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.
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.
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.
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.