Rule #1: Never Cycle faster than you can stop!

Speed moderation is a key skill to master when learning to ride a Penny-Farthing. If you cycle faster than you could respond effectively to hazards, then you’re going too fast. This particularly applies to sharp bends or turns with obstructed views: can you be certain there won’t be a thick branch, big pothole or debris in the roadway, or even a stopped vehicle while you’re steaming around a blind turn? If you can’t see far enough ahead, assume there’s an unseen danger.

PF cyclists also need the ability to moderate their speed to stage their approach to joining traffic at busy roundabouts & junctures. For junctions controlled by a traffic signal, if you can moderate your your speed by slow pedalling- just enough speed to remain upright– you can (hopefully) reach the juncture at the point the signal turns green. Ideally you don’t want to be mounting & dismounting in busy junctures between both trailing & approaching motorists.

Before cycling on busy roads you should be able to successfully moderate your speed using one or more of the above methods to an appropriate level to react to road traffic & hazards.

But how do we moderate speed?

Leg Breaking:

On modest hills you can brake with your legs by applying negative resistance on the pedals. Leg breaking must be commenced at the TOP of the hill. Once the Penny-Farthing has gained too much speed, you become a passenger at that point ;-). And even if you start leg-braking at the very top of the hill, if it’s a really steep gradient you won’t be able to continue to apply negative resistance on the pedals.

Calliper Brake on Rear Wheel:

This should NOT be applied while seated or if so, very, very lightly. When the calliper brake grips hard, the small rear wheel can judder and the PF will lose stability. And it will DAMAGE THE REAR TIRE giving it a flat section. Ideally the rear calliper brake should be intermittently applied while stood on the mount peg(s) while free-wheeling.

Rear-Wheel Plunger Brake:

Some Penny-Farthings are fitted with a plunger style brake over the rear wheel. While riding on the mount pegs you depress the spring-loaded plunger which applies a spoon brake to the rear wheel. Effective and less likely to damage the rear tire than the calliper brake. However, more challenging to use for a novice.

Foot Brake:

Every Penny-Farthing is equipped with one of these: it’s called your foot: you stand on your mount peg and press your foot on the small rear wheel. Like leg breaking, ideally you want to apply this at the TOP of the hill before the PF gains to much steam. Unlike the rear calliper brake which can damage the tire, the foot brake instead damages your shoe 😉 But in an emergency, the “foot” brake might be your only option, so this is a skill worth having.

Steep Hills, PF with Mechanical Brake:

In the absence of any mechanical brakes, if the hill is too steep to leg brake, you should dismount and walk your PF down the hill and re-mount when safe to do so. Remember Rule Number 1: Never cycle faster than you can dismount safely…

Being Cut-Off by an Overtaker:

Motorists will speed past you 1 second before stopping to turn right across traffic. If you can’t moderate your speed to respond to this crisis, you’re going to go into the back of the aggressive driver. And not only are you going to get busted-up, the aggressive driver will pursue you for damages for the accident THEY caused.

You’re more likely to be cut-off by a large truck overtaking you as the driver is guesstimating where you the cyclist is in relation to their very long truck as they return in the lane in front of you. When you see a long truck, make allowances that there is a greater chance of being the trucker finishing his pass too soon right in front of you and be prepared to reduce speed to increase your following distance. And Truckers WILL pass you on steep hills as they need to keep momentum or they won’t be able to get up the hill!

Even if you’re cycling in a straight line and not changing directions, circumstances might nonetheless require you to quickly reduce speed. Never cycle faster than you can stop on a Penny-Farthing and you’ll exponentially reduce your chances of having an accident.