Penny Farthing Bicycle race in 1928

Penny Farthing Bicycle race in 1928


I'll put twenty bucks on this guy to win


You win. He is CJ Bowtle and he won the Challenge Cup on 1928.


I wish I was this good at picking the winners in the horsetrack


I only got interested in betting on horse races one time ever in my life. Did a stupid amount of research leading up to it and managed to pick 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in order. Never bet on them again though. This was in KY so betting on races wasn't uncommon, just not something I did. They had offtrack betting bars all over the place. Also, there's no point to this story.


Point or no, I still read it.


You read it or you read it?


He Reddits.




How much did you win?


Nice try lawman


Fair point. Keep your secrets.


If you hit the trifecta, the point of the story is you won a shitload of money


I think all Kentuckians get into horse betting once in their life.


I lived in Louisville, KY for a few years. Also, there’s no point to this story.


Dude holy fuck that’s wild, how much did you pocket?


If you want, I can get you an almanac from the future so that you could win all the bets. https://backtothefuture.fandom.com/wiki/Grays_Sports_Almanac


I mean to be fair, the results for this have been around for almost 100 years...


Not if you browse on Internet explorer. As a matter of fact, It's live right now


Sorry I have google chrome running and can’t open anything else


I read this as "CJ Bowtie" which would the the most perfect competitive penny farthing cyclist name ever.


Twenty bucks?! Alright Mr. Rockefeller.


Figure spending power of 20 dollars then is around 315 now. So not quite Rockefeller.


How many penny farthings is that?


Bout tree fiddy


And it was about that time that I noticed u/87th_best_dad was a giant reptile from the crustaceous period. And I say god damn it monster I already told you I ain’t got tree fidty


> crustaceous period Is that when your girl develops a craving for seafood during that time of the month?


Pretty sure it's a symptom from an STD


Pretty sure the rules were that they race until there was only one left alive. They usually lasted about two minutes, and it does look like this guy already won.


Is he incredibly fast or the only participant?


There were a few others.


But they were riding Farthing Farthings.




[not easy to stop](https://youtu.be/AkJ6IORDw14)


Charlie Chaplin reaction and all. Hipster to the core.


What are you saying? It stopped immediately after touching the ~~bus~~ van. Edit: Shoot, van. Guess, bus was the last thing I saw and it stuck in my brain.


Around the mid nineties when inline skates were all the rage, I was a lanky uncoordinated 10 year old but I was determined to become a master blader. I saw kids at the skate park who could skate super fast and then move their feet in a way that they would turn on a dime and come to a full stop kind of like a figure skater going into a triple axel but instead of jumping and spinning in the air they just came to an abrupt but graceful stop. I knew it had something to do with the positioning of the skates at a certain angle while keeping a center of gravity low. I swear I could imagine exactly how it would feel to pull it off but I couldn’t make it happen. One day while a friend and I were skating after school in an empty parking lot I brought up the technique and asked my buddy if he knew how people do that spiny stopy thingy where they go fast and stop quick. This kid was kind of a sociopath and I’d been burned by him a few times but at that age you just kind of hang out with whoever is around and he seemed like he knew what he was doing on a pair of blades so I let my guard down a little when he responded immediately like he knew exactly what I was talking about. He confidently explained that the key is speed and follow through. Once you get your speed up you take one skate and put it perpendicular in front of the other. This obviously didn’t seem exactly right but maybe I’m 10 and my understanding of basic physics isn’t accurate. So I figure what the hell, I’ll try it slow first. I skate a leisure pace down the lot and just go for it, pick up my skate and set it sideways directly in front of the other and immediately think “what in the honest fuck did you really think was going to happen?” As I go into what would have been a picture perfect head first slide into home base if it weren’t in the middle of an asphalt parking lot. I laid there for a few seconds contemplating my stupidity then got up, brushed myself off, took off the blades, and walked home. That was the last time I ever wore a pair of in-line skates.


You're a good storyteller


Yeah that stopping bit is pretty hard. But you wanna know what the hardest part about rollerblading is? Telling your parents you're gay.




