High-wheel Bike Race

July 19, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

High-heeled Racer

words and images by Warren Wilson

Each August the city of Frederick, Maryland hosts The National Clusters Spires High Wheel race, the only one of its kind in the U.S.A. If you have a difficulty understanding that that might be, I'll simplify--it's a bicycle race where the cycle dates back to the 1880's. The front wheel is about five feet high, while a much smaller wheel brings up the rear of this two-wheeler.

The cycle was first invented in 1871 by James Stanley. His was an improvement over the attempts made by his predecessors. Initially canned the Penny Farthing, Stanley's high-wheel bicycle became very popular.

The racers in the Frederick race cycle around a perimeter of city streets for an hour. As they pedal, volunteers throw water up to them. And, at the end of the hour, the rider who has clocked the most rotations wins.

OpponentsTwo racers vie for position.

I still marvel at how anyone can get up so high to ride a bicycle. But, I'm guessing, that's why we have the more-down-to-earth bicycles of today. There's even a place for the kids!


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