Book Review: Rough-Stuff Fellowship Archive

by 6

Chipps has got himself a copy of the Rough-Stuff Fellowship Archive, and thinks you need one too.

I’m going to annoy loads of people first off by mentioning the ‘C’ word. Yes, I know it’s months until Christmas, but you know that Aunty Nora is going to be asking your mum what you want for Christmas this year, what with you being hard to buy for because you don’t seem to like jumpers or ties… but now you’re going be able to tell her that you want the Rough-Stuff Fellowship Archive.

rough-stuff fellowship
Mmm… weighty. Smells so good.

Put together from original slides and hand-drawn maps and typewritten stories, this is a coffee table book for the modern adventurer, full of inspiration, humour and a perfect snapshot of times gone by (and times still going on…)

If you’re not familiar with the Rough-Stuff Fellowship it was formed officially in the mid-1950s as an organisation for riders who liked to ride bicycles on off road adventures, which arguably makes it the oldest off-road bike club in the world. Still 600 members strong today, its members have pioneered rugged off road routes across Iceland and made the first unsupported ride to Everest base camp. Luckily, many members were photography enthusiasts and took numerous photos, presumably to delight audiences at church halls and W.I.s around the country on their return.

Inside The Book

Over its 200 pages, divided neatly into seasons, this weighty book shows some of the pioneers of our sport, taking on mountains and distant hill tracks in all weathers – on touring bikes with full mudguards. Usually wearing a bobble hat and a cycling cape. While smoking a pipe.

rough-stuff fellowship
When’s the Enduro Jacket going to make a return, then?

At £28, it’s a chunky amount for a book, but it’s the perfect gift for anyone who’s ridden anywhere on a bike (including yourself). As a dip-in-and-inspire tome for your covfefe table, it can’t be beaten. What’s your excuse for not riding? Just have a look in the book and see riders in the snow, in leather soled shoes and plus-fours. Or carrying their loaded bikes down Greenup Edge, or winching them down cliffs with baling twine. Every page is an inspiration of not needing the right tyres, or gears, or even the right bike, in order to have a cycling adventure anywhere in the world.

rough-stuff fellowship
Pah, you can keep your Dirtsuits

The book itself is book-bound, with a thick card cover and some lovely, thick paper inside. Nearly every page holds one or two photos with that faded colour that only old slide film seems to give and there’s even a stitched-in facsimile of the original Rough Stuff Fellowship typewritten newsletter, along with an account of a 1958 crossing of Iceland.

This book, already in its second edition, was enthusiastically backed on Kickstarter, raising £51,000 of a £12,000 goal. And it’s likely that more books will follow, such is the quality and depth of the archives they have to work on.

cycling gifts
It’s worth it just for the packing list: “Darning wool, recommend plenty’

The whole book feels (and smells) incredible and can either be approached from the start, or just dipped into, with a page or two a day. The photos themselves date from the earliest days of the Rough-Stuff fellowship in the 1950s up to the mid-90s. There are locations as local as the Lake District and Box Hill and as remote as Everest base camp and Iceland. All undertaken in a selection of long socks, jaunty, chunky-knit jumpers and bobble hats.

cycling gifts
It’s reassuringly weighty

The Rough-Stuff Fellowship has to be applauded for appointing an archivist to sift through thousands of slides and scanning them all. There’s a real sense of being given a glimpse into the workings of a secret society. The photos are both entertaining and inspirational. Say what you want about carrying a touring bike around the Lake District, it’s incredible to see the places that the Rough Stuff Fellowship got to, in heavyweight kit that hadn’t changed much since the says of Scott and Shackleton. 

This is a book to read in front of the fire this winter, while making bold plans for next year as you get the maps open on the living room floor. And it’ll do more for your cycling enthusiasm than buying a carbon fibre pump.

rough-stuff fellowship
That wheel bent back and made it to the end of the trip…

Yes, Get One – or Two

If you want a window into the world of Dick and Inky, Pat, Mary and Albert and chums, seeing the world with a bike (and sometimes even riding it) then you need to get this book. Even if Aunty Nora buys you a copy, you’re bound to want to buy another copy to send to a friend. 

I already have a list of people I need to buy a copy for.

Review Info

Brand: The Rough-Stuff
Product: The Rough-Stuff Fellowship Archive
Price: £30
Tested: by Chipps for

Discover more from Singletrack World Magazine

Subscribe to get the latest posts sent to your email.

Chipps Chippendale

Singletrackworld's Editor At Large

With 23 years as Editor of Singletrack World Magazine, Chipps is the longest-running mountain bike magazine editor in the world. He started in the bike trade in 1990 and became a full time mountain bike journalist at the start of 1994. Over the last 30 years as a bike writer and photographer, he has seen mountain bike culture flourish, strengthen and diversify and bike technology go from rigid steel frames to fully suspended carbon fibre (and sometimes back to rigid steel as well.)

More posts from Chipps

Comments (6)

    Just logged on to have a quick browse before tea , ended up buying something I’ve never heard of funny what you end up doing .

    i was one of the original kickstarters and it was a very proud moment reading my name on the list of backers in the book
    buy one it really is excellent

    Brilliant book – beautifully printed, and full of inspirational stuff in jumpers and long socks.

    Even better why not join the RSF for £12 and then buy the book with a couple of quid discount!

    Wonderful book, buy one before they run out!

    My copy of this book has just been delivered.
    When I joined Bolton Clarion in 1994, Albert Winstanley was a senior member we were in awe of, and it is wonderful to see in this book a photo of Albert with his wife Kathleen, and their daughter. In 1996 I took part in a cycle tour of the West Fjords, North West Iceland. It was organized and led by Dick Phillips, and he drove the support vehicle which was a dubious east European military jobby. Alas Albert, Kathleen and Dick are no longer with us.
    This book is wonderful, buy it, go ride in wild places.

Comments Closed