National Penny Farthing Championships

fixie-riderOne of my favourite rides in Tasmania is the back road from Launceston to the village of Evandale. It’s the one town in the world I can go and be guaranteed not to have a hipster tell me their fixie is purer than my bike. They would be laughed out of town with that kind of talk!

You see in Evandale, they have taken the concept of the tall bike, combined it with the fixie, removed the chain and also 150 years worth of human progress, and created a kind of bike they have called the “penny farthing”. They have even created a myth around these big dinkies, that penny farthings were precursor to fixies, and that fixies used to called “safety bicycles”. A little over a century ago—so the folk of Evandale would have you believe—only girls ever rode fixies. Real men selected their bikes on the basis of speed. I don’t care if it’s made up or not: their story makes hipsters look sissy, so I’m going to spread it.

Penny Farthing Wheel

Every February for just over a decade, Penny Farthing enthusiasts come to Evandale in Tasmania for a weekend of serious, dangerous, and surprisingly fast racing. A few of these guys are elite track riders, and a lot of the bikes are custom built from high grade stainless steel tubing. I thought I was heading there to watch novelty racing, not pace lines, a spectator being taken away in an ambulance, and a dozen or more riders with thighs you would see in the Olympics. Here are some photos I took at the 2013 National Penny Farthing Championships at the Evandale Village Fair. A purer celebration of anglo-colonial heritage I defy you to find!

About Steven

I'm on a mission to put cycling on the agendas of architects, urban designers and fellow academics, who see the potential for bicycles to change cities and buildings. My PhD is in architectural history and my interdisciplinary research spans art theory, philosophy and cultural studies. I teach architectural history and theory and design studio at The University of Tasmania, Australia, and formerly worked as an architect designing large public housing projects in Singapore. My favourite bikes are a titanium racing bike I use for racing, a Velorbis retro commuter for riding to cafes and work, a single speed ultra light Brompton that I take with me when I travel on planes, a 29er hard tail mountain bike that I get lost on in remote places, an old track bike that scares me, a 1984 Colnago Super with all original campagnolo components that is plugged into a virtual realm that I train in, and a Dutch-made Bakfiets, that could easily replace half of the bikes I just mentioned.
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