Tag Archives: Bike Friday

Trans Asia Gear Packing List thanks to Adventure in Tandem

This is the list you have been waiting for.  Well thought out and boy oh boy is it helpful.  This is a rather extended trip so it takes a bit more work to pull it all together. Very special thanks to our friends at Adventure in Tandem for this very extensive list:

Adventure in Tandem Packing List:

Our Trans Asia Gear List

Everything you need plus some for a round-the-world trip on a tandem bicycle, or really any bicycle.

The gear you bring with you on a trip around the world by bike is essential. There is simply no other way to put it.
You are dependent on your gear, especially the bike, to hold up against the strain of loaded touring going up and down mountains, across terrible road surfaces, through many a pothole among many other issues.

The hope is that it all holds up without issue, but that is never going to happen as we quickly found out as we started our tour in Thailand. Nevertheless, we still think we are quite prepared for our tour since we have all the gear required and works very well for our tastes.

As a couple touring on a tandem bicycle we have to pare down our gear even further than most touring cyclists because we have the same room for luggage as a normal touring bicycle, but it now has to do for 2 people.

Without further ado, below you will find our categorized gear list and a summary of all weights at the bottom.

Bike Gear:

GearDetailsWeight
bikeBike Friday Tandem Twosday23,030.00
bike computerGarmin Edge 1000116.3
bike computerGarmin Edge 80098
bungee cords2x bungee cords117.5
Dynamo hubShutter Precision PX-8 dynamo hub0
headlightB&M IQ Cyo headlight0
kickstandsingle kickstand0
rack trunkPerformance Transit Epic rack trunk658
rear panniersVaude Aqua 50L2,436.00
rear rackBike Friday folding Rear Rack0
saddle captainBrooks B17 captains saddle0
saddle stokerBrooks B17S Stokers saddle0
seatpost stokerKinekt BodyFloat Seatpost0
StorageUnder-bag goes under the rear rack76.5
taillightSpanninga taillight0
tiresSchwalbe Marathon 20×2.25”0
TrailerSamsonite Flight suitcase/trailer9,088.00
TrailerTrailer kit for a suitcase0
water storage4x 1L Nashbar water bottles

 

We chose the Bike Friday Tandem Twosday for our ride around the world due to its packability. We wanted a bike that could fold after we saw a couple in Cambodia roll up to the hostel, quickly fold their bikes and walk right in. Our Tandem Twosday does not fold nearly as quickly or cleanly as a Brompton, but it folds quickly enough to get it stuffed under a bus or in the back of an SUV when needed.

The small wheels allow us to have lower gears and the trailer allows us to pull all the weight behind the bike instead of having it all loaded on the bike. All the gear on the bike leads to extreme flex and wobble in a tandem that does not allow you to stand, and standing is essential to give your butt a rest while riding for hours each day.

The trailer is pretty sweet, being a regular suitcase that is attached via a frame and quick-connect hose fitting to the bike. It allows us to offload almost all of our weight from the bike to the trailer making for a smoother more responsive ride on the bike. We are also able to pack our entire tandem into the suitcase for travel on airlines. The downsides to the trailer are maneuverability, maintenance, and extra weight. As you can see, there is an extra 9 kg, or 20 lbs that we are carrying just due to the trailer.

We also set up our bike with a generator front hub from Shutter Precision that is an excellent replacement for a Schmidt hub for about 40% of the price. To go along with that we have front and rear generator lights that I can activate from the front of the bike. We would have liked to have USB charging available from the front hub as well, but it was simply too expensive for the size and we could not justify it.

We tour with Garmin Edge GPS computers to record our rides and post to Strava because if it is not recorded it didn’t happen! Check out our Track Us page to follow along. We actually had an issue with the Edge 1000 where it quit working probably due to the humidity, but we were lucky that my dad had my Edge 800 with him that I was able to take back so we would have a functioning GPS. In the end, we could use our phone as well, but it is not quite as durable as the Garmins are on the front of the bike.

The last things of note here are the Brooks saddles which are pretty much a given for long distance touring and an awesome Kinekt BodyFloat Seatpost that keeps Cara comfortable when I drive over bumps and don’t let her know. It also smooths out the choppiness of the road and keeps everyone happy.

Camp Clothing

Camp Clothing Cara

GearDetailsWeight
Bathing Suit147.5
bra1x Chinese cheap bra62.5
insulating jacketNorth Face down parka502.5
jewelrybracelets16.3
short sleeve shirt1 short sleeve athletic shirt71.0
Shorts1x lightweight athletic hiking shorts94.0
sleep clothessleeping tights130.5
sleep clothes1x lightweight shorts63.0
socks1 heavyweight wool socks71.5
street clothes1x lightweight shorts71.5
street clothes1x short sleeve shirt80.5
street clothes1 elephant jumper93.0
street clothes1x sleeveless shirt94.5
street clothes1 wrap-around skirt144.0
street clothes1x elephant pants164.0
street clothes1 long black t-shirt dress199.0
street clothes1x maroon hiking pants222.5
street shoeshomemade huaraches184.0
street shoesMerrell Trail Glove 4362.0
sunglassesGoodr28.8
underwear4x51.0

 

Cara brought only the essentials on this trip. When we are traveling on a tandem, space is limited and we were able to pare down to the bare essentials. This is done primarily by bringing only one of everything and preparing for the cold by assuming you will wear everything.

We were able to keep the shoe weight down by making a pair of huaraches for Cara that is extremely light and work for your everyday sandal. She also brought barefoot hiking shoes as her only closed-toe shoe. The Merrell Trail Glove 4 is an awesome shoe for hiking and also makes a great travel companion.

Camp Clothing Justin

GearDetailsWeight
Convertible pantsColumbia convertible pants297.0
Gym shorts2x gym shorts307.5
insulating jacketLama Sweater372.0
Long sleeve shirt not cottonUnder Armor long sleeve cold gear236.5
short sleeve shirtTheSWPlace t-shirt86.0
street shoesMerrell Vapor Glove 3442.0
street shoeshomemade huaraches254.0
travel shirtMagellan Outdoors long sleeve travel shirt178.0
travel shirtOff-brand short sleeve travel shirt166.0

 

I also brought only the essentials, which amounts to essentially 2 changes of clothes for off the bike. Since all of my stuff is much larger than Cara’s it still weighs about the same.

Being unsure as to the weather when we reach Northern China and Asia in general, we brought only light cold weather gear. I brought one insulated shirt from Under Armor and my favorite sweater from Peru to go along with my cycling jacket. Altogether, we should have plenty to stay warm. As for now in the tropics, it all sits at the bottom of the bag never to come out.

I brought the same footwear as Cara, bring a pair of homemade huaraches that I hike and walk in, and a pair of Merrel barefoot running shoes.

Cycling Clothing

Bringing cycling specific clothing is something that is debated in the touring circles. Since I have ridden for many years as a racing and endurance cyclist, I love to wear cycling clothing so we bring it along. Many others tour in regular shorts and travel shirts. This may end up with us having slightly more clothing, but the comfort gains from wearing cycling specific clothing are worth it.

Cycling Clothing Cara

GearDetailsWeight
bras3x sports bras C9210.0
Cold weather glovesDefeet wool gloves Pink54.0
cycling shoesShimano Cycling Shoe / Sandal SH-CT46LW619.0
Head coveringVaude buff28.5
HelmetCannondale Ridge Helmet278.8
insulating jacketPink generic jacket288.0
Jerseys3 short sleeve jersey293.0
leg warmersDefeet wool arm warmers as leg warmers94.0
rain jacketNature Hike nylon poncho214.0
shorts3 pair of shorts372.5
socks3 pair Defeet cycling socks87.0
SunglassesFoakleys32.2
wind jacketOff-brand from China101.5

 

For Cara, we have 3 changes in cycling clothing along with the cold weather essentials. For cold weather, she wears my wool arm warmers as leg warmers and then pulls on the insulating jacket and wind jacket and gloves. All those together will bring us down to comfortably riding in 40F / 5C temperatures.

