Film Vault: Penny Farthing RacingGentlemen, start your hipsters: it’s penny farthing racing. A two-wheel forebear to the motorcycle, the penny...
Gentlemen, start your hipsters: it’s penny farthing racing.
A two-wheel forebear to the motorcycle, the penny farthing traces its history back to 1860s Britain. Also known as velocipedes and “boneshakers” –– the latter for obvious reasons –– penny farthings have a much closer tie to motorcycling than you might initially suspect.
Arguably the most famous penny farthing was a model designed by James Starley. That model was known as the Ariel –– which will be a familiar name if you’re a fan of British motorcycles.
Ariel is a name often counted among the British greats, like Triumph, Norton and BSA (and like those three brands, its home was in Birmingham, England). The name fell into BSA hands in the 1950s and slipped into rapid decline. Its last motorcycle was produced in 1967. The Ariel name was bought in the late 90s and has since returned to motorcycling in the form of the Ariel Ace.
READ MORE: I Bought a Hipster Bike | RideApart
Meanwhile, penny farthings have undergone a renaissance of sorts amid the modern hipster movement’s fascination with every dumb idea from the past. I have seen dudes riding them to work in London.
And, of course, they seem to show up in just about every music video from Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer.
Learn more about Chris and the rest of RideApart's excellent staff here: The RideApart Team