Penny-farthing club on extraordinary tour

When people see Graeme Simpson pedalling his penny-farthing towards them, the first thing they usually ask him is "why?"

"The main reason is because we can," he said yesterday.

"It is something a little different and interesting.

"It’s just the same as someone who wants to drive a real old car."

Joined by five other members of the Oamaru Ordinary Cycle Club, Mr Simpson will spend the rest of the week surveying the sights of the Otago Central Rail Trail from atop his unconventional choice of transport.

Club member Wendy Simpson said the annual cycle tour, which began in 1996, was a chance for the club to get together and showcase an old form of transportation to the public.

The club had ridden the rail trail once before, in 2006, and found it closely resembled a road akin to the 1800s.

Being perched up so high, riders main problem were headwinds.

A rider needed to have a good spring in their step to mount the vehicle, and needed to remain seated the whole time, she said.

Part of the fun of the tour was throwing its riders, while experienced, straight in the deep end.

"One of the rules of the penny-farthing tour is there is no training before the penny-farthing tour," she said.

Mr Simpson said the appeal of the penny-farthing was the camaraderie with other riders and positive reception from other road users.

Riding heritage cycles and wearing period clothing are members of the Oamaru Ordinary Cycle Club ...
Riding heritage cycles and wearing period clothing are members of the Oamaru Ordinary Cycle Club (from left) Wayne Humphries, Adrienne Carthew and Paula Hudson, all of Te Pahu, and Graeme Simpson, David Wilson and Conrad Dobrowolski, all of Oamaru, on the Otago Central Rail Trail shortly after leaving Middlemarch, bound for Ranfurly. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
It naturally caught people by surprise, especially when travelling in a group.

"Horses actually have an interesting reaction, too.

"They won’t bat an eyelid to a regular cycle going past but often they’ll freak out at penny-farthings.

"To them it must be quite unusual."