For rain, she has a silnylon poncho. We have not yet tested this while riding, but expect it to work well, once we figure out how to really attach it / anchor it on the bike.

Cycling Clothing Justin

GearDetailsWeight
Arm warmersDefeet neon arm warmers79.0
Cold weather glovesDefeet wool gloves77.0
cycling shoesShimano Cycling Sandals1,108.5
Head coveringcycling cap25.0
Head coveringDIY green fleece beanie50.0
Head coveringbuff47.5
HelmetBontrager Oracle helmet, Now Wheeler336.1
Jerseys3 short sleeve jerseys, The Black Bibs Summer Pro+410.5
Knee WarmersDefeet wool knee warmers116.5
rain jacketNature Hike silnylon poncho227.5
shorts3 bib shorts CN Ride and The Black Bibs582.5
socks1 heavyweight wool socks84.0
SunglassesFoakleys33.5
wind jacketOff-brand from China116.6

 

I also brought 3 changes in cycling clothing to go along with the cold weather essentials. All told, this should be more than enough clothing and can bring me down to comfortably riding in 40F / 5C weather. Now if it is raining at that temperature, there is certainly another story to be told.

I had to replace my helmet after only 2 weeks of riding as it was cracked in the back. This turned out to be a good move because my new Wheeler helmet is more comfortable and is white which helps to reflect the sun and keep me cool while riding.

Camping Equipment

GearDetailsWeight
camp pillowNature Hike x2 inflatable camp pillows246.0
cutting boardCheapo flexy cutting board80.0
Day packNature Hike packable day pack173.0
dish towelNorwex heavier50.5
Flashlightrechargeable headlamp x2153.0
Lighterslighters40.0
Mess KitCooking kit bag27.0
Mess KitSnow Peak Ti Sporks31.0
Mess Kit1.8L ti pot lid55.5
Mess Kit1L ti skillet161.0
Mess Kit1.8L ti pot167.5
Mess KitCooking knife100.0
multitoolLeatherman169.0
ropeSpare bag of rope, very light cord for drying line36.5
shelterChinese cheap tent with aluminum poles, and stakes in bag2,204.5
sleeping bag CaraOzark trails 32F down bag796.5
sleeping bag JustinOzark trails 40F down bag742.0
sleeping pad CaraThermarest 34 pad674.0
sleeping pad JustinThermarest long pad639.0
Stovefolding windscreen80.5
StoveBRS fuel bottle 530 mL110.5
StovePrimus Omnifuel knockoff401.5
Stovefuel pump127.5
Toilet papertoilet paper
Water storage10L MSR Dromedary264.5
waterUniversal Water Spicket tool59.5
Water FilterGravity Filter38.0
Water Filterhose and MSR dromedary attachment40.9
water hoseDrinking hose for MSR Dromedary85.0
Zip Lock Bagszip lock bags0.0
Stuff Sackssilnylon stuff sacks x590.5

 

For camping, we brought what we thought were the essentials along with a few extras to make our potential many nights under the stars more comfortable.

Typically, we just use our stuff sacks full of extra clothes as pillows, but this time we brought some blow-up pillows from China that are quite comfortable. We brought an extra rope for stringing up clothes to dry and an extra stuff sack for dirty clothes and cleaning clothes in. The day pack has gotten more use than I expected so has actually worked out quite well.

We are quite proud of our mess kit as it is a titanium beauty that is actually big enough to cook for 2 people in. We have a 1.8L pot and lid with a large skillet that goes with it. We also brought a small cutting board and a kitchen knife with a duct tape guard. This is all put over our brand new multi-fuel stove from BSR. Yes, you read that correctly BSR, not MSR. We are running an off-brand multi-fuel stove from China because our Primus Omnifuel hose failed at an o-ring and was going to be as expensive to replace as a whole new stove from BSR. So far it works the same as the Primus and we have no major complaints besides it not going low enough in terms of power.

Our water setup is pretty slick as well. We are still using the MSR Dromedary 10L bag that I bought for my cross-country US tour back in 2008. 11 years later it is still kicking and we love it. You can fill it up and use its gravity filter into our bike bottles and also drink straight from the filter. We are carrying an awesome Sawyer Mini filter from Walmart that works as an inline filter.

Electronics

GearDetailsWeight
BooksCara’s Kindle201.0
BooksJustin’s kindle209.5
CameraThe G9 charging cable is the same as an external drive0.0
CameraA spare battery for YI 4K26.5
Cameracamera tripod plate28.0
CameraOlympus TG-4 charging cable49.0
CameraPanasonic 14mm f/2.570.0
Camera1 spare battery76.5
CameraRode Microphone w/ fuzzy wind canceling cover82.0
CameraYI 4K Action Cam87.0
CameraYI 4K Action camera waterproof case101.0
CameraPanasonic 20mm f/1.7117.5
CameraOlympus 45mm f/1.8129.0
Camerabendy tripod135.5
CameraSmall Ballhead for tripods180.5
CameraOlympus TG-4242.0
CameraPanasonic G9722.5
Cameracarbon fiber tripod737.5
cell phoneGoogle Pixel with Google FI175.0
Chargersmicro USB cable29.0
ChargersUSB C – A cable29.0
ChargersUSB C – C cable34.5
Chargersdouble USB charger 2.4A39.0
ChargersUSB C 60W Anker charger149.5
Chargers20000 mAh power storage pack368.5
Chargersa short micro USB cable12.5
computerSmall travel mouse44.5
computerWD external drive 2TB258.5
computerDell XPS i7-8550U 8GB1,233.0
computerHP Envy 13t i5-8250U 8GB1,289.0
Electronics baggeneric0.0
WatchCasio G-Shock60.7
Watchwatch mount for bike28.8

 

Now our electronics gear, weighing in at nearly 7 kg or 15 lbs is pretty ridiculous, but as we are working on the blogs and web programming while traveling it is a necessary evil. In these days of constant connectivity, you need the electronics working and with you in order to stay on top of everything.

We discussed the computer situation before leaving and decided on 2 computers since we both have things to work on (ie Youtube videos, blog posts, web development, etc.). However, it was not to be. After less than a week, the Dell XPS crapped out on us with a display issue that freezes the screen. It is some hardware issue after many hours of troubleshooting, so we sent it home with my dad and are looking for a new computer to replace it.

We brought computers that could both be charged off of USB-C so that we could bring a single fast-charger to save a little bit of weight. There is a whole slew of other cords as well to charge the remaining electronics. The 20,000 mAh power bank from Xiaomi is quite nice and is about the lightest of that size that you can buy. The only downside is that is not Power Delivery compatible so it cannot charge the laptops.

We have quite the array of camera gear to go with us as well. The Panasonic G9 is an awesome camera that deserves its own post, so suffice it to say, we love it and it is perfect for travel as both a stills and video camera. To go along with that camera, we also have a Rode microphone, USB charger, extra battery, and 3 prime lenses that end up weighing less than our old zoom lens. Along with the camera, there are also 2 tripods, one bendy Gorillapod like a tripod, and one nice extendable carbon fiber tripod. The 2 tripods share a single ball-head to save a little on weight.

Besides the setup for the Panasonic G9, we also have our Olympus TG-4 which is a tough camera that is waterproof, dustproof, and drop-proof, making it perfect for carrying while riding or in the rivers/water. We also have an action cam that we have mounted off the front of the bike for taking FPV video while riding. Our action cam is the Yi 4K which is an excellent camera considering the low price tag of $175.

