Antique Road Show: Riders share their views from penny-farthings high atop the Victoria Day Parade

CHEK

Penny-farthings may have gone out of style for the average rider, but everywhere they go, they draw a crowd.

“It’s quirky. It’s different, and they really get a reaction when you’re riding down the street,” says Mitch Guindon.

“They” are the penny-farthings ridden on this day at the lower parking lot of Royal Roads University by Guindon and Will Arnold.

Arnold owns the bikes, he’s got 12 of the big-wheeled high bikes, including three originals. The pair will again be a featured attraction atop the bikes in next Monday’s Victoria Day Parade. As an employee of Russ Hays’ Bike Shop in the ’70s, Arnold was asked to ride by his boss in the parade and has never looked back.

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“He said get on and ride it,” says Arnold. “He didn’t even teach me and I got on it and did my first parade at 13 in 1978.”

Thursday morning at Royal Roads they caught the eye of passersby John Desramaux.

“I got a feeling once you got it moving you can stay upright pretty well,” he says.

The penny-farthing was developed in the 1870s and was usurped in popularity by the safety bike. Arnold’s high bike has a 48-inch front wheel, and he’s been riding them for 46 years. Guignon has cycled his entire life and was a world-class BMX freestyle rider.

“I rode in the world championships at Expo 86 and placed in the top five in my category,” he says.

From top five to top hat, Guignon dons the period costume tuxedo and bowler hat alongside Arnold for special events.

It’s not his first time as a crowd-pleaser. Guignon is also a drummer and has played with acts like Dayna Manning and Tara McLean, but it’s a band he played with in the late ’90s that’s given him some local notoriety.

“I was the second drummer for Nickelback,” he says.

The Canadian supergroup has seen four bands over its lifespan, and as a mechanic at Seaspan, Guignon’s workmates provide constant reminders of his musical past.

“The guys at work throw on some Nickelback and we throw around little quotes like ‘This is how you remind me?’ and ‘I’ve seen it before but not like this,'” he laughs.

Despite his split with the band, he’s still friends with the foursome that was inducted into the Canadian Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame at last year’s Juno Awards in Edmonton.

“We’ve kept in touch over the years,” he says.

The band recognized Guignon in their acceptance speech at the Junos, thanking all the former members of the band.

“I mentioned when we (the former drummers) all got together, that there should be some sort of support group,” he quips.

He’s proud of the path that got him where he is today, in the saddle, and ready to wow some crowds along Monday’s parade route.

“It’s been an amazing ride,” he says.

The 124th Thrifty Foods Victoria Day Parade starts at 9 a.m. Monday in downtown Victoria and will be broadcast live on CHEK News.

Jordan Cunningham

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