It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a … bike?
A few weeks ago I was driving down Park Street when I saw a couple of guys riding by on some of those old-timey bicycles with the giant front wheels. I figured it was just a fluke, or that in my sleep-deprived state I was just seeing things – until I saw them again, over the weekend and then a third time the other day.
By this point I was dying to know what was up, so I contacted fellowblogger and BikeAlameda co-founder Dan Wood. He told me they were almost certainly purchased from, or being ridden by, the folks at Rideable Bicycle Replicas, right here on the Island.
“Rideable Replicas is a true Alameda treasure!” he added.
The bicycles – which are called penny farthings, standards, ordinaries or high-wheels – were popular in the late 1800s. Rideable Replicas’ Greg Barron said they started as a gimmick for the family bike business. But before long they became the business, Barron said.
The bikes are purchased by both historical re-enactment types and “normal people who just think they’re cool,” and have been featured in museums, movies and television shows.
“Wicked’s coming back to San Francisco, and they’re using my bikes,” Barron said.
Barron, whose business came here in 1984, said he makes about 100 to 150 bikes a year, including other replicas. He said and that his is the only commercial manufacturer of high-wheels in the world.
Prices for the high-wheels start at $849, according to the company’s website, and they’ve got all kinds of other stuff for sale up there, including tandems, pedicabs and trikes (which are probably a lot easier to ride here on flat Alameda than up and down the hills of San Francisco).