On Saturday August 18th, Frederick was the site of the nation’s only High Wheel race, as 25 cyclists rode for one hour through the streets on their “Penny-Farthing” bikes. The Clustered Spires High Wheel Race was the first of hopefully, what will be many. The event was organized by the Potomac region Wheelmen club, a national organization that promotes our country’s bicycling heritage. It was part of the weekend-long event, Tour de Frederick. The third annual Tour de Frederick.
Enjoy the video:
[Living in a city that celebrates it’s history like Frederick does… it has it’s eccentricities!]
I can’t help myself, just seeing a high wheel brings a smile to my face! So, naturally, after enjoying the race so much, I had to read up a little on the High Wheel bicycle.
The High Wheel Bicycle
These were the first machines to be called “bicycles”. The High Wheel, the Ordinary, “Bone Shaker“, or Penny-farthing, was the first bicycle to become commercially viable and safe (comparatively). Even though they were short-lived (2 decades), they ushered in cycling as a sport.
The first high wheel was invented in 1871 by a British engineer, James Starley. The Ordinary bicycle consists of a small rear wheel (about 18 inches) and large front wheel (about 52-54 inches) which pivots on a tubular frame with rubber tires.
In 1885, Starley invented the “safety bicycle” with equally-sized wheels and a chain to the rear wheel, and the modern bicycle was introduced to the world.
Those of us unfamiliar with British culture will need a little research to understand… or a visual:
A Penny and a Farthing. British coins.
Evidently, the High Wheel is easy to ride slowly, because of the high center of mass, but racing is a bit dangerous… so hat’s off to the brave riders in the streets of Frederick!
The Washington Post had a nice write-up of the event. Congratulations to the winners, Rick Stumpf of Missouri with 42 laps, and Sheryl Kennedy of Hagerstown with 37 laps.
And just in case you’re curious, like me, a replica Bone Shaker costs about $1000.
Enjoy our historic city!