The free candy bus


Need them hydraulic brakes.


Also not easy to mount and navigate: https://youtu.be/cB_6PP8pd9Y Why was it created this way?


Lol. I really like the honk at the end.


imagine his leg slips and goes into the spokes... ouch


Only way to stop. Bicycle brakes were only invented a year later.


So it’s a fixie. Your thighs are your brakes as long as you keep your feet on the pedals. Otherwise you face is the brake. You simply haven’t seen your life flash before your eyes at every single traffic intersection until you’ve ridden a fixed gear bicycle in the city.


Ya why do people use those?




You can still put brakes on them.


Pre-hipster era messengering in NYC (1980’s) most of us rode track bikes because no crack heads would bother with what looked like beat to crap death machines. We still had to use monstrous chains and absurdly large padlocks - and it was common practice to secure the seat/post assembly with a section of bicycle chain looped around a seat rail and a seat stay. In reality, a responsible rider with good fitness and skills was perfectly safe on a fixed gear - no brake track bike 99% of the time as it forced a safe pace, forced you to anticipate, and never broke down. Fun commute back and forth over the Brooklyn, then later (still WAY pre-hipster) Williamsburg bridges in what feels like a era so long ago as to be a different universe.


Did you just "I did hipster before it was cool" to being a hipster?


I am 100% sure I was never hip 😂


Fun fact: this is how mince meat pie was invented.




SMASH that BIKE button!




Oh, ha ah hahaha! What a fun poop that was


When thine lover states the Lord and Lady are not present this evening and she would like you to assess her new pantaloons.


So… check pantaloons and chill?


Assess pantaloons and recline


This particular gentleman fornicates!


Lolol! He doth


He certainly is the canine’s testis!


The anthophila's articulatio genus'.


The felines's nightwear


This is what we call a Renaissance Man!


Pathé and chill is closer, I'd say.


Not if you don’t get drafted first.


Who needs helmets, pfft.


Or brakes. Riders has to either pedal backwards or coast until they slowed. Fucking suicide machines.


So dangerous that when the modern bicycle was first invented it was referred to as the ["safety bicycle"](https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safety_bicycle)


TIL penny farthings were actual bikes that people would ride and not just a joke design Edit: Make a comment about reading a Wikipedia article about the history of Penny Farthing bicycle. Queue the entirety of reddit telling me the same thing I've already read over and over.


Having such a large wheel was the first solution found for people to get a reasonable pedal vs linear speed ratio so that someone can utilize all of their strength. Modern bicycles found an alternative in gear ratios.


Does that mean this is more efficient than a fixed gear bike?


No, it's like riding your bike stuck in its highest gear With regards to human-powered machines for normal users, efficiency is probably measured better in effort v acceleration at low speeds then effort v speed at high speeds, and the use of multiple gear ratios drastically reduces the effort for any given acceleration or hills




I don't know a lot about them specifically but about the mechanics. I've seen a few modern videos exploring them and their history, but nothing serious. I assume one locked them up through the wheel and around the frame. Their proximity would make a very small lock feasible and prevent slipping the lock. As for mounting, I believe you step on the tail wheel then push the bike forward while stepping up and onto the pedal on the downstroke


On the frame that connects the 2 wheels. There's two small steps jutting out for you to get a leg up


There are a couple ways to get started. On the down tube near the small wheel there is a foot peg. The first way is to run with both hands on the handlebar grips, then in one motion step up on the foot peg then mount the seat. The second is to start with one foot on the peg, hands on each handlebar grip, and start propelling yourself like a scooter. Then mount as in the prior method. You just need enough speed to allow yourself to stay upright as you get on the seat and find the pedals wtfh your feet.


