Frederick’s High Wheel Race

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 High Wheel Bicycle Frederick MdWheel, 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:

Penny-farthing  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!

Karen Highland

I'm a real estate agent, real estate blogger, communications director, a wife, mom (empty nest - yay!), dog-lover, and wine-lover. Frederick Md is a great place to live, work and brag about! The Highland Group. 301-401-5119 Google

One Comment:

  1. An Update to the race: One of the racers, Alison Torpey of Louisville, was flown to University of Maryland Shock Tauma in Baltimore after a collision with another cyclist. She fell off her bike and hit the ground on the back of her head. The latest reports are that she is stable. Please keep her in her thoughts and prayers, and I would appreciate any updates that any readers have on her. Feel free to leave a comment.

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