Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Packing List - Ireland 2016

OK. I am on an airplane, so I finally have some downtime to complete my long awaited packing list for my two month tour in Ireland. If you followed me this past summer on Instagram or the blog, you likely noticed that I was traveling quite light. You might have assumed that I was doing day trips, given the lack of panniers. But I am proud to say that I travelled around with all my gear neatly stored in my Revelate Terrapin Seatbag and my Dill Pickle Gear handlebar bag

John and I started in Dublin together. We rode down to Carlow for his brother's wedding, then continued south to the coast. We headed west for a week before taking the train from Killarney back to Dublin for a concert. We returned the next day and continued to Galway, where John again hopped on a train back to Dublin to fly home. I pressed on alone and made my way up to Donegal before turning back south and more inland to wind my way back to Carlow and then Dublin. 

Here's a map of the area I covered. 

And here is the bike loaded with all my gear.

How was I able to travel so light, you may ask. One reason is that I was not camping. I am not at all ashamed to admit that. Ireland is green for a reason, and I had no desire pull on wet clothing and  pack up a wet tent each day. By staying in B&Bs and hotels, I both eliminated the weight of camping gear and enabled myself to wash my bike shorts each evening and have them dry overnight - even in a damp environment like Ireland. I also have to say that I find riding with a light load much more enjoyable. I could cover reasonable distances and never found myself intimidated by big climbs. If loaded touring is your thing, I'm certainly not criticizing that. However for anyone who has considered doing an overnight or multi day bike tour, but was afraid of all that weight, I can confirm it is possible to tour comfortably with a light load. I will add  that I carry the same amount of gear for 2 months that I do for two DAYS! Well, almost. I don't take the small bottle of laundry soap on the overnight trips. I am also in the "better looking at it than for it" camp, so I always have jacket and warmers. I'm not a true minimalist. With the exception of an emergency battery for charging devices, and the various tools and spare tubes, which I never am without, I used everything I had and never found I needed something I didn't have.

Now without further ado, here is what I used and carried...

First the bike:

I rode my Honey Allroads with 650bx42 mm tires and fenders. I was in Ireland afterall and both the cushy tires and fenders came in very handy. This bike also sports disk brakes and a nice wide range of gears (12-36 cassette, paired with 34/50 chain rings). I use Crank Brothers eggbeater pedals and had very comfortable shoes with a recessed cleat which made walking around castle ruins quite reasonable. The Dill Pickle handlebar bag was great for all my valuables and at-hand gear. I kept my off bike clothes and such in the Terrapin dry bag, that was easily removed from the Revelate Terrapin harness at the end of the day. The Revelate bag also has a small mesh bag mounted on top and easily accessible where I kept my bike tools.  In addition to 2 spare tubes which were stored in a coffee bag in the front of the harness, my tool kit contained...

Blackburn Wayside Multi tool with individual hex wrenches, or wrenches, plus chain tool, valve stem tool, screw driver, knife and other miscellaneous tools
An 8/10 box wrench
SwissTech foldable pliers
Tire boots 
Patch kit
Tire levers
Chain links
Spare nuts and bolts
Topeak Morph pump with gauge
2 water bottles


I also carried a small bike lock
And a small musette bag to easily pack up all the loose things in the bar bag when I stopped for lunch or at night

I usually use a hub generator, but since I planned to leave this bike in Ireland and really wouldn't need lights due to long hours of daylight in the summer, I just had small battery lights for emergencies or a late night ride home from a pub or train.

For bike clothes, I wore or had these things easily accessible in the bar bag or my pockets...

Velocio bib shorts I call them ez-pz bib shorts. They have a zipper in the back, making it easy to pee, without taking off jersey and jacket. IMNSHO, they are the best shorts ever.
Short sleeve wool jersey*
Wool bra/crop top
Knee warmers
Leg warmers 
Arm warmers
Wind Vest
Rain Jacket
Wool Hat
Gloves and Full finger gloves
Wool Socks
Walkable recessed cleat cycling shoes 
Prescription cycling glasses

The temperature in Ireland was typically between mid 40s and mid 60s Fahrenheit, with a few outliers, both cooler and warmer. Showers were common and one had to be prepared for proper all day rain. This clothing worked very well for all the conditions I encountered.

If I was traveling in the alps or another area with a more varied or extreme climate, I would likely also have 
Down Vest or Jacket
Heavier gloves 
Heavier rain jacket
Wool leg warmers
Long sleeve jersey or undershirt

In addition to what I wore on the bike,  I also carried

1 pair of spare shorts
1 pair of spare socks

For off the bike...

