Oct. 30, 2010 — It has been nearly three years since I wrote about two recent reincarnations of Thomas Stevens, the first man to circle the globe on a bicycle (left). A lot has happened since then. Here's the original story with updates included.
Dec. 13, 2007 — While one penny farthing rider has a hard time riding around his hometown of Palo Alto without getting stopped by police, another was invited by friendly police in Tibet to be their guest at a police station.
Martin Krieg says police in Palo Alto keep pulling him over for questioning because he doesn't make a foot-down stop at intersections. It's happened three times in the past few months.
Meanwhile, Joff Sommerfield is pedaling through Southeast Asia on his around the world venture aboard his penny farthing. It's his third attempt.
Whenever he's pulled over, Krieg has argued successfully that his ride doesn't qualify as a bicycle under California code because it isn't chain-, gear- or belt-driven. Therefore, he doesn't have to follow the California vehicle code, which requires a stop. If Krieg can't lean again a pole, he'll ride around in circles or attempt a track stand.
The national director of the National Bicycle Greenway told Palo Alto Online that, so far, he hasn't received any tickets.
Krieg plans to ride a circa 1887 penny farthing across the US in 2009. That journey would be reminiscent of the first leg of Thomas Stevens' ride in 1884 (above). Leaving San Francisco in April, he arrived in Boston about 3 1/2 months later, rested up and embarked for Europe to continue around the world.
Update Oct. 30, 2010: Krieg's cross-country ride to support the National made it only from San Francisco to Salt Lake City in 2009 because of “horrific weather”. On a training ride in preparation for a 2010 cross-country ride, Krieg was struck by a motorist who made a left turn in front of him. He survived intact but the large wheel was completely tacoed, delaying the trip again.
Krieg is riding a Eagle-style high-wheel on the upcoming tour. Manufactured in the late 1890s, the innovation has the small wheel in front, which allows for more efficient pedaling and less of a chance for taking a header over handelbars. More information at Martin Krieg's homepage. Krieg is making the cross-country bike tour to raise awareness for the National Bicycle Greenway and gain support for the project from mayors along the route. More information about next year's ride can be found at his blog.
Around the world
An around-the-world penny farthing journey is what the UK's Sommerfield has his sights on. Sommerfield departed from England in March 2006 and so far has pedaled through Europe and the Middle East and is currently in Thailand in Southeast Asia (see update above).
You can view his many pictures and read his fascinating journal (“A Penny Farthing World Tour”) at Crazy Guy on a Bike. Sommerfield has ridden more than 12,000 miles so far.
This is his third attempt. The first time, in 1999, he realized his penny farthing is too heavy to make the trip. While he's considering what to do, his home is burglarized, money stolen, and he has to delay indefinitely.
Third time's a charm
The second time he set out, in 2003, his knees give out and he returns home. Three years later, after a knee operation and a couple of serious falls during training rides, he tries again.
Bicycling to the ruins and historic sites in Thailand, he tells how happy he is to be out of India. Although he is used to people staring at him as he pedals past, it hit a whole new level in India. He also complained that everyone he met was trying to rip him off. “I think they could take some lessons in civility from their northern neighbours in Nepal, Tibet and China,” he writes.
As for run-ins with police, he had a good experience in Tibet. When a policeman overheard Sommerfield and a bicycling companion asking around for a good place to sleep, he offered them an office in the police station.
Update: Oct. 30, 2010: Sommerfield completed his around-the-world bike travels in November 2008 after riding 22,000 miles. See Sommerfield's complete journal at Crazy Guy on a Bike. The photos definitely make the visit worthwhile.