We also do a lot of reading on our travels, so the ever-present Kindle Paperwhite is a must.

Miscellaneous

GearDetailsWeight
cards2 decks playing cards198.1
cashcash10.0
IDpassports x4 including old passports with China visa78.2
Lockcable lock535.0
paper and penssmall notebook and pens126.7
Sunscreensunscreen103.0
walletwallet and credit cards64.3

 

The leftovers that are not categorizable all come here. Obviously, for traveling we need money and passports. These are essentials and are the only parts that are not easily replicable. We actually already replaced our passports. We had to get new ones as soon as we started so that we would have room for the Laos visa. After living in China for 4 years, I had wasted some 12+ pages on Chinese visas and stamps taking up almost all the blank pages.

Who knew that the last 3 pages of your passport can’t have visas in them either?

That little tidbit is why we ended up with new passports.

We also brought a big heavy cable lock for the bike but rarely use it as I don’t think anyone is going to steal our tandem bicycle. It is simply too big and bulky to take and there are precious few buyers in a poor country for something like that.

We also brought a couple of decks of cards for games when we have the time. They haven’t been used yet, but I am sure the time is quickly approaching.

Bike Repair Kit

GearDetailsWeight
cablesspare shift/brake cable x 3m45.5
Cassette Tool47.5
chain lubeProLink67.0
Crank Puller-Bottom Bracket ToolBB tool30.0
Electrical. Tapeelectrical tape45.5
Frame Boltsspare bolts M553.5
frame pumpLezyne Pump HV w/ gauge214.0
greasegeneric grease0.0
housinghousing for the bar end shifter to attach to the segmented housing183.0
multitoolgeneric multitool with chain tool220.5
Sewing Kitsewing kit0.0
Sewing Kitfloss0.0
spare brake padsSpare brake pads x2 sets33.0
spare chain links/masterlinkspare chain links / 3x masterlinks34.5
Spare Spokesspare spokes, 2 of each length, 182, 184, 186mm34.5
spare tire12×2.00” Schwalbe Big Apple288.5
spare tire20×1.75” Schwalbe Marathon662.0
Spoke Wrenchspoke wrench35.0
threadlockLoctite Blue6.8
tire bootsPark Tool tire boots8.5
tire leversPedros tire levers42.0
TrailerTrailer spare parts118.5
tube patch kit2 patch kits39.0
TrailerTrailer spare hose connection
tubes2 tubes 12”191.0
tubes6x tubes 20”910.0
wrenchesSmall spanner, 8, 10, 15, Brooks Wrench363.5
Zip Tieszip ties5.5

 

The bike repair kit is quite possibly the most essential part of our setup. Without this, it is very easy to get stranded on the side of the road having to flag down passersby for rides to town to get your bike fixed. We have still had to do that once, but with the repair kit, it is a much less often occurrence.

I brought tools to fix most everything on the bike. The only tools I did not bring were wrenches big enough to turn the BB and cassette pullers. Besides that, I have tools and spares to fix anything that happens. However, I did find that I should have brought a large roll of duct tape. Apparently, they don’t have duct tape in southeast Asia. The Thai guys looked at the little I had and said they had never seen such a thing before.

Duct tape would have made a much better rim strip for our rims that overheated and melted on the descents and also would make taping down our bar tape better since the electrical tape peels up and doesn’t like to stick.

On such a long tour, we also brought spare tires. Normally, there is no need to bring spare tires, but when you are riding for 8 months it is nice to have a spare with you when the time comes.

Toiletries / First Aid

GearDetailsWeight
Fingernail clippersFingernail clippers20.1
First Aidtweezers11.9
First Aidgauze0.0
First Aidneosporin0.0
First Aidthermometer
First Aidmedical tape9.1
First Aidscissors32.0
hairbobby pins x213.8
hairfolding comb/brush from hotel16.2
hairhair ties0.0
hairmirror160.0
Insect Repellentinsect repellent45.5
medicinesibuprofen55.1
medicinesAnti-diarrheal23.4
medicinesprobiotics0.0
medicinesmotion sickness0.0
medicinesbirth control51.0
medicinesRock Tape kinesiology tape26.6
medicinespetroleum jelly54.5
medicineschapstick, Burt’s Bees10.6
medicinesVitamin C0.0
Pack towelpack towels x2240.5
razorgirls razor55.7
razorSmall portable head shaver95.7
soapsDr Bronners Lavender soap (magic soap)122.8
soapsface wash190.0
soapshis deodorant131.0
soapsher deodorant126.0
soapsOil absorbing sheets11.0
toiletriescue-tips47.1
Toiletries bagNature Hike toiletries bag M199.0
Toothbrushtoothbrush x240.1
Toothpastetoothpaste127.0
WashclothsNorwex cloth x262.5
Washclothshand washcloth35.4

 

For toiletries, we have the essentials plus many others. We bought a toiletries bag while we were in China that we thought would be plenty big enough, and it is stuffed to the brim. I guess we should have got the larger one…

We have stuff in there for first aid and medicines for the inevitable illnesses that we will get from traveling in foreign countries for so long. We also have many varieties of soap with our favorite brand, the Dr. Bronners soap that works for most everything. It is a special natural soap that doesn’t harm your things or the environment.

We were also wonderfully presented with 3 Norwex washcloths from one of our friends before leaving. These leave us feeling nice and fresh without the need for a real shower. They seem to magically soak up the oil from our skin just by rubbing it across. The bummer is I promptly lost one only 3 weeks in so we are down to one. Hopefully, I don’t leave another one somewhere…

Consumables

GearDetailsWeight
soapsshampoo0.0
soapsconditioner0.0
food3 days worth of food w/ lots of snack food0.0
gasunleaded gas0.0
soapminimal small bottles of soap0.0
water4 full bottles0.0

 

For the consumables, I did not put weights since they would be bought while on the tour, and I did not bring a scale with me. Trust me, I thought about it, but in the end, I didn’t bring a scale.

We haven’t been carrying much food with us at all. We have just had snack foods of cookies and crackers since the food is so cheap and plentiful in all the places we have been so far.

Summary Totals

CategoryWeight (kg)Weight (lbs)
bike35.6278.5
Camping7.7017.0
Repair3.688.1
Toiletries2.074.6
Cycling Clothing Justin3.297.3
Camp Clothing Justin2.345.2
Cycling Clothing Cara2.675.9
Camp Clothing Cara2.856.3
Electronics6.9515.3
Others1.122.5
Consumables0.000.0
Totals68.30150.4

 

As you can see we have quite the load of stuff. Over half of the weight is in the bike + trailer + bags. That is insane!!!

We could have cut 15+ pounds off by leaving the trailer at home, but it would have made the bike less stable. I am pretty happy with our setup as is and am not really looking to change it unless we start to run into more bike mechanical issues.

This setup should be good for the whole of our tour and we will certainly report back if we have any issues and update this gear list as we go along.

Running an Ebike on Solar Energy: The Sheddy Kilowatt Story

Five minutes after I installed a solar panel on the roof of my bike shed it began to rain. Since this was April in Oregon, the rain was not an unusual or unforeseen event and in fact, the next five days were rainy and mostly cloudy. But even on those damp days, my solar system managed to generate enough power to not only charge my e-bike, but also my phone, Android tablet, and radio batteries. After that first week, I knew that I had pieced together a workable system. It’s not fancy or particularly elegant, but it gets the job done.

Sparky, my eBike, runs off a 36 Volt, 12.5 AmpHour Lithium-ion battery Since Watts equal Volts times Amps, Sparky’s battery holds 450 WattHours of power. Sparky’s stock wall charger plugs into a U.S. standard 120 Volt AC outlet and puts out 42 Volts DC at 2 Amps so it puts out 84 Watts in an hour. To completely load Sparky up with 450 Watts takes about five and a half hours if I plug into the wall. Charging off the sun is a different story.

