I participated in another big penny farthing race, this time at the Smithfield Nocturne. This is the first year they have included a penny farthing race. And there were two of them; a 1mile sprint and a 20min plus five laps endurance race. There were 30 competitors from all over the world. The racing was fierce; the course was super fast and technical and the corners were tight. The racing was started with a band of muskets which was fantastic and the crowd support was indescribable. I had a brilliant time. I scored a third in the sprint and came tie with Charlotte for 6/7th – the placings are all a bit out in the results as the organisers hadn’t expected us to go quite so fast ad as a result didn’t keep track of the lapping : )
I am really hoping the penny racing is a regular feature of the annual event.
On the weekend I had the pleasure of racing in the Knutsford Great Race - a 3 hour marathon sprint for penny farthings held every ten years. This year it raised money for Shelterbox. There were 90 competitors – 19 teams and 26 solo racers – which meant there were a hairy 45 pennies on track at one time. And the track was tight and short – only 700m with 3 hairpin turns. There were many crashes and near crashes. Pennies (both original and replica) literally disintegrated with the sheer force of rider power. Needless to say it was terrifying and (with a crowd of 5000 cheering people) exhilarating. Excitingly, Charlotte, my extraordinarily fast team mate, and I won the team event with a cracking 104 laps in the time limit. Results are up there are more pics and stories here.
This film by damonpeacock does a great job of presenting the speed of the event, the effort in getting a bike of that scale moving at a pace and then controlling it on tight bends. It also records the change-overs in the pit. Every bicycle was fitted with a RFID transponder designed to electronically record every lap. This transponder had to be switched securely between bikes in teams so to not go flying when the bike hit rough surface. It was a tricky business, especially done at speed. Our pit crew did a magnificent job in achieving Formula One timing.
This film by rtimson1 also shows the speed of the race and how the racers spatially navigated the course. It ends with one of the most spectacular crashes of the event. One racer lightly clips another’s handlebars causing him to do what is known in penny farthing world as a ‘penny header’ or ‘imperial crowner’. This involuntary dismount entails flying headlong over the handlebars. Most racers have done this at some point. This was a severe one, however, as it was done at speed and given the proximity at which were were racing, the downed rider was swiftly hit by another. Rumour is that the rider broke both his arms. We are all hoping this is not the case. Accidents however were common. I saw a rider hit a wood barrier on the fence of a tight corner. The noise was like a car crash. He bounced off and impressively got immediately back on before the rest of us piled up. Fortunately the organisers had covered the steel points on the fence so he didn’t skewer himself. I also saw chipped teeth, split lips and chins, a broken finger and other random scrapes and blood loss.