Cycling Along The Way...

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Silver City, NM, United States
Riders of the wheel. Racers, Roadies, Mountain bikers, Touring cyclists, Commuters, and others. Diamond frames, recumbents, trikes, and more. Sharing a web of connections often misunderstood or unappreciated by those who don't ride. Herewith, my attempt to share some of the more rational thoughts that flit around inside my head while bicycling, knocking back a brew or three, or just thinking about life. Reviews of bicycles, gear, touring, and more, plus some unsolicited posts about people, politics, and philosophy. Other things, too. Me: retired, gave up my TV in 1988, avid cyclist, several cross country tours completed with more to come. Your thoughts?

Monday, May 20, 2013

BICYCLING IN IRELAND...My Thoughts And A Brief Review of Showers Pass Rain Gear

"It's not that the Irish are cynical.  It's rather that they have a wonderful lack of respect for everything and everybody." ~ Brendan Behan

Such truth coming from a drinker with a writing problem, as Brendan Behan described himself.  I truly love the Irish sense of humor and what they fondly refer to as "slagging"...which means good natured teasing.  I grew up with this sort of slagging in my family.  Even now, it continues to be a foundation of communication in my family and something I use constantly with people, friends or not.

NOTICE:  I have not ridden a bicycle in Ireland...yet.  So, take what I have to say here with a grain of salt..or, if in Ireland, with a pint of the plain.

Ok, bicycling in Ireland.  When I got my first glimpse of roads in Ireland, I wasn't very positive on the idea of bicycle touring there.  The weather was not much of an enticement either.  After renting a car in Galway and driving on the small back roads, I was absolutely certain that I'd not be doing any bicycle touring in Ireland.  I mean the local and back roads are small, mostly with no shoulders, and people bicycle on these?  Jaysus!  The thought of it scared me.  I could envision my sorry butt ending up in some bog, soon to be dinner for the local critters.  Getting more comfortable with driving on the left side of the roadway, I began to see the potential of bicycling and bicycle touring and thought it just might be feasible here.  Certainly, I'd stay away from a lot of the tourist places, which can be a real pain, IMHO, and stick to those cities, towns, villages that are much more of the real deal in Ireland.

Here's a video of me driving on a back road in Ireland:
As you can see, the roads are narrow with no shoulders.  What you may have also noticed is there weren't any other vehicles on the road.  That is the positive side of the back roads.  Little traffic and, if it's not a tourist spot, you may only encounter the locals on the road.  From what I've read online about bicycle touring in Ireland, the roads seem to be less of an issue than the weather.  Having good rain gear is a priority here.  Eileen and I found that out just being there, walking around the various places we visited.  Got to try out my Showers Pass Elite 2.1 rain coat that I'd purchased for bicycle touring.  It worked well under some moderate circumstances there.  Didn't get wet at all.  Here's a picture of the Showers Pass Elite 2.1:

Showers Pass Elite 2.1

The Showers Pass rain pants are on my Christmas list this year.  That's a hint to my wife, Eileen.  
Showers Pass Club Visible Pant
The jacket compacts down and takes up minimal space.  I purchased the optional hood, which also worked well in Ireland.  For those times when it's just lightly raining, I use a clear plastic shower cap over my helmet.  Cheap and it works (For those areas or times of the year when it's buggy, try a hairnet over your helmet.  Keeps the critters, particularly bees, out of your hair while allowing free flow of air...sort of like a screen door for your helmet.).
Showers Pass optional hood.
While the rain gear is not cheap, it's very good and worth the investment.  I was able to find the jacket at a good price.  Unlike other breathable rain gear I've previously owned, I didn't sweat like a pig wearing the Showers Pass rain jacket witht the hood.

With this rain gear, I see bicycle touring in Ireland in my future.  Near future, too.  I do have a plan to do a very long ride in the U.S. and Canada in 2015, but 2016 may very well see me cruising the backroads of Ireland, tipping a pint or three of the plain.  There are lots of hosts in Ireland, Isle of Man, England, Scotland, and Wales, too.

Should you be more interested in riding with a group or doing an organized tour, there are several bicycle touring companies that do this.  One American company that has good reviews for their tours of Ireland is VBT...Vermont Bicycle Tours.  Should hardly be anything more than a change of location for them since the scenery and roads in Vermont are very much like those of rural Ireland.  Here are some more options for bicycle touring in Ireland.

On one online site, I saw a link for some good maps of Ireland from Ordinance Survey Ireland.  A bit pricey, about $10 a piece, and there are 89 of them, but they seem to be highly rated.  Of course, you don't need all of them.  Each section can be purchased separately.  Check them out.  For books on bicycle touring in Ireland, do a Google search for some recommended books.

To refresh your memory about the roads in Ireland, here's another short clip...
Another touring option would be to bicycle a larger, main road, which would be bigger but have more traffic on it, to a specific location, rent a house for a week, and do day rides from there.  Westport was a really nice city of reasonable size with good pubs, good music, and more than enough restaurants and shops to keep you busy on a non-biking day or in the evenings.  Ennis would be another, even larger city to try.  My mind is filled with options and I'm looking forward to taking my Cannondale to Ireland.

A tune to head out with...yes, another traditional Irish music tune...Tommy Peoples, considered one of the best living, traditional Irish fiddlers in Ireland, among many, doing a solo fiddle tune.