Cycling and Stoving

The cafe stop has long been an essential feature of cycling life but there is also a long tradition of carrying a stove to brew your own. In Scotland it is known as 'drumming up' and some die hards even forego the stove and 'drum up' on an open fire. Frank Patterson depicts the fun of an open fire rather than the nearby cafe in his wonderful drawing 'Teas'. Even more evocative of a byegone era is his drawing '4PM' which shows a tandem couple brewing up on their primus complete with teapot, cups and saucers.

For many years the Swedish Primus was the stove of choice. 'Primus' is to stoves what 'Hoover' is to vacuum cleaners, a brand name that has come to be used for any paraffin stove. Monitor was a British made 'primus' stove. A sweetly running primus is a beautiful thing but Paraffin is a smelly fuel which is no longer widely available. It can usually only be bought now in 5L prepacks so is hardly handy to buy on tour. Primus stoves have become collector's items and command high prices but were once so ubiquitous that a special clip was available to attach them to the top tube.

primus clip

Nowadays there are almost as many varieties of stove as there are cycles and cyclists.


The Isle of Wight Wayfarers has a small group of stovers who forsake the comforts of the cafe in search of the perfect brew spot. There are no shortage of handy benches with open views and many favourite bus shelters for those rainy days. A crisp autumn morning by the river Yar provides perfect stoving conditions


although this spot can be a little chilly later in the year!


We like to feel that we are upholding a time honoured tradition, although some do question our sanity and others have suggested we are merely trying to save more money for beer! Stoving, I must admit, is not without its hazards. I was showing off my latest acquisition, the ultra minimalist 'White Box' meths stove.

white-box-stove-spotlightThe pot is merely balanced on top of the burner and the quantity of meths judged precisely so that it burns out when the water is boiling. I had added a bit too much so used a cloth to remove the pot from the flame. There was an unpleasant acrid smell which I attributed to an improperly primed primus. It grew worse. Smoke began to rise from my feet! I realised that I had caught the cloth in the flame and it was now burning vigorously, melting a hole in my cycling shoe! It took a while to live that one down!

There is only one thing that can produce more smoke and steam than a bunch of cyclists with stoves –


another essential part of our heritage!

All the information you could ever want on stoves can be found here.

4 comments on “Cycling and Stoving”

  1. Patrick wrote:

    Good post and nice photos, the last one especially! As well as steam trains and tandem picnics, the bygone era includes Boy Scouting with campfires, bugles and Taps. We never had stoves in the Scouts (early sixties). I don't know why. I've used Tommy cookers in the past. I can't quite remember what one is but very simple with a solid piece of fuel and useless compared to a fire or a decent stove.

    Those Frank Patterson pictures are a good find. As you might have seen already, you can see more by changing the number at the end of the web address:

    They go up to number 32. They are here as well »

    The calendars were published by the CTC in 1980 – now £14.

  2. Kevin wrote:

    There was a terrific article in the Glasgow Herald about this last year.
    Old boy racers get on their bikes
    No stoves, just a blackened kettle and an open fire.

  3. Garry wrote:

    I've messed with stoves. Brought an ultralight setup on Lejog which I've just finished. Used it three times. It consists of meths, an aluminium sardine can in which I punched holes with a paper punch, a Gelert windshield and a light saucepan. It'll boil half a litre of water in about 6 mins. Plenty for a cup of coffee. Kenco make sachet complete with whitening. I've a heavier kit which is a Swedish Army Trangia kit. Twice as heavy. I love having coffee in the outdoors by a waterfall or suchlike.

  4. Paul Cooley wrote:

    I love that Frank Patterson made the remark "fun and earwigs" in his drawing of "teas".

    I just found out about the Terry Stove Carrier, and was searching around to see if there were any used ones about. It looks like a marvelous idea. Unfortunately, they seem to be scarce as hens teeth. I suppose I'm also overlooking the fact that I do not have a Primus stove to be carried. I usually use a SVEA Climber and sometimes a Trangia. Still, I love old stoves and old cycling gear, so I will probably continue the search.

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