Someone who studied some biomechanics here: your legs have an optimum cadence for efficiency. Amount of force you can apply is inversely proportional to the speed of muscle contraction. There's a point where you'll have optimum cadence and for pro cyclist it's 100 revolutions per minute. Just like with a car, you have an optimum RPM where you balance power output with rotational speed of the engine for best efficiency. Your gearbox makes sure that regardless of the wheel speed, your engine works in an optimum band of RPMs. So going uphill, you still want to pedal at 100 RPM, and gears will enable you to decouple pedaling speed with ground speed, so e.g. your wheel turns only at 25 rpm, but with 4 times more torque than your legs provide. Edit: to visualise optimal cadence, imagine two scenarios, one where you're pushing against a massive wall with your legs. Your muscles will deliver maximum force capable, but the wall won't budge and your legs won't either. Now imagine you're sprinting, but someone is pulling you forward. Your legs will try to move as fast as possible, but that sacrifices force. Optimum cadence is a point where force and contraction speed are balanced.


No - a fixed gear bike still has a gear ratio, just not multiple gear ratios. On a Penny Farthing, the ratio is 1:1.


Which is why modern bike gear charts still use gear inches to show the forward progress of 1 turn of the crank. Gear inches are the penny farthing equivalent with that wheel diameter. But your wheel size was limited by your inseam. Top end on modern bikes is about 130 gear inches.


Yes. Everyone saying no is (technically) wrong. This is direct drive, so you don't have the power losses of the chain transmission on a fixed gear. It's not much (of order 1%), and you're limited to the wheel size your legs can straddle, and you have no brakes, \*and\* if you try to slow down too fast you take a header (IIRC the term was actually coined in this context), so it's helllllla dumb to ride fast on a penny farthing instead of a diamond-frame bicycle... ...but it's mechanically more efficient. Big wheel is more efficient over rougher ground, too. It's definitely not faster though, as the top speed is limited by wheel size, and a \~72" gear is not high enough to win modern track sprints.


That and large wheel diameter to absorb bumps without air tires. But yeah, seems like such a horrible design that nobody in their right mind would use one.


They were only around for 20 years or so. They were first made in the 1870s, but the modern safety bicycle was much more convenient, and the pneumatic tyre eliminated the disadvantages of having a smaller wheel.


Yeah, 1928 is very late for a penny farthing race. It was already a vintage/ retro thing by that time.


*Are* actual bikes that people *still* ride. There are a fair number of enthusiasts and events out there! Check out the Knutsford Penny Farthing race.


Getting nutty in Knutsford.


Now.we just call that a fixy! Admittedly the rider isn't as high up anymore.


Modern bicycles with chains and brakes were originally called “Safety Bicycles” and were marketed to concerned moms because those crappy Penny Farthing bikes were mangling and killing so many people.


Ooooooooh they used to have to have the giant wheel because your legs spun the wheel directly? So the larger the wheel the easier it is to go faster. Wow.


Can some expert confirm this? Physics checks out at least.


Yes. I've seen one in-person. There's no gears of any sort. The only way to go a reasonable speed with a casual pedalling pace is to have a very large wheel.


And so you could slip off the pedal and get amputated by the spokes, of course.


Oh they’re still high most of the time.




You just put your foot between the frame and the wheel to slow down


In fact the recommended remedy for when you're out of control is to put your legs over the handlebars and... wait.


And hope your tuck n roll game is on point.


Honestly, who decided that that was a complete machine?


It wasn't meant to be used for trips to the grocery store, it's a racing bicycle. Before the invention of the chain drive bicycle, the only way to go fast was to have a big wheel.


I don't know that it was designed for racing, although obviously people did that. A lot of people used it to indicate they had money, like driving a Jaguar or something.


"The only way to go fast was to have a big wheel"


#big wheel; the only way to go fast


2 Big, 2 Wheel


Bruh. Brakes on that fucker would be insta-death.


"Hi I'm Johnny Knoxville and welcome to Rapscallion" "Today we're gunna be doing The Front Break Penny Farthing"


Bicentennial BMXing https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-1vAETE4vno


Ya I remember that one. Could've used some noise wheelies


I can almost imagine someone trying to stand on BMX-style axle pegs and experiencing never-before-seen highly localized friction burns if they're just an inch too short.