The hundred Watt solar panel I got from eBay only puts out 100 Watts in some theoretic, perfectly sunny world that I certainly don’t live in. And even if the panel were to miraculously put out 100 Watts, it would do so only at a maximum voltage of 18 Volts. I needed to get that up to a steady 42 Volts to charge Sparky.

My first thought was to get what is called a “boost controller.” This is a device which will take a variable voltage input (like what a solar panel puts out) and boosts it to a constant voltage. Like damn near everything these days, the Chinese make an inexpensive one you can buy on eBay, so I ordered one to go with my solar panel.

The controller uses advanced software algorithms initiative rope move, quickly and accurately tracking the maximum power point of photovoltaic panels module voltage, active tracking work at the maximum power point of the solar cell module in order to get more solar energy. Enhance the charging current and power generation.

After reading that I decided to initiate my own rope move and I went on YouTube and found some guy with a British accent who had messed around enough with one of these controllers to figure it out and explain it in such a way that even a dumb American like me could use it. Following his instructions, I set up my boost controller put out the 42 volts I needed to charge Sparky’s battery.

While that system worked, the flaw in my plan quickly became apparent, I had to have Sparky parked in the shed and plugged in to get the power off the panel. The panel doesn’t generate power at night and in most of the daylight hours, Sparky is at work with me. While I could just charge Sparky using the main power at work and have my employer pay the power bill, that is not at all what I wanted to do. I want to run Sparky on sunshine.

Sir Robert Watson-Watt, the inventor of radar, once said: “you get one idea today, you get a better idea tomorrow, and the best idea…never.” My next idea was to add an intermediate storage battery to the system and as I researched and thought my next, next better idea was to get a little integrated battery/inverter Power Bank unit. I found a good one, again made by the Chinese and available on eBay.

The device is marvelously complicated and came with a manual that had obviously been translated into English by a not too bright robot. Here is an actual paragraph from that manual:

“The controller uses advanced software algorithms initiative rope move, quickly and accurately tracking the maximum power point of photovoltaic panels module voltage, active tracking work at the maximum power point of the solar cell module in order to get more solar energy. Enhance the charging current and power generation.”

I also got a little recording Watt meter which is not needed for the system to work, but useful in that it tells me how much power the panel is generating and how much has been stored. The Power Bank has a little 4 LED power meter but the Watt meter gives me a clearer picture of what is going on.

The Power Bank has built-in circuitry that lets it take power straight off the solar panel, so I no longer need to use the green boost converter. The solar power, up to 220 WattHours, gets stored in the Power Bank’s internal Li-ion battery. The Power Bank charges up during the day while Sparky and I are at work.

You might have noticed that the Power Bank has roughly half the capacity that Sparky does. That means that if I came home at the end of the day with Sparky completely depleted, even if the Power Bank was fully charged, I could only charge Sparky’s battery half way. If that actually happened, I’d need a second day to charge the Power Bank and then transfer that power to Sparky. In practice, I’m a pretty frugal e-bike rider and in a week of commuting and errands, I only use a few hundred Watts.

My typical charging pattern looks like this: I get home Friday night and Sparky is down to around 50%. I plug Sparky’s standard wall charger into one of the 120 VAC inverter outlets on the Power Bank. The next morning, Sparky is full and the Power Bank is empty. I spend the weekend riding Sparky around and the Power Bank spends the weekend in the shed charging up. Sunday night I again connect Sparky to the now full Power Bank. Monday morning the Power Bank is again depleted and Sparky is ready to take on the work week at full strength.

The actual truth of things is that even with less than great weather and the inefficiencies of various intermediate batteries and inverters, my little solar system gives me more than enough power to keep Sparky humming along. In fact, I have more than enough power so I also use the power bank to keep my phone, tablet, and radio charged up. All the words and pictures in this post come are here thanks to solar power.

If you want to build a system like mine, the only two parts you really need are a Solar Panel and a Power Bank. The prices of these things tend to fluctuate. I paid about $100 for my 100 Watt panel and $131 for my Power Bank. I consider it money well spent.

Keep ’em rolling,

Kent Peterson
Eugene, Oregon

Helpful information from a 79-year-old Grandpa riding his Grand-Toddler on the back…

Here we have a growing list that our friend William Robinson is putting together of modifications he is making to his Bike Friday Haul-a-Day cargo E-Bike. It’s like have an Ikea Bike because it’s so modular.


City Hall Photo Op. Took grand-daughter downtown in her Hamax seat on my HaD to share the love with City Manager and Safe Routes to School team.

“Love the assist. My 79-year-old knees and other joints value the boost when scampering across an intersection. I weigh 172 lbs. Bike weight of the bike with battery, motor, lock. whoopee deux and front basket is 76 lbs. It is almost evenly divided, front to rear. With grand-toddler on the back, the assist is an invaluable fatigue eliminator…”

The best way to lay out your bike when you pull it out of the box

“Child seat by Hamax, a good alternative to Yepp. My 17-month-old grand daughter has her helmet; we first need warmer weather. I will add felt to the inner surfaces of the leg shields. That will prevent chafing the paint on the pipes.”

Rear dynamo tail light custom mount
– Water Bottle mount –
Two 1-1/2″ straps hold ordinary bottle mount securely to seat tube.
Modified my old Thule bike rack to carry my HaD. The rack was limited to 48″ so I shortened the frame to the same. I am 5’6″ and 79 years old. I can get the HaD on and off by myself.
Failure teaches. The first attempt, pulling on the SKS fender was foolish. Discovering the unused pannier lugs allowed fabrication of a three legged bracket. It is independent of the fender. It works marvelously and allows very tight turns without challenge to the bracket or shoes. And it reduces the amount of front wheel turning when using the kickstand.

How to buy a bike online from Bike Friday explained:

Order Process Information Page: How to buy a Bike Friday.

In the options selection box on each bike page:

 Phase 1:

  1. Follow all the steps in the drop-down menus.
  2. Add to cart
  3. Go to cart then follow steps.
  4. Fill-out billing and shipping info
  5. Place Order

Once purchased phase two will start.

Phase 2:

  1. A Bike Friday Bike Expert will follow up with you in the next 48 hours to determine your pick-up /ship date(production takes 5-7 weeks on average)
  2. confirm any needed details about your order(some people to come to our factory for a tour and pick-up their new bike).

Payments Plan and Paypal Credit:

Want to order your bike and pay for it later? Give PayPal Credit a try. Here is how you can apply.

  • Add your new Bike Friday to the cart and proceed to the checkout process.
  • On the payment step of the checkout process, select “PayPal Credit” as your payment option.
  • You’ll be redirected to the PayPal website where you will log in or create an account.
  • On the next step, click “Apply Now” under PayPal Credit and follow the instructions.
  • Complete the checkout to place your order. It really is a snap!

If you have any questions, please email us or call us at1-800-777-0258 USA 1-541-687-0487 INTL, and we’ll be happy to assist, even with E-Assit.

Cycling 3500 Miles Across the USA by Tandem – Fox on a Lead

Breaking up the flights from Australia back home to the UK, by pedaling across the big landmass in-between, has brought a headache of logistics but somehow plans have fallen into place. We now find ourselves sat in our Sand Diego motel room eagerly waiting on a phone call from reception to let us know when UPS have delivered our parcel.

Inside the parcel will be bright orange, 27 gear, compact tandem with 20inch wheels. It’s been manufactured in the USA by Bike Friday and will be delivered just in time for L and me to hop on and start pedaling 3500 miles, west to east! One thing’s for sure, ‘The Flying Fox’ as our new tandem will from now be known, should prove to be a major upgrade from our previous Chinese crisis (of a folding 20inch wheel tandem) known as ‘Tandy’. (Check out the early blog posts).

