Tag Archives: touring

“Dummy Jim” from Scotland to the Arctic circle

Filmmaker Matt Hulse has produced a biopic of deaf Aberdeenshire cyclist James Duthie, known as “Dummy Jim”, who cycled solo from Scotland to the Arctic circle in 1951.

The film is touring Scotland, starting at the Glasgow Film Theatre on 6th July, going around the North and North East, and finishing at the Edinburgh Film Festival on the 17th.

It weaves fiction, documentary, animation and archive to explore the eccentric adventures of profoundly deaf Scots long-distance cyclist James Duthie who hailed from the close-knit Aberdeenshire fishing community of Cairnbulg and Inverallochy. In 1951, he set out on a lone cycling tour to Morocco. After three months of pedalling, he reached the Arctic Circle. “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” 12 years in the making, Hulse crafts a multi-layered memorial to a quietly determined maverick and the community that shaped him, with present-day village inhabitants emerging as creative participants. Deaf actor Samuel Dore leads.

From Matt Hulse on Vimeo.

Read more on STV Aberdeen:

Duthie kept a detailed journal of his marathon voyage and meticulously chronicled his myriad experiences. His original intention was to set off for Morocco.

But, as the trailer for the film points out, he never made it.

Instead, a much more dramatic scenario unfolded as the deaf Buchan cyclist entered a completely different world from anything he had experienced before.

“He was one of those adventurous souls who was very curious, very determined, and never let anything get in his way, and that was inspiring,” said Hulse.

“When you think that he was profoundly deaf and growing up in a small community in the 1930s and 1940s, this must have been a huge step for him to take.

“But, although things didn’t always go to plan and he faced difficulties, I like the idea of this wonky cyclist persevering and doing things his way.”


Dirt roads and climbing: from Aberdeen to Ayr


Kindly uploaded by David Martin, a fairly regular contributor to this blog, comes this photo from the 1971 Scottish Tour of the Grampians Milk Race. Note the dirt road – if anyone knows where this road is, please post in the comments. A web search for this event revealed that there a race manuals was for sale on eBay pretty cheap- so for the history buffs the info is still available if you can find it.

David referred to this as a Milk Race but on Braveheart forum Steven McGinty recalled that it was sponsored by Sunblest and christened “The Piece Race”. Again the race manual would clear this up but if you remember more info, please post up a comment.

Rider 27, who is receiving service in the right of shot, is Phil Templeton of Dundee Thistle RC. Incidentally, I was looking at another of David’s photos from the 2011 Snow Roads Auduax today, which also features Phil Templeton. He is seen below piloting a tandem on the Cairn O’Mount, with legendary long distance rider George Berwick.


In the above shot, Phil and George are riding the Snow Roads Audax is a 300km/186 mile ride also held in the Grampians, taking place this weekend. With 4800m/15,750ft of climbing, taking in the Cairn o’Mount, the Cabrach, the Lecht, and Cairnwell, it is probably one of the toughest rides in the UK. And the best value, with the cost to enter a mere £8.00. Bring your own food though!

interactive map with climbs

Rider 19 in the top photo, receiving wheel service on the left is I Thompson of ‘Glasgow B’. David informed me that there were centre teams, and National Teams as well, in this race.

Another race taking in dirt roads is the South Carrick Davie Bell. Traditionally one of the toughest one-day road races in Scotland, last year Ayr Roads brought in sections of dirt road to honour the pioneering highwayman that the event is named after.

The event has stepped up to National A status this year, with a high quality start sheet littered with pros and elite riders who will do battle on 10th June. Unfortunately the dirt sections will not feature in 2012 due to road repairs but we are sure they will be back, and in future the event is seeking to achieve Premier Calendar status. 2012 features 100 miles of racing, nearly 7,000ft/2369m of climbing, several passes through Girvan and the Nic o’ the Balloch climb.

photo by David Blockley
2011 winner James McCallum, Rapha Condor Sharp, left
photo by David Blockley

More great dirt road photos
more info about the 47th South Carrick David Bell

Manning up not getting down: Stuart Potter’s Biggest Journey

Recently I published a piece on Stuart Potter’s Biggest Journey, a 400 mile ride which he is undertaking to raise awareness of mental health issues, after coming to terms with the fact he suffered from depression.

