Journal

  • Around the World with Rutland CC

    There is sometimes something new to be found in something old. I have always enjoyed the camaraderie and tales that come with riding with a cycling club - we all love a good story and if it involves the bike then even better! 

    Whilst out riding with the famous Sheffield club Rutland CC I've heard numerous stories during cafe-stops including fights in fancy dress, drunken shenanigans and the odd 'epic' ride.

    One story that kept popping up was the round the world trip of four Rutland members back in 1980, so I got in touch with one of these men, Malcolm Pearce to see if he could shed anymore light on it for me. 

    What transpired during this trip, along with Malcolms photos are now published below. Enjoy! 

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    What inspired you to go on a cycling tour around the world? 
    We were all out on a Sunday Rutland winter club run - usual rough stuff ride then finish up in a Derbyshire pub. Sat around a table we got talking about usual stuff then the conversation turned around to doing something different.
    I can’t remember who brought it up but an idea was put up to ride overland to Australia on the bikes. We all had drunk a few pints so this sounded bloody great at the time! This idea came up again later on another winter club run sat around talking the usual banter but it got a bit more serious - enough to take it further. We then started taking names of guys who would be keen to do this, initially had heaps of names but as the weeks went by the list got smaller until we whittled it down to five definates. These were myself, Ian Minty Murray, Brian and Les Pickering and Martin Coucho Teanby.
    From here on it was all go and we got really serious trying to get some sponsorship to help fund the ride. Karrimore Panniers donated a set of panniers each and a Sheffield camera shop loaned us a camera to take photos of the trip. We also were told that if we reached Singapore, Lion Tyres were keen to help. Eric Smith then decided to set off and ride as far as Athens with us for a holiday. 
    What is your most memorable moment from the trip? 
    I think my most memorable part of the trip was my time in South America, most notably at high altitude - 3,800 metres in the Andes of Peru and Equador. This was the hardest times in my life. At this stage we were down to two - myself and Martin Coucho Teanby. Ian Murray decided to pull the pin in Athens and returned home with Eric Smith. Ian later confessed that this was the worst decision he had ever made. Sadly, he died a few years ago in a  road accident at Ladybower - R.I.P. my old mate!!
    Brian and Les Pickering decided to stay in Sydney as their girlfriends came out from Sheffield to join them. Me and Martin thought bugger it - we got half way around the globe so why not go the whole hog. The Andes were so hard on the bikes and the bodies but I personally found this the biggest challenge of my life. We suffered altitude sickness, bike breakages, Martin became really ill and the road conditions really paid their toll but I personally loved and embraced the challenges. Martin then became seriously ill and I had to put him on a bus to capital of Equador as he couldn’t go any further. I carried on alone and found this part alone a serious challenge.
           
    You had your bikes full loaded, what did you take with you? I've heard stories of Minty taking "load of "dancing" clothes?!" Is there any truth to this tale? If so, can you shed anymore light on it?
    What you need to know Thom is that none of us had done any bike touring ever before apart from the odd weekend rides in winter with a saddle bag.  The first time I test rode my bike fully loaded was on the morning that I left my home in Wisewood and rode to the Town Hall where we had a civic send off with the Lord and Lady Mayor.  I didn’t finish loading my panniers till about 2.00am!!
    I set off riding and could not stop the bike from wobbling.  The back end of my bike was so heavy that I could barely lift it.  We had spare tyres each, spokes, chains, clusters, tools, a camera tripod, tents etc. etc. I even carried a spare wheel rim!!  My bike was wobbling on the front end so bad that I could hardly control it.  Going through Holland and Germany we were each breaking rear wheel spokes every few hours, this came to a head in a youth hostel one evening in Germany. We came to a decision that we had to get rid of some weight so we threw all of our gear onto a table and started biffing stuff out.  We shed heaps of stuff in the hostel that night and set off next morning much lighter and less spokes broken.
    Yes the story of Minty is correct – he had boot polish, after shaves but no gloves, hat or good warm clothing.  We all had a decent pair of “dancing shoes” and going out clothes!!  We got snowed in one night at the top of a mountain pass in Germany and had to stay in a hotel that night.  Next morning the snow ploughs had cleared the pass although it was bloody freezing.  We set off down the pass and almost got to the bottom when we realized Minty wasn’t with us – I rode back up and found him huddled beside the road behind some rocks blowing onto his hands, he was freezing and had no gloves!!  Later in Yugoslavia we had to ride through a blizzard and finally arrived in a village where we checked into a hotel – we literally had to prize Minty’s fingers off his handle bars, he was frozen and in a pretty bad way.  We carried him into the hotel and got him into a hot bath, it was first initial signs of hypothermia.  He never really got over that and when we bought tickets fro the rest of the trip in Athens he bought a return ticket back to London with Eric Smith.
    Poor old Minty –R.I.P. He regretted that decision so badly! 
         
