So you want to ride Penny-Farthings, but don’t know what your options are or any considerations to inform a purchase decision. Here is info on both vendors and thinks to weigh when making purchase decision
Modern vs. Antique:
You could buy an antique or a modern build Penny-Farthing. But if you’re a beginner, you don’t have sufficient knowledge & experience to assess the quality of an antique- and they can be of wildly varying quality.
So I’d suggest to beginners to buy a modern build as you’ll get support and you can get replacement parts such as tires & bearings which will wear over time.
So if you choose to buy a modern, you again have (2) options:
- Mass-Manufactured: Significantly less expensive than bespoke builds and you can have one VERY quickly
- Bespoke: These are the relative “Ferraris” in the Penny-Farthing world, and they will accordingly have much higher price tags. There usually is a lengthy waiting list as they are build by hand and can take weeks to build.
Sizing Your Penny-Farthing:
Once you’ve figured out the type of Penny-Farthing you want- mass-manufactured or bespoke- you next need to get the right size. And the size of the Penny-Farthing’s high-wheel can vary with the model.
Penny-Farthings are sold in a variety of sizes of 2″ graduations of the High-wheel: 50″, 52″, 54″ & 56″. Why? Because a Penny-Farthing don’t have an adjustable seat post like a regular bicycle, so the distance from the saddle to the pedals is (largely) fixed. So depending upon the model of Penny-Farthing and where the saddle is placed- directly on the spine or on a small fixed seat post above the spine will dictate the maximum wheel size of the PF that you can buy.
For example, on a “UDC” model Penny-Farthing (described further down) which has a small seat post affixed to the spine, I can only comfortably ride their 50″ model Penny-Farthing. But for a Richards-of-England Penny-Farthing with the saddle mounted on the spine directly, I can ride a bigger 54″ high-wheel.
The business you buy from will help you choose the correct size for the model you’re interested in purchasing.
Below are the most well known, long established larger Penny-Farthing manufacturers from around the world. Their work is out there in sufficient numbers to be assessed to a consistently high and consistent standard and they operate only as businesses specialising in the manufacture of Penny-Farthings.
Richards-of-England (UK): End-to-end the entire production is controlled and specializes in period replicas of various models, perfect to the tiniest detail. They are based in Hull, England and due to the labour intensive process, the waiting list is historically about 1 year lead time on orders. And I can personally attest that these are well worth the wait. I didn’t buy my Richards-of-England 1885 Singer Challenger replica merely to avoid import duties & shipping costs. Since I race Penny-Farthings and go to a lot of organised rides, I’ve seen these around and they are perfection. Indeed, I’ve raced with the owner Christian Richards several times. And since Christian himself an avid Penny-Farthing racer who eats his own dogfood, this experience informs his builds. As a practical matter though, having a vendor based in England was also appealing to me for maintenance purposes if I ever needed any work done.
Christian Richards owner, Richards-of-England (centre); at the starting line of The Great Knutsford Race 2023
Unicycle.com: These are known as “UDC” (UnicycleDotCom) Penny-Farthing and are designed & manufactured by Roger Davies who races- and wins– on them. These are of modern design and Roger tests everything racing before anything ever enter production. They are manufactured in Taiwan and these are just outstanding: lightweight (because they use Chromemolly in lieu of heavy steel), and (generally) no lead time as Roger keeps plenty of stock on hand. These are probably the most commercially successful mass-market non-replica Penny-Farthings and are ubiquitous to the Penny-Farthing world. I ride my UDC’s in busy urban environments like London & Cambridge. I like the innovative mount system Roger has designed with a second set of mount pegs which really makes mounting & dismounting in urban traffic really easy and also provides a second foot-hold when riding the pegs down hill creating better stability when freewheeling. Roger can be seen demonstrating the utility of the 2nd peg in the video header of this website where he’s free-wheeling down the hill at the Knutsford Great Race 2023 which he won on his UDC.
Dan Bolwell (Australia): A bespoke Penny-Farthing manufacturer in Australia. Dan’s work is all high-end stuff. However, these are not period replicas of the olde-world Penny-Farthings. But they are gorgeous PFs and I imagine the go-to Penny-Farthing for riders down under all want a Bolwell PF.
Mesicek.cz (EU): A continental manufacturer of bespoke Penny-Farthing which delivers the entire product end-to-end. Beautiful work, creating stunning PFs, but not exclusively focused on producing replicas of the classic models like Richards-of-England.
RBR (USA): “Rideable Replica Bicycles“. For American PF enthusiasts, a way to beat shipping & import duties from buying a UK, EU & Australian PF!
Standard Highwheels (Sweden): Like UDC, this to are produced using Chromolly which make the strong, but lightweight. The Standard Highwheels are a modern Penny-Farthing without any pretenses of copying the olde-world models. They design and deliver a product end-to-end and focus on providing a mass-market high wheel experience at an affordable price like UDC. The owner of Standard Highwheels Per-Olaf Kippel- like Roger Davies & Christian Richards- eats his own dog food and races his own brand of Penny Farthing. Standard Highwheels also organises a 3 day Penny-Farthing race, “Sweden 3 Days”.
Trott & Sons (UK): This is a UK assembler. They are between worlds; “semi-bespoke” might be a way to describe them. Their wheels & hubs are the same as the UDC’s and they use Brooks saddles, but the rest of the build they fabricate. These are not detail-perfect period replica “Objet d’art” like the Richards-of-England ones, but neither do they look ultra modern like the UDCs. So olde world in appearance, but Trott’s Penny-Farthings are rugged, reliable & very functional. A steel Trott will be significantly heavier than a comparable UDC or Standard Highwheels PF, so not ideal pushing extra weight around a track if racing is a primary use-case. If you’re a social rider, then the extra weight is of no consequence however. I do have (3) friends who ride Trotts and are very pleased with them. And the price is ballpark for a UDC. The Trotts also organise the Beachy Head World Penny-Farthing Hill Climb Championships in Eastbourne each year which is a favourite with not just UK Penny-Farthing racers, but many others travelling from the continent to compete.