A bikepacking trip in Ireland
A cycling friend, Jeremy, asked if he could borrow my bikepacking bags, “just to see how they performed”. Of course, I obliged but I asked that he write a blog about his trip in return. The article makes for excellent reading – and will surely inspire other cyclists to head off the Ireland on their own bikepacking trip. Here is what Jeremy has written:
Bikepacking is a term that probably means something different to each person who uses it. I was tempted into this trending activity after seeing my fellow participants on the Capital Trail, who had a wide range of bike-packs strapped to their bikes when lining-up for the start, and also reading of FionaOutdoors’s adventures in France with minimal packing.
My version of bikepacking did not mean strapping the kitchen sink to my bike. It meant feeling the benefit of using the lightweight packs that strap on to the bike frame without the need of a pannier rack. I used an Apidura frame-bag that attaches to the underside of top tube and an Apidura saddle pack. This meant that I had to be fairly frugal with my packing, but then, I was not expected at any 5 star hotels.
I packed this kit into two dry bags and placed these in the saddle pack:
- 1 x spare cycle shorts – in case of rain (or need to change waffle pattern on backside!)
- 1 x long light cycle trousers – in case of cold / rain
- 1 x waterproof jacket – you know why…
- 2 x tops/pants/socks
- Basic toiletries and travel towel
- 1 x GPS
- 1 x phone
- Spare batteries / USB charger / cable
- Crocs – the lightest shoes I possess.
Into the frame bag went:
- 1 x cable lock
- 1 x spare inner tube / levers
- Patches / pump / multi-tool / lube / speed link
- Energy bars / cable ties.
I was impressed with the snug way that the saddle pack attached to the bike. The Velcro straps are sturdy enough on the seat-post and the cradle straps that attach the bag to the seat support the weight so that it doesn’t swing about. In fact, I quite often forgot that it was there at all.
Also the design meant that the pack was quick and easy to remove from the bike at the end of a day’s travel.
The frame bag had easy access zips, which were good for things that were needed on the go.
Bikepacking journey of Ireland
My reason for bikepacking was to give me a sporting chance of completing a cycle trip across Ireland and back. A friend had suggested a tour of the Dingle peninsula on the west coast and I thought it would be good to see a bit of the country en route.
This amounted to a good deal more than my usual commute and occasional adventures on my single speed. For this trip, I upgraded to a road bike because I thought that more than one gear would help.
Day 1 Map My Ride 1
Last month, I took the ferry over to Dublin and on a sunny autumn morning set out for Wexford. This was supposed to be a relaxed jaunt down the east coast and once I was out of the hustle and bustle of Dublin rush hour things calmed down nicely. The main roads had fantastic wide segregated lanes of smooth tarmac, which kept me out of harm’s way from lorries.
My Google cycle-friendly route mixed the main roads with a good selection of lesser-travelled carriageways. Progress was good past Newcastle, even though I didn’t get as many sea views as I had hoped, but I thought I was getting somewhere.
The day’s hiccup came at Wicklow, where my GPS took me down about a four-mile dead end. The motorway turned out to be between where I was and the main road that I wanted to be on. I was forced to rethink and ended up continuing on to the scenic town of Arklow for a late lunch by the river (very palatable falafel with mango spiced salsa!).
The rest of the day was a series of dashes along one side of the motorway and then the other as the main road ran parallel. Also, after my dead-end, the mileage had crept up above the 80-mile mark, so my relaxed day turned out to be quite long. So I was pleased when I reached the long causeway and bridge over to Wexford and my first stopover.
Day 2 Map My Ride 2
My second day on the road started well with a full Irish breakfast and then out into the mist. The smaller roads along the south coast of Ireland had lost their cycle lanes and I kept my lights on till around 11am to ensure drivers’ attention.
At Ballyhack, the ferry was heard but not seen until it landed. All the way to Waterford I caught glimpses of estuary landscapes when the mist cleared briefly. The atmospheric effects gave the land an ethereal quality and every hill went up into the clouds.
Fortunately, there were no hiccups today, just a long way to go. After about 60 miles I had another late lunch, this time at Dungarven with its wide estuary and river crossing that all looked good now that the sun was finally out.
