Dr. Wilbert Willoughby Belch’s high wheel ordinary bicycle

The Bicycle: The High Wheel Bicycle defined the bicycle craze that swept the world at the turn of the century. This Penny Farthing is a replica from 1967 owned and previously ridden by retired Peterborough area surgeon Dr. Wilbert Willoughby Belch (aka Buffalo Bill), who purchased the delightful bike in time for Canada’s Centennial Celebration in Jackson Park in Peterborough.

This high wheel bicycle seen here and in the pop-up exhibit was ordered via Banks bicycles has seen many riders tumble asunder. Dr. Belch’s son, Tim Belch is a councillor for Cavan-Monaghan Township and has made this bicycle available for our pop-up exhibits.

Here’s what Tim had to say about his father, who was a surgeon in Peterborough for 50 years, and his relationship with the high wheel bicycle:

“He would ride the Penny Farthing anytime there were visitors to the farm; especially if it was organized tours to see the bison. as an average probably 3 times per week during the summers.

He owned and rode the Penny Farthing from 1967 until 2015, until the age of 88. He may have fallen off the bike in the early days but I am not aware of any serious injuries. He became very proficient at being able to get off the back of the bike.

On this particular bike, my Uncle Tom tried riding the bike at the parking lot at Brookdale plaza, in the late 60’s! He put his leg out when the bike was falling over. He broke his hip! Back in the early 2000’s I entered to ride in the Canada Day parade in Peterborough. I was practising at the farm and it had rained the night before.I was riding on a slight incline and the thin tire got caught in a rut and I couldn’t power the wheel through the rut. The bike began to fall over and instinct was to just put my leg out. I weighed 200 lbs and the angle and force when my foot hit the ground snapped my patella tendon from my knee cap. It was excruciating pain. I had surgery to reattach the tendon. I was off my right leg for 5 weeks! Needless to say I have not been on the Penny Farthing since. Its a wonderful museum piece. There’s a good reason the bike created after the Penny Farthing was called the “safety bicycle”.”

Below, some riders in the early 1900s enjoying their new “safety” bicycles in Jackson Park.

1990-003 - Jackson Park Bicycles (1) copy

The “safety” bicycle followed the high wheel or “ordinary” bicycle and suddenly, the bicycles was something everyone could enjoy. Just like these folks out for a Sunday roll in Jackson Park circa 1906.

Do you know more about these images or the event in Jackson Park? Email thebicyclemuseumptbo@gmail.com 

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