Our Penny-farthing Bicycle

High-wheeled, or “penny-farthing,” bicycles were the first machines to be called “bicycles.” The pedals were attached to a very large front wheel, which allowed riders to cover more distance per turn of the pedal. Rubber tires helped make the devices more comfortable for riders and spokes in the wheels also smoothed out the experience.

Penny-farthings were only popular for a few years, from the 1870s to the 1890s, but their strange design has since become an icon of the Victorian era, standing for the innovation and experimentation of the Victorian age.

Some of the most important parts of the penny farthing weren’t just its big and small wheels, but also hollow steel frames, solid rubber tires and ball bearings – making the bikes lighter and the ride smoother than ever before; until then, bikes were very experimental and had no way of stopping bumps in the road from jolting the rider – giving them the nickname boneshakers!

Hungry Town Tours has a Penny-farthing bicycle reproduction on display at their Welcome Center.

The Penny-farthing bicycle is one of the most recognizable of Victorian Inventions, with the large front wheel and small back wheel that looks quite funny when compared to modern bicycles. However this design would not have been possible had it not been for the key Victorian invention of the tensioned spokes that hold the wheels together.

The Penny Farthing – so named because the big wheel resembles a penny, compared to the back wheel that resembles the much smaller farthing, was originally called ‘The Ordinary Bicycle’ or ‘High wheeler’ to distinguish itself from the other bicycle available at the time which was called ‘The Safety Bicycle;’ the name ‘Penny Farthing’ was not used until much later.

However, the machines were still dangerous. People often found themselves tipping headfirst over the front wheel if they encountered a road hazard; the phrase “taking a header” was popularized when this version of the bicycle was in style – one of the reasons why the Penny-farthing bicycle is on “display only” at the Welcome Center.

Our Penny-farthing is available for rent as a prop for events.

(Sorry, it is not available as a bicycle rental)

For more information, contact Hungry Town Tours at 252-648-1011