    Did you have a bike built especially for the trip? 
    We managed to get a deal from Dawes and got a good price on a Super Galaxy touring bike each although Martin Teanby, Coucho used his old Bob Jackson bike.  We all got a set of panniers donated from Karrimor.  These consisted of two rear, two front and one handlebar bag.  We kept breaking the steel clips so had to get new ones sent out to us but these bags saw us right around the world, although they were pretty stuffed when we finished back in UK!
    My Dawes broke three times.  The rear stay came away from the back of the down tube so this was repaired in Sydney.  Then my left chain stay snapped clean in half in Equador – I did a temporary repair with two flat spanners and two Jubillee pipe clips to get me to the next town where a motor mechanic did a weld job for me.  Then the right chain stay snapped clean in two in North America so I welded this myself at a garage. On my first ride back in Sheffield my handlebars snapped in two so I pushed a tree branch down each half and wrapped some wire around it to get me home. 
    When we arrived in Singapore we met up with the director of Lion Tyres Company who put us up for 4 days in his home. He took us to a local bike shop and the owner gave all four of us a Shimano Groupset and tubular wheels as Les Pickering said we would do a “record attempt” to ride across the Nulabor in Australia.  We had the bike gear freighted to Perth and Lion Tyres made some special heavy duty tubular tyres for us – 10 each for the Nulabor ride. 
    Anyway when we got to Perth, Les decided to stay there and work leaving myself, Brian Pickering and Coucho to ride across the Nulabor.  We didn’t do the record attempt but fitted the Shimano gear.  The tyres were a disaster, the glued tyres kept rolling and we had heaps of punctures.  We just made it to Adelaide with no spares left!!
          
