Solo cycling to India

When Dervla Murphy was ten, she was given a bicycle and an atlas, and within days she was secretly planning a trip to India. At the age of thirty-one, in 1963, she finally set off and this book is based on the daily diary she kept while riding through Persia, Afghanistan and over the Himalayas to Pakistan and India.

Undaunted by snow in alarming quantities, and using her small calibre pistol on starving wolves in Bulgaria and to scare away lecherous men in Persia, her resourcefulness and the blind eye she turned to personal danger and extreme discomfort were remarkable.

Win a copy of Dervla Murphy’s book

We have a copy of Full Tilt, the account of Dervla Murphy’s solo cycling trip from Ireland to India, to give away. To be in with a chance of winning the book, simply leave us a comment at the bottom of the page we’ll pick a name at random.

Bicycles and bullets

If the idea of Dervla Murphy carrying a pistol on her cycle trip seems shocking now, it follows a historical connection between bicycles and bullets. In the late nineteenth century, the manufacture of arms and bicycles shared similar metalworking techniques; both trades benefitted from improvements in engineering that allowed tube gauges to be reduced dramatically. In fact, some companies went as far as to manufacture and sell both bicycles and firearms. The result was lighter bicycle frames and a terrifying arsenal of miniature weapons for their riders to carry.

The 1892 Revolver-Cycle was a miniature pepper-box pistol which, according to its inventor, Monsieur Joubert, could be stored within a handlebar grip. It was one of a number of guns developed specifically for cyclists at that time.

Thankfully, pistol carrying of this kind did not become widespread.

self-defence for cyclists

An American magazine article from Christmas 1912 asks: “Where’s the up-and-at-’em boy who doesn’t hanker for a first class rifle or a really good bicycle?”.

The ethical choice

The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. Over 30 years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance , breakdown cover  and mobility scooter insurance while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.

The Good Shopping Guide judges us to be the UK’s most ethical provider.


  1. Jill


    That is the type of book I love to read over the winter to inspire my trips in the summer. Wonderful.

  2. Yasmin Gregory


    Wow! what an epic journey and at a time when solo female travelling was practically unheard of. What an inspirational woman for so many reasons.

  3. Richard


    I met a journalist who interviewed Dervla, what a character

    • Frank Lee


      Maybe I should read this prior to planning to follow her lead…

  4. Peter Clark


    Not heard of this before but all points to being a cracking read

    • Mags


      This book inspired me to take up cycle touring in the 1980s. My copy is lost and I would love to replace and reread it.

  5. John Davidson


    Sounds like a great book to read in my hammock

  6. FinnMac


    I’d love to read this inspiring book!

  7. Lesley Walton


    Dervla Murphy was the original cycling adventurer and it was she who inspired me to take off on long distance cycle trips. I was so sorry to see she had died recently – but what a life and how well she lived it!

  8. Les Gunbie


    I once read In Ethiopia with a Mule by Dervla Murphy, in Ethiopia (but without a mule). Sad to see she died earlier this year, a real adventurist!

  9. Colin


    a classic read which I have yet to delve into

    • Bazza


      Dervla inspired generations of cyclists including me. Would love a fresh copy of her much treasured book, passed on to my son.

  10. Mrs Cheryl Buxton-Sait


    I’d love to read more about this inspiring woman.

  11. Rory Harkins


    Sounds amazing!

    • Moragh Buchan


      I read this book a long time ago & would love to have a copy of it.

  12. Anthony Rogers


    If I don’t win it I need to remember to buy it.

  13. Susan Lancaster


    I’ve read a couple of her books already and would love to read this one too. At 66 I am unlikely to ever do this route but it will be as if I have been with her as she writes so well!

  14. David


    Devla’s book of her journey was an inspiration for me when I was planning my travels overland to India in the early 1970’s; read it but never had my own copy.

  15. Helen


    What an incredible journey. Would love to read about what she made of it.

  16. Mark Popplewell


    I love a bit of armchair travelling

  17. Andy Brown


    I’d like to have a proper Gandhi at this book

  18. Graham Parkhurst


    Wouldn’t be possible today, with or without pistol!

  19. Andy


    That’s twice this book has come up recently, yes please.

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