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Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  2,657 ratings  ·  261 reviews
Based on her daily diary, this is Dervla Murphy's account of her ride, in 1963, across frozen Europe and through Persia and Afghanistan, over the Himalayas to Pakistan and into India, during one of the worst winters in memory. She has written other travel books, including In Ethiopia with a Mule. ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 3rd 1987 by The Overlook Press (first published January 1st 1965)
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There are very few occasions where my enjoyment of a book will depend on liking the protagonist of the story (or, in the case of nonfiction, the way the author portrays him- or herself). "Full Tilt" is such a case.

Dervla Murphy gives an account of her incredible journey, travelling from Ireland to India via bicycle (or rather, from Iran to India, because the first leg of the journey is dealt within the first twenty pages). She relies on her letters and diary entries, leaving them standing on th
May 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
I really can't believe this woman. She goes on this crazy trip from Europe to India on a bicycle (leaving in the middle of winter), meets all sorts of sweet people (and a few jerks), lives on clover for days and nearly starves to death, gets sick and sunburnt multiple times, deals with nasty insects and bad sanitation and wild animals and human beaurocracies, climbs up and down mountains and drags her bike along (sometimes on her back) when the roads get bad, falls in and out of love with the cu ...more
Lee Prescott
Apr 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
Dervla Murphy comes across as the sort of eccentric relative your 7 year old self is presented to in her parlour to listen to her stories. Fascination turns to discomfort and by the time your tenth birthday comes around you are feigning illness to avoid. Her trip of nigh on 60 years ago is truly amazing - shooting Balkan wolves in the depths of the coldest winter in 80 years, crossing glaciers, heat-stroke etc. But, there is something incongruous in her account - the romantic idealism of the nob ...more
So I have now finished Murphy's first three books in exactly backwards order, having read Tibetan Foothold, the immediately sequel to Full Tilt, back in 2018; and then The Waiting Land, the third book in what is in effect (but never actually described as) a trilogy, back in 2013, after an initial read in 1991! But reading them in reverse order in no way detracted from the delight of each book as a stand-alone - although if you're starting from scratch, I'd certainly recommend reading them chrono ...more
Jan 14, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Finished....oh thank goodness! I'm so glad that I'm done this book. The only thing that kept me pushing through was the fact that I was reading it for a class.

I thought that Dervla's adventures were interesting, and that she was incredibly eager to get into the craziest situations, but I'm not a fan of her form of all. I understand it's in diary form, but I would have much preferred the focus to be on the environment, the different things that she describes as being beautiful,
She certainly is a tough and determined woman, Dervla Murphy. In appallingly cold conditions and the start of her journey, and equally difficult hot conditions at the end, she shows she is not one to give up easily.
Written in diary form, she advises in the introduction, she resisted the temptation to heavily edit the book and introduce facts and statistics. This perhaps takes out some of the facts around her journey, but concentrates the content on the people and places as she encounters them.
Krishnan Srinivasarengan
Aug 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
This book left me with mixed feelings.

The high points are, the awesome journey, the grittiness of the lady and the authentic feel of the trip through day-to-day fluctuating emotions/thoughts. It surely gave a good picture of the 1960s in the middle east, Afghanistan and Pakistan and her non-judgemental attitude (which sometimes is a bit too patronizing) made the reading enjoyable.

The low points are: Near empty description about her journey in Europe and India (the Indian part of journey was ver
Rich Mulvey
May 04, 2014 rated it liked it
I just finished this book, and am really torn about it.

On the one hand, Murphy is clearly to be admired for her take-no-prisoners approach to bike touring. She does more with less than most of us could possibly dream of. I would have been a worried mess in a lot of the situations she describes. She does an excellent job of describing the scenery and environment she passes through using simple but evocative imagery.

