Saturday, 30 June 2007

My weekend

Firstly, check out this picture of what looks to be a time trial penny farthing... I don't know anything much about this bike, I just stumbled across the photo on the internet the other day. What I do know is that I want it, although it would have to be a very still day to risk riding it, that big front disk is going to be hell in cross winds!

Well I had a busy weekend, what with Simons stag do on Saturday and then the Halesowen track day on Sunday.However, I did manage a couple of rides on the penny farthing. The first was a short ride around the lanes on Friday night and I ended up in a local pub. Once there I had the usuall penny farthing questions put to me, how do you get on / off? Is that a solid trye etc. The one thing the bike does is get people talking to each other. I find it strange that people from all walks of life seem interested in it. It really does seem to bring people together. At one point I was talking to an old couple, who must have been at least 75, about the tensioning of the spokes. Then the next minute a group of kids on bmx bikes wanted a demo and soon the bmxers were talking to the old couple about the recent bombs found in London and the threat of terrorism! These groups of people would never have exchanged plesent words normally but now they seemed to be chating like old friends, weird, but quite cool!

The stag do was also pretty cool, First we went go karting, then we did the normal stag do activity, and went drinking. As the weather wasn't too bad I decided to ride the penny to the karting track. This ride was only about 7 miles from my house so that presented no major problems. In fact in many ways the penny farthing makes things easier. Car drivers actualy give you room, and wait for you at roundabouts and junctions. Rather than seeming to aim for you when on a normal bike they actually give you an extra wide birth when on the penny. This is probably for no better reason than they think you are sure to crash at any moment and that you might damage their car when doing so, but it's still nice to be given space on the roads. The one thing that I did notice on the way to the karting was the unsuitability of some of the local cycle paths. The council has done a good job round here with the surface, on most paths it's better than the road. However, the council had clearly not envisaged someone riding a penny farthing. At several points I had to get off the bike to go under overhanging road signs and trees. I suppose I can't really complain too much about this as I am riding a bike that was outdated over 100years ago! The go karting turned out to be fun. The rain made the conditions pretty slippery but if anything it added to the fun, oh, and by the way I won! The rest of the group then took a minibus to my local pub, the ketch, for food and beer. I joined them for this, again traveling by penny farthing, and then went on to a real ale pub,, the huntsman, in a neighbouring village. The rest of the group went in the bus and I was again the odd one out and went on the penny. At this stage the riding was still under control as I had only had a couple of drinks. One thing I did notice on this ride though was the amount of road kill, either headgehogs, badgers and rabbits are really stupid and can't help but get run over, or there are just loads of them and proability means that some of them are bound to get run over at some point. Either way it's a shame so many get squashed. Anyway, the drinking started in earnest in the huntsman, and after another 4 or 5 pints we moved on. I must admit I was glad to have an excuse to go home as I was already three sheets to the wind, being a skinny cyclist may have helped me when go karting but it was doing me no favours now we were drinking, and the others in the group had the luxury of the bus transfer to the next pub. This pub was some distance from my home, so I made my excuses and cycled home. I had an audience as I mounted the penny, so I concentrated hard on not making an arse of myself and rode off out of sight as quickly and as safley as I could. Once out of sight I must admit I begain to wobble and weave down the country lanes as I made my way home. I obviously managed to get home ok, as I am writing this, but I can recomend that drinking and penny riding do not mix! The journey home was quite hard work. Being drunk in charge of a penny farthing is not good for your life expectancy. I found every hill extra difficult and the amount of effort needed to peddle over 40lbs of steel had my heart and lungs working overtime. My control of the bike was fairly limited and it seemed to be going pretty much where ever it wanted to, I hit a few pot holes and at one point even strayed onto the grass but somehow I made it home.

The next day, complete with a hangover, I cycled to Halesowen cycle track. I really enjoyed the track day, the ride over was interesting as a number of the lanes we rode down were still under water from the recent floods. When we arrived we looked like we had just finished Paris Roubaix, rather than 26miles of English country lanes in summer. We were all covered in spray and mud but it was nice to get a few laps in, all be it on my standard road bike, complete with mudgaurds and lights! Hopefully I will soon get to borrow the st Johns track bike and have a go at some racing.

