The large wheel enabled greater speeds as one rotation of the pedals produced one rotation of the wheel.
Frederick David Frost, known as Dickie, was a Winchester watchmaker and silversmith, and amateur sportsman, who became one of the most successful cyclists of his time. This penny farthing or ordinary bike belonged to Frost and on it he won the 100 Miles Hants, Wilts, Dorset and Channel Islands Race in 1891.
Penny farthings were all the rage from the 1870 to the 1890s and were originally just known as bicycles. The nickname penny farthing came later from the resemblance of the side view of the large wheel and small wheel to a British penny coin leading a farthing coin. Penny farthings were also known as ordinary bicycles to distinguish them from the later safety bicycles, which were eventually to replace them in popularity.
As an observer would expect, mounting and dismounting a penny farthing required practice, but the bikes were actually quite comfortable on the rougher road surfaces of the late nineteenth century due to the large diameter front wheel. The ordinary was a direct drive bicycle, with the cranks and pedals fixed directly to the hub, and no gears. The large wheel enabled greater speeds as one rotation of the pedals produced one rotation of the wheel.
At the height of his racing career in 1898, Frost went on to win, within the space of a fortnight, the country's two leading cycle racing trophies and the National Championship. By the time of his retirement from cycling he had won every important amateur cycling trophy in Britain.
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