I’ve got a new column on the Outside web presence:
Not sure about that stock photo–I mean they might as well have just gone with this:
I realize that going on and on about how batteries are destroying cycling and humanity just makes me sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but I’m positively cutting-edge compared to the participants in the 2023 British Penny Farthing Championships:
I’m surprised old-timey bicycle enthusiasts not only accept but seem to actually embrace the term “penny-farthing,” which I’d think they’d find kind of cutesy and patronizing. If anything think they should stick with “ordinary,” since it drives home the idea that this configuration should be the default, and that the bicycles the rest of us ride today are merely “safety bicycles” designed to coddle the fearful and incompetent. But what do I know? Really, the only thing I know about the high-stakes (literally high, they’re sitting like seven feet up in the air) world of elite penny-farthing competition is that you never fuck with the race officials:
That had better be a Victorian-era hydration pack:
Speaking of anachronisms, there are way too many stars on that flag:
True ordinary riders refuse to recognize any territory that was granted statehood post-safety bicycle:
Also, what’s with that modern-looking brake?
Spoon brake or GTFO:
[Photo: Classic Cycle]
As for the racing, it’s as thrilling as you’d think it would be–watch as a guy dressed like a waiter clambers aboard his lofty steed and takes the hole shot:
With no cogs or gears of any kind it’s all about wheel size, which is why the hot conversation at the start is always, “What diameter you running?”
Also, don’t let the EF jersey fool you, that is not Lachlan Morton. Penny-farthing racing is one of the very few forms of alternative cycling into which he hasn’t stuck his sunburned nose and wispy moustache…yet:
But give it time.
In 2023 it’s easy to dismiss penny-farthings as quaint and ridiculous, but when you see them in action you really do begin to appreciate what a sight those early wheelmen must have been as they rolled across the landscape:
Today it’s hard to believe that there was actually a time bicycles would have seemed futuristic, but keep in mind they were basically the first form of land transport that didn’t either belch steam or shit.
Speaking of belching steam, this guy’s not fucking around with the aerobars:
And speaking of horses, both horses and penny-farthing Q-factor were measured in hands:
Anyway–spoiler alert–here’s the men’s winner:
And here’s the women’s winner:
Am I crazy, or is that a crabon fork?
After the race, it’s time to confront the cold realities of lives in the present, such as how to get your high-wheeler onto your hybrid Toyota:
I wonder if the early wheelmen had bike racks on their buggies and drove to the group ride…