The lady on reception with the drawn on, inch thick, purple eyebrows had been most helpful relocating us to another non-smoking room after our arrival. The new room didn’t honk of stale cigarettes and wasn’t located on the 4th floor, we settled for the 1st floor. Not quite the easy access ground floor room we’d envisaged when booking a motel opposed to a hotel, but the thought of lugging a tandem up and down one flight of outside steps is preferable to four.

The all too familiar,” what do we do now and how did we get into this mess?”.

Prior to the arrival of the all-important package, L and I had sourced one or two miscellaneous cycle related items for the trip. We’d also spoken to an enthusiastic T-mobile employee who helped us with getting a local sim card and who went further to assist with directions to the nearest supermarket. Apparently, we needed to ‘get on the trolly’. Neither of us had any idea what this meant so instead we walked.

The eagerly awaited phone call soon arrived and before we knew it, we’d spent a couple of hours unpacking and putting together The Flying Fox. Working out how to cram on and attach all of our luggage, took a tad longer. Bungees at the ready. Say hello to The Flying Fox!

The Flying Fox is made by Bike Friday an American company who specialize in small wheel collapsible bikes, purpose built in various load carrying configurations. They also happen to make a range of tandems and have kindly given us a discount because we will be raising money for charity and in exchange for social media updates.

Keen to sponsor our USA west coast to east coast 3 months tandem attempt?
LINK: https://www.justgiving.com/companyteams/foxonalead
Small print. Clause 1647: If we run out of peddling time before making it to the east coast, your generous donations will still be going to the good causes stated!)

Follow the full journey via their blog at: The Flying Fox

Via de la Plata and El Norte Caminos, Spain on a Bike Friday, June 2018

Via de la Plata and El Norte Caminos, Spain on a Bike Friday, June 2018

Over 90% of people who walk or ride ‘The Camino” in Spain do the Camino Frances or French Way across the central north of Spain to Santiago de Compostela.  But there is a large network of Caminos from all areas of Spain, Portugal, France and beyond.  I started in Seville in the south at the end of May.

I chose the Via de la Plata – the wide Roman Road as I found an excellent bike guide for it – in Spanish – but maps are universal and you soon work out the symbols for fords, bike shops etc. The other essential ingredient was a Credential de Peregrino for 3E – a passport allowing you to stay in the municipal and church supported albergues (v cheap but excellent hostels) along the route.

Seville is very bicycle friendly with bike paths along all their wide avenues and highways.  In May the Jacaranda trees are in full glory.

As I was travelling by myself I allowed a week at a language school in Seville to also get my bike together and ensure it was working well.   To make sure  I ventured out west 35km to a solar thermal farm.

Then I launched off on the 1000 km to Santiago de Compostela along quiet country roads, farm lanes and through wild flower strewn parks.   The Via de la Plata route is approx 1/3 dirt roads, 2/3 bitumen but the guide gives a full bitumen option.

The roads are very well signposted and the few drivers were very cautious and courteous.

After two dry years then a very wet winter the wildflowers were magnificent.

This French walker was resting as I came up to the ford.  As I balanced along the stepping stones, still getting used to the unwieldy extra weight on the back of my laden bike – he met me in the middle to help – so that all my precious lube wasn’t washed off.

Essie – my bike is a Pocket Crusoe Petite so I was restricted to under 10Kg extra – hence the smaller paniers and a light sleeping bag.

Over the old Roman bridge into Merida – my first rest day to explore the Roman ruins.

Spot Essie – shows the size of the aqueducts

The Camino has reassuring yellow arrows, but often they are subtly placed.

Via de la Plata and El Norte Caminos, Spain on a Bike Friday June 2018

Lovely firm single track through farm paddocks then out on quiet country roads leading into the mountains.

Enjoying fruit in a small village.  The mountain bikes and their gear look enormous next to mine.
Water fountains are regularly placed along the way.


The route took me through many almost abandoned stone villages and some having a partial revival.  Most villages had a bar that provided excellent coffee and a pilgrims meal – 3 courses plus wine and bread for < 10E.  This village had no shops, no bar but the hospitaleros were almost self sufficient growing food behind the albergue -pictured with his elderly father, and provided lovely meals.
Lavender along the road sides.
I think young hair dressers are similar to young bike mechanics – they just want to get out of school and start work…and avoid learning English……..At the bike shop you can just point to the problem and they can work it out.  At the hairdressers a few key words got the message across…”Soy bicigrina con casco”…….I am a bicycle pilgrim with a helmet…..so obviously I wanted my hair cut short to avoid helmet hair!   Getting foils added was a little tricky.
Leaving Salamanca took me through cereal farms with poppy lined roads.
There were no fences so the shepherds and dogs take the animals out each day to eat within strict areas.
All the fast traffic goes on the Autovias, often a National road will be running parallel with wide bike friendly shoulders and almost no traffic so quite safe to use if necessary.  To pass through the mountain ranges into Galicia (NW corner of Spain) I went on the National road up the mountain, and found it had a Pilgrim’s path attached safely within the long tunnel.  Once through, the camino took me winding off to the left through small villages and up over the top of the second mountain range with the autovia and national road tunnels below me.
The camino path in the heath covered Galician mountains was rougher – but I was not in a hurry and it was worth it for the scenery.
Lush Galician lanes
The ultimate goal for most pilgrims is the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.  To collect their Compostela and go to the mass with the giant swinging botafumeiro with its smoking incense.
I took a train back to Ourense (with bike folded in the luggage rack) and then an overnight bus to Irun which is on the NE coast just over from the French border.  This area was initially touristy near San Sebastian with a walking/bike lane along the coast.
Then it was lush and mountainous going up and down into seaside villages tucked into the coves.
Again along the farm lanes.  The north coast gets much more rain.
And quiet bitumen roads
Into Bilbao for another rest day taking in the Guggenheim museum, street dancing and wonderful food. Shirley, Essie, The Pup and his kennel (the Guggenheim)
Further along the river from Bilbao I came across this amazing bridge with hanging transportador
Fascinated I settled in the bar on the riverside with some exquisite pintxos (the tapas of the basque country) and a tinto verano to watch it go back and forth
Once over the river on the other side there was a wonderful walking and bike path taking you up and over the autovia and continued 12km to La Arena a beach town.  The albergue was in the next little pueblo Pobena.
Through the next mountain range to Laredo.

I had to work my way down and along the beach to the far end where a punt takes you across to the next town Santona – home of the finest quality anchovies.  The municipal albergue there was part of a new indoor sporting complex
I took a 2 day detour south off the camino to go 40km gently climbing 400m along the river in to Potes – the gateway to the alps Picos de Europa.  While the road was narrow, motorists were reminded to give cyclists a wide berth and they always did.
Early in the morning the alps appeared. 
I returned to the camino following the reassuring yellow arrows.
Through more abandoned stone villages to Oviedo.  All up I had covered 1800 km

My time was up so I caught another overnight bus south to Seville where the language school was holding my case.

Much  of the Via de la Plata passes through non-tourist areas and similarly the mountainous area of El Norte where very little if any English is spoken so some basic Spanish is necessary – but high school Spanish or an introductory travellers language course along with a smile and a smart-phone app will ensure you enjoy the delicious food, always have a bed to sleep in and get any repairs needed.

Story By: Shirley Proctor

Bike Friday Family Tandem on an adventure in New Zealand

What does a bicycle call its dad? A: Pop-cycle

Family adventure abounds in this on-going story which will soon(we hope) be turned into a book.  Enjoy this amazing families story done on two Bike Friday Tandem Bikes…the adventure of a lifetime for these two kids, who, have seen more adventure in their short years than many have seen in their whole life.

