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Page last updated at 17:01 GMT, Tuesday, 16 February 2010
Penny farthing riders prepare for Knutsford Great Race

People in Somerset are being urged to keep their eyes peeled over the coming months for a unique sight - two chaps dressed in Victorian attire learning to ride an original penny farthing from the 1800s.

Neil Musson and John Dudgin with their Penny Farthing
The boys said the bike was "ludicrously difficult to ride"

Neil Musson and John Dudgin from Milverton both make up Team Spend A Penny who are aiming to raise funds by competing in a race that only happens once a decade.

The Knutsford Great Race is the only penny farthing event in the country and this time around it takes place in September.

Of the bicycle, which has a 52-inch high front wheel but no brakes or suspension, Neil said it was "frightening" and "slightly dangerous" to ride.

In order to contextualise how big the wheel is, if someone was to sit on the saddle they would be up to Neil's shoulder. And he's six foot high.

"You can't ride a penny farthing slowly because of the size of the wheel; you have to have the momentum; you have to go fast and that's why they made the wheel big [to get] the speed and it's exhilarating," he added.

Neil has been a keen cyclist for many years however the penny farthing is like "learning to ride all over again".

Neil Musson and John Dudgin with their Penny Farthing
The boys bought their 1862 bike from an antique dealer in Surrey

"Every rule that you thought you knew goes out the window.

"The balance point, the way you steer; everything is completely different so it is literally like those first tentative rides with your dad in the park where you think he's holding on, you look behind and he's not."

The team are taking part in the race with the aim of raising money for Shelterbox, a charity which provides emergency shelter and everyday essential items to victims of disasters across the world.

One of their biggest challenges during the three hour race will be the transitions, which will have to be fast like a "Formula 1 pit stop".

To get onto the bike, there is a small step at the back that goes up to the saddle - the main difficulty is trying not to go over the handlebars.

"People used to call it taking a header - going over the front wheel - and because you're so high, it was considered to be very dangerous."

The boys have also promised to grow full-on Victorian beards as soon as they raise £500 to compete their look. Something they are now slightly nervous about.

"There's a lot of social stigma attached to it [a handle-bar moustache].

"When dressed in the costume and with the penny farthing it makes sense but when you're going to work or the supermarket it doesn't so we are making a big commitment in growing the Victorian facial hair."

If you would like to sponsor Team Spend a Penny, then visit their website .

Penny farthing cyclist sets off
21 Sep 08 |  Coventry/Warwickshire

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