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.


The 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.