Hubless-wheel electric penny farthing is a unique fusion of past and future

Hubless E-bike Penny Farthing
Christopher Terpstra proudly stands beside his completed penn-E-farthing. Images courtesy Christopher Terpstra

In the world of electric bicycles, innovations often strive to blend functionality with futuristic design. However, one project stands apart in its audacious blend of past and future: the hubless-wheel electric penny farthing, a creation by YouTuber Christopher Terpstra. This one-of-a-kind masterpiece combines the antiquated charm of penny farthings with the cutting-edge allure of hubless-wheel e-bikes, creating a fusion that is as intriguing as it is unconventional.

Christopher Terpstra, hailing from just outside Chicago, is no stranger to inventive projects. With a degree in Industrial Design from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, Terpstra has a rich background in design engineering. His career spans 15 years in retail fixture design engineering, and he first captured public attention in 2015 with his invention of a four-wheel-steering electric off-road skateboard.

Terpstra’s YouTube channel, Chris Makes Stuff, showcases an array of his creations, including a six-wheeled garden tractor, a plastic-tube electric outboard motor, and a stretched chopper bike.

His latest creation, the penn-E-farthing, is a striking reimagining of the penny farthing bicycle. It features a hubless front wheel and a motorized rear wheel, melding historical design with modern technology. The bicycle boasts a custom tubular steel frame and an innovative front wheel made from laminated maple/oak plywood. This 52-inch wheel, remarkable in its design, is unpowered and is held in place by frame-mounted rubber rollers.

Hubless E-bike Penny Farthing Rubber Rollers
The front wheel, which doesn’t have power, is kept in position by three sets of rubber rollers attached to the frame that the rim rolls through.

A unique aspect of the front wheel is its solid rubber tire, ingeniously composed of V-belts — commonly used in mechanical systems — cut, glued, and nailed to the rim. Terpstra admits that while he was confident in the CAD design, the actual construction, especially as an amateur woodworker, was both challenging and time-consuming.

The rear wheel of the penn-E-farthing, sourced from a Razor MX350 Dirt Rocket children’s electric motorbike, includes a 350-watt motor and battery. This blend of custom craftsmanship and repurposed components highlights Terpstra’s ingenuity and resourcefulness in bringing his vision to life.

Hubless E-bike Penny Farthing Motor Battery Rear Wheel
The motor, battery, and rear wheel were taken from a Razor MX350 Dirt Rocket motorbike.

Terpstra’s motivation for creating the penn-E-farthing is as whimsical as the bike itself. He cites a blend of Dr. Seuss’s imaginative creations and the movie “Wild Wild West” as his inspirations. In particular, the steam-powered flying highwheel bike from the movie sparked his interest, leading him to conceptualize and build this unique bicycle.

Despite the successful creation and operation of the penn-E-farthing, Terpstra does not plan to produce more for commercial sale. This project was a personal challenge and a manifestation of his creative passion, rather than a venture into mass production.

Hubless E-bike Penny Farthing First Ride
A still from a video of Chris’ first ride on his penn-E-farthing.

As of now, there is no information on the potential pricing of a commercial version of the penn-E-farthing, given that it remains a unique, one-off project. Terpstra’s creation is a testament to the possibilities that emerge when historical design meets modern technology, embodied in a bicycle that captures both the whimsy of the past and the innovation of the future.

In the video below, viewers are taken on a journey through the construction process, culminating in the initial, somewhat unstable, test ride.