On the other hand, I find many of her attitudes to be annoying, if not downright l
Oct 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is an incredible book - a wonderful description of cycling from Ireland to India, but specifically through Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some of Dervla's feats had my mouth hanging open as I read, and the scenery she describes is utterly fantastic - making me very sad that it's unlikely I'll be able to take such a trip in my lifetime! Having read some of Dervla's later works first I also found it really interesting how her thoughts moved on over time, for example on women in traditional Islamic ...more
Aug 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: global
I love the nonchalant way Dervla describes what was an incredibly challenging bike journey across Europe, and Central and South Asia in the 1960s. After reading her descriptions of the utter generosity of the Afghan and Pakistani people and the beauty of the landscapes, you'll be left with an appreciation for a region whose reputation has been sadly and unfairly marred post-9/11. While the very occasional racist terminology prevalent in the 60s might jar modern readers, her open and thoughtful p ...more
Kevin Lanahan
May 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: touring cyclists
I actually read a 1965 edition of this book, so I don't know if it has been edited in the intervening years or just reprinted.

This is a fascinating story of a woman's bicycle ride from Ireland to India. It glosses over the European journey (despite beginning in the dead of winter) and focuses on her time in Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Despite many dire warnings about traveling in Muslim countries in the 60s, she went on and embraced their culture and hospitality.

There's a fair amount of "p
Chris Steeden
What an amazing journey. I kept having to remind myself that this was 1963 and not the age of internet, GPS and Google maps. This was a young girl from Ireland on a bike on her own. She must have made a lot of preparations as she did meet some influential people. She certainly got into a few scrapes which luckily she was able to get out of.

With all that I was not completely engaged with the book. It was not your typical travelogue which is not such a bad thing but still felt a little lightweight
Paula Marais
Jul 05, 2018 rated it liked it
The grit of the author is incredible. An amazing feat of travel across borders by a woman who seems incapable of fear. Even when faced with wolves and near starvation. However, the book ended rather abruptly and it still reads like a diary that needs a bit of editing.
Charlotte Burt
Apr 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
A fascinating account from one of my favourite travel writers. He later work is a bit overly political but this is her first and its her journal entries she made this crazy trip.
Mohammad Mohammadi
Sep 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
I recently finished Full tilt and found it a nice book .As I considered myself a moderate nature trekker by doing some trekking routes inside the country and abroad and submitting our highest peak " damavand" and few other mountains. I am from  Iran or persia .

I really admire Mrs Murphy and I saw her very stubborn, powerful minded  by doing such a big cycling adventure several decades ago,  in a time which I am sure very few people dire to do in the countries in her route. She is of course fearl
Jul 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Outstanding travel log whose only fault is that it isn't long enough. The author, Dervla Murphy, is one of the most remarkable women I have ever met through the written word. If she was a fictional character, I would have soundly criticized the author for stretching credulity. At the age of ten, Murphy, receives her first bicycle. She decides then and there to ride by bike from Europe to India. This book is an account of that journey. In 1963, now in her early twenties, she sets off aboard her b ...more
Geeta  Ramani
Mar 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Prompt : A book set in Ireland.

Full Tilt! Worded asbuilt!

My absolute and pure admiration for Dervla Murphy for having undertaken this journey on her bicycle. Im in awe of her temperament - fearless, confident and self contained, the temperament of a traveller!
She is never alone, she has Roz, her bicycle, her travel companion. She writes with humour. It is amusing to read her observations. She is happy in the company of people as she is alone in wilderness with nature.

I fell in love with all t
Tom Reeves
Oct 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Dervla's adventure and spirit are inspiring. I really admired her grit and they way she viewed the world around her. The journey is incredible but the book does suffer from a poor introduction (before she started writing her diary) and no conclusion of sorts. I get the honest as-it-happened style she was going for but feel the story could have been made more full with a little expansion at these two points. Dervla is great though, so I won't hold it against her. ...more
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating travelogue by an amazingly resilient woman. Taken directly from her diary entries, there is little fluff to the narrative and yet it is engaging, harrowing, inspirational and enlightening. for sure it takes place in a far different time, but that makes it even more remarkable.
Barb Wright
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
At a young age this Irish girl decided to go to India. Her exciting true story is described in her book.
Dec 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At the age of 10 Dervla Murphy decided to ride a bicycle from Ireland to India - in 1963, at the age of 31, she set out to do it. After a month of trying to write letters to her friends, she decided to keep a journal instead. Full Tilt is this journal - as it was written - without only minor corrections in spelling and grammar. The first chapter is a summary of her journey from Dunkirk to Teheran - and it's only after a week or so of journaling that Dervla finds her stride as a diarist. For inst ...more
Apr 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Diary of an amazing road trip in 1963 to countries that are constantly in the forefront of today's news and this book will make you think differently about them.
Insightful. The descriptions of her travels through the valleys and mountain passes make you feel like you are right there with her. I like the fact that she immerses herself in the cultures, doesn't want to be a tourist.
Maak Desai
May 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
She has visited the most beautiful corner of the world. but , would have appreciated if she was a bit less anti-Indian. & 1 incident that forces me to believe that she should have her facts cleared before passing a judgement is---------------" on purely religious basis, Kashmir should be a part of Pakistan."

