Author Topic: Penny Farthing Uruguay high wheel replica  (Read 4167 times)


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Penny Farthing Uruguay high wheel replica
« on: April 20, 2020, 10:02:13 AM »
Fellow Wheelmen,
I hope that my joys and frustrations with the Penny Farthing Uruguay 51” high wheel ordinary replica can be of use to anyone considering purchasing one from abroad!  Here is my gallant steed, and I am proud to ride it to represent the Kentucky Wheelmen at events, parades, and pleasant rides about town.  First image is as built before shipping, the rest are my machine.
As an eager new Wheelmen in 2018, I scoured the Wheelmen message boards, auction pages, popular replica makers (RBR, Standard HW, Trott Ordinary, etc) and online classifieds for a used original or replica high wheel in the 50-52” wheel size.  My faithful Wheelmen friends visiting the Danville, KY Great American Brass Band Festival in 2018 had allowed me to hop onto their original high wheels to gauge my size, so I knew what should work depending on seat height and frame dimension.
Looking at the eBay ads for this replica, I was intrigued by its close-to-original appearance at a low enough price to meet my $2k budget.  It was described as a steel replica of a 1886 James Starley design.  Also attractive was that the seller was located in Florida claiming 7d shipping!  I decided to place the order after conversing with the seller, and the rest is history.  Turns out the actual bike was in Uruguay awaiting a purchaser, an unintentional mistake in the eBay listing.

All in all, I’m in it for the long haul with this bicycle after lots of hours of tinkering, fixing, and riding.  I hope to draw more and more people into wheeling while displaying this replica.  Alejandro, the builder, is improving his designs and is very accessible.  Purchasing another replica would have been less stressful, but I am glad to be riding high!  Also, huge thanks to Greg Barron of Rideable Bicycle Replicas and several Wheelmen for guiding me down the right path with tweaks and modifications!

*Customer service is personal and responsive.  I learned quickly that Alejandro was the builder, and I was encouraged to work directly with him through the Penny Farthing Uruguay Facebook page.  He was always very prompt to answer any question I have had, and he has offered to send replacement parts free of charge to get me riding again.  These have included a replacement rim, spokes and replacement fork + handlebar assembly.  He occasionally checks on me and my satisfaction with the bicycle.

*Bicycle appearance is similar to original 1880s ordinaries.  I am impressed that this replica has a timeless look that appears to resemble the mid-1880s British design it was modeled after.  While not perfect, I regularly get asked how old it is.  2018!  This is part of what I was after when buying a replica, that and the dependability to ride lots of miles with less worries about maintenance.  Hoping for the best there.

*Hand-turned and carved wooden handlebar grips and pedals.  These are an excellent addition to the bike, completing an antique feel.  The pear shaped grips offer a good gripping surface while riding.  One day I may want to change to another style, but these look nice!  The pedals offer a solid surface to step on and give a one-of-kind appearance.

*Price is less than similar “historical” replicas. One reason I purchased this replica over a new historically-accurate replica from another replica maker was due to the price being $2000 (current eBay listings are <$2000).  This was easily $1000 less than the cheapest alternative with antique styling.  This is true, but I have found that the quantification of time to fix issues and necessary upgrade costs make spending that $3000+ on a more well-known replica worthwhile.  In many ways, you get what you pay for.

*Steering head lifetime uncertain.  I have cracked the steering head at the fork after less than 40 total miles of riding.  A friend advised me that I may have not allowed enough play in the steering head keeping the top bolt too tight, and I did change the seat position with the RBR upgrade.  The original seat is on a leaf spring several inches further back.  I had a friend weld the steering head back together, but it failed again after 20 miles more riding.  Alejandro’s customer service was excellent though, sending me a new fork and handlebar assembly within a couple weeks.  Since I have rebuilt it with the new fork, it seems to be going well after 20+ miles of riding.

*Shipping packaging is not very secure. Everything was wrapped together in plastic with a cardboard shell.  It may work well for short distances, but it definitely shows the miles once delivered to Kentucky 5200 miles later.  In the original shipment,  I had several spokes bent, the large rim dented in multiple places, and the tire rubber coming unglued.  The mailman who dropped the original package off said that they had to rewrap the box in plastic wrap to keep it all together before delivery.  The replacement rim and fork had similar shipping concerns.

*Wheel truing is a challenge. I’m pretty sure when the 51” wheel is packaged, the wheel is round and true.  However, by the time the wheel arrived with some bent spokes and bumps in the rim, I had to spend considerable time correcting the roundness and spokes.  When I couldn’t eliminate the bumps and wiggles from the wheel after partial spoke removal and manipulation, I contacted Alejandro the builder.  He offered to send me a new rim and some spare spokes with me only paying the shipping cost.  I respoked the entire wheel with the new rim and settled with a couple bumps in the turn.  Because the new rim wasn’t painted and most of the spoke paint had been chipped away, I repainted the wheel, adding some copper color to the hub!  BTW I talked with another US buyer who had minimal trouble with his wheel.

*Fit and finish: Upon unwrapping, I spent about 30 minutes shaking out weld slag pieces from inside the fork and frame through open holes at connection points.  It seriously sounded like a rain stick until I emptied all that out.  The “Penny Farthing Uruguay” and SN stamp on the top of the seat leaf spring looked very handmade with numbers overlapping. Instead, I ordered metallic stickers for the head tube with my own “Monociclos Uruguay - Penny Farthing” logo I replicated from some of the Facebook photos.  I am proud of how far this replica has traveled, and I wanted to give kudos to the builder.  Otherwise, the flat black paint easily chips, so I bought some touch-up paint for this frequent need. 

*Handlebar and fork assembly is all welded together. This makes any future handlebar replacement or modifications impossible.  Since the handlebar contacts my legs on each pedal stroke with the Rideable Bicycle Replicas leather saddle, I could benefit from some higher “mustache” bars.

*Cranks are on the short side.  My second upgrade would be Rideable Bicycle Replicas adjustable three position cranks.  These provide more power and make riding on hilly terrain easier.  These RBR cranks are slightly wider though that required some machining to fit well with the cotter pin.

Thanks for reading, please let me know your thoughts!
« Last Edit: April 23, 2020, 11:16:20 PM by griff831 »