Forget Ms. Frizzle, we’re riding the Magic School Bikes: New Zealand Week Nine
Greymouth to Fox Glacier, 338km (total cycled to date: 2,458 km)

Sometimes parenting is like a hyperactive game of Trivial Pursuit.

“Where does water come from?” “What’s my blood for?” “When did the first human happen?” “How are glaciers formed?”

New Zealand family adventure

At home, there’s Wikipedia. On a cycle tour along the ruggedly gorgeous west coast of New Zealand, you cobble together the faded remnants from depressingly distant high school and university classes – and then your bike by an actual glacier and discover the answers firsthand.

We encounter a lot of curiosity (slash concern) on our rest stops about what we’re doing for the boys’ schooling. At their ages they should be in a classroom six hours a day – and they are, only theirs has no walls (literal or figurative) and great exercise because every day is a field trip.

Family adventure in New Zealand on Bike Friday Tandem

This week in our world-schooling adventure began on the West Coast Wilderness Trail, a three-day inland jaunt through a fern-filled native forest and along mighty mountain rivers. The cycling was exhilarating as we slalomed along the smooth off-road paths with loads of twists and bends like a day-long dirt bike ride. While we whisked along, Heron learned several new French verbs with Ed, while Sitka resumed his line of questioning for Joyce about human anatomy and bodily systems – kind of a pre-pre-med program for an inquisitive kindergartener.

The bulk of our cycling days are filled with Q&A on whatever whim of a topic piques the boys’ intrigue – often it’s math or spelling games (we finally stumped them with chlorophyll and photosynthesis), or meteorology, as we experience weather firsthand and endlessly try to predict what the clouds will bring next. One afternoon, we passed a series of reservoir lakes and talked about where drinking water comes from. And when signs warned of old gold mining shafts, we switched on to minerals and geology. For the next week, the boys constructed mining towns at every beach and rest stop, as they often do, recreating what they’ve seen during the day in their extraordinary imaginations.

Tandem bike fording a small river in New Zealand

Then, in the evening between our incredible visits to the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers, we stayed with two recent geology grads, Jules and Mark, who have passed the last few months as glacier guides taking tourists up to the summits in helicopters. The boys’ every question was answered about the rocks we found (some compressed from sand over 125 million years ago) and how the Southern Alps range is still rising from the rubbing tectonic plates deep below.

We all learn quite a bit on our own, too. Both Heron and Sitka read every info sign they see in its entirety, recounting for hours every detail about the tree or creature in question. Did you know New Zealand’s freshwater eel grows to two metres over almost 100 years of life, and at the end migrates far into the South Pacific to an island where they spawn a new generation, that then floats back on ocean currents to the same lake their parents lived in? Well, now you do.

Read the rest of the story and follow their adventures here:

– Click Here – 

Bike Friday Family Tandem on an adventure in New Zealand

Family bike touring in mountain paradise…it’s all so possible, with the right gear!

This is one amazing story which just had to be shared…and thankfully it was done with our very own Bike Friday Haul-A-Day bikes.  Enjoy and be inspired!

By Christian

We “just” (ok – it’s been a month) got back from 2 months cycle-touring around Europe. We toured through Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany (with a few flights, ferries, and trains in there). We took it easy in terms of distances covered, averaging about 40 km per day, so that the kids would have lots of time to play. But we still had some long days, and several days with elevation gains approaching 1000 m. Trip reports to come (spoiler – it was incredible)… but most questions are about the logistics and equipment, so let’s start there!

Our youngest daughter, N, rode in the chariot bike trailer all the time. Our oldest daughter, F, had the option of riding her own bike, sitting on the back of my cargo bike, or sitting in the chariot. I would say that she rode her own bike about 25% of the time. Not surprisingly, she had a strong preference for sitting out all of the long uphills. She also never really went into the chariot unless she wanted to sleep or it was raining. Usually, I would tow the chariot and we would just strap F’s bike sideways across Line (mom)’s panniers. If we anticipated a lot of switching back-and-forth Line would tow the chariot and I would use the cargo bike to tow F’s bike (riderless) as this was a faster transition. If I was already towing the chariot but needed to take F’s bike as well, I could also stick it vertically on the back along with all our stuff, or sideways on the front rack, but both of these took more time to set up than towing. So we had a lot of options.

All the listed weights were “typical underway” weights in the middle of the trip (specifically, when we weighed everything just as we left our friend’s house in Zurich). We weren’t carrying very much food/water at the time – only a day or two. Sometimes we carried for up to 4 days. We could definitely feel the difference. You can add up all the weights below, but I’ll save you the trouble – all the stuff and kids together weighed in at 343 lbs being hauled around by 303 lbs worth of parents.

Read more of the story here: – Click Me –

Biking Western Ireland on folding bikes and trailers

This was a piece first shared on Crazyguyonabike.com

Special thanks to Charlie and his amazing wife Audrey for this Bike Friday tour story which will inspire us all to raise our glasses and say Erin Go Braugh!

Introduction: 100 Ecuadorians Descend on Drogheda, Biking Ireland, July 2018

Thursday July 12, 2018

The local Irish paper reported “100 Ecuadorians descend on Drogheda for statue unveiling”. Bicycling Ireland had not been on our radar when several cousins announced plans for a family reunion in Drogheda to honor an ancestor born there. For many years several members of my family have researched family and related history concerning our mothers’ home country of Ecuador. This ancestor, recognized as a national hero of Ecuador, joined the British Navy as a child (think movie/book series Master and Commander), and became one of the many Irish leaders of other nations. Through trips and research, they made contact with living relatives and made friends with the Drogheda community who embraced us in typical Irish fashion.

Needing no further excuse than a good party to build a vacation around, we decided to add time for bicycling and to see some of the biggest cities in Ireland. The complication, for relaxed bike travel, was that the family event coincided with peak tourist season and the World Cup. My wife Audrey found a good book on biking Ireland and checked out all the Ireland guidebooks from our 2 libraries, we did some online research, ordered some maps, and decided that seeing the west coast of Ireland was the priority. The route took in some of the best of the Irish Wild Atlantic Way (https://www.wildatlanticway.com). Roughly, we bicycled a section of the Connemara north of Galway and then did Galway to Kinsale and Cork crossing the Burren, seeing the Cliffs of Moher, Dingle Peninsula, the Gap of Dunloe, and other parts of the Ring of Kerry.

Even though we’ve bicycled together for years (our first date was a 65-mile ride) and we’ve done a number of bike trips, none were more than a week-long together. This was going to be a test of equipment and stamina though I did several long, self-contained pannier/camping bicycle trips in my youth. From past trips to Australia and Spain, the time had to be built in for site seeing and picture taking so we planned around 50km or 30-40 mile days.

From the experience of an earlier trip where we rented bikes and paid for a great week of self-guided riding, seven years ago we bought Bike Fridays with full packing trailer equipment so that we could be freer in our choice of routes and timing. Our Bike Friday’s come apart and fold to fit inside a suitcase that converts to a trailer pulled behind the bike. These “fly” at no extra cost as one of our checked pieces (if you keep them to about 50 pounds). We double our time out expense wise so the bikes have paid for themselves. The downside is that you are dragging up to 45 pounds behind you, another factor along with our age, in setting daily mileages. We both qualified for the senior discount in Ireland!

We flew from Chicago, arriving in Dublin on July 12 and joined the family in Drogheda for the non-biking part of our trip. I had a backup plan and map of biking from the airport by bike but after an overnight flight and knowing the hassle of having to repack the bikes to go to Galway, the temptation quickly passed.

 

Ireland Logistics: Transportation, Dublin Airport, Bikes, Food, Accommodations, etc.

