Friday, August 3, 2012

Did You Know...about The Leap of Faith?

Two men ride penny-farthings in Los Angeles, California, 1886. Photo credit: Wikipedia
I have a fascination with high-wheelers. Because of its monstrous front wheel, the absurd perch in the saddle, and it's significant role in America's ridership/bicycle manufacturing heyday, this bike holds a special place in my heart. The multi-spoked big wheel also makes for an intriguing icon—recognizable the world over.

But the bizarre and unfortunate aspect of the penny-farthing is the rider sits over the front axle at an ungainly height. When the front wheel hits a rock or rut (remember, roads were not paved) it was common to be vaulted forward. Riders died from these "headers". What's also odd is in lieu of this extreme hazard, the bicycle quickly gained an audience; clubs were formed, races held. High-wheelers were even ridden around the world.

To counteract the high-wheeler's peril, riders coasted down hills with their feet over the handlebars, ready to leap should an obstruction pose a problem. Can you imagine doing that on every pleasure ride?

Students of Chalmers University of Technology in GothenburgSweden,
riding a penny-farthing and a quadruplet 
bicycle during the Chalmers Cortège of 2006.
Photo credit: Wikipedia
Even with the danger, I'd like a go on a big wheel bike. I may fall, get bruised or—heaven forbid—rocket over the wheel like an Olympian gymnast (okay, maybe not that gracefully), but at least I'll have satisfied my curiosity.

Have you ever ridden a penny-farthing? If so, what was it like?


  1. Never ridden one but I'd love to know how you actually get onto them. I have tried to ride a mono wheel bike with very limited success.

  2. There are a couple of them in our club. I've never attempted to ride one but I've witnessed 2 other people trying and falling.

  3. Gosh! You're braver than me Annie. Just THINKING about trying one makes my legs a little wobbly :-)


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