A Six Month Cycling Sabbatical: Brian’s Cycling Story

Photo taken in Leavening, North Yorkshire, on the Sunday Club Run with Askern CC.
Left to right – Trev A Robson, B Teal, H Hayes, R Dobson, M Briggs

Another former member of Askern Cycling Club, Brian Teal was prompted to get in touch with the project by fellow cyclist Ian Blair, after Ian shared the History of Askern CC and memories of holidaying with the Club. Brian was born in Doncaster in 1933. He joined Askern Cycling Club at the age of seventeen and bought many bicycle frames from Uppadines in Balby. He remained a member of the club for ten years and as a first category rider, recalls competing against Tommy Simpson in a 25 mile time trial. 

Image courtesy of Brian Teal

One summer, when Brian was 24 or 25, he was persuaded to join his friend Dennis on a six month cycling tour of Europe. The pals set off from New Haven to Dieppe, each with £100, which was to last them for the duration of their trip. After an unfortunate start of accidently drinking water from a trough that was meant for horses, they set off on their adventure.

Initially travelling through France, they were advised to avoid Paris during the Bastille Day celebrations. Their route took them through France, Spain and Portugal, stopping at various places en route including Biarritz, Fontainebleau, St Sebastian, Bilbao and over the Pyrenees. They camped out in a tent they had brought with them every night to make their money stretch out as long as possible.    

Brian enjoyed seeing the world, but found the heat of Spain particularly oppressive. They would begin the day’s ride at about 4:30am and cycle until about 9:00am, then rest in the heat, setting off again about 4:00pm for another three hours’ cycling in the cooler temperatures. Because Brian found the heat such a struggle, he agreed to part company with Dennis for a while so he could take the coast road, which he believed would be cooler. However, he remembers this as the worst mistake he made as the heat was no less oppressive!

Brian recalls being offered a lift by a lorry driver in Madrid, and taken to his home for a meal. He was then smuggled into a hostel with a group of engineering students, who took him with them to watch a wrestling match on a Friday and Saturday night. He was offered the chance to watch a bull fight, but did not feel comfortable observing such a spectacle. After his stay in Madrid he set off for Valencia. While he was travelling, a gale suddenly started up, which helped him get to his destination much more quickly that he otherwise might have done! He had arranged to meet Dennis in Valencia, but the note that he left for his friend at a hostel telling him where to meet was never passed on, so from now on Brian was left on his own. 

Undeterred, he continued his adventure through Spain alone, visiting Barcelona and Costa Brava, then travelling over the Alps into Italy. He cycled through Turin and Milan, eventually moving up into Austria, where he visited Innsbruck, Salzburg and the St Bernard Pass. He eventually returned to Calais via Luxembourg and Belgium. From his many memories of this European adventure, several occurrences stand out. 

In Luxembourg, Brian realised that his cycling shoes were in desperate need of repair after such a long time in the saddle. He found a local cobbler who stitched new soles onto his shoes, but refused to take any money as he still appreciated the British effort in the Second World War. In Portugal, he was making his way to a campsite for the night, but it was at the top of a very steep hill. As it was near a hotel, the manager offered to let him pitch his tent on the hotel lawn. He was allowed to have a shower and a shave in the servants’ quarters, and was provided with an evening meal of fruit and soup, pheasant, then coffee and cheese. In the morning before he set off he was also given breakfast, so he was prepared to be presented with quite a hefty bill for all this food and drink, but he found that it had all been given to him for free.  

Brian’s adventure came to an end after about six months, when he returned home to Doncaster. Feeling a bit unsettled and unsure what to do next, he went to stay with his elder sister in London. During the two years he lived in the capital, he continued to cycle, but when he met his future wife he moved onto a motorcycle and side car, as she was not a cyclist. Brian didn’t really return to cycling after this, but his memories of his great cycling adventure in Europe are still fresh and clear even 60 years later. 

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