_Lute riff_


No they have brakes, a small pad directly above the wheel that was GENTLY pressed down. Source: inherited my great grandads penny farthing, aka bonecrusher


Motherfucker doesn't even have the pegs normal penny farthings have on the downtube (?) that you use to get on and off. That's some stripped down track shit right there.


They just used their giant brass balls directly against the wheel.


If you fall,try to keep your limbs out of the spokes


How bout that fall being at least 1 story up lol


People that bet they know what they're doing


A few years ago I was at a bar and some guy rolled by on one of those. I asked to ride it, he said okay and I crashed immediately. I tried again and got the hang of it but fuck it was awkward. I’m 6’4” and it was even hard for me to get on the seat. You have to basically run with it then put one foot on a tiny step sticking out of the frame on the back then jump onto the seat.


A guy figuring out how to ride one: https://youtu.be/AuXmuhmtwz4


That was great.


He said 24 minutes, but the sleep in between was important too for learning.


I want to see someone make a regular style bicycle, but with two of the big wheels from a penny farthing.


Man.. now YouTube thinks I'm into penny farthings by watching all these videos. This video didn't explain why they exist and what was the purpose of the big wheels so I had to click on another video telling me the history. This is very interesting machinery.


Thanks for the link. This channel is great


I saw a guy in my city ride by on the street. In a CITY. Pre-Covid. I was wondering what the hell he's was gonna do when he gets to a red light, but he just went through it and I never saw him stop.


Depends if it has coaster brakes or not. I've only ridden unicycles but I'm pretty sure it works the same, just at a higher height. If it's not coaster brakes (as in you can reverse pedal freely), you slow down with handbrakes or by just timing it right and then just backpedal to keep balance with an occasional forward pedal so you never slow to the point you start wobbling, but you can balance pretty slowly for awhile, similar to someone driving stick in stop-and-go traffic without ever going back into 1st gear. If it's coaster brakes (as in you reverse pedal to brake), you just brake in time to lean up against a wall, sign, etc. I think you need a chain for non coaster brakes though, I've never seen one without one atleast.


Some say he's still going to this day.


probs an OG Ruff Ryder


I tried to take one of those off a curb once. It didn’t end well. 😀


you ever take it off any sweet jumps?


I just don't understand how this thing came into existence, it wasn't a useful or even practical design. It couldn't have been easy to manufacture or repair either.


It was fast, due to the large front wheel. It absorbed shocks well. And it could ride over cobblestones. It was only replaced when chain-and-sprockets could match the speed and pneumatic tires could match the comfort.


My main concern would be stopping. Hit the brakes with any amount of force and you're going right over the front wheel.


don’t worry, they didn’t have brakes.


What a relief! Someone could’ve gotten hurt otherwise.


I don't know whether that makes things better or worse...


Probably not that great for the rider; it's a definite plus for spectators though.


At least some did -- there was a plate in the top of the forks and pulling a lever on the handlebar would push that against the tire. You'd need to use it very cautiously or you'd fly over the bars, of course.


Indeed; and when conventional bicycles were invented, people derisively referred to them as "safety bicycles" while Penny Farthings were called "ordinaries". People were a little more hardcore back then.


I bet in a self-driving car future they'll say "Yeah people just fucking died all the time in what they simply called cars. Lot more hardcore back then."


And I'd say they'd be correct. If our grandchildren grow up with self driving cars they'll be horrified that in the past the only thing preventing a crash between 2 vehicles used to be some friggin paint on the ground.


Paint on the ground and grandpas fast-twitch nervous system


that is poetry right there.


> And it could ride over cobblestones. I suspect this one was the USP here. This alone makes it viable for the time.


It's all about speed. These days bicycles have chain-driven gears that allow you to change the ratio between one revolution of the pedals and the driven tire. Prior to that, the pedals were directly connected to the hub of the driving wheel; one revolution of the pedals = one revolution of the wheel. If you wanted to go fast, the only way to do that was to make that wheel big as hell.


Big as hell but limited by the length of one's leg.


