Has someone built a penny-farthing (high-wheel/ordinal) with a gearbox in the hub? If not, are there obvious reasons one cannot do such a thing?

(I recognize this is silly, but that never stopped people from doing all sorts of other things.)

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    I searched penny farthing internal geared hub and there are plenty of relevant links. Example bikerumor.com/2013/10/30/… from 2013
    – Criggie
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 4:06
  • 3
    @Carel Saying such things, You Sir, clearly have no handlebar mustache!
    – gschenk
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 9:46
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    One downside is that using the pedals for braking wouldn't be possible unless you can get one of the very rare non-freewheeling geared hubs. Pedal-braking would seem like a good idea compared to rim brakes given the location of the rider (traditional brakes were very weak)
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 10:31
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    @gschenk But I have a moustache handlebar on a 1937 vintage bike! ;-)
    – Carel
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 11:33
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    There is a unicycle hub with a 2-speed planetary gear; in theory that could be built up into a pennyfarthing wheel.
    – Adam Rice
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 13:47

2 Answers 2


Yes, there exists at least one which was made/improvised with a Schlumpf Innovations bidirectionally-fixed internal-gear unicycle hub. If I recall correctly, it had a 36 inch unicycle wheel, giving an effective diameter in high gear of around 54 gear inches, fairly typical for larger penny.

The structure and silhoutte of course were odd, with the relatively small physical wheel it might be termed a "mini-penny", the actual fork was an old Nimbus Nightfox unicycle frame squeezed to fit the 100mm bearing spacing of the Schlumpf hub vs the 125mm spacing of the Nimbus Unicycle hub it was designed to hold.

Edit: build description from the creators, alas, no pictures.

There also is/was the "bicymple" which has a fairly small difference in wheel size for a "penny" but does have the bigger wheel up front. It freewheels, but one of the models incorporates a freewheeling version of the Schlumpf hub.

  • 3
    We want pictures.
    – rclocher3
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 17:22
  • We still want pictures, btw.
    – Criggie
    Commented Apr 22 at 21:22

The raison d'etre of the Penny-Farthing was to go faster by using a larger circumference direct-drive front wheel in absence of geared bicycles. Once geared "safety" bicycles came onto the scene and solved the problem of going faster more elegantly- and safely- through the use of gearing in lieu using a huge front wheel it all but killed-off the much beloved PF.

Peddling pretty briskly on my 50" Penny-Farthing, I can maintain a nippy 15.5 MPH for 30 miles; just under 2 hours riding. Even if I could double the speed of my PF through gearing, I'd be disinclined from doing so as I'm sat with my weight over a direct-drive wheel. Firstly, there's the risk of doing a "header"- it was the Penny-Farthing where the term was coined- and secondly, stopping! Imagine being presented with a hazard on a PF at 25-30 MPH on a PF. Ohhh, doesn't bear thinking about ;-)

Given the problem "safety" bicycles solved- going faster more safely- it was counter-intuitive gearing a Penny-Farthing considering the dangers of riding them even at slower speeds. I wouldn't be interested in buying a geared PF even if they sold them. This is why you're probably struggling to find PF's with gearing I'd imagine.

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    Thanks for your input! Might one want to gear down rather then up? Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 20:44
  • @Michael I ride my PF on roads and even riding at 15 MPH dealing with bad motorists is a nightmare. Although all riders should cycle defensively, on a PF riding on roads it's crucial to keeping a pulse. Can't stop on a dime, nor can you rest your feet on the ground on a 50" PF when halting- you must dismount. Cycling on roads in England is dangerous enough, but cycling on a PF adds an additional layer of risk.The faster you go, proportionately your reaction time drops. And when you hit the tarmac it's from 4 ft high. And if a car/debris appears. Seriously, even riding at 15 MPH is challenging
    – F1Linux
    Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 21:08
  • If you'd like to ride without those pesky motorists, and perhaps with a few of your fellow enthusiasts instead, you can keep Clustered Spires in mind if you cross back over the pond from time to time. Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 21:56
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    I'm actually American- I used to be a NY City Police Officer before moving to England. When I get a chance to get back home to Gotham after all this coronavirus wildness, I plan on bringing my 50" PF and doing the big loop in Central Park ;-)
    – F1Linux
    Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 22:17

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