Lightweight wrinkle resistant pants
Silk long sleeve top
ExOfficio bra/crop top plus 2 pairs of Ex Officio underwear
Light wool sweater
Light shoes

I think I looked respectable off the bike


iPad mini 4 for mapping/planning and blogging
iPhone for photos and communication
Wahoo GPS
Anker 4 port fast USB charger
3 lightning cables + 3 micro usb cables (3 in case 1 failed)
Plug adapter for Ireland
USB Battery in case I needed emergency charge on the road. For this trip I was not using a generator, which would otherwise be a source of charging for devices.

For toiletries, I carried small travel size containers with
Chamois cream
Antibiotic ointment
Laundry detergent
Shampoo and conditioner (I refilled when I stayed I hotels that provided shampoo)
Puff (European hotels and B&Bs don't have wash clothes)
Medications (I am still taking anti inflammatory meds and pain meds)
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Dental floss
Nail clippers (my nails grow like crazy when I tour!)
Eye cover

Finally, I did carry wallet, passport and a small big picture map. A change purse is really handy when travelling in the EuroZone. Coins are used lots and are much higher in value than US coins. The passport has been a requirement in other places in Europe, where every hotel asks for a passport when checking in. I was never asked for my passport at hotels or B&Bs on this trip. 

*For the truly observant who may have noticed I wore 3 different jerseys on the trip, I did swap jerseys when we took the overnight train journey back to Dublin for a concert and again when my friend in Donegal gave me a new jersey and arm warmers - I mailed the old jersey and arm warmers back to Dublin. Because I was wearing wool, I rarely had to wash my jersey. Of the three I used on this trip, my favorite was a no longer made Giro full zip 89% merino wool jersey. I carried a small container of kookaburra wool laundry soap. I used this on my shorts, underwear and socks every night. I dried them with a bath towel and then hung them overnight. I had two different colors of underwear, so I could tell which pair to wash at night! I washed my crop top and jersey about once a week, also drying with a bath towel before hanging. 

The Ex Officio undies dry quickly and are really awesome for travel. The Ex Officio crop top worked well as a warm weather top, as well as sleepwear. On the bike, the Ibex wool crop top/bra provided an extra warm layer. On a couple of occasions I found myself in a place with a washing machine and took advantage and washed most of my other stuff, but only because it was convenient, not necessary..

I did have some extra clothes and spare tires back at my sister in law's house, which could be mailed out to me if needed, but I never had any need. With odd size tires, it's probably a good idea to carry a spare or have a contingency like this.

Finally I will say that T-mobile is great for international travel. I had unlimited LTE data at no extra charge. I had better coverage in Ireland than I have at home. Wifi is ubiquitous and free, but I often found my LTE signal was faster than wifi in a B&B. In the past for a tour like this I'd have to dedicate a pannier to maps, but thanks to modern technology I was able to map each day the night before using ridewithgps on my iPad's browser, the download the route to my Wahoo GPS using wifi (hotspot if none available otherwise) and then follow a complicated route on tiny roads without constantly stopping to check a map. The Wahoo is awesome because it does take routes from multiple online tools like ridewithgps and strava (where Garmin products only talk to Garmin wirelessly). Since I could cut the cord and didn't need USB connection to a computer for routing, I was able to downsize to an tiny iPad, rather than carrying a laptop. This also eliminated the need for a laptop charger.  I used my phone and Re camera, which also were able to wirelessly transmit photos. John and I joked about acoustic versus electric touring. Electric proved quite valuable for planning on the fly and traveling light.

This is my standard setup. I have refined it over the years to get to the point that I really just carry precisely what I need. YMMV.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Coolies - Ireland 2016

My last real riding day had the best weather of the trip. I'd been apologizing everywhere I went for the cool summer, certain that my mere my presence all summer here had caused the less than summer like weather. I assured locals that things would improve on August 19. Luckily for me, awesome conditions arrived days before my scheduled departure.

Our friend Declan knows every small road around and can always be counted on for a great ride. So I asked him to put together a ride for us on Tuesday. He graciously drove down to Dublin to pick me up and we head up north to Dundalk for a loop around the Coolies.



Monday, August 15, 2016

Glendalough to Dublin - Ireland 2016

My final day into Dublin would have me climbing up the Wicklow Gap and then finishing off on the Sally Gap. It was a brilliant crystal clear day for it, with endless views and blue skies. It seems I finally remembered I had a camera and was inspired by the glorious weather.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Tullow to Glendalough - Ireland 2016

Well enough of those gentle DaveB routes. Time to let SadiB back at it. Although she can't fully take credit as she took most of the route from JohnBs brownstuff 400km, but in reverse.

The route headed south first taking in the climb up to the Nine Stones on the shoulder of Mt Leinster. It then crossed over into County Wexford briefly to tick off another county before climbing over the Shay Elliot with the final descent down into Glendalough.


