Nick Ackerman and High-Wheel Bikes
Growing up in England, EDCO technical department team member Nick Ackerman was familiar with high-wheel bikes and their large front wheel paired with a significantly smaller back wheel, but he never thought he would own one.
That changed in 2005 (well after his family moved to the United States) when he walked by a bike shop’s front window and saw a high-wheel bike — which is technically called a “penny-farthing,” named after old British coins (the larger penny and smaller farthing). Ackerman asked the store owner if he could test drive the bike, and took to the bike almost naturally because of prior experience riding a unicycle when he was young.
But at that time, the store didn’t want to sell that high-wheel bike. In 2010, as he longed for a penny-farthing, Ackerman sold his motorcycle and made the purchase, which comes with a much-larger pricetag than a standard bike. Since then, he’s been positioned atop his approximately four-foot front wheel for competitions and leisure rides. His only regret is that he didn’t start earlier.
“I took to it like a fish to water. I enjoyed it a lot because you’re way high up and everybody wants to see you.” Ackerman said. “It’s like being a rock star. You get more pictures taken of you in one hour than you did the whole rest of your life.”
Two years after buying his bike, a penny-farthing race began in nearby downtown Frederick. The race is one of only a handful in the whole world, and has taken place each year since 2012 aside from a one-year hiatus in 2019 before it is set to return in 2020.
The event consists of a 0.4-mile loop that participants ride for a set amount of time while their number of laps are tracked to determine a winner. As the number of participants has grown over the years, qualifying races have been added to compile the field for the finals later in the day.
Even among the dozens of riders, Ackerman sticks out. He equipped his bike with custom wooden handlebars he made, and wears an old-time outfit complete with plus-four pants (which extend just past the knee), a long-sleeve shirt with an old-style collar and vest, and an old helmet.