Sunday, April 5, 2009

Pennyfarthing Help

I received this email from Nicky last week, and since I don't know anything about pennyfarthings, original or reproduction, I'm posting it here to see if anyone can offer any help. Just leave a note in the comments if you can help, or if you can suggest a resource that might help Nicky.
I couldn’t resist a reproduction pennyfarthing about 17 years ago and bought it.  Since then I have been told it is likely to be a limited edition reproduction constructed during the 1960s by Raleigh.  Unfortunately, Raleigh had no archive records at that point and I’m wondering if you are aware of anything that might prove or disprove this.  I can send you some more pics if that helps.  It isn’t in pristine condition as it has been stored in a garage before I got it and since, but is sturdy and rideable!


  1. No help on the provenance, but some things to check to see if it is POSSIBLE. Is the saddle a Brooks? If not, it may not be a Raliegh. (Even common garden variety Sports Ralieghs, cam with brooks branded saddles, albeit, a built up vinyl style Brooks,)

    Raliegh tended to use it's own pedals, and you need to examine them carefully to see if they know the secret handshake or not.

  2. Hello Again, I'm no real expert on Raleigh... but I was manager of a Raleigh Bicycle Dealership for some time. Plus, my favorite nickname is still Raleigh. Close friends still call me that.

    Beginning as a kid, I followed Raleigh closely, from 1970 on up, through all of the 1970s. After the splitting off of Raleigh-USA, things became very confusing.

    I've read the consumer catalogs, and the dealer catalogs. I've even read the couple of books written about Raleigh.

    I've never heard of anything like this from Raleigh.

    However... my knowledge is full of plenty of holes!

    The very BEST information, the most ACCURATE information, about bicycle history, is to be found on:

    It might be worth your time to join the mailing list, research the archives, and then, ask the current members.

    If you're interested in modern reproductions of the bicycles called high-wheels, or high-wheelers, or penny-farthings, or ordinaries, try here:

    They sometimes call their high-wheels by the term "bone-shakers". And of course, a bone-shaker was something completely different, and much older.

    About your penny-farthing, what I can tell you, from the one single photo:

    It's not "full-size". So, it was either made for a child, or for display. My guess is, it was made for display.

    The front fork crown seems particularly well made.

    All of the nuts are modern. The tubing appears modern. The frame-joint between the head-tube and the backbone-tube is rather unique... and looks as if it was done with fairly modern equipment.

    From many details... the finish... the reproduction headlamp... the pedals... I'd say a guess of made-in-the-1960s seems just right.

    About that lamp, the long tube sticking down is to hold a candle. In an original headlamp of this style, there would have been a long spring inside that tube. You inserted a fresh candle, which pushed down on the long spring. You fastened the top of the candle. The wick stuck up, into the body of the lamp. When the candle was lit, the wax would burn at the top. The spring would push up from the bottom. The wick would remain at the same spot the whole time. Neat trick!

    But, if this machine had been made for display by Raleigh...

    They would have used Raleigh pedals, and Raleigh cranks, and maybe even a Raleigh lug somewhere.

    Raleigh was at their peak in the 1960s. They had vast industrial capacity. And for that matter, so did Schwinn.

    If this had been made by Raleigh, or by Schwinn, they would have done it themselves, in one of their many workshops. Most of all, the bicycle would have features that made it obvious who the manufacturer was.

    And if Raleigh had made it, the saddle would display the Brooks name!


  3. P. S.

    Forgot to mention... that long item... projecting straight back from the fork crown... just above the tire... but below the backbone... that projecting piece... is a "trouser-guard".

    It is there to prevent a gentleman's trousers from contacting the tire, during a tight turn, such as one might need to perform in slow traffic.


  4. in the late 80's to early 90's Raleigh South Africa had a factory in Springs, they made some Penny Farthings that were available to ride at a theme park here called Gold Reef City. they were modernised but were definatly penny farthing designs, and small like a 24" front wheel only. mgford(at)

  5. Hi,

    I´m from Brasil (yes, with "s"...) and looking at this blog sometimes. Know this page, that seems to be utile:

    Surely Mr. Afornali could gave more info personaly.