Paris To London On A Penny-Farthing

As published by Sun Media (Jun. 21, 2011).

Paris to London on a Penny-farthing

Credit: Glen Norcliffe (velocipedistes.com)
Credit: Glen Norcliffe (velocipedistes.com)
By Jennifer Schleich

After a 500km bicycle ride called the Trail of Two Cities, from Paris to London on a penny-farthing, local Kincardine resident Glen Norcliffe has returned home.

Norcliffe is the Secretary for the International Veteran Cycle Association (IVCA) and Canada’s representative. There are approximately 25 other Canadian riders of penny-farthings involved in the association and each year the members converge for an annual three day meeting.

“I go to a different place every year and ride about a 1000km as part of the association,” said Norcliffe.

This year the IVCA meeting was held near Blois, France in a village called La Ferte Imbault. Norcliffe joined three Canadians and one Irish biker on a ride to the meeting from a Bicycle History Conference in Paris. The first day of the meet saw the members travel 100 miles between sunrise and sunset before a race on day two.

“I was brilliant during the race, I came in last,” joked Norcliffe. “Last year I participated in the World Championships in Denmark where I placed 2nd so I must be slowing down a bit,” he said.

If he is slowing down a bit it certainly didn’t keep him from joining five or six other penny-farthing riders on a five day ride back to London in the Trail of Two Cities bicycle adventure after the meeting.

Taking off to Europe for a journey on his penny-farthing bicycle is an annual event for Norcliffe.

“Next year the IVCA meeting is in Belgium so I think my wife will be joining me, as she loves chocolate,” he said. Norcliffe’s wife, Mary, who owns an interesting bike of her own called a 1993 Crypto Bantam, also knows how to ride penny-farthings.

Norcliffe started riding the bicycles 20 years ago after he broke his leg during a skiing accident.

“My doctor said I could swim or ride my bike. I went for the penny-farthing because they are interesting,” he said, adding, “You can see for miles when you’re on one, you can see over all the hedges in Ireland.”

He wouldn’t say how many penny-farthings he owns, as he was worried his wife would find out. However, he bought one of them here in Kincardine from a man who was moving away.

As for learning to ride one of the antique bicycles, it’s not that hard according to Norcliffe.

“You can either do it or you fall off and break your ankle, ” he said. There is a little step by the back wheel which you use to boost yourself onto the bike.

“It’s all about balance,” Norcliffe added.

In the recent past he has biked from Northern England to Denmark, up the Rhine Valley to Switzerland and from Kincardine to Indiana.

He also meets up with his fellow Canadian riders annually in September for a shoreline ride. In the past few years he has hosted a ride from Kincardine to Point Clark or Kincardine to Inverhuron, however this year he will be heading off to Turkey Point for a ride along Lake Erie.

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