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Knutsford museum set for ten-yearly penny farthing race
Men riding the penny farthing
The Knutsford Great Race is held once every ten years

A Cheshire museum boasting the world's largest collection of penny farthings is gearing up for a unique cycle race held once every ten years.

The Knutsford Great Race is the only penny farthing event in the UK and competitors come from around the world.

Taking part will be bicycles dating from the middle of the 19th Century including dandy horse machines, bone-shakers and penny farthings.

The hub of the event is the Penny Farthing Museum in Knutsford.

Velocipedes

Museum owner Glynn Stockdale bought his first penny farthing in 1978.

Man riding penny farthing in Knutsford
Once you're going, you are king of the road. You can see over hedges, into bedroom windows, all kinds of things!
Glynn Stockdale, Penny Farthing Museum

Now, up to 60,000 visitors a year flock to to see his collection of Victorian velocipedes at his Knutsford tea rooms on King Street, which doubles up as the museum.

"I was always fascinated by the 'big wheel' as a child," he said. "And when I had a chance to buy one in '78, I did just that."

Glynn is one of the organisers of the Knutsford Great Race, a unique event for a range of 19th century bicycles, including the penny farthing.

The race, which was first held back in 1980, is staged just once every ten years.

Up to 50 teams are expected to take part in 2010 with entries already received from as far away as Germany, Czech Republic, USA, Australia and New Zealand.

Competitors, whether riding alone or as part of a team of up to four riders, will have to negotiate as many circuits of a one kilometre course as possible within the three hour time limit.

History

The penny farthing was invented in 1871 by James Starley. They lasted just 20 years but in that time, 60,000 were produced.

Allan Beswick gets in some practice for the Knutsford Great Race

Big city penny farthing clubs were established across the North West but, according to Glynn, they were so hated in Knutsford that the townsfolk even tried to bring them down forcing spears into their spokes.

"They also went to the local magistrate who worked out different restrictions, one of which was that if you rode in Knutsford on a penny farthing, you had to have a siren by law."

Mounting a 'big wheel' is a process requiring some skill.

One foot is placed on a small peg on the frame above the back wheel. The rider then grasps the handlebar, scoots using the other foot, and when sufficient speed has been gained, lifts himself into the saddle.

Although very stable due to the gyroscopic effect of the big wheel, the penny farthing is notoriously prone to accidents.

But that doesn't put off Glynn, who likes nothing better than pedalling his penny farthing around the leafy lanes of Cheshire.

"Once you're going, you are king of the road - you just sail away," he said.

"You are riding high up, you can see over hedges, into bedroom windows, all kinds of things!"

The Knutsford Great Race is on Sunday 5 September 2010





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