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Penny Farthing Uruguay 51” High Wheel Replica

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 steed, and I am proud to have a historical looking ride 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.

Bottom Line: I am satisfied with this bicycle after lots of hours of tinkering, fixing, and riding.  However, the quantification of time to fix issues and essential upgrade costs make spending that $3000+ on a more reputable replica worthwhile.  In many ways, you get what you pay for.  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!

My story: 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.  Many people encouraged me to wait for a good deal on an original, but I wanted something to enjoy putting some miles on sooner than later. 
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, a mistake made in the eBay listing.

*Customer service is 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.

*Weight is only 36 pounds!  Only after riding a RBR Boneshaker (nearly 45 pounds) did I realize the difference in weight.  Maybe the bike’s lighter weight assembly leads to the bike feeling less secure for putting on long miles, but it is definitely noticeable on a steep gradient. 

*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 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!

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Great write up Barak, I enjoyed your story and persistence to refine your machine.

Thank you for some affirmation!  I enjoy this group, and I look forward to meeting up in person again 🙂

BTW is everyone having trouble getting the images to load on this message board?  I shrunk these quite a bit but they take a while to display.

Thanks for the shout out and happy to help. Next time maybe we'll get you on one of mine or an original.



I see now how you adapted my parts to fit that bike. Here's another suggestion about the saddle to help drop the level some and help with the handlebar contact issue you have. You will need a piece of tubing or pipe a bit smaller than the inside diameter of the seat spring. Remove the spring and clamp it in a vise by the mount. Place the pipe in the spring and gently continue the roll of the spring. The idea being to get the eyes lower than the top of the spring so that you can lower your seating position some. Caveats to keep in mind when doing this. You don't want to roll the seat so low that you hit the frame tube below while riding. You don't want to bend the spring at the eye end of the coil so much as continue the arc at the coil end. Also, don't bend the wire radically or you will pop the plating which would be bad for the cosmetics. give me a call should you want and we can discuss it.



Thanks for the suggestion, Greg!  I’ll remove the seat after I find a good pipe candidate.  I would greatly appreciate some more room under the handlebars, and it looks like I have plenty of clearance from the riding picture.

You don’t know how many times I thought about your G&J replica once I started this process.  Hindsight, sir...