The Man with Rubber Pedals [poem by McG]

[Editor: This poem by McG was published in The Bulletin Reciter, 1901.]

The Man with Rubber Pedals.

It has all the latest fixings — barrel hubs and narrow tread ;
It weighs twenty pounds or under, is as rigid as the dead ;
It ’s the very newest pattern, and the very latest grade,
And it cost you all the cash that in the last three months you made.
You lead it from the agent’s, and your bosom swells with pride
As you lift it from the kerbstone and you start its maiden ride . . .
Like the lightning past the tram-cars, cabs, and everything you ’ve sped,
When you see a man with rubber pedals plugging on ahead.

He is forty years of age, and on an antiquated crock,
Sitting upright as a soldier and as bandy as a jock ;
He is wobbly, he is shifty, and he scarce knows how to ride ;
His gear is less than fifty, and his handle-bars are wide.
From crank to crank his tread is eighteen inches, and his frame
Is a pattern that was popular when first the safety came ;
And as you gain upon him you are thinking, “I must show
How a good man on a jigger that is up to date can go.”

You fold your arms and pass him in an attitude of grace,
When the beatific smile upon his open whiskered face
Makes your conscience somehow smite you as across his track you whiz,
Lest you show him p’r’aps too harshly what an utter mug he is ;
And when you think that he’s about a hundred yards behind,
That man with rubber pedals goes completely from your mind,
Till a darkness at your elbow and a rattling on your ear
Shows the man with rubber pedals still is battling in the rear.

Then you think with some resentment, “This is not as it should be ;
This man with rubber pedals taking all his pace from me ;
Such presumption is opposed to all the canons of the game.
And if I show him up he ’s only got himself to blame.”
So you drop your arms and lightly touch the neatly-nickeled head,
With some ankling calculated just to kill that fellow dead,
But after half a mile you are astounded still to feel
That man with rubber pedals hanging calmly on your wheel.

You argue out the question, and you ’re bustled to confess
That the man is what is technically known as N.T.S.
Still, for such as he to push you is a thing you can’t allow —
He has asked for pace, and, Holy Moses ! won’t he get it now?
You drop your head twelve inches, grip your handles tight and lift,
And as your calves and biceps swell, by Jingo, don’t you shift !
Then you reckon that you ’ve left him and it ’s nearly time to slack,
When you hear the cursed rattle of his mud-guards at your back.

He can hold his own at sprinting — that is proved beyond a doubt,
So the only way to beat him is to simply wear him out.
You set a nice two-forty bat, and to yourself you hiss :
“That man with rubber pedals can’t stand many miles of this.”
Then the townships travel past you and the milestones rise ahead
Till your thighs are working stiffly and you’re feeling pretty dead ;
Still you force your ped’ling even and your handle-tips you clinch,
But that man with rubber pedals has n’t shifted — not an inch.

At last, in view of “business” and the “fast-approaching night,”
You decide ’t is best for you to take the turning to the right ;
And as you swing around he passes upright as the just,
With that beatific smile of his still glowing through the dust.

* * * * * *

Are you riding to Sans Souci ? He ’ll be there to “do you bad.”
He is on St. Kilda Road ; and on each Western camel pad.
Be you cycling in the country, be you cycling in the town,
That man with rubber pedals will be there to take you down.


A.G. Stephens (editor). The Bulletin Reciter: A Collection of Verses for Recitation from “The Bulletin” [1880-1901], The Bulletin Newspaper Company, Sydney, 1902 [first published 1901], pages 44-47

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