Friday, 19 August 2022

Friends put on vintage birthday display

SEVEN people rode penny farthings through Henley on Sunday to mark a milestone birthday.

SEVEN people rode penny farthings through Henley on Sunday to mark a milestone birthday.

Bill Pollard, of Ancastle Green, organised the ride for his friend Matt Richardson, of Deanfield Avenue, who turned 50 in May.

He arranged for Neil Laughton, from the Penny Farthing Club in Sussex, to let the group ride the club’s bikes and to give them tuition.

Mr Pollard said: “We practised by the YMCA and we were going to use their playing fields but the instructor said use the roads because they are quiet. “None of us had ever been on one before. We like our vintage cycling, we have bikes from the Thirties and the Seventies so those are the periods we know. There are some people who choose to ride these bikes, and even race them, so I thought it was time we had a go.

“The bikes are replicas of machines commonly used in the 1880s, and have a front wheel with a 48in diameter. This means you're very high up, so it takes a bit of nerve to get up on one and getting down is even harder.

“However, after Neil's excellent tuition, and a bit of practice, we all had the hang of it and headed into town to show off our bikes and new-found skills to the amazement of pretty much everyone who saw us!”

The group of riders also included John Gelling, Victoria Morgan, Tristan Haigh and Alex Whittenbury. They donned dinner suits and tweed jackets for their journey. Mr Richardson holds the world record for cycling 19.8 miles on a Mark I Raleigh Chopper and is a keen cycling fan but had never been on a penny farthing.

He said: “It was absolutely terrifying. I think it’s fair to say I did not sleep as well as I usually do the night before.

“We had a fantastic instructor, Neil, who is the captain of the English penny farthing polo team, which is funny in itself.

“Your natural inclination is to lean forward to help recover your balance but if you lean too far forward you fall on your face.

“You have to lean back, which is really weird, but it explains why when you see pictures of people riding them they look very stout — it’s because they’re leaning back so they don’t fall on their face. In terms of all time ranking of birthday presents it was right up there.”

Mr Pollard admits to it being “absolutely terrifying” when he first got on the bike. He said: “Once you work out how to get off you can relax a bit more. You have to slide off backwards then everything else becomes easier.

“I did come off and go over the top, it’s what they call a header where you go right over the top and end up on the floor in front of the bike but I did not hurt myself!”

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