Saturday, September 15, 2012


It was inevitable; about as soon as I learned Rideable Bicycle Replicas offered an affordable mini-highweel bicycle, I was determined to own one. It arrived last Thursday.

At this writing I have put a couple of miles on it -- also larger grips and a slightly taller and longer seat -- and I can assure you that it's about as much fun as I've had with a bicycle in some years. There is a definite learning curve; it handles very differently to a modern safety bicycle. But given the 28" front wheel, it doesn't offer the same risks to a new rider as a full-sized "ordinary" bicycle, with a wheel diameter of 38" or more. $189 well spent! (N.B., roll up those dungarees! I only had to catch a bearing-clamp bolt once to figure that out. )

...Rode up to the bicycle store in downtown Broad Ripple, where they were holding a charity event, and learned from another shopper that there was a vintage bicycle show in a nearby town today. Too late to attend today, but I'm realizing this can only lead to membership in The Wheelmen...and eventually a larger pennyfarthing. (Tamara K rode along and observed, "You can't be a wallflower on a bike like that." It does gather attention -- and a lot of questions.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I saw a photo of what I'm guessing is a Quax 36" modern pennyfarthing with an add-on motor in front of the front fork. (Here, second row down, far left. And do look around the site; Rideable Bicycle Replicas appear to be America's most prolific manufacturer of old-fashioned bicycles and offer plenty else besides.)

Neat idea -- but only for an expert, as "header over the front" is the standard failure mode* for a high-wheel "Ordinary" bicycle and adding even more weight up top is a recipe for instability.

Fear not; no less a personage than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle helped back the company with the answer to that problem: The Wall Autowheel a/k/a Smith Motor Wheel in the States, by either name a self-powered wheel that attaches beside the bicycle's rear wheel! I have only ever seen them on modern style "safety" bicycles, but darned if I can find a reason to not try it on an Ordinary. The added weight is all at the very back, where it'd do the most good. In fact, it's been done as recently as 1922 -- scroll almost to the very bottom of the linked "Wall Autowheel" article and there it is!

...Not that it's safe. Or especially street-legal, unless there's an exception for a 118 cc 19-teens gasoline engine. But by golly, you'd be the only one like it on the road.
* So much so that it's where the term "header" for a forward fall entered the language. Oh, and "breakneck speed," too.