When cycling a Penny-Farthing, the rider’s weight is directly over the large drive wheel which is not a stable configuration. If the wheel is obstructed- however briefly- the rider will be propelled over the handle bars; a “headover” is the result.
Objects/Surfaces to Avoid Cycling Over:
The difficulty as a beginner is that you don’t know what the tipping-point is, or what is enough of an obstruction to interfere with the large front wheel and cause a headover. The general rule to observe is to cycle your PF only over flat ground and avoid any and all obstructions. But if you can’t cycle around a ropey obstruction, you must dismount and walk the PF around it.
Things you should definitely NOT cycle a PF over to reduce the risk of a headover:
– Curbs/kerbs or any other raised sharp ledge.
– Cans & plastic bottles
– Large tree branches & rocks
– Drainage grates
– Pot holes
– Deep mud: this could just as easily grip the wheel and cause a headover
If a road object- which is NOT debris- has a gentle slope, you should be able to cycle over it, but do so at a very slow speed and lean back away from the handle bars to counterbalance your weight. After a while you’ll know the characteristics of your PF and what raised surfaces that you can cycle over safely. The small sharp plastic speed bumps are NEVER good to cycle over. Go around these or walk the PF over them. Other speed bumps that have more gentle slopes- the ones that span the entire width of the road- are generally OK for cyclists- and Penny-Farthing riders- to cycle over.
INCREASING the “Tipping-Point”:
Although the forks on most Penny-Farthings are monolithic, the UDC brand of Penny-Farthings aren’t: these has a separate fork that fits into the bottom of the spine. By adjusting the height of the rear wheel fork you can adjust the rake to reduce the risk of a headover with a hex key by shortening the fork length. Instead of the Highwheel’s front forks being 90 degrees straight up, you want to achieve an acute angle- less than 90 degrees- of the front forks by reducing the rear fork’s length. It will still be possible to do a headover if you cycle over an ugly object, but it will be much harder now as your weight is shifted more off-center.