solid tire would be brutal even mitigated a bit with the large diameter wheel.

I bet they are a huge attention getter. I'd imagine everyone wants to talk to you when you are touring on one.
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Old 10-31-19, 07:26 AM
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I've seen the pith helmet guy on the net for a while now, but let's face it, the bicycles themselves are rarer than hen's teeth, and having ridden one, I can attest to it being terrifying on downhills.
I'm up to challenges and some risks, but touring on one, let alone just riding one on varying terrain, is pretty damn mad.
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Old 10-31-19, 07:33 AM
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GCN makes fun of one of their contributors after he rode Penny Farthing at some indoor event and then squealed like an injured puppy because his 'ball area' hurt like hell. They show the clip once in a while. After I saw this I took a note and committed it to my memory bank :-)

I think this is the video:


Last edited by PedalingWalrus; 10-31-19 at 07:43 AM.
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Old 10-31-19, 08:02 AM
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A few years ago there were two penny farthings in the Bristol 4th of July Parade. They certainly are attention getters and were highly popular with the crowd.
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Old 10-31-19, 08:30 AM
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Originally Posted by PedalingWalrus View Post
GCN makes fun of one of their contributors after he rode Penny Farthing at some indoor event and then squealed like an injured puppy because his 'ball area' hurt like hell. They show the clip once in a while. After I saw this I took a note and committed it to my memory bank :-)

I think this is the video:
first , he was riding "balls out" for an hour (thats a real expression, it means really going for it), but most importantly, the seat apparently broke part way and so was not ideal for the poor guys undercarriage....
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Old 10-31-19, 12:37 PM
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This seldom comes up on various cycling boards without argumentative posts opining 'they're just bicycles', 'they're called high wheelers', 'most folks know them as penny-farthings' or 'the proper term is ordinary'. Whatever.

Interestingly, there seems to be some snobbery on the part of some cyclers who ride original machines towards those who ride modern built high wheelers/penny-farthings/ordinaries. Nothing like taking a tiny demographic and splintering it.

Modern reproductions come out of Bolwell's in Australia, Mesicek in the Czech Republic, RBR in California, Richards in England and Standard in Sweden. UDC offers a relatively modest priced modern interpretation in their MK4:


Last edited by tcs; 11-03-19 at 08:10 AM.
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Old 10-31-19, 12:41 PM
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I dunno. Kinda looks fun:



There's a cat in Europe who's ridden L'Eroica events on one.


Last edited by tcs; 11-03-19 at 08:08 AM.
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Old 10-31-19, 01:00 PM
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Originally Posted by tcs View Post
This seldom comes up on various cycling boards without argumentative posts opining 'they're just bicycles', 'they're called high wheelers', 'most folks know them as penny-farthings' or 'the proper term is ordinary'. Whatever.

Interestingly, there seems to be some snobbery on the part of some cyclers who ride original machines towards those who ride modern built high wheelers/penny-farthings/ordinaries. Nothing like taking a tiny demographic and splintering it.
When there wasn't a two-wheel alternative (1870s to mid-1880s) they were known as bicycles then at the end of the 1880s with the introduction of the 'safety' they were known as 'ordinaries' to distinguish them from their more diminutive cousins. The term 'penny-farthing' didn't come into vogue until the 1890s.

"If genuine comfort is desired nothing can beat the tricycle. If the roads are stony, rutty and hilly. perhaps the Safety, though more liable to get out of order, it is the best, and for short tours by daylight, on fairly level roads, many prefer the Ordinary"
From the 'The Art & Pastime of Cycling'

.
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Old 10-31-19, 07:35 PM
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There's someone in the local area who rides one down along the local beach bikepaths, especially on summer weekends. Looks like it has a 4 ft diameter wheel, not one of those bigger ones. I know they make 'em with 36" wheels (a shop in Berkeley or Oakland, California), but never had a chance to ride on myself. They look like a fun novelty, but not too practical for touring
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Old 11-01-19, 05:34 AM
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I suppose I'm lucky enough to have seen many Penny Farthings. thewheelmen.org held their annual meet here in eastern Pennsylvania (Westchester,PA) a couple of years ago. I was on the Schuylkill River Trail on their tour day. I saw some awesome bikes. All of them made prior to 1933. Down into Philly, around Fairmont Park and back to Valley Forge I easily saw 15 to 20 Ordinaries. Lost count due to seeing some more than once. When talking to a few of them I learned that "80% of them were original" and most of them were riding 50 mile routes or a full 100. Pretty impressive. Even kids on small ones. They have national club meets somewhere in the country each year.

I rode a bit with one older gentleman on a "safety bicycle" and asked how old his bike was. "My father bought this bike in 1907." He was on the 50 mile route with his daughter.
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Old 11-01-19, 06:02 AM
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Originally Posted by tcs View Post
I dunno. Kinda looks fun:
Yeah, it really does. I confess to still harboring an interest that I continue to resist. It is kind of tempting to think about buying a replica like the UDC.

As far as touring on one goes. Shipping one to and from a tour location seems like it would present some extra challenges given the large box size. Wheel size is determined by rider inseam so I'd probably be on a 48" wheel. That would mean that the box would likely be 105-110" (l+h+w). My ultralight backpacking gear would on one hand seem incongruent with it and on the other be perfect for ease of carrying.
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Old 11-01-19, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Caretaker View Post
When there wasn't a two-wheel alternative (1870s to mid-1880s) they were known as bicycles...
Fun fact: All two- and three-wheel pedal cycles were referred to as 'velocipedes' at the US patent office from the 1860s until well into the 1920s.
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