Sheffield ~ Hartington ~ Liverpool ~ Sheffield

During my childhood, before I started getting whisps of light coloured hair on my face, during a time when my style looked like it had been cut and stuck straight from the pages of Kerrang! magazine, me and my mates would bomb-around on bikes. Usually BMX’s or single-speed bikes before upgrading as a teenage to a stiff mountain bike. Where I’m from, the bike was always the big present at Christmas, usually surrounded by what has become commonly known as ‘stocking-fillers’. During one Christmas, I remember the bike wasn’t there when I came down the stairs into the living-room at the early hours of one morning. My parents had managed to convince me that Father Christmas must have forgotten about it, only for it to magically appear at dinnertime, just as I started to put my bottom lip away. These were magical times, even if I didn’t realise it. I’m sure I did, but you see things clearer as you get older and your time becomes precious.

For some reason, I can’t really remember the seasons when I was a kid, I can’t remember it ever being 'too cold' to go out, we would be out, just knocking around in the woods, on “The Rec” (recreational ground) or down the big ginnel - away from everyone and everything. Whatever the weather, we were out. I look back fondly, every day was an adventure, you went with the flow and you never knew what was around the next corner. We were like flaneurs back then, before I knew what the word meant (we never knew how sophisticated we were!). Imagine that freedom to roam, knocking about on bikes, on tracks, building little jumps and dens and harassing the girls of the village - fantastics! You’d pay good money to do that now wouldn’t you? 

What we do now is the same (apart from chasing the girls!), maybe we’re too old to see it the same way, but we partake in the same activities to a certain degree. The only difference really being that we go further, we stay our longer and we eat better. Nowadays our daily duties keep us grounded but doing bike tours with your mates is the ultimate escape, the closest thing we’ve got to leaving our responsibilities as adults just for a few days - it reminds me of my childhood, when you’re deep into the second day of a tour, on the roads unknown, on top of a hill somewhere, through the ford, the places you can’t get to in a single-ride from your home, not knowing where you are and forgetting just as easily where you’ve just been - that’s the feeling you can’t buy!

Continue reading

Mr. Mamnick Wins the Nationals!

Pre-pandemic I asked Phil Axe "Do you think you could win the Nationals in the Dazzle kit?", he said he'd try but then we went into lock-down. 

Yesterday, that opportunity finally came around again and he did exactly what he set out to do, in emphatic style!

Taking advantage of a short climb on the course, not only did Phil catch the race in front, he passed them all and rode to an incredible solo victory before enjoying a cup-of-tea and driving us both back to Sheffield! (I've always admired humility in great cyclists).

I documented the day and below are the images which, I hope, tell the story of when Mr. Mamnick took flight in the baking hot Peterborough summer sun!

All words and photos by Thom Barnett 

Continue reading

Notes on Lightweight Touring

I've been extremely fortunate in my life to have been shown 'the way' to do these kinds of rides, which in a nutshell are, bike rides from your back-door to a destination (usually a cost effective venue like a YHA) and back the next day. The route should include the best roads, pubs and food you know of. I am now trying to pass this knowledge onto you. 

When you get these rides right, you will create some of the best memories of your life, without a doubt. 

I am writing this now, after refining this skill for over 10 years. I see so many people/brands online now doing it in the least authentic way possible, which I believe does cycling as a whole a disservice. I thought a few notes on this style of riding (AKA Yomping!) might inspire/help a few of you who have always wanted to do this kind of trip. It's taken me this long because I always thought it might sound patronising (I don't like telling people what to do or think!), but after a conversation with a young-pro this weekend who said "I wouldn't know where to start doing a ride like that", I changed my position and thought I'd jot a few things down after our recent trip.

