You know, I rather think I agree with those poet-and-philosopher Johnnies who insist that a fellow ought to be devilish pleased if he has a bit of trouble. All that stuff about being refined by suffering, you know. Suffering does give a chap a sort of broader and more sympathetic outlook. It helps you to understand other people’s misfortunes if you’ve been through the same thing yourself. Well, the old Dursley was doing its best to rub me up the wrong way. Despite twenty two ounces of the finest Harris between my arse and the woven saddle, well, as that playright Johnnie once ascertained, “Aye, there’s the rub”. Moreover, the Dursley is equipped with a rather incomprehensible gearing system based, according to Ball, on the principle of counter-rotational shafting. Now, shafting I can take without blinking, but banging is simply not cricket. You see, reader, the aforementioned requirement to keep one’s knees tucked in between Mr Pedersen’s handlebars meant that I was continually banging the inside of my lower thigh into the apparatus for shifting the shafting mechanism from one gear to another, which my great chum Freddie Spalding had affixed at a height most convenient for a man of his stature, but one resolutely unsuitable for a taller gent such as myself. My thigh was most unaccustomed to such abuse, and I begun to concern myself with the long-term effects if I continued this course of action.
The shifting apparatus had three positions, which via a mysterious interconnectedness with the shafting mechanism allowed the rider to determine the speed at which his legs would rotate at any given velocity. I’m a bit foggy as to what the beneficial aspects of such an arrangement are, but I am aware (again, thanks to my man Ball) that there are various schools of thought on such manners. It is my understanding that the fast spinning limb approach was popularised by a Mr Armstrong, of Austin, Texas. Mr Armstrong was victorious in a number of races in which he applied this principle, although his performances have subsequently been called into question, over allegations of unfair advantage gained by his preference for uncommonly long hosiery.
The opposing school of thought was most famously championed by Herr Ullrich, of Rostock, in the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Herr Ullrich used his generously-proportioned legs to turn the pedals of his bicycle less like a startled hamster, and more like the pistons of a steam locomotive. However, despite a hearty diet of Bavarian beer and weisswurst, Herr Ullrich was unable to vanquish Mr Armstong, and retired to a life as a ball-room impresario.
The lowest position of the Dursley’s shifting apparatus was seemingly inoperative which precluded me from employing the former, and I took great delight in emulating the fierce power of the gentleman affectionately known as “Der Kaiser”.
In fact, the incline at the northern end of Duke of York Street was such that I had to resort to a modicum of huffing and puffing, until I reached the crest at Jermyn Street. I considered halting at the noted cheese emporium Paxton & Whitfield for a restorative slice of Caerphilly, but to do so would’ve been to interrupt the progress of my fellow cyclists, and so I continued on an empty stomach.
North again, and via New Bond Street, where we passed the rather tawdry showroom of recently immigrated Italian rag merchant Signor Armani, his window a riot of baggy linen and floppy-collared nonsense, decorated with an incongruous and frankly loathsome albumen print of an Association Footballer in his supportive undergarments.
It was with great relief, then, that we presently arrived into the altogether more salubrious surroundings of the Row. The chaps at Huntsman were out in force, effervescent thanks to lavish helpings of Pol Roger, and charged with the onerous task of assessing which of one of us gentlemen was the most dashing. I concluded that the fact that I did not clinch victory was down to the confusion surrounding my lost armband, as my outfit was definitely most deserving of a prize! Perhaps it was the shade of my cravat. Ball had suggested that the green gave me a slightly bilious air, and had advocated a blue, with red domino pattern instead. No matter – I am not a sore loser!
I also made the acquaintance of the guardian of another fine Dursley-Pedersen. This particular version had the appearance of a slightly later design, with handlebars at a friendlier height, and very fine nickel plating on the tube junction lugging. Alas, I failed to note down his particulars – I will have to task Ball with the job of tracking down this elusive chappie!