Penny-farthing bicycles

The first machines to be called bicycles.

Photograph of a Penny-Farthing

‘Penny-farthing’ bicycle. About 1870-1890. Used in Crediton, Devon

These became popular in the 1880s. The nickname comes from their rather comical appearance. The large front wheel was compared
to an old penny coin which is similar in size to a two-pound coin, and the rear wheel to a farthing coin, which was about the size of a five-pence piece. These machines were the first ones to be called bicycles.

You can find out more about Penny-farthing bicycles at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery in Exeter.