Review: 1885 Singer Challenge Replica

Manufacturer: Richards of England
Model Reviewed: 54″ with the following options: Moustache handlebars, spade handle grips, Distance Pan Saddle mounted on Singer rubber bushed leaf spring, American tyres, 1/2 Nickel Plated
Reviewer: Terrence Houlahan
Date of Review: 20240414

Rating: 10/10


The 1885 Singer Challenge was the “Cadillac” or “Rolls Royce” of it’s day when it was released over 140 years ago and this modern replica recreates the epic original by matching it both in detail and quality. Indeed, it’s quality is legendary: Christian Richards of Richards of England rides an original 140 year old 56″ Singer Challenge and it’s still solid today as it was nearly a century and a half ago. And since Christian rides an original Singer Challenge, he has a paradigm example to study for his replicas.

If the original Singer Challenges are so good, why get a replica? Simple. Trying to find one with all the options you want in the right wheel size, well, you could wait a gazillion years for one to come on the market. And your desired configuration might never come onto the market.

The Singer Challenge is instantly distinguishable from a modern chrome-molly Penny-Farthing at a glance: it’s radially spoked- the spokes radiate out from the hub never crossing each other- unlike the modern ones which are tangentially spoked (2-cross). And the spoon brake and bushed leaf spring saddle mount just shout olde world elegance.

The Singer Challenge is a really sturdy. The trade-off for this is increased weight which will make it more suited for touring than racing. However, Richards of England make other replicas that are significantly lighter that would be very suitable for racing.

This review was neither solicited nor otherwise compensated. I’m a paying customer of Richards of England offering a first-person review. I have no business relationship with this, or any other Penny-Farthing manufacturer discussed on and receive no commissions. Nor would I accept any.



Richards of England will ask for your inside leg measurement to ensure your Penny-Farthing fits and is a joy to ride when it’s delivered. As my UDC 50″ modern Penny-Farthing’s saddle sits on a post 3.5″ ABOVE the spine, I was able to move up to a 54″ highwheel on the Singer Challenge as the saddle sits closer to the spine. But for myself- a 5’9″ cyclist, 54″ is the absolute upper limit I could go with the Singer’s “Distance Pan Saddle” mounted on the “Bushed leaf spring” but I loved the look of it. And I really have to stretch to both mount the saddle and also stretch to reach the peg to dismount. The pedals are adjustable along grooves and I have to set them to the position closest to the hub. For experienced Penny-Farthing cyclists like myself about 5’9″, I’d say 54″ Singer Challenge is as big as they dare go with the “Distance Pan Saddle”.


The options in bold are the ones on the reviewed model:

Saddle: A) Distance pan saddle mounted on Singer rubber bushed leaf spring (nickel plated) or B) Replica of the 1880’s Brooks International saddle. If you prize a larger wheel height over the looks of the Singer’s “bushed leaf spring”‘s elegance choose option “B)” the Brookes International Saddle” replica as it’s mounted closer to the spine.

Handle Bars: A) Straight (standard) or B) moustache This is extra as the spoon brake has to be contoured to the shape of the handle bars

Grips: A) Pear or T-Shaped (standard) or B) Spade – these were popular with American PF riders. I cycle with T-Grips, so the spade handlebars are essentially fancy “T-grips”

Spoon brake is elegantly contoured to follow the shape of the moustache handlebars

Tyres: A) American rubber in black (standard) or B) English sprung core rubber

Colour: Richards of England will hand paint the spine, forks & rims, rubbing-down each of 3 coats in any colour you desire. I chose “Hunter Green” in lieu of black because it was both traditional and a lighter colour than black to increase visibility to motorists.

1/2 Nickel Plating: As an optional extra, Richards of England will nickel plate the handlebars, front & rear hubs and fittings. Without nickel plating, the handlebars will be painted and the hubs will retain their brass colour. Nickel plating requires the use of sulphuric acid and the related disposal costs, so it’s a premium feature but worth it.

