Go farther on a penny farthing
September 30, 2019 10:20 AM   Subscribe

The cheeky lads at Global Cycling Network set out to break the Guiness World Record for the one hour indoor cycling time trial....on a penny farthing. [13 minute video link]

Previously on one hour attempts.
posted by Burhanistan (17 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
drops monocle... why I never saw such a thing
posted by ShawnString at 10:42 AM on September 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

posted by scruss at 10:46 AM on September 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

* writhes in sympathy *

Why the plastic saddle tho?
posted by klanawa at 10:46 AM on September 30, 2019

Where in Portland did this happen?
posted by slogger at 1:44 PM on September 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

It seems that they only had a short training period. The wheel size is limited by the rider's leg length, of course. But there must be other fitting options: Saddle type, saddle position, and handlebar adjustments. And crank length. It's got to be a lot different than riding a road bike, using different muscles, and putting a lot more weight on the saddle. More training time!

The riders mentioned not being able to change their bike position while riding. There's no coasting, the cranks turn with the wheel. No standing up, off the saddle. And it's a fast cadence all the time.


This 2013 race looks great, with very hard efforts and good bike handling. The timer shows 27 minutes at the finish line.

Mark Twain's "Taming the Bicycle"
from 1884. Learning to ride a Penny Farthing.

from the essay:
The Expert explained the thing’s points briefly, then he got on its back and rode around a little, to show me how easy it was to do. He said that the dismounting was perhaps the hardest thing to learn, and so we would leave that to the last. But he was in error there. He found, to his surprise and joy, that all that he needed to do was to get me on to the machine and stand out of the way; I could get off, myself. Although I was wholly inexperienced, I dismounted in the best time on record. He was on that side, shoving up the machine; we all came down with a crash, he at the bottom, I next, and the machine on top.
posted by jjj606 at 4:14 PM on September 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Now do it in bloomers while agitating for the vote.
posted by twentyfeetof tacos at 4:46 PM on September 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Completely insane and the suffering they put themselves looked awful.
posted by photoslob at 7:14 PM on September 30, 2019

It certainly does sound exceedingly easy; but it isn’t. I don’t know why it isn’t but it isn’t. Try as you may, you don’t get down as you would from a horse, you get down as you would from a house afire. You make a spectacle of yourself every time.

Oh I do enjoy Mark Twain.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:24 PM on September 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have a question.
Why keep going on a broken saddle? Why couldn’t he stop, have the saddle (or the whole bike) repaired or switched out, and then restart the attempt?
posted by Mister Moofoo at 12:06 AM on October 1, 2019

They mentioned on the GCN show this week that they have a longer video on the attempt coming out later. Maybe that'll explain why poor Hank couldn't restart.

Mark Beaumont's 2018 attempt was a fun video too.
posted by aussie_powerlifter at 4:19 AM on October 1, 2019

aside from the "ha ha funny wheel" aspect, Chris's record is pretty amazing. This is the bike he rode: UDC Mk4 Penny Farthing.

If you look at the Merckx, Obree and Wiggins records, they all turned quite big gears: averaging 8.7 m development (~ 109 "inches"). That kept their cadence around 100 rpm. By comparison, Chris was stuck with a 52" wheel (1321 mm): literally a 52 "inch gear" developing only 4.1 metres per crank revolution: slightly lower than that on a racing BMX. So he twitched away for an hour at just under 140 rpm: ow ow ow.

So I wonder what the hour record on a BMX might be?
posted by scruss at 7:33 AM on October 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

Why keep going on a broken saddle? Why couldn’t he stop, have the saddle (or the whole bike) repaired or switched out, and then restart the attempt?

I suspect that "restart the attempt" was the deal-killer.
posted by sjswitzer at 11:11 AM on October 1, 2019

I looked at that UDC link, and wow, penny farthings are surprisingly expensive.

I know GCN is about 95% product placement, but geez, I can't stop watching.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 4:30 PM on October 1, 2019

(GCN and GMBN consistently put out great content and also link to various cool folks like Hambini who do deep dives in to fixing bad design)
posted by Burhanistan at 7:36 PM on October 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh for sure, and one thing I loved about this video was that they really put a lot of effort in. Poor James looked pretty broken up at the end. I think there's an interesting trajectory for ex-pro cyclists, and it seems like these channels are a great place for them to wind up (they even joked about it in a recent video, suggesting that if someone's career ends prematurely, "you could come work for GCN!" with a big smile).

I get frustrated by how often the words "paid promotion" appear at the start of a video, and having worked in content generation, I know that a lot of what they're doing is just making stuff for the sake of making stuff (top 5 etc etc, and incidentally here are these new pedals, check them out). But that's more frustration with the internet in general, and they have genuinely inspired me to bike more, so I don't want to sound too critical.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 8:10 PM on October 1, 2019

… and I just lost nearly an hour listening to Hambini slag off Cervelo. Who knew they were a global brand? I just thought they were made for overpaid Toronto financial types to pose on the Lakeshore trail.
posted by scruss at 8:55 PM on October 1, 2019

I've ridden a penny-farthing before (from Standard Highwheels) and in my experience the most curious aspect is needing to turn the legs while pedaling when you steer. As far as small-batch bicycles are concerned I don't find them particularly expensive, especially when you consider the need for different wheel diameters and what that means for rims, tires, spoke lengths, frame and fork sizes, etc.
I suspect a reason they couldn't start over was that they had booked the velodrome for a specific block of time. I've booked velodromes for groups before and getting solo time on the track is a pretty precious commodity.
posted by St. Oops at 3:03 AM on October 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

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