News Good News Evandale turns back time to host National Penny-Farthing Championships

Evandale turns back time to host National Penny-Farthing Championships

Darren Singline
Darren Singline, left, on the way to winning the one-mile national penny-farthing championship. Photo: ABC
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The nation’s most nostalgic athletes took over the northern Tasmanian town of Evandale for a day of retro racing.

Forty-six men, women and children summoned all their derring-do to mount old-fashioned bicycles to contest the 35th National Penny-Farthing Championships.

Popular for a brief period in the late 1800s, the penny-farthing became a symbol of the Victorian era.

The name comes from the bike’s mismatched wheels which resemble a large coin leading a smaller one, hence “penny-farthing”.

A genuine antique penny-farthing can set you back thousands of dollars, and most new models need to be custom made.

Launceston’s Darren Singline who took out the day’s feature race, the one-mile National Penny-Farthing Championship, credited year-round training for his victory.

“Training really pays off and some of these guys maybe don’t have as much time to train as others, but they’re digging real deep too – it’s amazing, there are strong riders,” he said.

Evandale’s own Marguerite McClintock took out the junior championship early in the day.

“It’s kind of a family hobby,” she said.

“Last year, I came first for the girls and this year I came first overall which makes me feel pretty special.

“I can hear everybody cheering which makes me go faster!”

The grand parade at the penny-farthing championships
The grand parade at the National Penny-Farthing Championships. Photo: ABC

Wes Redditch brought his penny-farthing down from Sydney, lying flat in the back of his panel van.

He taught himself how to ride using YouTube.

“It’s just something different and all the old stuff now is cool again, you know?” he said.

“I love riding it; I feel like a kid again.”

Custom bike years in the making

Peter Whitburn first rode a penny-farthing when he was a young man.

“One of the most common questions to be asked is if I’ve had a fall. But the plan is not to come off,” he said.

He built his antique bicycle using an original rim for the front wheel.

“They were only made for about 20 years, from the mid-1870s to the mid-1890s, so the rim is from that era, and the rest of the bike is made to suit that rim,” he said.

“When you ordered a penny-farthing in those days, it was determined by your inside leg measurements what size wheel, what size penny-farthing you had.

“It took me years to find this rim, a 52-inch, which is just right for me.”

Peter Whitburn at penny-farthing championships
“The plan is not to come off,” says Peter Whitburn, left. Photo: ABC