William Martin, champion six-day bicycle rider of the world, full-length portrait, facing left, on a bicycle with a large front wheel and small rear wheel - taken in 1891. The penny-farthing, also known as a high wheel or ordinary, was an early bicycle design that gained popularity in the 1870s and 1880s. Its distinctive feature was a large front wheel that allowed for higher speeds and improved shock absorption. However, penny-farthing eventually became obsolete as modern bicycles with chain-driven gear trains and pneumatic tires emerged in the late 1880s. These new designs, marketed as "safety bicycles," offered comparable speed amplification and a reduced risk of falling due to their lower height.