Penny farthing enthusiast realises "lifelong dream"

Tim Powell and his mate Mick Parker draw a lot of attention riding custom-built penny farthing bicycles around Devonport.

"They're a real conversation starter," Mr Powell said.

The colourful duo is in training to compete for the first time at the Penny Farthing National Titles at Evandale on Saturday.

Big Wheels: Devonport's Mick Parker and Tim Powell get some miles in before for the Penny Farthing Festival at Evandale. Picture: Simon Sturzaker.

Big Wheels: Devonport's Mick Parker and Tim Powell get some miles in before for the Penny Farthing Festival at Evandale. Picture: Simon Sturzaker.

The bike enthusiasts met at work on the Spirit of Tasmania.

Last year Mr Powell was at Evandale as a spectator where he discovered a man who builds the penny farthing bikes in Melbourne.

"I've been after one of these bikes since I was 12 - it's been a good twenty years and more that I've been looking for one," he said.

"Owning one has fulfilled a lifelong dream.

"The antique penny farthings look good but are no good to ride. The man who built these sends them around the world. A retired farmer, he does this for the love of it. His bikes are like a piece of art."

The men also ride unicycles, but penny farthings were much harder to master.

"We ride anything with a wheel and pedals," Mr Powell said

"The penny farthing is the hardest bike I've had to learn to ride.

"You can't fall off a unicycle, but with your legs under the handlebars, it's so high, and there's no good way to fall.

"I have already had a bad crash where I went over the handlebars and broke three ribs through lack of experience, and I don't want another one.

"With no brakes and a fixed wheel, you learn how to read people and what they're going to do."

Mr Powell said it took two months of riding his high wheeler every day before he felt confident.

He used to ride downhill bikes and still rides mountain bikes.

Mr Powell said his penny farthing cost over $6000, but a base model is about $4000.

His bike has 24-carat gold-plated hubs and handlebars.