Firstly, for the record, you might want to refine a route over a number of years. What roads work? What roads don’t? Which sections of rough-stuff are rideable on a road-bike? Bridleways and small lanes sometimes need to be seen and explored in person. Sometimes you can wing it, other times plotting a route is worthy of careful consideration and needs hours of research and decision making. I'm fortunate to live and work in Sheffield, so I've done approx 60,000 miles on roads in the Derbyshire Peak District, I know the place well which makes planning this kind of ride relatively easy (my approach is different somewhere else in the country, I may write about that in future too).   

For luggage, my advice would be to pack-light and take bare essentials. You'll spend most of the day on the bike so SPD shoes with a recessed cleat gives you the option to not pack casual footwear, which can take up valuable space and saves you some weight. Depending on the forecast/time of year, I take a long sleeve t.shirt, a light-insulated jacket/gilet, a pair of lightweight trousers/shorts, a spare pair of socks and something to sleep in (boxer shorts), that is 100% enough! You can rent a towel in most YHA’s and don't forget your toothbrush. All that should fit in a small saddlebag and although your bike will weigh considerably more, it won't be too uncomfortable for a long ride. I've found it's a critically balanced compromise! Ultimately, the bike is still nice to ride and you've got everything you need. 

Having someone follow you in a car with your luggage like a support vehicle is 100% NOT Yompin’, in fact I find it pathetic and I seriously frown upon those that do it! These rides must be self-supported to get the most from them. Don't be fooled by brands who aren't doing it this way either, it's fraudulent behaviour and deserves x500 lashes for poor marketing practices! 

Find a good pub-stop or cafe for dinner, it's always a winner! If you choose the pub, then this gives you the potential for a couple of pints too (daytime drinking cannot be beaten!) The heady mix of endorphins, alcohol, good conversion, quiet lanes and hopefully some sun or nice weather is a hard one to beat. I can assure you, if you get this mixture correct, the memories you create will be up there with the very best and you'll want to book your next trip as soon as you get back home.  

Use the ride as a chance to ignore the junk of the world, that includes your mobile phone! I use a disposable camera or 35mm point-and-shoot camera to document my trips. This can help you stay in the moment, since you’re limited to x24 or x36 frames to record the day. You cannot document it all and you’re more selective with your image making - therefore more likely to live in the moment, which appears to be a lesson in of itself nowadays and one which takes a considerable amount of time to master!

There is nothing worst than riding with someone who is trying to take multiple photos of everything that is happening to share with the world, that is like filming a concert on your phone, there is no point in even being there! If you're trying to 'display' your life to other people, you are not living your life. No one wants to watch your shitty video of your bike trip, you won't even look back at ALL the photos/videos you've taken either. You'll invite envy into your life from people who aren't your real friends on social media. The solution - don't do it! Focus on making moments of meaning and connection in the here and now. 

Soak up the environment, the roads you're riding and the people you are with.

If you need routes, I've got them. You can email me and I'll happily share them with you, but my advice would be to do it your own way and enjoy yourself. 

These photos are from our recent trip into The Peak District National Park. 

All words and images by Thomas Barnett

Continue reading

Tour de Yompshire

5 men, 269.3 miles, 15,877 feet, 3 days, 1 county, 5 bags of Jelly Babies. 

A ride that will be forever remembered as the Tour de Yompshire. 