Transportation1. Buses: Ireland has an extensive public bus network with Bus Eiriann: http://www.buseireann.ie/ serving within major cities as well as travel between cities, towns, and even villages. There are numerous private tourist charter services and competing private companies serving the Dublin airport and major cities. We used a combination, Bus Eiriann to get to and from Drogheda and the Dublin Airport and then CityLink to get from the airport to Galway as well as to get to the Connemara region. CityLink let us put our assembled Bike Fridays in the luggage compartment for our trip to the Connemara region (https://www.citylink.ie/).

2. Trains: Ireland has a well run and on time train service that increasingly accommodates bikes. We used an express service between Cork and Dublin’s Heuston station that has a baggage car at the front for roll-ons (Irish Rail at http://www.irishrail.ie/). You do have to indicate that you are bringing a bike on the long-haul trains though we saw people walk on with bikes for a separate commuter style trip we took to Cobh from Cork. You can book trains in advance and print out a ticket at the station or just buy tickets at the kiosks.

3. Tram service in Dublin – there are electronic ticket booths that take Euros or credit/debit cards. It was rather crowded when we used it.

4. Hop on Hop off Bus Dublin – several competing services: Not sure which is the best but we broke even using the Dublin day pass combination for the private Gray Line service in conjunction with museum entries. The 24-hour aspect is a bit suspect as the service does not run 24 hours. There are lots of caveats with these day pass combinations. Buyer beware!

5. Taxis – these are all over major cities and two apps can be used: Lynk and MyTaxi. Rather than hassle with trying to get to one of the many bus services that serve Dublin Airport, we scheduled a taxi the night before our return via Lynk and it only cost 26 Euro with tip. A bus trip would have been at least 14 Euro so the hassle savings here with our 50 pound packed bikes was easily worth it. Taxis are cheaper than Uber.

Dublin Airport

When we arrived, there was one customs checkpoint that asked the reason for our visit, stamped our passports, and then we collected our bike suitcases walking out of the airport following the signs to the buses. There are taxis but no train service. The bus service is located outside and down, in the middle of the horseshoe that is the airport. Follow the signs out of baggage claim but it helps to know which bus stop to go to as there are at least 14 of them, some of them subdivided. The express service we wanted was the very last, at 14b! You can buy tickets (cash) on the bus or from a kiosk (cash or card).

They say to allow 3 hours to get through security for outgoing flights and that’s not a bad estimate – why is noted below. We left in our taxi at 9:15 am for a 12:25 pm flight back to Chicago. There were no traffic issues getting to the airport. Having boarding passes in advance allowed us to go straight to United baggage drop where we were also met by an Irish immigration official who was wandering around checking folks off using a portable scanner. A very nice use of technology…you need to sign out of the country so there is probably a desk somewhere you should plan on stopping at if you don’t see one of these strolling agents. We saved at least 45 minutes of standing in line by being able to use the baggage drop. There are two Terminals: 1 and 2 with Delta, United, and American sharing one end of Terminal Two, to the left end as you walk in the front doors, on the 2nd-floor departure area.

Customs/Security

Leaving the country, you go through the usual baggage and electronic detection security – keep all your liquids in a separate plastic bag. If you are headed to the US, you go through this whole process again ending with a US Customs agent and they ask about food, duty-free, etc.! We had 30 minutes to spare before boarding began for our flight. But the kicker is that having gone through US Customs in Dublin, you arrive in the US at a regular gate so the time spent is saved on the other end. This is the only location in the world with such an arrangement (outside some places in Canada as I understand). This saved an incredible amount of time in Chicago on our return as we didn’t have to deal with being in the very separate International Terminal 5. We should have scheduled our return bus trip home for an hour earlier! And if you have Global Entry, there’s even more time saved.

Other Airports: https://www.discoveringireland.com/fly-to-ireland/
Possible to fly in and out of 5 different international airports so you aren’t stuck in Dublin.

Maps

Our starting point was the book Around Ireland on a Bike by Paul Benjaminse. This is referred to as the “Green” route by bicyclists we met on the road. This was supplemented by a waterproof country map from National Geo (Ireland Travel Adventure) and smaller regional maps picked up at tourist information type places as we rode around. The Benjaminse routes are supposedly available for GPS download somewhere though I used RideWithGPS to create a set of 10 or so routes based on our modifications that I downloaded to my Garmin Edge 610. I also use the OpenStreetMap Ireland map found here: http://garmin.openstreetmap.nl/ which combined with the RideWithGPS .fit files worked perfectly for turn by turn including the elevation profiles of upcoming climbs. Note that Ireland is not flat and we had several 10-14% grades to deal with.

Remember to back up your existing Garmin provided maps and I recommend backing up all of your Garmin settings as well as I’ve had to restore too many times. I recommend using a separate micro-HD card for each map you download. I even created a backup HD card to take with me and since I had a laptop, even created a new route on the fly the night before riding. For more on Garmin backups and maps see for example: https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2013/05/download-garmin-705800810.html

Some bicyclists do the full Wild Atlantic Way (https://www.wildatlanticway.com/home) but this involves many main roads with little to no shoulder though Irish drivers are very considerate. However, you do want to visit some of these scenic locations!

Bikes

We use Bike Fridays where the suitcase converts to the trailer that you can pull your gear in. We find that we can travel with a book bag sized backpack and a Rick Steve’s bag and all fits. However, we can’t combine air travel with hauling our camping gear unless we have a way to store the bike packing gear in a location we come back to so as to make space for the camping gear (which we’ve done for example, by parking a car). There are many bike planning/travel services as well as luggage hauling options between locations. We haven’t tried hanging additional panniers off the bikes for camping gear but this clearly could be done if you can handle pulling the weight. We met one couple out for a week and they had a luggage service for about 40 Euros per day. We’ve used the Bike Fridays flying into Australia, California, and Nicaragua. In Spain and Ecuador, we rented bikes and hired a service to both plans and haul our stuff. We were on the road for 15 days in Ireland for the cost of a week in Spain.

Accommodations

We did most of our stays at B&Bs that ran about 75 Euros a night. Hostels are slightly cheaper and Hotels more expensive. We did use Airbnb in Dublin and Galway as we stayed 2 nights in each. Booking.com was a convenient way of organizing most of our stays. With time, you can save money by booking directly with the B&B as many are not listed through Booking.com where a commission is charged. I did find many B&Bs with vacancies even in the height of tourist season but Booking.com makes it sound like everything is full (and many places were) but it’s nice to know where you are staying the next night! I was also able to route us directly to many of the B&Bs with RideWithGPS by knowing them in advance and marking them on my routes. RideWithGPS, when used in a very magnified mode, notes many B&Bs, hotels, food locations, and so on though I did find that several pubs were closed or no longer in existence. Camping is doable but not very easy in Ireland. Warmshowers.org is another possibility but we didn’t really look into this. We spent 40-50 euros more per day eating and such.

Food

Lots of pubs to choose from as well as more upscale restaurants in bigger/Tourist locations. We shopped at a variety of grocery stores too including Tesco, Aldi’s, and Supervalue. Aldi’s probably had the best prices. Cheese and yogurt from Ireland are very inexpensive and very good. The fruit was available and of similar quality and price to the US. Irish strawberries were in season and these were delicious.

Smart Phones/Cell Phones

Wireless is widely available though speed was an issue in several places we stayed. Good cell coverage in Ireland is provided by Vodafone and Tesco. Tesco provides a low-cost pay as you go plan that competes with Vodafone though it is 3G. We successfully used Vodafone sim cards in our Samsung 7 phones in Australia and we got one phone on Tesco’s 15 Euros for 5gb data service in Ireland. Make sure you have an unlocked phone or know how to bypass the supposedly “unlocked” Verizon phones that we have where the ADT has to be manually set. We did rely on Google Maps via my Irish sim card on several occasions making life much easier!

