Have you ever seen one of those bikes from the old movies or photographs where the front wheel is massive while the back wheel is incredibly tiny? While most people just call them a high-wheel, they’re officially known as Penny-farthings. This type of bicycle became very popular in the second half of the 19th century, though they’d go out of style by the beginning of the 1900s.
Now, one group of friends in Edmonton is trying to bring the Penny-farthing back into style. Doug Mitchell is the leader of the pack that goes through Edmonton on their high-wheels every Tuesday, and the friends attract a lot of attention. “We ride the bike paths or the city and residential streets,” Mitchell said. “It brings a lot of joy. People laugh. They say, ‘Oh my goodness, what is flying by me right now?’”
Mitchell has been riding his Penny-farthing for more than five years now after finding a man in California that built them. While fashionable, he does note that the Penny farthing can be quite dangerous if you’re not used to them, and urges riders to pay attention. They’re also not cheap, with Mitchell saying that he gets his bikes for over $3,000.
Still, there’s nothing like seeing the joy and amazement that people have when Mitchell and his friends ride by on their bicycles. “It’s just something different,” he said. “They don’t have the bikes anymore, you don’t see them anywhere. They aren’t popular. There’s probably 15 in Canada…It was just a change to do something different.” Out of those 15 that are in Canada, Mitchell says that about two thirds of them are right here in Edmonton. “You see a lot more (of Edmonton) because you’re going slower,” Mitchell adds. “There’s nothing like it.”