Photos by Tom Stewart

Continue reading

Around the World with Rutland CC pt.2

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!
Continue reading

Miles Munchers #1 ~ Felix Ormerod

I’ve always had a fascination with cycling images from the past. In the early rise of the internet, I collected photos on a hard-drive and posted them on a Tumblr account. This lead to online conversations with many people from all over the cycling world. I still like scouring the web for images of cycling past. I am fascinated by the history of club rides and personal stories and how the bike plays a roll in the lives of so many people. Some of the best tales and rides are done by those who wouldn’t even declare themselves athletes!
I introduced myself to Felix on Flickr, after finding some of his photos from his tours around Ireland in the mid-1980s. I sent him a message, introducing myself and asked if I could do a Q&A to publish on this Journal. The result of our conversations is below.
Many thanks to Felix for being so generous with his time and for allowing me to publish his great photos here. 
Click on photos to enlarge 
What is your most memorable moment on the bike or involved with cycling?
That's a tricky one when one hasn't really achieved any great cycling heights and no ride or tour really stands out. Perhaps it was plucking up courage after a phone call [to inquire whether his entry in Richard's Bicycle Book was still valid] to go and visit Major Nichols to discuss ordering a hand-made bike. Most of my CTC group were riding Ephgrave, Condor or Hobbs cycles and I needed something a little exotic.
I can still see myself cycling up Raglan Road in Cape Hill on my mass-produced Claud Butler and spending what seemed like hours in his shop listening to the master talk about components and racing cyclists I'd never heard off, nodding vigorously, hoping he'd make me a bike. He was 68 at that time. He did and I'm still riding that one. He built me a couple more frames after that as he seemed to like me [not universal].
He died 14 years ago at an advanced age but his frames still live on.
I noticed you spent 7 years cycling returning to Ireland to ride. Can you tell us a bit more about that. What was it that drew you to Ireland?
I'd already done a few tours in Mid and South Wales - the former was a really wild expanse and I can't remember what interested me about Ireland - living at the time near Heathrow Airport, it was really easy in those days to ride to the departure hall, put your prepared bike in a big plastic bag, bring all your tools into the cabin as hand luggage and be out on the bike within a couple of hours. Easier than going to Scotland in fact, yet one was using a different currency. I've never been interested in France and have only spent two days there in my life. The West of Ireland was really wild and rugged but you were never far from a village with a shop or hostel. If something went wrong, you were never far from help ... like when my bottom bracket spindle broke at Gougane Barra right at the end of a tour and I had to bribe a bus driver to get me back to Cork from Macroom, the cycle shop there having chosen not to open that day.
Northern Ireland was also intriguing in the late 80s. No English people were touring there so it was an odd but rewarding experience. Photography was not easy, e.g. once taking a photo of an old building in full cycling kit, I was surrounded by humorless RUC officers with peaked caps pulled down over their eyes asking what I was doing. That was rather scary. All the people in the North were very welcoming, you just had to read the situation in the Guest Houses and act accordingly. They'd tell you where to go and tell the pub, or whatever, who had sent you.
I forgot to mention that my mother had ancestors from Mayo [Ballintubber] who came over to England like many others at the time into Lancashire. So I was also curious to visit - in fact, Mayo became my favorite part of Ireland for cycling. I have no desire to return to the country now.
How about the Hungary trip? How did that one come about?
It was only the fourth time I left England and Wales. I'd organized a YHA trip to South Central Finland with some friends the previous year and wanted to go somewhere a bit more exotic. Perhaps I was thinking of the tenuous relationship between the Finnish and Hungarian languages. I think I wanted to go where few others went.
At an Essex CTC dinner the previous year I was talking to an elderly rider called Charlie Merritt who amazed me with tales of cycling in Czechoslovakia in previous decades. In those days we had to inform our managers at work if we traveled to Eastern Europe "because of the dangers...". The Essex club members were treated to an annual slide show given by the likes of Neville Chanin, but they never went behind the Iron Curtain, which was shortly to fall 18 months after our visit to Hungary. It also had a nice mixture of flatlands and mountain nothing much over 1000m.
I planned a trip to communist Czechoslovakia the next year, again before the "change" but nearly died during an attack of viral pneumonia shortly beforehand and the others went without me.
You mentioned in our first exchange that you had a love for older, more traditional framed bicycles. Why is this?
Frames hadn't changed much between 1950 and the mid-1980s, so that was what everyone was riding, brake cables, toe-clips and straps. Just like Eddy Merckx or Bernard Hinault in fact. And don't they still look great on them in those pictures? I never moved into the present, not wanting to learn additional maintenance skills. I used to tour abroad on steel cranks and cotter pins, since one could always borrow a hammer [as I once had to in East Germany to remove a broken fixed bottom bracket cup] if need be.
What is your favorite piece of cycling kit (from the past or present)?
I picked up a pair of pink wool mixture cycling jerseys in Denmark of which I still have one That was fairly outrageous in pre-pre-Rapha times. I lent a good friend one and we rode as the pink composite team in a 2-up time trial. I was useless as usual.
The only components I can't do without are TA cranks and rings and Mafac polycarbonate-hooded levers which are paired on most of my bikes. Major liked the latter. Unfortunately, the growth of Eroica style events has pushed up the second-hand prices. Cycling shops tend not to stock much for me - tires and inner tubes, perhaps, but even they are giving way to tubeless. Nothing much from the present really interests me, although I do fit modern lights. Just think, we used to ride through the night with cardboard EverReady 800s twin-packs front and back.
Oh, and a Brooks leather saddle [mainly but not exclusively Professional] is indispensable.
I want to ask you a question about your interest in locomotives as your photography tells me you're a bit of a spotter?
It was pretty normal to have such interests back in the 60s. As schoolboys, some of us would go up to London and ride around the North London line to Willesden Junction in empty carriages through stations covered in weeds - it has all changed now.
In 1991 I did some touring in East Germany with a friend who was also interested in trains so we could divert to stations or railway lines when other cyclists would have been bored or not interested. That was a great tour. I'd also become fascinated by trams and trolleybuses through my latter jaunts into Eastern Europe, having missed them in the UK. The Czech Republic is probably the best country for a cycle tour based around those modes of urban transport, not that I ever cycled there - public transport was so cheap back then.
All images by Felix Ormerod
Continue reading

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! 


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 
Continue reading

On Cycling in The Peak District

Adventures From Your Backdoor 
I woke up on Friday thinking about the rise in trendy new independent bike races and long-distance events such as the TransAtlantic, TransConti, Sportifs etc. I gave some consideration as to why I have never done one, nor have any desire to do one (I’m open to having my mind changed on this by the way).
It’s not that I’m looking down my nose at those that partake. But there is so much to explore riding from my house in Sheffield that I don’t have the desire to do one.
Within a 100 mile radius in any direction, but particularly into Derbyshire and the Peak District, there is a network of roads, bridleways and tracks that keeps my interest. Whether I do a couple of hours, an all-day ride or a saddle-bag stop-over.
I must admit, having a knowledge of the lanes and backwacks in the Peak makes planning a ride/route really enjoyable and interesting. Not everyone knows the lanes, but I would advise checking as OS map once in a while, this keeps it interesting. I have also benefited from riding with people who have the same mindset as me and there is no finer feeling than showing someone a new road, or finding a new road together. For none bike-riding readers, I know that might sound a bit weird!
I’ve done a few rides recently on my bike that have been 60% off-road, with the ride starting from the back door (rather than riding main roads to get somewhere first). By using woods, parks and lanes you can make your way out of Sheffield without having to deal with traffic, allowing you to do a 2 hour ride that is peaceful and scenic without never getting more than 15 miles away from the house. Furthermore, you can do two to three days riding in the Peak District without riding the same road and the topology of the land there lends itself to cycling perfectly.
It is an oddity of the times that which we live that there seems to be this desire and fashion to go all the way around the world, but never really paying attention to what's yours in front of you. It reminds of gap-years students that travel the globe to see the famous temples of the far-east but have never visited the beautiful Cathedrals of Europe. It seems odd to go to Siem Reap if you’ve never been to Chartres (or better still, York Minster). Besides, a ride from your door can cost practically nothing, except for perhaps a few quid for a sandwich in the cafe or a pint in a pub. Even if you have responsibilities, you can get out most days if you plan your time well.
I’m not comparing one to the other here, I have enjoyed cycle trips in Portugal, Italy and Mallorca over the years, as well as riding in other parts of the UK. But still, in regards to the essence of the bike, not much compares to routes I can do from my backdoor. This also takes away the frustrations of trying to manage the logistics of planning a trip with the bike that needs air or train travel.
I guess I’m lucky too - all this on my doorstep. I’m going to continue to celebrate it.
Words by Thom Barnett
Continue reading

The Beeley & Chatsworth Estate

I've explored these parts many times on the road bike, both the road and rough-stuff from the top of Beeley Moor. I've noticed a few footpaths and bridleways that I thought would be worth checking out on foot. 