I asked him some more questions about it, as well as some more details to do with his depression and cycling specifically.

I was diagnosed with depression in Feb 2011 after suffering for a few months with extreme lows, irritability, anxiety and sometimes anger. The trigger for me going to get help was feeling unable to cope with my 3 year old girl and on a number of occasions losing my temper with her and I was terrified of frightening her… this caused a fair few problems at home with my wife and I too. It was my wife that knew something was wrong and insisted I go see my GP. Following the diagnoses I began taking medication, though I was very reluctant at first, and also seeing a private therapist. I’m still benefiting from both of these forms of help.


On further investigation, mostly through talking with my therapist, it seems that I’ve battled with this for a long time – most of it seems to stem back to a cycling accident I had when I was 17 (I’m now 35). I was hit by a truck and, though was lucky to get away with only minor physical injury, I had server shock for a number of weeks afterwards and suffered huge mood swings and panic attacks in the following months before being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I went through counselling for this up to taking my A-Levels before leaving home to go to University. This is when the biggest problems seemed to set in.
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Stu Potter’s Biggest Journey

You’re out on the club run and find yourself riding next to someone you haven’t seen out in a while. We’ve heard all the ‘excuses’: I’ve been ill, busy with work, been away, not feeling fit enough, putting time in with the family. But how often do you hear someone say ‘I’ve had a bit of depression’? Never.

Stuart has bitten the bullet and is riding 400 miles to raise awareness of mental health issues. When you think about it, depression and mental health just isn’t something that is talked about, but it affects 1 in 4 people.

Stuart Potter is one of Edinburgh’s successful professionals, a popular business networking leader, an avid cyclist and a happily married father-of-one. He is also a survivor of depression – making him among the one in four people across the UK who suffer from mental health problems at some time in their lives.

Facing up to his illness has been a tough journey. That’s why Stuart is now preparing to embark on his Biggest Journey – and cycle 400 Miles from Edinburgh to London to raise awareness of mental health issues and money for charity Mind.

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Touring in France: les Diagonales

On a recent trip to Brittany I rode with a local touring club and learnt about The Diagonales de France– like a multi-stage equivalent of Lands End to John-O-Groats.

The challenge involves 9 randonnées based around 6 cities at the apex of the ‘hexagone’ of France: Brest in the West of Brittany, Dunkerque in Normandy, Strasbourg in the East bordering Germany, Menton on the Mediterranean border with Italy, Perpignan in the South and Hendaye, bordering the Spanish Basque country.

Between these 6 cities are 9 routes. You must complete them all, to be able can call yourself a diagonaliste and apply the badge below to your bike. Routes between the adjacent cities are not part of the diagonales.
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Riding to Germany in 7 Days

Back in December 2010, one of the hardest winters in history, that Edinburgh-based cyclist Markus Stitz ploughed his way with a singlespeed bike through snow and ice in a cruel 14-day journey to arrive in time for Christmas.

Markus Stitz

This time he is taking the easier option, a geared road bike, but is slashing the travel time in half. With only a saddle bag to take his luggage, Markus will cycle approximately 1300km in 7 days starting Saturday 14 May, with the first part of the journey from Edinburgh to Newcastle. He is again supported by Ashington-based company Montane, who will provide him with lightweight gear for the trip.

Avanti Giro 2008
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One man. One bike. One gear. And a long way home for Christmas.

It’s a while since I did anything about touring. But in the middle of winter, Markus Stitz will be cycling from Scotland’s capital all the way to his home town of Erfurt, the capital of the Thuringia state in Germany. In 13 days, on a single gear bike.

Markus, currently living in Edinburgh, has toured in New Zealand and Scotland before, and has been training in the snowy conditions over the past few weeks and does not seem fazed by it! (click on the image for more photos)

Wintercycling Dunblane to Callander

Markus is used to taking cycle touring a bit further and is properly prepared for the upcoming challenge. “My cycling trips in Scotland have been pretty unique this summer, so I came up with describing them as race touring trips. Essentially I had no time for longer tours with working two busy jobs at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Edinburgh International Festival, so I had to squeeze in as much as possible in the weekends. Doing more than 400km in two days is probably not what people understand as cycle touring, and adding the Scottish weather in made them real adventures. But as my body was coping very well, I came up with the idea for this Christmas tour.”

The ride is supported by DFDS Seaways and Montane, based in Ashington near Newcastle, which has provided Markus with some warm clothing for the trip.  There is a full preview of the trip in the press section of Markus’ website.

Itinerary (as of 5/12/2010):
o 11/12 Edinburgh – Sunderland
o 13/12 Ferry from North Shields to Amsterdam
o 14/12 Amsterdam – Hilversum
o 15/12 Hilversum – Nijmegen
o 17/12 Cologne
o 22/12 Ilmenau (route between Cologne and Ilmenau is flexible, weather permitting)
o 23/12 Erfurt
o 24/12 Schwobfeld (optional)

Follow markus on twitter
Markus’ blog

George Berwick 500km on a broken frame

Admonished from more than one quarter for my lack of knowledge about George Berwick, I have endeavoured to find out more and been sent useful links by various people.

Below is George after completing a 1500km audax in Germany this August. He is 69, remember.

Not only this but he rode 500km of the event with a sheared downtube! There is a long thread on “Yet another Cycling Forum” that evolves into a eulogy to George’s legendary riding. notable quotes include:

True Audax epics come from the likes of McNasty riding 400km+ with a snapped frame held together by zipties
Can we have a picture of him at the beginning, I’m not convinced there’d be much difference.
years of life left in that bodge
George has been a legend for a long time. 1979 Paris-Brest-Paris: 62H36 117 BERWICK George GB M VE A.U.K.
Twenty years later in 1999: 65H37 820 BERWICK George GB M VE

Image courtesy of The Pingus on flickr

And a couple more pics by a German rider Johann Eilers who also did the ride.

There is another account of what sounds like an epic ride on the West Lothian Clarion forum. Thanks Matthew of the Clarion for pointing me in the direction of this.

Pic of the Day: George Berwick aka McNasty

Yesterday’s long-overdue post on George Berwick led me to a fruitless search for pictures of the man. Thankfully David Martin of Dundee Thistle (?) swung these pics my way.


Above is George on the Snow Roads 300 ride I think. Worth reiterating that he is the Scottish 24 hour time trial record holder, I believe, with 448.70 miles. Apart from that, he’s clocked up over half a million miles and ridden more, and longer, place-to-place tours than an ordinary cyclists could contemplate.


Why the nickname McNasty, I wonder?
Please share any info you have on him.
Thanks to David Martin for the pics.
David’s flickr photos
@Davidmam on twitter

Scottish Cyclist: George Berwick

A post on the great George Berwick is long overdue on this blog, and it was suggested to me by a chap called Robert on flickr that I was short changing him a wee bit by omitting him from my Top 10 Scottish Cyclists of All Time. I’ll admit that list is biased towards road racers and was limited by my own limited knowledge of Scottish cycling history. So let’s look more at George Berwick.

He seems to still hold the Scottish 24-hour time trial champion with 448.70 miles. That alone is worthy of celebration, on this of all blogs. I must find out more. He was a prolific racing cyclist and although now a touring cyclist deserves a bit of respect for his racing time. This is corroborated on the Glasgow Road Club website.

He founded the Rough Stuff Fellowship in the 1950s, a group dedicated to tough off-road riding and touring, and is still a member today. These days he runs their ‘Vagabonds’ group in Fife. Robert comments: I think it would be a very tough cyclist indeed to accompany him on his travels, even now.

A cyclist I know called Crispin is another keen Berwick fan, and nudged me in the direction of a few other links. George’s writings were featured in a the CTC Fife Wheels newsletter under the moniker of McNasty and one piece is reprinted here on a site called Total Cycling. The casual style is entertaining and belies the sheer number of miles he would batter out during his tours.

If you want a word doc of this article, click here to download.

Since this article George has done many, many more rides: he’s now ridden his 40th 24-hr race (in 2002) and the UK coastal circuit of 5100km at randonneur standard (2001).

This vague collection of links shows I still have quite a bit to learn about the man. I love a good photo, and have been unable to find one of George but I’m sure he’s included in one of the RSF galleries.

One key fact, though stands out. The RSF was founded in the 1950s, and Scots were riding off road long before anyone had heard of Marin County. George Berwick and Davie Bell (another who is under-represented on this blog) had a strong hand in the establishment of mountain biking long before Gary Fisher, Tom Ritchey and Keith Bontrager.