Because every part of their Singer Challenge is handcrafted, Richards of England have famously long lead times. Their creations are not mass-produced; quality takes time. And anybody who knows anything about Penny-Farthings wants one of theirs in their garage, so it can be a long waiting list. When I placed the order for my order 54″ 1885 Singer Challenge replica, the waiting list was 1 year for delivery. After finally receiving it, I can say it was worth the wait. The results are stunning in both aesthetics & performance as I review below.


I’ll review the interesting features and then provide an overall review from cycling the Singer Challenge:

10 Guage Radial Spokes: I’ve heard it said that radial spoked Penny-Farthings are too stiff- by folks that haven’t rode a radially spoked Penny-Farthing. There is a slight stiffness compared to my modern UDP Penny-Farthing, but this was down to the tires being less spongy, not the radial spokes. But the softer tires on my UDC also wear out a lot quicker, so a small price to pay to reduce the frequency and hassle of changing tires ;-). But otherwise, I’ve not remarked any material discomfort cycling my radially spoked Singer Challenge. For those whose use case is social rides, this is a really sturdy, comfortable Penny-Farthing. But for those whose use-case is racing, then the added weight will affect competitiveness. But predicating a decision to buy a Penny-Farthing based on the narrow issue of whether the spokes are radial or not based on “stiffness”- which I feel is barely even palpable here- seems a silly given that generally the only shock dampening a Penny-Farthing rider can expect is from the saddle.

Spoon Brake: Generally with any mechanical brake on a Penny-Farthing, I never mash it down, but use it in conjunction with leg-braking to moderate speed. As the rake of the forks are 90 degrees from horizontal and the spoon brake is over the front wheel, this should be used gingerly. When dismounting you will need to depress the spoon brake to ensure an elegant dismount. But of course the spoon should be an adjunct braking method to leg-braking and never relied upon in lieu of it. If you’re mashing down a mechanical brake and holding it, you’re reacting to a crises and not cycling defensively…

Trouser Guard: Attached to the forks and under the spine there is a loop of wire. Apparently it’s a trouser guard!

The metal loop under the spine is a trouser guard

Maximum turn radius

Leather Saddle: The Singer’s “distance pan saddle” on the bush-leafed spring is materially much BETTER than my Brooks’ saddles on my (2) UDC Penny-Farthings. Richards of England’s saddle is much smarter looking and more comfortable. And the Singer’s saddle can be adjusted to improve comfort.

Spade Grips: I normally cycle with T-shaped handlebars. The spade ones are at the same angle, look beautiful but are very functional. So same feel as T-shaped grips, but much more attractive. I absolutely LOVE them.

Pedals: No bearings in them to maintain, just a squirt of oil. On my UDC, I bought Shimano pedals with cup-and-cone bearings to avoid the cost of tossing a £50/pr of pedals and replacing them frequently, so still require maintenance. But the pedal maintenance on my Singer Challenge is reduced to a few squirts of oil!

Pedal stroke length can be precisely adjusted along a grove

Overall Review: 10/10

My overall review of cycling a radially spoked Richards of England 1885 Singer Challenge replica is that it’s an extremely sturdy and very comfortable ride on even “broken Britain” ‘s fourth-world roads. This is a faithful replica down to the tiniest detail and I know this for a fact as I had a chance to see the original Christian Richards rides which he used as a template. When placed side-by-side, other than my Singer Challenge replica being a slightly smaller 54″ to Christian’s original 56″ you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between which was the original. Everything about Richard of England’s top-of-the-line 1885 Singer Challenge exudes quality and it rides like a dream.

Finally, as a vendor, I’ve found Richards of England really responsive. Once Christian gets to your order he goes all-in to deliver the best result . And his business ethics are of the highest order. I changed the spec and had to fight with him to take the money for the out-of-scope work! I can recall lots of times I’ve had to beg vendors to deliver just what I paid for, but NEVER, have I had to fight with a vendor to take money for a change to scope *I* made! The Richards of England Singer Challenge is a 10/10 from me for quality, service and business ethics. Richards of England

Terrence Houlahan,

Christian Richards owner, Richards-of-England (centre); at the starting line of The Great Knutsford Race 2023