The tearoom at Huntington Castle fueled me for the climb up to the Nine Stones. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Tullow - Humewood loop - Ireland 2016

As usual one can never trust the forecast. It called for sunshine, but I had a mix of showers and clouds for my short loop out to Humewood.

This was another DaveB route and one designed to give me a break before heading into the Wicklow Mountains tomorrow.

Don't let the lack of photos fool you. The scenery is splendid. 


Friday, August 12, 2016

Tullow Lumpy Loop - Ireland 2016

Today, I decided to take advantage of local knowledge and got my brother in law, Dave, to create a couple of loop routes for me to do in County Carlow. Most of John's extended family live in the area, so we visit here a lot. It is a gorgeous and underrated part of the country. It ha nice rolling hills and lovely views of mountains.

Dave called the route lumpy. I was nervous that DaveB might design routes like SadiB, seeking out roads crossing closely spaced contour lines. But he was very kind and plotted a gentle route with several coffee shop options. It was nice to have an easy day after so many hard ones. And the loop meant I didn't have to carry all my gear.



Thursday, August 11, 2016

Clonmel to Tullow - Ireland 2016

Wow, suddenly time is speeding up. I'm getting close to the end of the trip. It seems like ages ago that I was in Tullow at the wedding of Dave and Siobhan, and now here I am on my way back to Tullow with plans to have dinner with the newlyweds and catch up with family.

This has really been an awesome trip. I've had the chance to explore so many areas, but have really just scratched the surface. I now have a long list of places to come back and explore even more. One of the purposes of the blog is for me to look back and see routes and photos to jog my own memory and provide launching points. I have 10 years worth of tours already planned. I missed so much!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Cahir to Clonmel - Ireland 2016

As I finished my ride yesterday, I rode up to the Swiss Cottage just after the last tour of the day. Knowing the tour was worthwhile, I came back at opening time this morning. The Swiss Cottage was built as the country house for the Butler family a mere two km from their castle in Cahir. It  was designed to be informal and blend with nature. I like the tree trunk columns and thatched roof and different window shapes, but the crooked door and window frames were a bit odd. I was also put off by the idea that they dressed like peasants when they were here, yet had a fleet of servants in the basement attending to their needs. And despite the fact that there were two bedrooms upstairs, Lord and Lady Butler never slept here. They just came out for an occasional sunny afternoon party. I asked if that meant just twice a year!

After completing the tour, I rolled back into town and picked up some snacks for the day. This was a good choice as I had a hard day, with lots of climbing and strong headwinds and minimal services. 

I had a favorable wind for a while, but given the almost loop nature of my ride, I knew I'd face less favorable ones for the second half. When I took the turn for Mahon Falls I realized I would be climbing, but had no idea I was about to do the 4th most difficult climb of the whole trip. A very stiff headwind and extended sections of 20% gradient made for a tough ride up to the falls. But I seem to be well trained now and made it up and over. The boardwalk out to the falls was packed with school kids, so I passed on getting a closer view.

The descent into Clonmel made up for the antagonizing headwind and soon I was at my B&B. 


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Cahir - The Vee - Ireland 2016

Last night after checking into my B&B and getting cleaned up, I wandered around Cahir enjoying the great light before dinner. When mapping out my route for the day, I decided I would tour the castle before my ride. KThen I'd finish off with a tour of the Swiss Cottage. I'm not usually one to do the guided tours, but both places were nicely preserved and the only way to see the inside was on a tour. In addition to these local attractions, My hostess at the B&B also mentioned cycling over the Vee. I found the Vee on the maps and plotted a route that approached it from the south.

The castle tour was very interesting. I learned all the ways one could die trying to attack a castle like this!



Monday, August 8, 2016

Tipperary to Cahir - Ireland 2016

John teased me when I told him my plans for the next few days. Each day I'd end up only 15 to 20 miles from where I started but would cover 60 or 70 miles getting there. We had several days like this on our first tour together in Ireland. At the time I jokingly made some coments about his poor navigation skills when upon reaching our destination, I saw distance signs clearly indicating we had taken the roundabout route. John should be pleased now that he's had such a great influence on me.

Leaving Tipperary town, my plan was to ride through the Glen of Aherlow and then head west along one of the regional cycle routes out to Kilmallock for lunch before turning back east aiming for Cahir. 

Cahir was an amazing find with a very well preserved castle and the nicely restored Swiss Cottage and great coffee and nice restaurants and a lovely walking path and several interesting churches.  I liked this town so much that I decided to stay for two nights. I really lucked out and found a fabulous B&B that had been modeled after the Swiss Cottage. My hostess there shared loads of local knowledge and gave me a few tips for things to see that only a local would know! This was my favorite B&B of the trip. 