    I heard, whilst travelling through India, you ended up on the film set of Ghandi? Can you tell us anything more about that? 
    We stayed in New Delhi Christmas 1980 – we camped on a tourist campsite.  We all went into the Thailand Embassy to sort out visas for our next part of the trip and got talking to an American guy outside the embassy who told us about the film crew looking for western faces for the epic film Life and Times of Mahatma Ghandi.  He told us that the film crew were really keen to find any western faces who wanted to be extras on the Richard Attenborough film and gave us an address to go to.  We took up this offer and went to the Ashoka Hotel to see about the film.  We were all taken on straight away and measured up for costumes. We were all British newspaper reporters for the Ghandi assassination scene at Birla House, Brian and Les also got work as extras as soldiers in the South African scene also filmed in New Delhi. 
    We had to meet at the crack of dawn each day at the hotel where we were then bused to Birla House.  Fresh food was flown in everyday in a container from England as they could not afford to have any illnesses which would severely impact the continuity of the filming.  We ate like lords for 4 days, full cooked breakfast, morning tea, full cooked lunch followed by afternoon tea. We had been living off eggs, bananas and stewed veg everyday untill then so this was absolute luxury!! All we had to do was stand on the grass at Birla House and chat to each other whilst Ghandi, Ben Kingsley, came out of the house to be shot by the assassin. 
    First day filming and there was a large catering tent full of extras, westerners and Indians.  As soon as the food arrived there was a stampede by the Indians – we actually saw one guy push Dickie Attenborough out the way to push past to get his food.  The next day, the tent was segregated with westerners one side and Indians at the other with a 4 foot high cloth partition but the film crew got sick of being staired at so next day the partition went the full size – floor to ceiling. 
    My birthday was during filming and we managed to get hold of some “bootleg” whisky from the local Punjab Tyre company.  This stuff was like drinking battery acid and very cheap.  The day after my birthday having consumed the whole bottle we were all pretty well hung over and were laying down on the grass.  Dickie Attenborough came up to us and said “come along darlings – filmings starting” – never forget this, so funny. The film crew told us of a small Chinese restaurant where they went each night and advised to go there and try the special tea.  We did this and asked for a pot of “special tea” only to find that this was beer served in a tea pot so we drunk quite a bit of tea that week!! 
    We were also invited to the film crew’s Christmas party.  This was a real lavish affair – no expense spared, food for Africa along with booze.  There we met Ben Kingsley and his wife, James Fox and of course Sir Richard Attenborough.   A great night was had by all but the funniest thing was the disco lights on the dance floor – this was a row of Indians holding a small box each with coloured glass fronts on hinges, the glass flaps were opened and closed to reveal a candle inside!! 
    We had the chance to go further south in India to the funeral scene but this was way off track for us so we declined. We earned $37 dollars cash in the hand each day for the 4 days filming and this paid for our ride right across the Grand Trunk Highway from New Delhi to Calcutta.
          
