I'm not sure why, but the meeting of the Wheelmen and the International Veteran Cycle Association in Waterloo, Ontario, was not very widely publicized. Maybe these people just don't care about being in the spotlight. Maybe they are more interested in simply meeting among themselves to share their love of vintage bicycles. Maybe it is just a game that they play with each other — slip into a new town unannounced, break out a fleet of six foot tall high-wheelers and see how long you can ride without being noticed.

I only found out about the event a few days before, but I was there for their first informational meeting. Besides laying out the itinerary for the week, they also discussed the details of the first event — a century ride on antique bikes of various designs. I was intrigued. I've done plenty of century rides, but I couldn't imagine riding such a distance on an old penny farthing (or high-wheeler or ordinary as they are more properly known). The idea seemed ridiculous, which is why I fell in love with these people immediately.

Any thoughts that I had of doing the ride on my own modern penny farthing were quashed the next morning when I woke to pouring rain. In the end, because of the weather, fewer people undertook the 100 mile ride than initially expected. However, I was still impressed that 18 people actually took to their high-wheelers and other assorted antique bikes for the grueling ride in the rain.

People came from all over the world for this event, I met people from the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, New Zealand, Scotland, Slovakia, Switzerland, and from all across the United States. Diane Blake from Florida offered me a chance to ride her own hand-crafted high-wheeler reproduction. Diane builds these bikes under the Victory Bicycles brand name. I was totally impressed with Diane's work.

Wesley Golledge from New Zealand
Photo by Michael Grützner
Mounting a high-wheeler   Riding a high-wheeler