It kind of makes sense why the first bicycles were like this. The pedals are connected to the center of the wheel which is the easiest way to rotate it with a simplistic design. The wheel had to be large to gain more speed. Now they replaced it with the chain model, but it’s reasonable that it took time to come up with that. It’s a pretty smart design to be able to produce more power while still keeping the wheel relatively small. Honestly if I went back in time, I’m not even sure how I would explain to them how the chain model works and why it generates more power by changing gears


It doesn't "generate more power" (as the power output comes from the rider), but the way gearing works is you have let's say a 40 tooth chainring attached to the pedals and a 10 tooth chainring attached to the back wheel (giving a ratio of 4:1). So one full revolution of the pedals will rotate the real wheel 4 times. If the circumference of the rear wheel is 70 inches, then you will move a total of 280 inches forwards because of this. Compare that to the same bike but where the pedals are attached to the wheel itself, and one rotation of the pedals means only one rotation of the wheel and you will only move 70 inches forward. Of course you could then pedal faster to go faster but at some point you physically can't move your legs any faster and your speed maxes out. The only way to change that situation is to increase the size of the wheel (penny farthing) or introduce gears.


Very basic, so manufacturing and repairing would be no problem. [The evolution of the bicycle](https://i.imgur.com/gdvkWRL.gifv)


it's definitely not fully accurate. Track cycling has been around since 1870. I don't know what the first bikes looked like, but this is a [picture](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Track_cycling#/media/File:Paris2.jpg) from 1908 on a "fixie" racing bike.


Yeah I take issue with the first "racing bike" being credited to the US in 1960. The Tour de France was held way back in 1903 and by the 1930s you can see bikes that have the same form as the "first racing bike" in the timeline.


Yea that’s a weird mistake, if that’s what it is. Somehow missing out on about 75 years of track racing where they likely used the same frame shape and even-sized wheels is kinda nuts. Also the fixie was definitely not invented a) in the states, or b) in this millennium. I know for a fact that the guy who started the Tour de France was a bit of a nut and refused to let people use derailleurs in the race for years after they became available, same for freehubs. Riders would have a rear hub with a larger cog on one side for the uphill and a smaller one on the other for the down. At the top you’d have to stop, take the wheel off, flip it around, and put it back on. Literally a fixie back in the 1910s(?) I think. Nowadays they call them flip-flop hubs. Haven’t looked at the video link but it seems real dubious, not sure where they got their info from.


I would take ANY of those other 'bikes' over that death trap on wheels.


Like the velocipede? Awkward looking, but not a complete deathtrap. No clue how someone could consider the penny farthing an improvement.


It went faster. Because the wheel was driven directly by the cranks at a 1 to 1 ratio thw only way to make it go faster was to increase thw wheel size.


Speed, cost, and comfort. Big wheel=faster and absorbed bumps well.


The relative gearing. Actually carrying speed, and not having your feet spin like crazy was the challenge. The long rotational circuit of the penny farthing offered that. Your "first gear" was your feet running to start the bike.


I feel like they could have included the BMX bike.


"bike motocross bike."


Bought with money from the ATM machine


I mean, they could have. They *could* have included a velociraptor if they wanted to.


Well they did include the velocipede so close.


Why does the "racing bike" appear in 1960 with a huge American flag behind it? The derailleur had been used in the Tour de France since the 1940s, and on regular steel-framed bikes 30 years earlier. And then "fixie bike" appears in 2000 (again claiming to be United states), even though pre-derailleur Tour de France bikes were essentially fixies. Honestly, I can't remember the last time I saw a more historically revisionist timeline on *any* subject. They are basically claiming that all bike evolution for the last 60 years was American, which is insane.


Cool energetic animation style + pretty much arbitrary made up dates = upvotes.


It doesn't even point out key innovations, such as the pneumatic tyre.


It doesnt have a chain to transfer power to the back. Without the chain a large front wheel is the most efficient way to transfer power and steer.


It was before someone remembered differential gearing was was also a thing, so they thought the only way to get a mechanical advantage was to pedal a huge wheel. Otherwise, pedaling the wheel is more work per distance traveled than walking. The above is only half-joking...


They knew it (science), it just wasn't practical yet (engineering).


