Waltworks Softail Penny Farthing- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Waltworks Softail Penny Farthing

    I've always been fascinated by penny farthings. A few years ago I talked to Walt about this project. We kicked around some ideas, he bent some tubes and eventually this is what we ended up with. I was hoping for an attention-getter for our "Bike to Work" events, as well as something I could take on manicured trails.

    Walt purposely left it unfinished as we have no idea what, if any, mods will need to be made. I have to say that the "living finish" is growing on me.

    Some things of note:

    It took three tries to bend that downtube "Spine." I believe it's Walt's "Super Therm" tubing and it's stout. The first bend broker his bender. He then sent it out to a commercial bendery that lost the tube. The third try ended up with the tube you see here.

    The first wheel I had built was built with the wrong hub. Since the parts were sent directly from unicycle.com to the builder, I never saw them. He had no idea it was wrong and neither did I until Walt asked me to send it to him for fitting. I had to have another wheel built and sent to Walt with the quickness.

    There is a Surly rack that attaches to the back end for Ortlieb panniers.

    I'm still experimenting with bars and stem. I thought a shorter stem (100) would be needed, but I ended up using a 110 (pictured.) I may end up going to 115 or 120. If I can find higher-rise bars that aren;t goofy looking, I may try those instead of the heinous amount of spacers in there now.

    Well, here is the first pic of it built up:



    I immediately swapped the cranks. Those were so long that by the time I fumbled getting on and getting my feet planted I had already crashed. I had ordered some 125's from unicycle.com when I bought a spare hub, for well, just in case. But they are too narrow and kept hitting that knob on the outboard side of the BB7 every revolution. So I Dremeled/sanded a smooth groove track on the backside of the crank arm. I did it shallow and wide so less chance of a stress riser. I doubt I will ever be able to hammer this anyway, so I'm probably safe from breaking them. I don't know of any wider, square taper 125 or 130 cranks.

    After some changes, so here's where I am now:









    Some observations:

    I am weighted too far over the front wheel to be able to turn the wheel easily. I'm not sure what, if anything, can be done about this. Apparently, this is common with unicycles (had one - couldn't figure it out), so maybe it's a time-in-the-saddle thing? I have found that the more adjustments I make to the saddle/seatpost/stem, the easier it's getting - but it's still got a steep learning curve!

    I had to swap around saddles until I came up with this one that had more rail adjustment than anything else I have. It's ok, but not ideal, but it seems to work as I got my longest "ride" in after installing it and trimming a little more off the bottom of the seatpost. I ordered a Gran Cru seatpost with 30mm of setback, but haven't gotten a chance to ride it yet, so I'll see if that helps. Walt has offered to weld another seat tube on if I have to send it back for tweaks.

    The toe overlap is insane With my clodhoppers, as I am mounting the bike, one or both, manage to always get caught up in the front wheel. I am sure that is a technique issue, but until I get the hang of getting on and off I'm not even messing with the rear rack.

    There aren't really any pegs (or a step) to aid in mounting, so I was stepping on the BB that acts as the pivot. I've got some crank bolts screwed in to the axle, but it's not enough purchase for my foot. I picked up a long thread bolt, but it's kind of odd looking, so I will try and find a knurled "peg" that will slip over it and look cool and help with mounts.

    As I said, the learning curve has been steep. But it's fun and that's what this one is all about.

    So far the building and my attempts to ride it have been a blast - mission accomplished!

    One thing that I forgot to mention is that this is not a fixed gear, as all pennys tend to be. It's got a freewheeling hub on the front. This one:

  2. #2
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    Photos only? I want to see some trail videos!
    Formerly Travis Bickle

    Team Robot. "modulation is code for “I suck at brake control.” Here’s a free tip: get better."

  3. #3
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    insane (in the best possible way!)

    knowing NOTHING about penny farthings i wonder why the seat wouldn't be further back making you less likely to endo?

    in my park i see a mountain unicyclist or crew sometimes and it is absolutely mind blowing to me. if they can ride those trails so can you!

  4. #4
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    The seat tube *could* be back more, but I was shooting for a more traditional looking penny (if that's possible) where the seat is almost over the front wheel.

    Walt used my my measurements and touch points to come up with this.

    I agree: if a unicyclist can do it, I should be able to!

  5. #5
    western NC
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    That's one of the weirdest things I've ever seen. And I have an overwhelming urge to ride it, since I tend to like weirdo bike setups.

  6. #6
    WillWorkForTrail
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    I'm pretty sure penny farthings used to not actually have a steerable front wheel, so location/weight balance with consideration to turning the wheel wasn't a thing. All steering was done by leaning. But that certainly is an eye catching rig. I'd love to give it a spin if we ever end up in the same place at the same time.

  7. #7
    Light freak
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    What a cool project! Looks like Walt crushed it!!!

    ****

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cotharyus View Post
    I'm pretty sure penny farthings used to not actually have a steerable front wheel, so location/weight balance with consideration to turning the wheel wasn't a thing. All steering was done by leaning.
    They did have steerable front wheels, I used to have a 54" that was terrifying to ride.
    I brake for stinkbugs

  9. #9
    Life's a Garden, dig it!
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    Going up hill will be hard enough, but realitively safe. Downhill is another story. Oy! OTB will become OTW (over the wheel).

