Spotlight: The Rough-Stuff Fellowship
The Rough-Stuff Fellowship is the oldest off road cycling club in the world! That’s a decent accolade on its own in our book, and not a lot else should really need saying, but here goes anyway…
The Rough-Stuff Fellowship’s founding members were riding their bikes over mountain passes, in knee deep snow, in shorts and brogues, long before many of you (even your parents maybe) were out of nappies. They were – at least they look to be from the photos – a motley bunch of British eccentrics, with little care for where bikes were meant to go, or concern for whether the bike could actually be ridden – pushing, and even carrying your bike was, apparently, just another way to use one (“I never go for a walk without my bike” mused one early member).
Founded in 1955, the fellowship was bewildering to many cyclists of the time – but those founding members were simply onto something way ahead of most. The growing trend we see today for bike packing, and the existence of gravel bikes, are both a natural progression from these pioneering spirits. It seems to us that they understood the unmatchable joy and rejuvenation of getting lost, grazing an elbow, breaking your bike, boiling water on a camp stove and eating biscuits in the great outdoors.
The fellowship appointed an archivist last year, and he – Mark Hudson – requested that members send him whatever they had that might be relevant. He was inundated. Not only does he have a complete set of the fellowships bi-monthly journals, a wealth of hand drawn maps and written ride reports, but he has the honour (and onus) of having over 20,000 original photographs on glass plates, slides and negatives in his possession. He began to scan and share these incredible, comical, beautiful images on Instagram – and @rsfarchive is as good an account as you’re ever likely to find.
The fellowships membership clearly included talented photographers, and the photographs are not only fantastically made, but now have great historical value. Look out for flat caps, long socks, Ventile Greenspot jackets, heavy knitwear and heavier bikes.
Mark has recently teamed up with Max Leonard from Isola Press and together they’re going to publish a book that will become a classic document of not only the history of cycling off the beaten track but also British outdoor culture. They have a Kickstarter page running now and we highly recommend you head there and pledge. You can secure yourself a pre-order copy of the book, and help fill up their kitty to allow them to make the highest quality book they can - the project was fully funded to its £12,000 target in the first 12 hours (that’s how good all this is) but the more they make, the better they can make the book!
Visit www.rsf.org.uk for more information.
All images are © Rough-Stuff Fellowship and are used by permission.