Annie Baxter cycles the whole trail on a Penny Farthing

  • Sunday Feb 25 2024

Recently, I had the pleasure of catching up with Annie Baxter of Oamaru to delve into her remarkable journey along the Otago Central Rail Trail, accompanied by a group of fellow enthusiasts with a shared passion for vintage bicycles. Annie's ride wasn't your typical cycling adventure—it was a nostalgic nod to the past atop a penny-farthing, echoing the historic essence of the trail.  However, beneath the surface, her ride carried deeper significance as she pedalled in honour of cherished friends who couldn't be there to share the experience. In our conversation, Annie shares insights into her motivations, preparations, favourite moments, and future cycling aspirations, offering a captivating glimpse into her unique journey along this iconic trail….

Annie Baxter with her penny-farthing. Image supplied.

Why did you cycle the Otago Central Rail Trail on a Penny-Farthing?

One of the groups vintage bikes near Manuherekia No 1 Bridge. Image supplied.

There were multiple reasons why Annie rode the trail on a penny-farthing which became clear during our chat.

Firstly, because of the challenge, she explains “It’s a challenge of what they use to do in the old days!”

Secondly, because it’s what the club she belongs too chose to do in Heritage week.  “I belong to a penny-farthing club in Oamaru, it’s called the Oamaru Ordinary Cycle Club (OOCC) and it’s been established since 1992.  It’s a club where people are into old bikes – the membership has fluctuated up to 30 people at one point, and currently there’s 15 people. Every year we have a heritage ride supporting heritage week which is the third week in November.  There’s always been a bicycle tour, it’s part of the OOCC.”

Thirdly, and probably the main reason was that it was a ride dedicated to friends.  “I rode for a friend who has terminal cancer, and her husband who is also sick.  They are part of the OOCC, and we also work together.  You just got to do things in life! Life is too short.  It (the ride) was in honour of them”.

How did you learn to ride it / prepare yourself for the ride?

Annie specifically started training in September three months before riding the Otago Central Rail Trail.  “I needed to work on my upper back, tummy, arms and joined Snap Fitness in Oamaru.  I had a program for my upper body and one for my lower body.  It included cycling in the gym and weights and although I was busy, I tried to attend 3 times a week.”

Outside the gym she also trained on a 1915 safety bike which had no gears and a back break.  She used that for practice.  Riding a Penny-farthing takes skill!  She explains. “You need to be agile to get up on that big wheel.  It’s not like getting on any bike - it’s a fixed wheel.  If you don’t keep moving, you’ll fall off.  The little wheel balances the big wheel, and you need to stand on the peg to keep yourself on the wheel.  So, it’s important to keep a straight back, your eyes on the ride.  There’s no gears or brakes so you need to cycle slowly and control the speed by the speed you are pedalling at.”

Annie cycles into Hayes Engineering & Homestead on her Penny Farthing

What was your itinerary?

Members of the Omarau Ordinary Cycle Club (OOCC) at Dunedin Train Station with their penny farthings before they cycled on the Otago Central Rail Trail last year.

“We had 17 on this tour, and we tend to do lots of fun things as a group, the club captain organises the ride.  We started riding in Dunedin cycled around the harbour, went to the gas museum, and cycled down the Peninsula.  We crossed on the ferry and cycled back into Dunedin.  We spent some time in the city and visited the Museum. 

We would have taken the Taieri Train to the trail (Pukerangi) if it was operating!  So instead, we got transport to Sutton and cycled to Middlemarch (approx 30km).  Then we stayed at the motor camp in Middlemarch and had a meal at the Strath Taieri Pub.  The next day we cycled from Middlemarch to Ranfurly and stayed at Ranfurly Hotel.  The following day we cycled from Ranfurly to Lauder and stopped at Hayes Engineering for coffee, then we were picked up by our support vehicles and were taken back to Ranfurly so we could stay there and go curling.” (The indoor curling rink is located at the Maniototo Adventure Park in Naseby, another small town located a 10 minute drive from the trail).

What were your favourite sections of the Otago Central Rail Trail?

“That’s difficult because I love all of Central! The amazing wide spaces - the section between Wedderburn - Omakau with the Tunnels, open spaces of the Maniototo which helps connect you with nature.”

 Would you cycle the Otago Central Rail Trail again?

“I’ve already done it twice - yes!”

What would you cycle the Otago Central Rail Trail on?

“Same if I can, I am fit enough…”

What would you recommend for anyone else thinking about cycling the Otago Central Rail Trail on a Penny Farthing?

“Be part of a group.  Join a group that does silly things and are like minded!  You need a backup team - and to be prepared for all weather!  The other people on the trail - they all thought we are nuts and they waved to us!”

Will you cycle other Great Rides on a Penny Farthing?

“Otago Central Rail Trail - is good one - apart from the gravel.  Later this year, we plan on doing Alps to Ocean but there are parts that I won’t be able to do (on a penny-farthing) it will depend on the back up team.”


  • Penny-farthings, Annie explains to me are called ordinary bikes when they were invented.  Today’s bikes were called “safety bikes” as they are “safer bikes”. 
  • Annie’s penny-farthing was made by a local Oamaru based engineer, Graham Simpson.

Annie’s itinerary along the trail with the km’s:

  • Day 1 Middlemarch to Ranfurly (60 km)
  • Day 2 Ranfurly to Lauder  (48 km)
  • Day 3 Lauder to Clyde (44km)

View or download a map of the Otago Central Rail Trail here: