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Saturday, 14 November 2009

One & a Half Wheels To Victory!

Last week, I had my first tentative ride out on a new purchase- a brand new 'modern' take on the old classic- the Penny Farthing bike. I say tentative for two reasons;

One: It has a fixed wheel propulsion system, meaning that taking your feet of the pedals whilst in motion means it is virtually impossible to get them back on again, as they spin round manically with an ankle-maiming pace.

Two: It has no brakes. That's right. No brakes. Not even a little one for the wheel at the back. Hmmm. And the last time you rode a regular bike was? .... About 10 years ago.


My first challenge was to be a particularly tricky one. I had planned to ride from Crystal Palace (where Caskstrength HQ is based) to the heart of Mayfair - Berry Bros and Rudd on the Corner of Pall Mall.

Anyone who has seen me attempting some sporting frippery would know that this was the planning of a madman- I can barely run for a bus, let alone pedal an archaic, brakeless, fixed- wheel velocipede up and over Crystal Palace Hill and through the many dangers that lurk around the Elephant & Castle roundabout. The lost souls of cyclists one hundred times the bravery of myself still echo around those parts.

But I had a compulsion. I was to be a sort of unofficial 'mascot' for the launch of a rather splendid new liqueur and it was of vital importance I deliver the bike and myself in one piece to Berry Bros for the occasion.

The liqueur is the Kings Ginger - something we've featured on here last year, when your faithful author had a dreadful cold. Its gingery magic fortified me then and, by the beard of Zeus, it will fortify me again, as I free-wheel the wrong way down St James Street, careering out of control into the gates of the Palace at the bottom (the erstwhile home of HRH Prince Charles) and no doubt, the poised bayonet of a Bear-skinned royal guard...

Imagine the headlines....


Whereas, The Sun would lead with something along the lines of:


10am arrived and I was ready to leave, saddle bag concealing a full bottle of KGL to act as my restorative on the way. As I mounted the pedals and pushed off, I caught the meloncholic eyes of my faithful companion, Bobby, 'The Great Catsby', who meowed but a simple and poignant 'Farewell my friend - and god speed you' as I wobbled precariously out onto Parish Lane. Old ladies, dogs and small children tearfully looked away as I thundered past, the hoplessness of my journey, all too apparent.
After what felt like hours- with heart and lungs bursting and tweeds drenched in sweat, I rested for a second. I had already used half of my restorative, the effects of which were not only intensely restoring, but also highly intoxicating. It was at that point that the cold, hard, face of truth confronted me.

"You crazy B****rd!... get in!"

It was the distant voice of an honest London cabbie, who had been following my journey with some amusement and who had clearly seen enough. In reality, I had laughably managed just 600 yards from the front door of the house to the foot of the hill. Oh dear.

Feeling slightly deflated that I had failed to meet the challenge of the great hill, I packed the bike into the waiting vehicle and we headed to Berry's, on time and out of danger. Another warming goblet of KGL lifted my spirits no end and to help restore my tarnished dignity, the driver stopped round the corner from the shop, where I disembarked, to triumphantly ride across the finish line, past many astonished faces. "By god! he's made it!!" called out one female voice. "Must have the blessing and thighs of St Hoy" remarked another.

"All in a morning's work, ladies", I caddishly winked.

Several KGL cocktails, Punch and the magnificent hospitality of Berry Brothers made me forget about the slight 'exaggeration' of my journey and I began to thank the wonderful properties of this superb liqueur, which undoubtedly fueled me as far as the Shell Garage, past the Dry Cleaners on Maple Road and into the waiting taxi carriage.

For those of you who fancy yourself as a part time outdoor, have-a-go-hero type, you'll need look no further than a bottle of this to make it all seem worth it. A treacherous winter hike up Scarfell Pike will feel like a sunny Sunday afternoon saunter through Hyde Park after a few warming measures. It was good enough for its creator, King Edward VII and that alone means it simply must be in your drinks cabinet- and perhaps your bicycle saddle bag too...

For more information about the Kings Ginger Liqueur visit here: