The South Lakes Group
Your local off-
For cyclists who love off road leisure cycling in South Lakes and Yorkshire Dales
Part of the ‘Where the Brew Stop? The off-
A bit of rough stuff by Tony Greenbank of the Cumbria Magazine.
Roughstuffers really are the stuff of legend as I discovered recently. To become a member of the Rough-
Formed by cyclists who wanted to get away from roads and instead cycle on tracks and byways, the RSF has held many meets in the Lake District since the days of bikes with steel frames, wrap-
The ‘Rough Stuff’ name would occasionally crop up through the years that followed wherever enthusiasts of the Great Outdoors shared a crack.
There was the Roughstuffer who was apparently struck by a flash of lighting while on his circa 1946 sit-
Although the heavy steel frame of his bike vibrated like a tuning fork and his hair stood on end, he didn’t seem to worry. He thought he was having his photograph taken.
In Langdale, so another tale goes, a Roughstuffer fell over while pedalling across the upper reaches of Langdale Beck in Mickleden and unable to rise from the river bed as the flood water poured over his head. Undeterred, he jammed one end of the handelbars in his mouth and breathed in air from the other end that was sticking out of the water snorkel-
I have been later informed this is a fanciful tale. And that such a survival feat would be by the laws of physics impossible. But you get the idea. And I did see a feat that at the time seemed just about as implausible on Scafell Crag.
We had climbed Pinnacle Face Direct from Lord’s Rake to Hopkinson’s Cairn. Next Stop: Great Eastern on the East Buttress. Between the two is Broad Stand, the Lakeland ‘bad step’ rated by Alfred Wainwright as top of the league for seriousness and an incredible accident blackspot.
At the top of this rock corner, about to lower ourselves down on to the ledge a few feet below, so sloping that if you were to drop onto it you would be decanted into space for hundreds of feet to the rocks and scree below, two men were making their way upwards. Over their shoulders they carried ancient bicycles with battered frames and covered in mud. I think we evinced surprise. “Aye,” said one, “we’re buggers for punishment.”
As we waited for them to climb up and past us, they mentioned the Rough Stuff Fellowship, only amazingly they weren’t members. But what they said sounded about right. “Maybe they’ll let us join now” said the one with the old Hercules with sit-
Nothing changes, they say, and the RSF goes from strength to strength, as uncompromising as ever. Members are still in evidence who use those old steel frame bikes with Carradice saddlebags, still produced in an old mill in Nelson and a truce emblem of the Roughstuffer. I know this becaused I arranged to the RSF South Lakes Group on day’s spin in the area east of Coniston at a cafe in a little garden centre near Holker Hall.
So intent was the group on the day ahead, and on steering successfully from one objective to the next, that I lost track of time and the RSF as well. They set out wheeling on a showery morning along the Mosses road from Holker to Haverthwaite, then turned left along the Cumbrian Cycleway to eventually cross the wonderful, airy bridge that spans sands and water across the River Leven at Greenodd. Then on to Spark Bridge.
Near Nibthwaite on the Cinderella shores of Coniston Water in a torrential deluge, a peleton of riders -
Sadly, by then I had completely missed the Roughstuffers. They had meanwhile ‘stormed’ up a lane from the Nibthwaite phone box then crossed Bethecar Moor by a green road, sadly trammelled by aggressive four-
“We are happy medium between out-
“So the popular choice of bike is called a hybrid, midway between the two extremes. We can do a lot of what mountain bikes do, if not all. And we take great pleasure in travelling at a more relaxed pace. How do you admire a Bog Orchid you have just squashed with your tyres?”
Rocky and mountainous sections are a popular choice of the RSF. Pass-
Fords have a magnetic attraction, and many an RSF photo competition has been won with a picture of Tilberthwaite or Winster or Carrock Splash fords -
Simeon Orme, a six-
But he agrees that there is one thing that Roughstuffers are, and that is ingenious. If a brake cable snaps then a bootlace between brake and handlebars suffices. A broken carrier? Then a bit of broken branch can be a useful splint. And a buckled wheel? It can be levered straight between the bars of cattle grid or between a gatepost and gate. Lost for puncture patches? No worries. Postage stamps will do.
One Roughstuffer on an icy road near Torver found his lights dimming because his dynamo was losing tension on the slippery rubber of his front wheel. Undaunted, he found an ideal way to tension the dynamo against the type -
As Steve Griffth says, “We have good companionship, good humour and good tracks -
This article was first published in the April 2005 issue of the Cumbria Magazine.