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.
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.
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.