The penny farthing or high wheel, high wheeler or ordinary is a cycle with a large front wheel and small rear wheel. This term Penny Farthing comes from the British penny (1d) and Farthing (1/4d) coins of the early and mid-20 century.
The heyday of the penny farthing was between 1880 and 1890 and the majority of museum pieces are from this time. The first Penny Farthings were made about 1869 when the construction of large wheels were made possible by the invention of the wire spoke tension wheel. They were developed until in 1880 Meyer produced what we would recognise of today as the classic high bicycle design. The life span of the penny farthing was relatively short lived with the development of the safety bicycle in the 1890s and lingered on only in small areas until the 1920’s
Although during this period, they were dominant. Not only were they magnificent things to see ridden, but they were also fast and dangerous. With the exception of the railways, there was nothing faster on the roads.
There has been a bit of revolution in the Penny Farthing racing scene over the last few years with the Evendale event in Australia and world championships since 1986. Europe now has its own championship races held in Belgium every year and the UK has had the Pennies in the Park races since 2012.