Can you tell us about that morning that you woke up with the Indian guys with shovels stood around your tent?
The photo of the guys with the shovels was, in fact, Pakistan – this was our first night in Pakistan on the road north. We flew in from Athens and landed in Karachi. The flight was one to remember, it was packed full of Pakistani’s – Coucho got sat next to a Pakistani guy on the flight and tried to make conversation, in very slow English he asked the guy “what’s it like in Pakistan” – the guy answered in a very strong Yorkshire accent, “Don’t know mate, I’ve never been there before – I’m from Bradford, I’m going there on holiday!”
The flight attendants had a mission trying to get everyone seated ready for take-off, people were getting up and moving around the cabin talking to each other. With everyone finally seated we got underway – no sooner had the plane took off people were up out of their seats scrambling around trying to get up the aisle at 30 degrees to talk to others in seats further up, much to the dismay of the air hostesses!! Once at cruising altitude one guy started getting out a small Primus stove in the aisle to make a cup of tea before a hostess saw him and grabbed it off him!!
When we finally landed, as soon as the wheels touched the tarmac, everyone was up grabbing bags out of the overhead lockers as though there was no tomorrow!! We went through customs and cleared our pannier bags and bikes then put the bikes together ready to leave the airport – we had no maps but new that we were heading for Hyderabad.
I will never forget the sight that confronted us once out in the open air – the pollution was so intense, we could look straight into that huge big yellow blob that was the sun – no sun glasses needed. We set off riding but only got a short distance as Brian had a problem with his bike, one of the teeth had got bent on his big chain ring so we had to stop and do a repair. The instant that we stopped we were immediately mobbed by a huge crowd of people who completely surrounded us looking at the bikes and us trying to ask questions in pigeon English. We got the chain ring sorted and managed to get riding and found a cheap hostel for the night. We went out to a restaurant for a curry and the food was ok considering the place was pretty dirty.
Next morning we left Karachi on the main highway north, it wasn’t very long before we got into hot, dry desert conditions. Many cars and trucks passed us cheering out the windows, some trucks and cars with people on the roofs, hanging on the sides, back and literally anywhere they could get a hold on. One car pulled up and waved us down, the three young guys were doctors and spoke perfect English – they gave us a cardboard box with small cakes that looked really nice. We thanked them and carried on. As mentioned before, we didn’t have a map so no idea how far it was to the next town, we stopped at a roadside eating place and had a glass of tea each but didn’t fancy the food plus we were mobbed again so just wanted to get out of there.
We made a decision that night to put the tent up in the desert a few metres off the road – at least we had the box of cakes and some very dry bread rolls so couldn’t wait to get tucked in. These cakes were horrendous!! We were running very low on fuel for the Primus stove and only managed a couple of drinks of tea before it ran out. We just thought best thing is to sleep and not think about being hungry. Next morning we heard voices outside which did concern us, we opened the tent flap to see a group of what looked like road workers. We all got out the tent and the guys just stood there looking at us – none spoke English so we got them to stand in a line with their shovels for a good photo shoot!
Did have come into any conflict with your fellow riders during the ride? You must have spent so much time together and let's face it, cyclists can be a finicky!
To be honest, even though we spent lots of time together we got on pretty well. We did have an agreement that when we left Sheffield we all had exactly the same amount of money – from memory I think this was 1,400 pounds each, however Minty didn’t have as much as the rest of us and to this day I think this may have been one of the reasons why he returned back to Sheffield from Athens when we carried on to Pakistan. We carried travellers cheques and each one of us took turns to change a hundred pound at a time and pay for everything till it ran out then it was someone else’s turn. This included buying all food, accommodation etc. This obviously meant that we all ate the same food, drank the same beer etc. We were quite late leaving Sheffield, we originally planned to leave end of summer but our departure was delayed till October because Brian and Les had bought a rental property which needed lots of work doing before they could leave. Due to the time of departing, we hit some pretty bad weather especially in Germany and Yugoslavia. We bought a 4 man and a 2 man tent, probably the cheapest you could get at the time plus the cheapest sleeping bags. We absolutely froze many nights in sub zero temperatures – looking back we were pretty stupid not gearing up with some top notch gear but at the end of the day we were on a really tight budget.
Whilst travelling through Germany and Austria, Brian developed a knee problem which was getting worse by the day and limiting the amount of miles we could do per day. Brian decided to get on a train to take the load of his knee which he hoped would heal whatever was wrong. Whilst on the train Brian met a girl from Villach who said he could stay at her parents home till we got there. We made it to Villach a few days later and the family took us in for the night and gave us a big feed. They had a mountain chalet up in the ski fields and said we could all stay there for a few days for a bit of a break. Next morning we went to the supermarket and stocked up on food and drink and the family drove us up to their chalet and left us there for a few days. We had a great time walking in the mountains, chilling out and repaid their hospitality by building some stone steps up to the chalet. One night after a few beers we got onto discussing the next leg of our trip and Les came up with the idea of splitting up and riding in smaller groups – his reason was that we could get more hospitality in smaller groups rather than 5 of us together. We all decided against this because this was one of the reasons why we left together so we could stay together and have a good laugh as a group.
