Skip to main content
Add Me To Your Mailing List
Welcome Members
New Members
Welcome Members
Renewing Members

News / Articles

Pedals UP with High Wheeler Paul Norris

Dave Zornow | Published on 6/26/2024

Pedals Up. Waaaay UP…and Away!

by Jacqueline Middleton & Dave Zornow

His usual route is along the beaches and throughout Pinellas County, but he’s also taken his high wheel across the state and out to the races. “There's one annual race in Frederick, Maryland,and so I've been there a couple of times. Around 50 of us show up from Sweden, England, and all over the United States.“ Norris has also cycled across Florida, inspired by the exploits ofThomas Stevens, who cycled his Penny Farthing from Boston to San Francisco and then across Europe and Asia in the late 1800’s. “I thought how cool it would be to cross Florida on a Penny Farthing.So I rode from St. Petersburg to St. Augustine.”

Five Things To Know About the Penny Farthing

  • The name: “Penny is a big British coin and the farthing is a small coin,” says Paul. “But most people know this bicycle as the High Wheel.”

  • How big are the wheels? Norris’ Australian hand crafted bike has a 54 inch front wheel and a 17 inch wheel in the back.

  • History: In the 1880s, these bicycles first appeared on the roads in England as an evolutionary successor to the Velocipede. “People figured, let's put a big wheel on the front and we can go faster and further. However, there were very few paved roads at the time, and it was very common to have beer for breakfast.” Paul says that’s probably the reason the heyday of the High Wheel didn’t last very long.

  • How fast and how far? “I average around 12 miles an hour. If there is a head wind, it’s closer to a whopping 6 miles an hour. At that rate sometimes I feel like getting off and pushing the bicycle because you're not really going anywhere.” Since the Penny Farthing is a Fixie, there’s a limit to how fast you can go before you start losing control. “You can go as fast as 14-16 mph, but you need to be careful as the speed picks up and your foot starts floating off the pedals.” His typical Saturday ride from Reddington Beach to downtown St Pete is 42 miles, which he can cover in about four hours – with lots of stops for coffee, chit chat and photo ops.

  • Where can you see Paul and his Penny Farthing? Norris posts pictures from his travels on hisHighwheel Adventures page on Facebook. ( He also rides in the annual St. Pete Shuffleboard Club Tweed Ride and the St. Petersburg Christmas Parade.


What’s it like to be a High Roller?

Paul is modest about the attention he gets when he’s high wheeling it around town. “The bicycle is the main attraction. It’s not me.” Regardless of whether it’s the man or the machine that gets the most attention, riding a Penny Farthing around St Pete is sure to turn heads. “I've been to a couple of schools. The kids love this bike. They absolutely go berserk. They don't really know what they're looking at…they know it's a bike, but not quite sure what it is!”

It’s not all about high-as-an-elephant’s eye two wheeler for Paul Norris – there’s also coffee. “I'll stop at coffee shops and, and I'll pull up and I'll grab a cup. When I come out and get ready to ride, all the customers will come out with cameras. So many times I want to turn around and take a picture of them, taking a picture of me.”


“Even the police know me in the neighborhoods where I ride,” he says. “I wave to the police, to the ambulances, to the buses, because if they find me, you know, on the ground, I feel like I've got friends!”

What’s Next?

Norris plans to ride across Florida again and hopes someday to cross the country. “A lot of people will ride San Francisco to Boston. That is a very popular ride. I want to ride from Florida to Maine.”


But why stop there? “There are several Penny Farthing races in Australia. That's on my bucket list, to go down there and and race.” And of course, visit the continent which birthed this bicycle almost 150 years ago. “The bike is really big in Belgium. And Sweden has a three day Penny Farthing race. They are all over Europe,” he says. What’s old might be new…again?

St. Petersburg Bicycle Club, Inc.

PO Box 76023

St. Petersburg, FL 33734


The St. Petersburg Bicycle Club, Inc. (SPBC) is a non-profit, social and recreational club that exists to promote safe, satisfying bicycling opportunities to both club members and the general public of all ages and skill levels, through planned activities and events.

© Copyright 2023 St. Petersburg Bicycle Club