Highwheeling bike races in Australia
During the National Penny Farthing Championships, riders race antique bicycles through the streets of Evandale in Tasmania, Australia. (Evandale Village Fair)
If the Tour de France were staged in Victorian times, it might have looked a little something like the National Penny Farthing Championships in Tasmania, Australia.
Instead of modern two-wheelers, riders race antique bicycles called penny-farthings through the streets of Evandale. With one large wheel in front and a much smaller one in back, penny-farthings (also known as “ordinary bicycles” in Britain and as “highwheelers” in the US) became popular in the 1870s and 1880s as the first mass-produced bicycle. They were also the first bikes to be raced in Australia.
The National Penny Farthing Championships keep the tradition alive with a number of racing events held during the annual Evandale Village Fair, the 30th anniversary of which will be held on 25 February this year. The championship itself involves four heats of one-mile laps. Most riders look just as they would in any contemporary bike race, sporting helmets for safety and Lycra outfits for speed, but the bike must resemble those used in the 19th Century, even if it is constructed from modern materials. The front wheel must be at least 44 inches in diameter and have at least 60 spokes, a minimum size typical of the era.
Riders can compete in the costume contest by dressing up in 1880s-era outfits for the afternoon parade and a number of casual races are held throughout the day. The Novice Race gives first-time racers the chance to race two laps; the Obstacle Race requires riders to run, ride and carry their bike more than 100m; and the Slow Race rewards the cyclist who takes the longest to bike 25m.