Anyway, Les had made his mind up and when we got back to the families home in Villach he decided to set off on his own and give it a go so we said our goodbyes and said that we would see him again in Athens at one of the Youth Hostels. We carried on as a group without Les and after leaving Austria and crossing into Yugoslavia the weather really deteriorated. We finally got through the bad weather and hit Greece where the temperatures increased to make riding a lot more pleasurable. We arrived in Athens and made our way to the Youth Hostel and hoped to catch up with Les only to find that he had left a note telling us that he had gone to a Greek Island for a few days to have a look around. We decided to get out of the hostel as this was costing us un-necessary money hanging around waiting so we managed to find a quiet spot on the coast hidden away where we pitched the tents – camping in Greece was illegal unless you stayed on an official campsite.
We lived pretty rough for those few days but had a good laugh chilling out swimming in the sea and trying to catch some fish. We found that the harder the conditions, the closer we got and supported each other through the bad times. Believe me, riding like we did is not all good. Obviously we saw some great scenery and had some great times but we also had days when you just want to pack it all in and call it a day!
You mentioned in one of your previous answers the winter rough-stuff rides, since a few of us are still trying to keep that tradition going in Derbyshire and the Peak District, could you describe the kind of riding you were doing back then? Can you remember any of the routes? Or do you have any good stories from riding in the Peak?
Back in the mid / late 70’s – 80’s the winter rough stuff rides were such a big part of the Rutland CC. Myself, Lee White and Malcolm, Charlie, Chattle started the mid-week Thursday night winter rides. We used to go out up Rivelin, Loxley Valley, Redmires on the tracks then finish up in the Rivelin Hotel for a few bears.
Around Guy Fawkes night we used to take some fireworks with us and chuck bangers near to the courting couples cars parked up. Then Malc Cross (RIP) started coming out with us on the rides and when the weather improved we used to collect mushrooms to take home. Malc Cross was an expert on all types of mushrooms. It didn’t take too long before these Thursday night rides took off with a good gang of us going out but each Thursday night ride finished up in the Rivelin Hotel. The landlord and landlady took us in and made us really welcome, the pub took on another name “Lou’s Palace” affectionately named by us after the landlord.
There used to be a guy that played the piano so we had some great sing song nights. During winter we did rough stuff rides on the Thursday nights but during the race season these became training rides, but they still always finished up in the Rivelin Hotel!
Never forget the night that Malc Elliot’s dad brought Malc to the meet at Malin Bridge and asked if we would look after him. Malc was only a young “whipper snapper” on a 26 inch wheel bike so we took him under our wing and looked after him on our training ride over Moscar to Castleton and back. We couldn’t believe how strong this young guy was especially on steel rims and heavy sports bike.
The rest was history as Malc went from strength to strength – we set him up with a proper road bike and from then on he won just about everything he rode. We introduced Malc to the winter Thursday night rough stuff nights – one of the rules was on a clear moonlit night we all turned off our lights but Malc couldn’t cope with this and whinged and complained and insisted on having his front light on much to the disgust of the rest of us! One of us pulled his front light off and chucked it away – Malc commented, “it’s like taking away me eyes” – this name soon stuck as his nick name ~ “Me Eyes!!” This just about summed up the winter Thursday night rides which went on for years. The Sunday Club runs during winter were also pretty epic. We had a pretty intense racing season during summer and at the end of this a handful of us used to go away on holiday to Benidorm, Majorca, Corfu etc. After this we were into the winter club runs.
We used to meet and do our best to get off the roads and onto the tracks, Moors etc. as much as possible. The format of the winter runs was to do rough stuff in the morning and always – without doubt – finish up in a pub somewhere for beers, darts, dominoes and a pub meal. John Barnsley (RIP) used to bring out a football so when we came out the pub we had a game of football on the local green. These games went on for ages and at times got pretty intense. We would then ride home with a stop off at a café. Sundays in winter were pretty intense, if we were lucky the pub would allow some “after bird” drinking which meant that in some cases we were riding home very late afternoon and even early evening somedays and then home, shower and on the bus into town to finish the day off with a pub crawl around Sheffield City Centre.
When I look back on some of the rides we did they were pretty hard going. Epic rides, after the pub, were Cut Gate Moor to Ladybower then ride home – Snake Inn then across the road and over the moors to Edale. We’ve done these rides in pouring rain, snow, pitch darkness. Some of the best times were after a big snow fall – only the hardcore of us turned up but boy did we have some fun rides! We would take a big sheet of plastic each and sledge down the hills in the deep snow – usually after a few beers in a pub somewhere. These times I will never forget and often wish that I could turn back the clock and do them all again – real character building rides!