According to a comment I just read on YouTube a few minutes ago they weren’t for leisure but originally manufactured for the use of big game hunting.


I would guess: chains and gears are rather complex and not something you invent right at the start. Also difficult to maintain and everything. So, logically you will end up with a bike were you peddle the wheel directly. Since there is no chain, you will have to sit on top of the wheel. If you want to get to any decent speed, the wheel has to be huge. The second wheel is just there for stability. Making it tiny reduces overall weight and also decreases the length between both wheels which makes turning easier. All in all it's rather natural how they ended up with a design like that. It can be deducted logically if you start with the "no chains/no gears" assumption.


SPEED. And that's all there is to it.


It's actually very practical if you imagine a world without affordable gears, no suspension, truly awful road conditions and no pneumatic tires. Since the only way to power the wheel is direct coupling of the pedals, you can only get the equivalent of higher "gears" with a larger wheel. Since suspension design is non existent and you don't have pneumatic tires, the giant wheel is your suspension, and allows you to easily ride over the horrible roads back in the 19th century. Manufacturing is pretty simple too. A big spoke wheel is not that hard to make, since it's not one single giant piece, it is assembled from easy to manufacture parts. That wheel is way easier to make than the tubular frames you see on more modern bike designs in the late 19th or early 20th century.


Honestly, they need more extreme sports like this. Imagine how entertaining it would be to watch!


My man is scootin!


This is the best we had to offer a century ago and it looks so fucking stupid lol


If this video is real then even when it was filmed it would have been a bit of a joke. By the 1920’s these bikes were well and truly superseded. People rode pretty regular looking bikes during WW1


The first bikes in the early 19th century were all pretty regular looking too. High wheel bicycles were developed in the 1870s as a way to go faster, then the safety bicycle came out in the 1880s using a rear wheel chain drive like we have now (and was much more popular).


It was always more a novelty. At no point was this thing how somebody got to the docks


Nah, penny farthings were obselete about a half century before this film was made. The modern bike (called the safety bicycle) was first produced in 1885 and quickly took off because of it's myriad advantages.


Also note that for almost the entire 19th century prior to the penny farthing, bicycles had pretty regular proportions.


These were a short lived fad for the rich. It was invented in 1870 and the modern "safety" bike was invented in 1885.


Could you imagine if these came back into style?




We have a guy named Paul here in Denver. Rides one everyday and has done centuries on them. Dudes a legend.


I used to have a bike with a big front wheel and little back wheel, but actually the front wheel was normal bike wheel size. Basically a normal 1-speed with a little back wheel. Oh how I loved it. I saw a girl riding one in Shibuya and I could not rest til I found one of my own. Hers was bright red, and I never did find one that color, so she still won the style contest. Eventually my bike got run over by a truck or something when I parked it illegally and stayed out too late. I got back to discover it mangled and bent. The bike gods are cruel.


What is his speed? Looks scary fast!


I've tried riding with speed on one of these bikes and it's the only time I've felt scared on a bike. [Even the stupid double decker tall bikes](https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2b/Tall_bike_in_Bourges_%28France%29.jpg/220px-Tall_bike_in_Bourges_%28France%29.jpg) I was ok with and sliding around. This just felt weird. It's like the feeling your skis get longer over the summer but worse because it doesn't handle right.




That's wheelie cool!


I road one about 6 feet as a kid, it was terrifying. Can’t imagine it at speed.




My dad used to ride one of these in the 70s


1870s? ;)


Came here for the fancy lad.


Imagine spending $12k on an aero bike when the majority of drag comes from the rider.


So I heard you don't like the old time bikes


When her parents are away from the estate and her carrier pigeon delivers the news post haste.


We look back on this bicycle and it is obviously dangerous to our safety-trained eyes. The advent of the bicycle chain allowed for major advancements in safety, leading to the “safety bicycle”, which with two same-sized wheels and a much lower center of gravity, could achieve similar speeds via gear ratios by using that chain. We just call it a “bicycle” today.


I've just never understood why they ever built them this way. I mean, they fucking knew about *gears* in 1928, right?