Enigma 1714: Penny-farthing
5 September 2012
Posted by on
From New Scientist #2881, 8th September 2012 [link]
The penny-farthing was a precursor to the modern bicycle. It had one very large wheel with pedals, over which was the saddle, and one much smaller trailing wheel to enable steering. We have some very early film of my great-grandfather riding one he had built. It had a large wheel 6 metres in circumference with 48 spokes, and a small one of one-third that diameter having 20 spokes. It had no brakes. He was hurtling downhill – luckily at less than 50 km/h – and just before he fell off, the film appears to show both wheels not rotating. If the film is showing 16 frames per second how fast, in kilometres per hour, was he then travelling?