So you think you may be interested in a biking holiday in Ireland? Good choice! Ten months of the year (all but December and January) you'll find great touring and if you keep these three cautions in mind you should have a fantastic time. This article addresses the three variables that we have found to make the biggest difference in the quality of our time on the road: Irish topography, the weather and the typical Irish fare.
Train for hills and plan your route on a topographical map
Ireland is a small island with few areas where roads are particularly flat. While taking the larger and more traveled roads may lesson the number of hills, why short yourself the beauties of the Irish rural landscape or increase the chances of a bike/vehicular accident? Picture rolling countryside, narrow roads with farmlands or ancient forest dotted with an old castle ruin or two and you will have some idea of the brilliance riding your bike through the Irish rural landscape. If you train for hills and be sure to know how to maximize the use of your gears on hills and you will be fine with biking in Ireland.
Every road, no matter how small will be in evidence on the topographical maps available in every tourist information office. Carefully marked in 1 kilometer squares, these maps will help you avoid the unexpected hill, the rise of which would cause you to have to get off and walk. On the other hand, many times we have found ripe blackberries in the hedgerows while pushing our bikes up just such one of these hills. In this landscape there is no shame in walking at odd intervals.
Pack modular clothing
Because we are on an island, the weather is changeable. While you might not consciously start your ride when it was slogging down rain, you may find anything from a soft mist to a pelting storm come up on you, and hopefully pass on after a short while. In a similar fashion, mornings are cool, if the sun comes out you may get quite hot, and the shaded areas can give you a chill. We recommend bike shorts, and a short sleeved bike jersey with leggings and arm warmers. In colder months we just double the layers of each. In this manner we can pull the leg warmers off our knees on the hills or change the number of layers as arm coverings without having to even stop the bikes. These with rain gear that quickly pulls on over the top and you'll be set.
Prepare healthy food alternatives
Typical Irish fare, such as you will find in any local pub may be the type of food that would sit in your stomach like a rock once you got back up on your bike. Our solution has been to buy tofu fillets, and pack spelt crackers with hazelnut butter. We typically stay somewhere in a hotel and augment our mid day meal with fresh or dried fruit from the breakfast buffet. This small assortment of food takes up little room in our paniers, but allows us to stop anywhere on the road for a pot of tea and enjoy a repast that leaves us light and ready to ride the next stretch.
I finish writing these hints from the porch of Muckross House near Killarney. This stately manor was once a stop over for Queen Victoria and sits on perfectly groomed grounds, at the edge of the lake and bordered by National Park. An easy 10k circuit takes you through yew forest, past Victorian cottages, to a waterfall and through acres of Rhododendron. Bike riding in Ireland is not to be missed.