Monday, January 17, 2011

First Ride on My Highwheeler

In 1995, while working at Destinations Cyclery, in Parker, CO, I finally realized a longstanding dream and purchased a 48" highwheeler (or Penny Farthing, if you prefer).  I had wanted one, for years, and I started actually shopping for one in 1992.  It took me 3 years to finally come across the Bone Shaker model from Rideable Bicycle Replicas.

Things were different in those pre-internet days.  Now, if you are looking for some esoteric product, it takes minutes, maybe just seconds, to find what you are looking for on the web.  back then, I scoured magazines, wrote letters, quizzed bike shop owners and the riders of the old-style bikes. All i could find were sources for high-end, historically correct museum-quality replicas and high-end racing machines.  The cheapest of these cost about $2500.00, and was way out of my bugetary means.

Eventually, RBR had an ad in the Bicycle Retailer and Industry News (BRAIN), and I called them up.  They sent me a brochure (for the younger folks, that's like a web page, printed on paper!), and I ended up ordering the bike.

When it came in, on a truck in a huge wooden crate, I could hardly wait to get it put together and take a ride.  At the same time, I was a little trepidatious.  These bikes have a fixed gear (my first experience with that since my childhood tricycle), they come with no brakes, and even the "medium-sized" 48-inch wheel puts your head height at about 7 or 8 feet above the ground.

Still, as soon as I could, I got the bike together and took it for a spin around the parking lot.  After a few failed attempts at mounting the beast, I was on it and riding!  What a thrill that was, for me.  Riding a highwheel bike was exhilarating and, to this day, I still find it exciting to jump up on the thing and take off, sitting high enough to look down at the roof of a passing mini-van.

Ten minutes into riding circles, I suddenly felt a strange sensation on my right foot.  My shoelace had come into contact with the pedal spindle, and was being wrapped around it with every pedal stroke.  Eventually, to my horror, the lace pulled up tight, and I could no longer pedal forward.

There I was, perched on a bike with my butt four and a half feet off the ground, with no way off the bike but to fall sideways to the pavement.  I really didn't see much way for me to get out of that fall with less than a broken arm or a snapped collarbone.

So, in desperation, I pedaled forward as hard as I could and...SNAP!  The shoelace broke and I was able to wobble my way onward, and then dismount the bike in a controlled manner.

That was the day I started tucking the loops of my shoelaces between the laces and the tongue of the shoe.


1 comment:

  1. Wow!LUCKY on that one.I never caught a shoelace but once rode a 52" unicycle in a parade when a toddler rode his little 12"er right into the path of my highwheeler.Both of us were lucky that day,that little kid would have looked like roadkill with a nice tiretrack right down the middle if that wheel had hit him abd sent me flying.


As always, sorry about the word verification. It's a necessary evil, unfortunately.