    Can I ask you about "The Ramp" in Hull?
    After the civic send off from the Town Hall with the Lord and Lady mayor, we kissed our family and said our goodbyes to friends who had come down to see us off and that was it – we were away.
    We were late getting away then we had numerous stops shortly after with mechanicals etc.  We had a ferry crossing pre-booked from Hull to Rotterdam which was late afternoon as I recall. When we got to the small village of Rawlcliffe we decided to stop and have lunch at the pub.  After numerous pints we got back on our way and realized that we were very late and risked missing the ferry so we had to “line it out” to Hull. 
    Someone from Sheffield had rung the ferry company and told them to expect a group of cyclists who were on their way but were running late. As we approached the Hull Docks we spotted the ferry with the staff waiting and as we rode onto the ramp it immediately started lifting as we were actually wheeling our bikes down it.  We caught the ferry by the skin of our teeth – all because of the pub and the beers!!
    As a racing cyclist, which results are you most proud of and why? 
    I’ve actually got a few results that stand out in my mind.  First one is the year that I won the Stannington Grand Prix – I think 1976?   This was a really proud moment for me as it was my local race so had huge support from family and friends so the win was pretty special especially as me and Jeff Evans (R.I.P.) lapped the field. 
    I also won the Sankey Grand Prix which had a pretty good first cat field with some good riders – I attacked in the last couple of miles and managed to stay away for the win.  Prizes were presented by Beryl Burton. 
    Another memorable win was the Team Win – Rutland CC at the 1978 Newcastle Journal 2 –day. Myself, Malc Elliot and Phil Axe.  Malc got 2nd and I got 4th in the prologue TT.  On the first big road stage from Newcastle to Berwick on Tweed I attacked with 25 miles to go and was later joined by a group of riders including Malc Elliot and Joe Waugh.  In the gallop, Malc got the win from Joe Waugh and I got third.  We were so elated by this result that we celebrated in the pub that night and finished up having to climb the drainpipe to the upstairs window of the hostel we were billeted in.  Next morning we were feeling pretty seedy but set off on the last 90 mile road stage back to Newcastle.  We had a neutralized section over the tweed then straight into a big long climb with a prime at the top.  Surprisingly enough I kept up at the front and on arrival at the prime realized that there were only seven of us including Malc Elliot and of course Joe Waugh.  We stayed away the whole stage, Joe Waugh won, Malc was second and I was third.  This gave us the team win for the Rutland so pretty proud. 
    Whilst in Australia we all bought road and track bikes and got back into racing.  We were living in Sydney for the 50th anniversary of the Harbour Bridge and decided to ride into the city for the celebrations but it was a drizzly day so we decided to go into the Rocks Pub instead.  Twelve schooners later we emerged from the pub and set off home, I did my “party trick” of standing on my cross bar whilst riding down George Street but hit a pothole and went over breaking my collarbone.  I got a taxi to the hospital with my bike in the boot. Brian, Les and Martin later arrived at the hospital to see how I was and asked where my bike was – I said that I’d left it in the reception only to find it had been stolen.  I was pretty gutted as I had no insurance and couldn’t work for a month.  I loaned an exercise bike and sat on this for a couple of hours every day to keep my legs going.  As soon as the month was up the doctor said I could ride my bike again so I went out every day and crammed a huge amount of miles in which flattened me right off for a short while. 
    Our next big race was the Sydney Metropolitan Road Champs at the Amaroo Motor Racing circuit.  I got in a four man break and gradually the other three riders dropped off leaving me alone to hang out and just about lap the field as I rode over the finish line to take the win.  At the prize presentation third place was awarded to the guy who got forth, second place was awarded to the guy that got third, and first place was awarded to the guy that finished second  - I got nothing and when I questioned the organisers they said I couldn’t take the win as it was a championship and I was English.  You can imagine how gutted I was!! Next day I never even got a mention in the Sydney Herald Sports page – it’s as though I hadn’t even ridden, that’s Aussies for you!!!
    Do you approach riding, or ride your bike, differently now to when you first got into cycling?
    The obvious changes for me now is my age.  I raced competitively on a regular basis up till about 5 years ago.  I raced every Saturday without fail plus track racing every Wednesday and Sunday evening. As both my boys Olly and Tom also raced we did this as a family affair.  Both boys represented NZ, Olly spent a season racing and riding at the New Zealand Under 23 training camp based in Limoux South France then went on to ride the Chinghai Lake Tour of China. When I rode as a 1st Cat back in UK in late 70’s – early 80’s I raced everything I could, Saturday – Sunday – Nottingham Track League Wednesdays and North Mids H’cap League Thursdays. I’ve always had a passion for racing even when we got to Australia on our world tour.
    Are there any cycling traditions that you think have been, or are being, lost as a result of changing attitudes and behaviour? And are we better off or worse off as a consequence? 
    Yes definitely!!  Riders today take things far too serious – I’m not talking about the top echelon of pro riders here but more of the run of the mill club riders who think they are pros!!  I’ve always been a firm believer of enjoying yourself and having a bloody good laugh on the way but never been distracted to race hard when it counts.  I also think a lot of riders today are a bit soft compared to the past days.  It would appear that club runs are struggling now – more focus on big miles in winter rather going out for the enjoyment.  We used to have some epic rides, especially early season training rides and end of season “de-training” rides to Scarborough, Llangollen, Stafford etc. These were an excuse to cram some big miles in and have a great night when we got there!! I can recall riding over the Cat & Fiddle in a blizzard and getting to Llangollen absolutely stuffed but having an awesome night out.  We also used to have weekend away racing in Builth Wells, camping, pubs, hard racing and loads of laughs.  I don’t think these happen anymore which is very sad.  Another big thing was our end of season holidays in Spain and Greece on the good old 80-30 holidays.  I could write a book about those times but that’s another thing.  Finally our great times congregating in Tony Butterworth Cycles at the back of the shop.  Such funny times taking the mickey out of each other and playing pranks on each other.  These were certainly Character Building Times!!
     
    Images provided by Malcolm Pearce 
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    • Beverly Lucas says...

      I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud of my Uncle Malc as I am this evening. Wow. I was 10 when he left for his trip, and he inspired me to join the Rutland CC, to ride, race, and ultimately emigrate to the USA and take my spot in the bike industry. I wish I could have known him back then as an adult. I think we’d have had a fab time. Love you Uncle Malc!

      On August 07, 2019

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