On a different note, one of the other things that I am interested in is motorcycle racing and this weekend there was a moto gp and motocross mx1 and 2. I wasn't that pleased with the moto gp result as I want Rossi to be beaten, and he won, but Stoner once again scored good points with a second. I've not got anything against valentino rossi, he is a fantastic rider and is arguably the best in the world, but I really want him to be beaten. My problem with Rossi is more with the commentaters. They seem to think he is the only person who can ride a moto gp bike, when in actual fact all of the top 20 riders are brilliant. Anyway, it would be nice to see the underdog do well so come on Stoner and the rest, get after him!

In the mx2 motocross the british had a winner with Tommy Searle, hopefully Searle will continue to progress and I may get to see an English world champion one day. That's about all for now, I seem to have rambled on a bit anyway.........

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Penny farthing national championships

The other event I really want to do is this one, check out this link. The only problem for me is the location. I live in England and the event is held in Tasmania! I've looked into going and it is possible to fly with a penny, in fact Kat flew her penny back to England from Australia, but it's not going to be cheap! At the moment I am thinking that I may go in 2009. It seems a long way off but with my plan to ride the end to end in 2008 I will not have enough days holiday to do it in the same year. On a different note, I did a fairly quick 6 mile run this morning and am really looking forward to the duathlon in a few weeks time.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Halesowen track day

All being well I think I may ride to Halesowen cycle track on Sunday with a few others from Worcester st Johns. A couple of factors may influence my decision, one being the English climate and the other the fact that I am at a stag day all day on Saturday! I'd like to check it out, as if I enjoyed it, it would be a good excuse to buy another bike! Other news from me, I have now booked my place on the coast to coast ride and, as this photo of new road cricket ground shows, I can conferm that Worcester city is still pretty much under water!

Tuesday, 26 June 2007


I have just realised that I forgot to put a link to the db max web site, if anyone wants to give the duathlon a go check it out. I've done two of them before on a normal time trial bike and really enjoyed them. The event is well organised and the best thing about it for me is the fact it is traffic free. The surface on the race track is also very good so the bike leg is quick, unless it's blowing a gale and raining hard, like it was for the last one I did! Anyway, heres the link.

Other plans, continued

I Forgot to mention that I am about to book a short cycling holiday for me and the penny. I am going to have a go at the coast to coast, about 150miles in 3 days including going over the pennines. I'm not too worried about going up the climbs as I can just ride as far as I can then come to a halt and walk. Going down the other side could be more difficult as past a certain speed it becomes very difficult to slow the bike down and just getting off is not really an option as you are sat 5 feet in the air and going 20miles an hour! Fortunately, I have private health care through my work... Anyway, I will not be riding the penny today as I have a club time trial tonight, and my time trial bike is starting to gather dust. If anyone wants to turn up and have a go at a time trial new riders are always welcome..

I've just got home after the time trial. I'm freezing cold and disappointed with my time. All the penny riding seems to have slowed me down, either that or I just had an off night. Hopefully summer will return soon as I seem to go better in the heat..

Monday, 25 June 2007

Other madcap plans

Well the most ridiculous plan I have is to ride the penny farthing from Lands end to John o'groats, possibly in April next year. At this stage the plan is slightly more advanced than pub talk but I have yet to make any firm plans.
I did the ride in 2003 with a friend, Mickey Davies, we used a couple of ill prepared mountain bikes, some zip ties and the cheapest panniers we could find. Somehow we made it to the finish in 14 days, much to the suprise of all our friends and ourselves!
If anyone is thinking of doing the end to end, give it a go. We ended up having the best holiday of our lives.
I am also trying to organise meeting up with Kat to have a go at a crazy night ride of 120miles. Check out this link,
We have conceeded that the penny farthings may not be the ideal choice for this so we will probably use normal bikes.