    There's a reason the "safety bike" was invented.
    "And crawling on the planet's face, some insects called, The Human Race..."

  10. #10
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    I want to tide that. Badly.

  11. #11
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    I love oddball bikes, can't wait to see your pics on the road.

    While I can't claim the skills of Walt, here's one I built, or rather frankensteined.

    Like most daft ideas, it came to me when I had something more urgent to do but which immediately got reprioritised.






    I started off with the front wheel and fork from one of those el cheapo Chinese 36" penny farthings, a Dahon folding bike frame and back wheel, plus sundry other parts. The build is pretty obvious if you look at it, no serious skills were necessary. The recumbent seat is actually 2 saddles, and the only fabrication need was the support for the lower saddle, and that was simple hand tools.

    It came about because of a UK bike forum where scorn was being poured on some poor chap because they felt he was seeking to be 'niche'.

    I thought "I can be more niche than that", so here's the niches filled.

    Fixed wheel
    Recumbent (well semi)
    Folding
    Penny Farthing

    I might add it's a horrible thing to ride* mainly because the power thrusts tend to steer the bike, so you need a really firm grip on the bars. If the head angle was more aligned with a line to the riders hips it may be better, but that would introduce other factors. However the low riding position means it's pretty safe.

    It probably needs modern trail geometry.

    * but everyone loves it.

    PS I have a freewheel hub for it. So far it's taken 6 years for me to get round to rebuilding the wheel with it. Your bike might just be the inspiration I need.
    As little bike as possible, as silent as possible.
    Latitude: 57º36' Highlands, Scotland

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velobike View Post
    I love oddball bikes, can't wait to see your pics on the road.

    While I can't claim the skills of Walt, here's one I built, or rather frankensteined.

    Like most daft ideas, it came to me when I had something more urgent to do but which immediately got reprioritised.

    I started off with the front wheel and fork from one of those el cheapo Chinese 36" penny farthings, a Dahon folding bike frame and back wheel, plus sundry other parts. The build is pretty obvious if you look at it, no serious skills were necessary. The recumbent seat is actually 2 saddles, and the only fabrication need was the support for the lower saddle, and that was simple hand tools.

    It came about because of a UK bike forum where scorn was being poured on some poor chap because they felt he was seeking to be 'niche'.

    I thought "I can be more niche than that", so here's the niches filled.

    Fixed wheel
    Recumbent (well semi)
    Folding
    Penny Farthing

    I might add it's a horrible thing to ride* mainly because the power thrusts tend to steer the bike, so you need a really firm grip on the bars. If the head angle was more aligned with a line to the riders hips it may be better, but that would introduce other factors. However the low riding position means it's pretty safe.

    It probably needs modern trail geometry.

    * but everyone loves it.

    PS I have a freewheel hub for it. So far it's taken 6 years for me to get round to rebuilding the wheel with it. Your bike might just be the inspiration I need.
    That's awesome!

  13. #13
    Obi
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigflax925 View Post
    The seat tube *could* be back more, but I was shooting for a more traditional looking penny (if that's possible) where the seat is almost over the front wheel.

    Walt used my my measurements and touch points to come up with this.

    I agree: if a unicyclist can do it, I should be able to!
    *A unicyclist is essentially directly OVER the turning point (contact patch) and uses body english to turn. With your setup you simply cannot do that.

    **Suggestion, temporarily mount the seatpost so the center of the seatpost mast is just forward of the inside edge of the rear portion of the rim. This will help with turning it as well as solve your too-tall headset spacer stack. Again, temporary mount it there, give it a try, should feel tons better. If I'm right, go with it and weld it in.

    I'm gonna edit your image and insert it in a second to explain better.

    /EndFabricatorBackgroundNobodyKnowsIHave

    edit: Ok, green line is the correction. It's a steering caster thing, Walt should understand what I mean when he looks at the imaginary other lines and angles.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Waltworks Softail Penny Farthing-correctedweightbiaspoint.jpg  


  14. #14
    Obi
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    ***Another option is use the existing seatpost but mount up a Cruiser Bike Banana Seat thus putting your COG a little further back and you have the bonus of being able to sit in different spots on a banana seat to fine-tune your COG and steering angles. With enough thought put into your hardware you can bolt the rear banana seat legs to the outside of the upper shock mount. Issue there is you need to bend custom thickness/strength tube-stock since traditional banana seat legs shouldn't be bent inwards as it ruins their strength.

  15. #15
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    what's the HTA on that thing? if it's not at least 66 degrees, it's dangerous.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
    what's the HTA on that thing? if it's not at least 66 degrees, it's dangerous.
    Seriously, and looking at that linkage, serious brake jack and poor anti-squat. How the heck are you going to crush those trails?

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Klainmeister View Post
    ...How the heck are you going to crush those trails?
    With his balls of steel. You need them to ride those things...
    As little bike as possible, as silent as possible.
    Latitude: 57º36' Highlands, Scotland

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