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Try tying this up at the bike cage at Forest Hills

Guy riding a penny farthing in Forest Hills

Mark Anderson spotted this guy riding a penny farthing through the intersection of Washington Street and Ukraine Way this afternoon.

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Comments

Has hipsterism jumped the shark?

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his commitment to a hipster aesthetic, the love of old-timey things. That thing out-fixies the fixie for impracticality, discomfort and injury potential. It's of a piece with flaunting one's Polaroid SX-70, manual typewriter or rack of eight-track tapes. I expect pagers to make a comeback next.

I collect vintage clothing and have a wall full of vinyl that pre-dates the format's revival by kids born in the digital age, so I can't throw stones. ("I was into vinyl before it was cool again, you know.") Plus ça change, etc.

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I’ve never ridden one, but it has some practical advantages. It’s gearless (which is cool again, unlike vinyl), which makes for minimal maintenance. The large front wheel provides a high multiplication ratio without relying on complicated gearing; I imagine it’s pretty fast. And the high position of the rider would provide great views. It’s probably a bit tricky to learn, but so are many worthwhile skills. And why do you think it’s any more uncomfortable than the modern variant, which is mostly frame, while this thing is mostly wheel? Wheels are more flexible and forgiving than frames.

The name, though cute, is definitely dated, but before it acquired that nickname, it had another, more widely used name, which has stood the test of time; it was called a “bicycle”.

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The small cranks on the large front wheel provide little leverage. You can go fast, but it takes a while to get up to speed because of the high effective gear ratio.

The high position of the rider does give great visibility, but it also puts your center of gravity almost on top of the center of the front wheel. This allows you a great view of the ground if you apply the brakes too strongly (you get pitched over the bars head first).

As for comfort, the large front wheel is basically a rigid disk with a solid (and hard) rubber tire. Any irregularity in the road is transmitted directly to you.

That said, there were many adventurous riders who took these bikes on long rides in the 1880's before pneumatic tires were invented and the 'safety bicycle' was introduced. Apparently it was quite the the rage.

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Mark Twain's essay, "Taming the Bicycle," puts Twain's typical spin on the difficulties associated with learning to ride the ordinary, ending with the line: "Get a bicycle. You will not regret it, if you live."

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Just picture the forces at play as soon as you hit the brakes -- or hit a bump. If the big wheel stops moving, the rider comes down over the top, and rear wheel lifts off the ground. There's no lever action like you have on today's "safety bicycle" (that's what they were called!) that makes it harder for you to do a superman over the handlebars. On a pennyfarthing you just go flying.

...or you would, except your legs are under the handlebars, which means you end up flipping forward and towards the pavement facefirst. Some riders used to keep their legs *over* the handlebars so they could gracefully jump off forwards at the first sign of trouble.

There's a good reason they dropped out of favor.

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What's his clearance needs with that?
I could just imagine him Storrowing himself on some footpath somewhere where there's a picturesque footbridge overhead.

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Stop. Please.

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Hi everyone. Magoo.

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I'd much rather this then the boys on dirt bikes and crotch rockets.

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Where’s their helmet?!

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What is baffling to me is that it looks like it has a rack and pannier bags for carrying stuff? I mean, I guess it’s visible?!

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I bet it has a cup-holder and a mount for a cellphone GPS on the handlebars!

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and raise their center of gravity even higher? :-)

Maybe it's filled with bricks, to keep the rear wheel on the ground.

By god, that's Mr. Peanut's music!

Be seeing you.

So hipster it hurts.

Triggered.

Triggered about what?