Castle combe duathlon

As you know I am doing this event and using the penny for the bike leg. The charity that I am raising money for is called SANDS, it stands for stillbirth and neonatal death society, here is a link if you would like to learn a bit more.. I have chosen this charity as they do a great job helping people through a very difficult time and have helped people close to me. If anyone would like to donate you can either see me at the event, I will be there early as my Dad is running the 10k the same day, or e mail me and we can sort something else out. I have also just set up a web page with SANDS so if you just can't wait to donate you can do so online!

I would also like to thank Will at Dbmax for firstly letting me use the penny farthing for the race and also for putting a link on his web site to this one. I hope I can meet up with him at the event to say thanks.

I will be adding to this blog as and when I have time so please come back and check it out now and again. At the moment I seem to have a few problems signing on to create new posts so if nothing much happens for a few days that's why. Hopefully I will get the hang of it as I go!

Sunday, 24 June 2007

My plans for Penny

As you may have guessed, I have a bit of an interest in cycling and this has somehow led me to the penny farthing, I'm not sure why this is but now that I have a penny I intend to use it. So far I have done a few local club time trials on it and on the 5th of August 2007 I have entered a duathlon at Castle combe. The photo here shows the choice of bikes that I could use for the 12 mile bike leg. 44lbs of penny farthing, or 17lbs of low profile carbon and alloy. It's a bit of a no contest really. The Dolan will be staying at home, I mean, two wheels the same size? It will never catch on! When I first entered the duathlon I did it for a bit of fun, and to raise some money for charity, but now I am determined not to come last. My job will be made a bit harder as I am also doing the event in period fancy dress provided by Sarah at Masquerade Worcester I should be fairly easy to spot if anyone wants to make a donation! I've spent a bit more time running recently as I think if I can do a couple of half decent runs I may be able aviod last place.

Penny farthing records

After doing a few time trials on the penny I started to look up penny farthing records. The outcome is almost unbeivable. Try this one for starters.. Lands end to John O'groats in 5 days 8 hrs and 15mins! Thats 168miles per day! The record was set by a guy called Alec Baxter and will never be beaten. I say this as firstly I am sure that it can't be and secondly because the Road records association no longer accepts attempts by penny farthings. I can only assume they don't want anyone being killed whilst trying! Other impressive records seem to be less well documented but various people in the know tell me that a penny farthing has been peddled at over 20 miles an hour average speed for a twenty mile time trial. Thats not bad going on a modern road bike, let alone something that was designed 120 plus years ago.

Big Ben and big wheel

This is me and penny in London. I travelled down to London to meet up with Kat, a fellow new penny rider. We rode around the city and even managed to make a few Londoners smile! London is actually ok for penny riding as the parks have wide surfaced areas and, on the day I was there, there was a complete lack of dogs. I'm not sure if you can't walk dogs in the parks, or if we were just lucky. The last thing you need when on a penny farthing is a dog in your spokes!

Learning to ride

Well I'd love to tell everyone how difficult it is to ride a penny and how I am supremely skilled but I have to say it's actually quite easy! Getting on is just a matter of holding the bars straight, putting your left foot on the step and scooting the bike along. Then you just stand up, find the seat and then the peddles. You have actually got quite a long time to do this as a 54" wheel just wants to keep moving forward, unless you are pushing it up a hill that is!

My first rides were up and down the close that I live in, getting off to turn round. I then ventured to the pub, using footpaths and now I ride the thing almost anywhere. I have even started to do time trials on it! so far my penny farthing pb for 10 miles is 39mins 40seconds. This is obviously much slower than my pb on a more suitable bike, but it's not too bad considering. On the left is a scan from a local paper with the full tt results, sorry about the quality of the scan but it's the best I could do!

Finding a penny

After I decided to get a penny farthing I found out how few were available. To cut a long story short I got mine second hand from a guy who decided he was getting a bit old to risk falling off it any more. I travelled about 120 miles to pick it up and drove home not knowing weather I could actually ride it.