Back Pedal­ing

A Royal Spin!

Pedal Magazine - - Contents - BY WIL­LIAM HUM­BER

Even those who have lived in Canada all their lives are sur­prised to hear that the debonair Prime Min­is­ter of Canada, the Trudeau with the great hair and ease of man­ner with all, is not the high­est-rank­ing ex­ec­u­tive au­thor­ity in Canada. He re­tains lead­er­ship at “Her Majesty's Plea­sure,” a quaint, if not ar­chaic, de­scrip­tion per­haps, but one not with­out its own anoma­lous charms.

So while Justin's spin on the wheel is wel­comed as one more ex­am­ple of the bi­cy­cle's ev­ery­day place in Cana­dian so­ci­ety, it might be use­ful to con­sider its res­i­dence at the high­est ex­ec­u­tive level.

The bi­cy­cle, of course, came into view as far back as the reign of Queen Vic­to­ria. It is said she owned Star­ley's “Royal Salvo” tri­cy­cle. Un­for­tu­nately, there's no ev­i­dence she ever rode it. Nor would she have been a can­di­date for the 1880s high wheel, or penny-farthing, for per­haps ob­vi­ous phys­i­cal rea­sons. By the time the more com­fort­able and eas­ier-to-mount safety bi­cy­cle had come into pop­u­lar use in the 1890s, Vic­to­ria would have long given into the sad, and now-dis­abused no­tion, that cycling is a young person's vo­ca­tion.

Bri­tain's (Canada's and the Em­pire's as well) next monarch was the Ra­belaisian lib­er­tine Ed­ward VII. His af­fairs were many, as ex­ten­sive, one might say, as his girth, though he was con­sid­ered a cycling en­thu­si­ast per­haps as a means to pur­sue new “friends.”

One of those “friends” in­spired what is un­doubt­edly the best-known cycling ditty of all time, Harry Dacre's 1892 clas­sic. We all know how it goes:

Daisy, Daisy,

Give me your an­swer, do I'm half crazy

All for the love of you,”

It ends with the im­mor­tal words “a bi­cy­cle built for two.”

Pop­u­lar be­lief is that it was a tip of the hat to Daisy Gre­ville, one of Ed­ward VII's many mis­tresses, but who was also de­scribed as a so­ci­ety cy­clist who took independent pride in her Hum­ber-model bike.

Like­wise, King Ge­orge V was an ad­vo­cate for cycling and the re­cip­i­ent in 1921 of a model with links to Daisy's, the Bee­ston Hum­ber Gents Num­ber 1. His son, and the fu­ture Ed­ward VIII, was of­ten seen on a bi­cy­cle be­fore World War One, but such en­thu­si­asm was later over­come by the charms of the Amer­i­can and twice-di­vorced Wal­lis Simp­son, for whom Ed­ward sur­ren­dered his throne in 1936, pav­ing the way for the tongue-tied Ge­orge VI, im­mor­tal­ized by Colin Firth in The King's Speech.

Such reg­u­lar com­mit­ment to a means of trans­port in those days associated with a more plebi- an class should have stood the

Royal Fam­ily in a some­what pop­ulist mode, but for a long time such was not the case.

The term “Bi­cy­cle Monar­chy” was a Bri­tish re­buke of their own roy­alty, in con­trast to that of sim­i­larly ti­tled fam­i­lies in Scan­di­navia and the Low Coun­tries, with par­tic­u­lar ref­er­ence to The Nether­lands, where Roy­als were of­ten seen pub­licly tak­ing to the same cycling paths as their sub­jects.

Bri­tish rulers by con­trast were too of­ten held back by the pomp and cer­e­mony of their po­si­tion. The less fash­ion­able bi­cy­cle might have been ac­cept­able for a young and fu­ture Queen Elizabeth, but would one day be re­placed by lim­ou­sines or a horse and car­riage re­sem­bling that which one imag­ines Dis­ney's Cin­derella rides to the ball be­fore los­ing her magic shoe.

It's not nec­es­sar­ily a fair commentary on their be­hav­ior, though images of heir-in­cum­bent Charles on a bi­cy­cle sug­gest a man un­com­fort­able with the ex­pe­ri­ence.

On the other hand, his chil­dren, Wil­liam and Harry, not only en­joy “the wheel,” but also play a def­i­nitely down­stream ver­sion of horse polo, the kind re­ly­ing on a bi­cy­cle. Wil­liam and Kate have like­wise been pic­tured en­thu­si­as­ti­cally sup­port­ing their coun­try's bi­cy­cling com­peti­tors at the 2012 Lon­don Olympic Games.

So, per­haps on their tour of Canada, the young Roy­als may find time to join Justin Trudeau for a ride on one of the coun­try's des­ig­nated trails. It would be purely sym­bolic, but over the years, such lead­er­ship has in­spired oth­ers to take to the sad­dle as well.

Rio 2016 Team Canada gold medal­ists with Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau and The Hon­ourable Carla Qual­trough; para­cy­clist Tris­ten Ch­er­nove (far right) with arm raised

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