ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Penny Farthing, High Wheel Bicycle

Updated on June 12, 2012

What is a Penny Farthing?

Penny farthing, high wheel, or high wheeler. The original bicycle is most often referred to as a Penny farthing, however, many modern day people don't even know what farthing is. I will explain, as once one knows the meaning, they can appreciate this quaint nick name. Prior to 1971 in Britain there was a different currency system than what is used today. It was quite confusing for tourists, and hard for anyone to grasp today. It consisted of shillings, half pennies, and farthings, ect. A farthing being equal to 1/4 of a penny, and a penny, in this antiqued currency, was as large as an old American silver dollar. A farthing was approximately the size of a modern penny. That is how the original bicycle got the nick name penny farthing. The front wheel was anywhere from 60-48 inches with the rear wheel being 1/4 of the large one. There were no chains and the pedals were actually attached to the front wheel. The reason for the wheel is because the larger the wheel, the further it can take you with less pedaling. The rider sits almost directly over the front axle, making this a very dangerous bike when riding over anything, the rider could easily be pitched over the top and not a simple wipe out as its over 6 feet in the air. Serious accidents frequently occurred, and in some cases caused death. Did not take much to overbalance because of the extremelt high center of gravity.

Author posing on Penny Farthing, but declined to actually go for a ride
Author posing on Penny Farthing, but declined to actually go for a ride

Original Penny Farthing from 1870

This photo was shot on an original, un-restored high wheeler. It offers a clear view of the mounting stud just above the rear wheel. The front wheel was approximately 60 inches and the riders head was almost 7 feet in the air.

Classic and Elegant looking

The penny farthing is a striking bike; to try to ride one can be a frightening experience. The handlebars are placed low, forcing the rider to remain upright. Its almost impossible to control speed with the peddles continually moving due to their attachment to the front wheel. There is a small stud located slightly above the back tire that the rider must quickly take a running step up to mount this high wheel bike. The sensation is one that can challenge any modern day athlete.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Yes, this bike seems scary to me too.

    • Skarlet profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from California

      Thank you Eric,

      This is one scary bike. I can't believe they had the guts to ride these. Before I saw the bike I wanted to ride it because I had always seen old pictures of them, and when I first saw it sitting on blocks of wood for stabilization in this photo shoot, I said, "no way."

    • Eric Calderwood profile image

      Eric Calderwood 

      6 years ago from USA

      Very nice looking old bikes. I doubt I will ever try to ride one though. Amazing how dangerous some old forms of entertainment were. Of course, nowadays we have extreme sports, so I guess the allure of danger has not left us even with safer forms of vehicles.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)