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Killaloe to Tipperary - Ireland 2016

Looking at the OSM Cycle maps I noticed lots of routes in County Tipperary, so I decided to aim for Tipperary town with plans to explore this area more. It happens that there are lots of very touristy towns in the county, but Tipperary town isn't one of them! In retrospect I should have aimed for Cashel or Cahir, but I did have a very nice host at the B&B who invited me in for tea and much good craic. Hours after going in for tea, I headed out and again, despite thinking I'd get a few blog posts done due to my early arrival, I barely managed one! Now there is nothing wrong with that. It's been great exploring and meeting and talking to people. I've found that I end up in far more conversations because I am traveling alone. Don't get me wrong. I love touring with John, but when you are with someone, you may not be as likely to strike up conversations with others.


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Claregalway to Killaloe - Ireland 2016

I've mentioned my routing strategy a few times.  I use ridewithgps and the OSM Cycle maps. The OSM maps are great because the busy roads are clearly marked and one can put together an amazing and quiet route simply by connecting the white roads or lanes. With no real local knowledge I've been able to put together great routes. I've had exactly one dead end, where the map showed a through road. I've found a couple of gravel and dirt roads, and some roads that local cyclists don't even know. I had quite a few times in Donegal where I was certain I had just turned into someone's driveway, but the road was indeed a through road.

Well, my luck didn't run out, but I did find a few gravel and rocky forest roads on this day. It was the only time I really thought about issues of traveling alone. If I crash on this descent, no one will ever find my bones! So I picked my way down a couple of gnarly rocky trails. (John was tracking me with the Wahoo live track feature and find my iPhone, so he could at least tell emergency services where to start the search for bones.)

Despite the rough surfaces, this was one of my best days. And one worthy of my Honey Allroads bike. So if you are looking at my routes on ridewithgps and thinking of following my tracks, just bring fat tires and disk brakes for this one. And food. There are NO services. Fortunately I'd stopped at that great restaurant in Athenry and stocked up withn muffins for the day.



Friday, August 5, 2016

Westport to Claregalway - Ireland 2016

After our very noisy experience in Westport a couple of years ago, I wanted to avoid staying right in town, so I picked a hotel well out of town. The views were lovely and it was definitely more peaceful than being in the city, but sadly my room was right over the refrigeration units for the restaurant, so my sleep was not as uninterrupted as I'd hoped.

My goal for the next day was Athenry hoping to return to The Barracks, arestaurant we had enjoyed on a few occasions. But every room there was booked. So I finally decided to try Airbnb and found a nice place in Claregalway. 

I cobbled together a ride using routes from a few rides we did in 2014. The route would take me over a few hills and set me up for lunch at Ashford Castle in Cong. Then it was onto Ross Abbey before hitting the village of Claregalway. 


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Foxford to Westport - Ireland 2016

Because I've been riding on tiny off the beaten back roads, I rarely see other cyclists, so it was a real pleasure to find these two tandem riders checking out of the B&B at the same time I was. They had a guidebook and map from a Dutch author. I'd seen another couple using this book in Sligo the day before. We chatted for a while, comparing notes. They commented on my light load. I refrained from asking what all they were carrying in all these bags. Given that we were all at a B&B, I don't think they had camping gear. They told me they were heading for Clifden that day. I pointed out they'd be missing some great scenery on Achill Island, but I think they had an itinerary to follow. I had a very circuitous route planned, with accomodation pre-booked just outside of Westport. Our last stay in Westport had been rather eventful with a naked guy bursting into our room at 5AM followed by a loud party going on until 3AM the next day. So I found a hotel well out of town that at the very least should be a bit quieter.

I road along with the tandem briefly, but parted ways when I headed north to go back over Windy Gap again. It was so nice the first time, I decided it would make for a nice route back south.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Sligo to Foxford - Ireland 2016

Of course, I took my rest day on a sunny day. The next day was the worst weather of the trip, with cold sideways wind. But it was also one of the most enjoyable and memorable thanks to the epic conditions. I did not get a lot of photos thanks to the conditions, and many show rain spots on the lens, but I can't have folks thinking it never rains here.

I've had lots of days with occasional showers, but this was my only day where it really poured all day long. And after having mostly favorable winds coming up the coast, I suppose I had earned some proper headwinds. I also encountered all the standard obstacles, steep lanes with grass growing up the middle leading to some wind farm on top of a mountain, and lots of free range sheep roaming in the middle of the road. I sort of yodel to get their attention, because if I don't warn them, they dash across the road in front of me at the last minute. I don't want to end my tour felled by a startled sheep.