Last weekend was the Albany, California (near Berkeley) Criterium and since it was the city's centennial, the promoters decided to hold a special highwheel bicycle event as part of the festivities. I brought my 1886 Victor Light Roadster and had a blast getting schooled by the other riders in the skill events, the slalom, the slow race (the last to cross the finish line wins; "ready - set - slow!") and the straight-and-narrow, where you have to ride down a decreasing-width lane formed by tape on the road. The person who makes it the furthest without touching the tape with his tire wins.
Then came something I'm good at, the mile race. Fourteen riders participated and we started together. To mount one of these antique bicycles (sometimes called an Ordinary, because it was the ordinary bike of the 1880s - or a Penny Farthing, a British term based on 2 coins that, when placed side by side, resemble the bikes), you put your left foot on a little step on the backbone (the frame). You then push with your right foot to get the bike rolling. Once the bike's got just enough speed to balance it, you push off with your right foot, push up on the step with your left foot, boost yourself into the seat and find the pedals with your feet at the same time. Getting off is the reverse - or, if you're brave, you can jump off.
With everyone safely underway, we tore around the course, the guys on the smallest wheels (equal to smaller gears) getting an early lead and keeping it all the way to the slight climb on the backside of the course. But, with my 56-inch wheel, I was able to gradually overtake the leaders and pull away around the last corner for the win. The photos show a "brace," a common 1880s crowd-pleaser, where we line up on our bikes by holding each other's handlebars for support, and me finishing the mile. For more on highwheeling: