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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Review: Rough Stuff Fellowship Archive

You've probably already seen many samples of pictures from the Rough Stuff Fellowship Archive, though you might not have known it. For instance, the following image has probably been seen in many places without proper credit being given to the Rough Stuff Fellowship.
I've actually been a member of the Rough Stuff Fellowship for a year, long enough to purchase their guide to the alps, which is one of the best  gravel riding books, except of course, it was written well before the current fashion for gravel riding exists. (One note about the guide: it's rated in typical "British understatement" fashion --- their "easy" rides are challenging, their "moderate" rides involves the certainty that you'll have to get off your bike and carry it, and their "strenuous" rides can involve multiple places where you'll have to carry the luggage and the bike separately! The intended audience is composed of tourists on multi-day trips quite possibly with camping gear)

The pictures in the book are outstanding. The trip to Finland, for instance, apparently started with the tandems being hoisted aboard ship via crane:
I enjoyed the pictures of the alps as they were in the 1950s and 60s, back when Grosse Scheidegg was unpaved. There are numerous pictures of fence climbing, though the famous picture of a cyclist climbing a ladder with bicycle strapped to his back is notably missing.
The winter pictures are great, though I wished that all the pictures came with the accompanying RSF guidebook description and map coordinates, but of course, back in those days of Kodachrome, photographers didn't have GPS devices.
If I have any complaints about this book, it's that the quality of paper and cover (I bought the hardcover version of this book) is lacking. It was quite clearly intended for distribution to club members, but obviously reached a much bigger audience. I wished that they had charged a fee to view the photos digitally, for instance, as the samples on a high quality monitor are a much better way to view them than on the paper in the printed book.

Nevertheless, as a reminder of the days when cyclists didn't need purpose built bikes to go anywhere they wished, the book is great and well worth the purchase. It's not going to be much of a coffee table book, but every enthusiastic gravel rider should have a copy.  Recommended!

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