After lunch I had a steep and scenic detour on the country roads between the River Brickey and the River Licky. The road had a central divide of several inches of grass and was very uneven. Once I made it back to the 21st century I had another 40 miles to cover, which wasn’t so bad as I had prepared myself for a long haul.
Also, I found out that I had to share my yellow lanes with tractors – who knew? In fact, they were most likely the primary users of said lanes! Apart from a little mud left on the road, they seemed better behaved than the average Glasgow taxi. After all this it was a relief to reach Cork city in the early evening dusk.
The Dingle trip was a welcome break from the cross-country slog. I drove out to near Tralee with a friend, and fuelled by a pancake breakfast, we set a good pace along the north side of the peninsula. The weather was a little undecided, which made it difficult to see how high the infamous Conor Pass climb was (1400ft from sea level) or how far I had already come.
However, the three-mile descent to Dingle was a great 60kph rush, luckily with no stray sheep or sharp switchbacks. There was a food festival in full swing in town, which gave us a chance to sample very local produce and listen to some good music.
After lunch it was back on the small roads to Annascaul, followed by some beautiful sea views along the southern coast looking over to the Kerry peninsula. The sting in the tail for this journey was that the ridge crossing that we had done to get to Dingle needed to be repeated. The single track road went up at 17% which was a struggle for legs that had already covered 60 miles that day. Another brisk descent ended this satisfying ride with its fine scenery, made even better by being in company.
Day 4 Map my Ride 4
The next challenge was to make my way back to Dublin. So, on an overcast morning, I climbed out of Cork in a north-westerly direction. My destination for the day was the historic city of Kilkenny, about 100 miles away. My route was plotted along the smaller roads and soon the clouds came down and I only had crows for company.
The steady climbing spread over the first 15 miles was rewarded with a sweeping three-mile descent into Ballyhooly. A coffee stop in Mitchelstown gave a boost to get me to the location that forced its way into the itinerary. Having started from Tipperary House in Dublin, a visit to Tipperary town seemed obligatory.
Unfortunately, I only saw the rundown side of town, so I didn’t hang about. I rode on to the charmingly named village of Golden for a lunch-‘n’-go. There were abbey ruins and the ancient castle at Cashel to view, but my pilgrimage will have to wait.
This was the point when the inevitable rain set in, but it wasn’t that cold. The rest of the afternoon was punctuated by a farmyard dead-end, my GPS trying to jump off the handlebars, more rain and making sure I did not slide off the bike due to excess liquid manure being on the road (bloody tractors!). By early evening I made it to Kilkenny, in need of a rest and a hot shower.
Day 5 Map My Ride 5
My last day started much brighter, and I spent a little time exploring around Kilkenny. The medieval capital looked good in the morning light. The castle and grounds by the river deserved a longer look. I set off along the banks of the Nore surrounded by the colours of early autumn.
I would describe my last day as a long green tunnel. I can now fully understand why they call Ireland the emerald isle. There is so much lush green across this heartland. My amusing (to me) discovery was to find myself on the Gordon Bennett Route.
Even though slightly out of fashion these days, I was accustomed to people exclaiming this name in exasperation, but I never knew anything about the person or his passion for motor racing. Knowing that I didn’t have quite as far to go as other days I enjoyed my little excursions from the main road as long as I didn’t wander too far from the purple line on my GPS.
Castlecomer’s Discovery Park passed with only a brief look-in and the mainly straight road transported me through County Kildare. I made it to Athy for my elevenses and from there I had to wait until Two Mile House to get off the main road. This avoided Naas and took me past the wonderful racecourse and paddocks at Punchestown.
The roads became bigger and faster the nearer I got to Dublin. I enjoyed another of my late lunches on the outskirts of the city, thinking that I deserved a McMor (Irish Big Mac), since the adverts said it was the taste of Ireland.
After 60 miles it filled a gap and gave me strength to take on the city traffic again. By mid-afternoon I was back at Tipperary House, feeling a certain sense of déjà vu – and some satisfaction that I could cover so much of the country under my own steam.
It was a long way to Tipperary, and quite a long way back – but it was well worth the effort.
Thanks to Jeremy for writing a detailed and entertaining guide to a five-day cycling trip in Ireland. To access the Map My Ride routes you need to sign up to the website and “friend” Jeremy.