The influence of Chatsworth house on the surrounding villages of Pilsley, Edensor and Beeley can be felt in this area, for over two centuries Beeley was effectively an estate village belonging to the successive Dukes of Devonshire. 

Many of the properties now have been sold-off but the village pub, The Devonshire Arms, has been brought back into the Duke's control in recent years. Formally three separate cottages, these were knocked together. King Edward VII and Charles Dickens are both said to have stayed there and this is where we started our walk. 

The first part of the route leads up through the plantations, running next to Beeley Brook and Moor Farm, before opening up across the open fields of Beeley Moor. From there you can visit Hob Hurst's House, a Bronze age burial mound named after a mischievous goblin (or giant) which lives in the nearby woods. 

Dropping back down into the woods across Beeley Brook you cross the road and take the bridleway for approx 1 mile, eventually encountering the remains of industry in the woods just beyond Fallinge Farm. As early as the mid-1600s a lead smelting mill has been established on the hillside, fuelled by coal dug from a seam on Beeley Moor. 

Once you leave the woods you cross several fields and across numerous wall stiles,  heading back towards the village. The Devonshire Arms serves Jaipur, or you can nip in The Old Smithy Cafe for homemade cakes and tea. 


Start + Finish ~ Grid Reference SK265676 

All words and photos by Thom Barnett 

Continue reading

Lathkill Dale & The Limestone Way

“Lathkill is, by many degrees, the purest, the most transparent stream that I ever yet saw either at home or abroad…” ~ Charles Cotton, 1676 

If you park at the Lathkill Hotel at Over Haddon as we did, you can walk down the winding lane to the Lathkill lodge, or you can ride here but you’ll need a change of shoes in your saddle bag, or cycling shoes that are ok for walking (the route is approx 8 miles). 

Before you reach the lodge, you will turn right onto this beautiful limestone dale next to the River Lathkill. Down here, there is a scene of ash trees, growing beneath limestone crags, scree and pastel coloured grassland. You’ll notice the crystal clear stream and if you stop to inspect, you may even spot some darting trout. 

Lead miners came here in the 18th and 19th century, some of the mine caves are still there for you to inspect. They drilled shafts and adits into the rock and built pump houses, aqueducts, waterwheels and even tramways. Due to overseas competition, the price of lead slumped and by 1870, the pistons stopped.

There are remnants of that time here, the Peak District’s industrial past, now surrounded by lush plants. The valley is full of sycamore and ash trees. Amongst them you’ll see the mossy pillars, remains of the aqueduct built to supply water to the Mandale Mine which is close by. You can cross the river in places, a nice bridge allows you to inspect Bateman’s House, the former mining managers dwelling.  

I have since been told that in dry periods of summer, the river disappears completely beneath the bed of limestone to be replaced by purple orchids, cowslips, primrose-like flowers and rock rose. Although, truth be told, I’ve never witnessed it. 

When you exit this twisting valley you will arrive at Monyash. Here you will find a pub ‘The Bulls Head’ and a cafe ‘The Old Smithy’, a popular cycling destination for local riders. The pub once held the miners special Barmote Court. 

The return leg of the walk is along high pastures overlooking the valley that you’ve just walked through, via Cales Dale and Calling Low this is know as the Limestone Way. You can nip through Meadow Place Grange to get back to the lodge where you started your walk. 

If you want to make a weekend of it, there is Haddon Hall nearby, home of the Duke of Rutland. One of the finest and unspoilt medieval manor houses in England and used as a location for countless films and tv drama including Jane Eyre and Price and Prejudice. 

All words by Thom Barnett

Photos by Lulu Watson

Continue reading
  • Page 1 of 3