It’s all about the enjoyment and the purity of the ride.
In a day and age where recreational cyclists are searching for the latest technology in performance, there’s something captivating about the simplicity of an almost long-lost piece of machinery.
Dan Bolwell has been manufacturing Penny Farthing bicycles out of his Maddingley workshop for over 30 years. The bespoke bicycles Dan is constructing are not for vintage fetes or for art displays, but functional bikes that capture the simplicity, comfort and purity of the ride.
“It’s a very pure form of cycling. It’s your body, the bicycle and the road,” Dan said.
“A good bicycle feels good, but a sensational bicycle disappears.”
According to Dan and like-minded Penny Farthing enthusiasts, sitting upright on the integrated handmade seat provides a very comfortable ride. So comfortable in fact, that Dan’s group commits to an annual tour, usually totalling around 1000km in distance.
There are no disk brakes, no electronic shifting and certainly no carbon fibre in Dan’s workshop. But what there is in the Penny Farthing bike, is an experience that strips back all the noise and offers nothing but a smooth, peaceful and authentic ride.
“People are drawn to the visual aspect first,” Dan continues.
“But they’re not shaped like that out of fashion or beauty, they’re shaped like that out of pure purpose.”
It’s that synergy between man and machine that is driving Dan’s passion for these extraordinary machines.
As the Penny Farthing has no gears, one pedal is one rotation of the entire wheel. Functionally, because of the front wheel’s size, riders can reach some pretty decent speeds with the large front wheel providing greater shock absorption over great distances. Furthermore, because there is no chain or levers involved, the bike glides silently through the landscape, an aspect that only adds to the enjoyment and the serenity of the ride.
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Despite being one of the very few specialised Penny Farthing manufacturers worldwide, Dan is far from alone in his humble workshop. Overlooking almost every one of Dan’s moves are his trusty companions, Taka the Sulphur-crested cockatoo, and Carl the galah.
Both rescue birds have amusingly agreed to be our official TAC People’s Ride Early ‘Bird’ Ambassadors ahead of the 2023 Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
Taka is a cheeky character, often jumping around and playing with the spokes on Dan’s wheels. Meanwhile, Carl perches atop his favourite stem, watching on as Dan plies his craft.
Carl is estimated to be about 60 years old, while Taka is a very spritely 40-year-old.
“Who knows what sort of life they had before coming here, but they’re great companions.”
“They laugh, they play. They’re such characters, they’re beautiful little souls.”
As for Dan, he’ll continue to toil away in his workshop until the next ride. With orders coming in from across the globe – 25 countries, from the US, Europe, Asia and as far flung as Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia and Nepal – there’s plenty of interest in Dan’s philosophy of the ride and craftmanship of his product.
Keep an eye out for Dan on the coastal roads of Geelong and the Surf Coast at the TAC People’s Ride next January. You’ll be sure not to miss him. Because just like all of us, Dan’s love of the ride, his passion for bicycles and his enjoyment of the great outdoors is what it’s all about.
Early Bird entries for the TAC People’s Ride close at midnight Wednesday 30 November.
The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race takes place in Geelong and throughout the Surf Coast from 27-29 January 2023, where a festival of cycling will welcome the world’s best elite cyclists, weekend warriors and Penny Farthing riders alike.
For more information on ‘Penny Farthing Dan’, visit his website here.
Written by Jake Stevens.