Firstly, 90% of common man in India & Pakistan DONT want this partition thing. Kashmir- you need to be there talk to the people on streets there to believe that if given an option they want t
Sarah Attwell
Mar 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read this book while cycle touring and it did the opposite of inspire me, it humbled me. As I read about her cycling greater distances than me in horrendous conditions on a single speed bike, wearing her bike and gear as a scarf while crossing glaciers, almost starving to death, all I could think was- I am not Dervla Murphy, and I will never be Dervla Murphy. The fact that all of this was done in a time when very different things were expected of a woman made it even more astonishing. She writ ...more
Sep 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
I was expecting to like this book because I really enjoyed the one she wrote about her travels through Madagascar. That trip happened many years after this first one (Full Tilt), so she must have improved her storytelling style in the meantime.

The trip this book centers on was undoubtedly full of good material for an interesting narrative, but the book is presented in diary form. After a while, the details of what time she went to bed and woke up, what distance she rode each day, etc. become rep
Sep 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Dervla writes about her bicycle journey in an interesting but almost ignorant and racist way. However, keeping in mind the time when it was written and the author's lack of exposure to cultures before the experience, it is expected that her thoughts are without insight or understanding of her surroundings. Referring to the common peasants as savages and despising the upper class at the same time and yet using their every hospitality and kindness and basically eating for free along the way, she p ...more
Jun 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel
This is one rugged lady -- traveling by bicycle through a European winter, into Afghanistan and Pakistan in the early 60s. Her kit consists of a pair of nylon pants (attractive, I'm sure), an extra shirt, and a few spare tires for her bike -- but in listing the stuff she carries she never includes the packs of American cigarettes that she bestows as gifts AND smokes herself. Biking uphill in the Hindu Kush in 104 shadeless degrees, carrying your bike over miles of melting glacier... and stopping ...more
Jun 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
How appropriate to read a book on bike touring while on a bike tour, even if it did make me feel like I wasn't quite measuring up to the author's standards - what with her 5am starts, 80 - 100 mile days, riding through deep sand, walking 20 miles sometimes, carrying her bike over glaciers, fending off wild dogs with a pistol, etc. This was all in the 1960's with a heavy bike of course.

Luckily she's a witty writer - very humble and very entertaining. I was awed by her tenacity and good humor thro
Frances Sawaya
Feb 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
This woman has impressed me for decades, and now that she is into her 80s I find that I am still in awe of what she does. Ms. Murphy was the guest speaker at our local bookshop, The Crannog, and her sense of humility, integrity and honesty is quite something. Though her books are sorted on the Travel section, her commitment to values and understanding of human nature are more than mere logs of her journeys. Whenever I look at the on-line edition of CNN and see the ubiquitous lists of "ten best s ...more
You have to admire this lady's guts and gristle. She has a wild story to tell. Don't be put off by the whirlwind Introduction and Foreword, the diary format, and the fact that the book begins in Tehran instead of the European leg of her travel adventure (which is why this isn't rated higher than 3 stars), because the real story – the one she chooses to detail – is her near luggage-free, bicycle adventure as a woman traveling alone through Moslem Asia in 1963. That is worth restating – an unescor ...more
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Dervla Murphy is an Irish touring cyclist and author of adventure travel books for over 40 years. She is best known for her 1965 book Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle, about an overland cycling trip through Europe, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.

Murphy is a famous speaker and writer on Palestinian issues. She seeks the dissolution of Israel in its entirety.

Murphy normally travel

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