Bicycle Diaries: <i>Summoned by bells</i>

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12.11.08

Summoned by bells

and one with
the hub


Port Meadow's level green grew near
With Wytham Woods and Cumnor Hurst
I clicked my Sturmey-Archer gear
And pedalled till I nearly burst -
And, king of speed, attained the lead
And got to gushing Godstow first.
This is a short extract from the blank verse autobiography of the British Poet Laureate and BBC broadcaster, John Betjeman. Penned in 1960, it's a wistful recollection of growing up in Hampstead just north-west of Charing Cross in London. As a young boy, Betjeman frequently pedaled the large and hilly parkland of Hampstead Heath. Every gentleman cyclist knows that the best way to tackle hilly terrain such as this is with that miracle of English technology, the Sturmey-Archer Hub. Although the poem's title refers to the bells of his parish church, it's the only example I know of that celebrates poetically this venerable device.

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