When was the last time you actually had fun on a bicycle? I mean really had some fun, not just using it to get from Point A to Point B or to drop those extra pounds you have been putting on. As adults we do not generally look at a bicycle the same way we did as children. Back then, the bicycle gave us the wind in our hair, the ability to go anywhere and that rush when you learned how to do your first catwalk. Now, we see bicycles as machines that we have to expel physical energy to make work, thus the fun factor may be lost on us.
I have an experience I want to share with you about a bicycle ride that I just took and, I have to admit, I had the time of my life. I must have had the goofiest smile on my face and I didn’t even care. I got to ride a penny farthing; you know, those old-timey bicycles with the larger than life front wheel? I was shaky at first, as anyone climbing onto an 8 foot tall bicycle would be, but once I got moving, it was better than an amusement park ride! It’s an experience that I urge everyone to at least try once in their lives.
A little history about the penny farthing
The penny farthing was first used in 1869 and was invented by Eugène Meyer, the same person that invented the wire-spoke tension wheel. His original design was reworked by various other inventors and bicycle manufactures and became known as the penny farthing or high wheel bicycle. Although not safe, even for that era, this design did offer a direct drive system which made it easier to propel and the larger wheel rolled more smoothly over the rough, cobble-stoned roads of the day.
I learned on Wikipedia that the name penny fathing comes from the British penny and farthing coins, one being much larger than the other, so that when you look at the bicycle from the side it resembles a penny leading a farthing.
The penny farthing design lasted for many decades while manufacturers invented better pedals, handlebars and frame design changes that made the bicycle safer, foregoing the idea to just create a safer bicycle in the first place.
Safe or not, my ride on a penny farthing was a lot of fun and put a smile on my face as big as that front wheel. Now I just need a top hat and a handlebar moustache.
Have you ever ridden a Penny Farthing? Click here to leave a comment and share your opinion and experience. Would love to hear from you.
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Check out this really good book, Bicycle Design: An Illustrated History, on Amazon today.