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Riding in the London Nocturne on a Penny Farthing

Image by Charlotte Barnes

With Unicycle.com starting production of Penny Farthings we have been testing them and showing them around.  The last event we did this at was the London Nocturne event.  This is an night time elite criterium around Smithfield Market in London.  With 12000 spectators this was a BIG event!

I travelled down to the event with a single Penny Farthing in the van on the day of the event to Mike Penton's house.  We both then travelled in to London on the train to Victoria with Mikes, very small looking, 29" bike and the 51" UDC Mk1 Penny Farthing.  From there we cycled the 6 miles through the centre of London to where the races were being held.  It is really surprising how much space the cars gave me as we weaved through the traffic.  We also found that having a "bike" companion with a Penny farthing can be advantageous when coming to junctions and lights.  Mike would stop first and put a foot on the ground, I would then ride up beside him and use his shoulder to rest on so I wouldn't have to dismount.  Then when the lights change Mike would give me a healthy shove to get me going... he would then have to pedal like mad to catch up.

When we got the event we met up with the other Penny riders.  After a quick interview for the local news we went down to the river to be tourists.  Although manhandling a 51" Penny Farthing along the crowded river walkway I can not say was fun.

Back at Smithfield the event was beginning to warm up... wow, does it have an amazing buzz!  The event is where all the cycling cool and elite hang out.  Check out their official behind the scenes video... We even had world and Olympic champion Ed Clancy come over to check out the Penny Farthings.

As we waited for our event to start we watched the other events unfolding.  As well as standard criterium for the bikes, there were some other slightly odd events.  These included one for the longest fixie skid and a folding bike race.  The folding bike race included a running start to get to the cycles that were sitting on the racing grid in a folded state.  They then needed to re-assemble them and set off.  oh yes... they also had to be wearing an office suit!

The race had an appropriately gentle start, we set off gently waving to everyone and lots of smiling a laughing.  The sun even came out.  We then stopped for our briefing before we set off.  The race was a 30 minute critium + 3 laps.  Although Unfortunately, I miss understood the instructions and thought that we had 3 laps slow then race, not one.

Image by Charlotte Barnes

I was near the back of the field when the flag was dropped and everyone charged off.  It too me a few laps to get in to my stride though and make my way up to the field to about 8th place.  You could see the guys with experience as they shot down the first hill and banked hard for the corners.  I was just able to catch Joff Summerfield (he of round the world on a penny farthing fame).  I was faster than him on the straight, but he was a lot faster than me on the corners.  We had a staggering photo finish with Joff just taking it on the line.  You can watch the race from my headcam here.

The fast group of 7 riders had an equally exciting tussle with the lead changing several times during the race.  In the end it was Grey McKinnel who won with a dash for the line over James Brailsford and Thoresby race winner Richard (ribs) Thoday.  Full results are here.

All told an amazing experience and I am already looking forward to next years event.

Image by Charlotte Barnes


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