Guide Books

Audrey downloaded a copy of the Moon Guide to Ireland to her smartphone and consulted it regularly. She also read a number of books beforehand including Rick Steves and we had a copy of the Lonely Planet Top 10 guide to Dublin. She serves as our guide on most trips. We’ve used a lot of Rick Steves tips through the years and he’s pretty spot on for many things. For example, we tried to use cash except for the big things like B&Bs (though some only take cash) and expensive meals. I found the Bank of Ireland ATM machines reliable and safe.

Day 0: Getting to Galway by Bus

Monday, July 16, 2018, 8 miles (13 km) – Total so far: 8 miles (13 km)

We left Drogheda on Monday by bus, switching at Dublin Airport for a Galway Express, arrived around

4 pm, and assembled our bikes at the station in a quiet corner. I was surprised that no one seemed at all curious about our bikes as they usually attract at least a few curious folk. We walked out the door

and andjumped into rush hour traffic, at first going exactly the opposite way we wanted to. I thought I had the route to our AirBnB in my head.

The distractions of family and tourist events in Drogheda like visiting Slane Castle, touring New Grange, seeing Oliver Plunkett’s head in a church, and sampling a variety of adult beverages with family as well as having another party for the world cup final had delayed us getting sim cards for our phones as we had done in Australia. Luckily, I had looked at Google Maps while previously connected wirelessly for our Airbnb so found it using the downloaded cache information (remember this useful Google maps feature!).

That night, we rode back into downtown Galway for dinner at the Pie Maker, explored the old quarter by bike and walking, and then biked along the harbor in the twilight. One advantage of peak tourist season in Ireland is the sun setting at 10 pm (and rising before 5 am) so maybe we wouldn’t get caught out in the dark as has happened in the past (though we do travel with great bike lights now). We were anxious to get on the road.

 

Day 1: Connemara National Park and Loop – A Test Ride

Tuesday, July 17, 2018, 32 miles (52 km) – Total so far: 40 miles (65 km)

On a whim, I had grabbed a 15 euro data package and sim card at a Tesco store where I was getting food supplies as we like to have one meal on hand when we ride. In hindsight, I should have grabbed one for Audrey as well. I had just enough time that morning to swap it with my American one over breakfast as Audrey had decided that we should hop a bus to the Connemara region (www.connemara.net) and get in a test ride without our loaded trailers.

We caught the 2nd bus to Recess on Tuesday around 10 am storing our bikes in the luggage compartment underneath laying them on their sides. We could have folded and bagged them but this wasn’t required and the spacing was perfect. From Recess, we bicycled to Letterfrack where we had an excellent early dinner at the Cloverfox. Our meal was the first of many to contain Seafood Chowder as there are almost as many recipes as there are pubs. And did I say it was loaded with potatoes? We spent the day bicycling the area including walking in Connemara National Park and getting all the way out to Rinvyle Castle and Tully on the Connemara Loop, returning to catch the bus in Letterfrack back to Galway. We even ran into a group of my cousins who were sightseeing by car doing a similar Galway to Cork route. I was stressed out by there being only one bus back to Galway as I did not relish biking all the way back another 100km!

Early on in our planning, we were concerned about the 2-month heat wave that was leaving some towns short of water but we had perfect temps for bicycling. We had our first experiences with rain and mist, coming on for 10-20 minutes at a time. I was riding with a wool jersey and shorts as well as wool socks expecting 60ish degree weather and light rain. The mist was handled with a light bicycling jacket but I found myself alternating hot/cool so adjusted zippers a lot. There was a lot of jackets on and off for both of us. We use Keene bicycling sandals and I also use a pair of off-road bike shorts without liner over whatever pair of bicycling shorts I plan for the day to have an extra set of pockets for stuff. Fenders and rain gear are a must. We were pretty satisfied with our choices for clothing and bike performance.

Jackets off mist comes
Rolling hills climb walk drop fly
Road work muddy hell

 

Day 2: The Burren – Walls Walls, Everywhere a Wall!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018, 45 miles (72 km) – Total so far: 85 miles (137 km)

On Wednesday, we hit the road via CityLink Lost and Found for Audrey’s biking gloves (recovered) negotiating the traffic through downtown Galway, walking on some sidewalks. Street signage is tricky as roads are labeled with arrowed signposts, street names hard to find on the sides of buildings, and a variety of one-way streets. It took about 10 minutes and help from a passerby to realize the road out of town was sitting in front of us so practice in advance with using Garmin routing or whatever system you are using! Over the course of the trip, I learned to resize the navigation window on my Garmin to see the actual route instead of relying on named turn by turn. Oh, and don’t forget, you bike/drive on the left in Ireland!

The route to Lisdoonvarna is about 30 miles of flat and then 15 miles of climbing with a quick descent to our destination. We knew this would be our longest day as we couldn’t find a B&B with a vacancy in advance around Curran which was our original idea. Six miles out of Galway and noonish, we had to stop at Castle Oranmor for lunch on the harbor. For those who haven’t guessed, we are not early morning riders and do our best “work” in the afternoon. Arriving early somewhere is rare.

Right after leaving the “suburbs”, we stopped for a moment only to have someone ask if we needed any help and to invite us in for tea at his house down the road! We were thankful but explained that we were very early in our ride for the day and politely declined. Down the road, he showed up at the end of his driveway with ice cream treats! We were to discover that any time we stopped, the generosity of the Irish would inevitably lead to someone checking on us.

The route (https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27880392) gets you off the beaten path very nicely moving from County Galway to County Clare, from suburbs to farmland. It was a beautiful clear day perfect for the slow uphill into the Burren where the farm roads were one lane and lined with rock fences and hedges. A number of flowering plants were in bloom, plants we would see for our entire trip. The Irish fascination with fences began to dawn on us as we rode. It was hard to understand the purpose of thick stone walls leading way up into the rocky hills and even harder to see how cattle, let alone people, could find habitable space here.

Biking the hedges
Fairy rings forts and henges
Stone walls for fences

Around 30 miles, we hit our first real climb meeting a pair of German tourists out for the day on rented electric bicycles. They zipped out of sight quickly. It was late afternoon when we finally got to Curran and a steep climb, a marked Strava challenge! But I forgot to check how I did. The next couple hours were spent dealing with 3 climbs ending in a nice downhill to the Burren Hostel. The steepness of one drop was such that Audrey walked it, the fear of meeting an oncoming car being very real (and it happened). We ended with a very late dinner at the Burren Storehouse, an old hotel converted to restaurant and media space. The locally made brew was pretty tasty!

Day 3: The Cliffs of Mohrer

Thursday, July 19, 2018, 31 miles (50 km) – Total so far: 116 miles (187 km)

Riding towards the Cliffs of Moher (https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27884622) via Doolen began as a quiet day where we tried to sneak in the back way via a gravel farm road. A mile or so in, we discovered bicycles are banned along the actual walking trail which we didn’t really see earlier as many people were walking this same gravel road. But we took advantage of the site and another lunch overlooking the sea with a view of the Aran Islands resulted! Biking our way back out, we got on a rural road overlooking the farmsteads with incredible views of the ocean and Islands. We explored several abandoned structures and finally had to negotiate the main road for several kilometers to the entrance of the actual Cliffs of Moher park area.

Every tourist in Ireland was on hand. A nice, historic/archeological touch, where the gift shops built right into the hillside leading to the information center. Since we biked in, our entry was free. Those driving pay to park. At the edge of the shops is a bike parking area along with a bike station. Unfortunately, the tools were all rusted as one might expect next to ocean corrosiveness. The views are pretty spectacular but the castle tower isn’t really worth it as the views are obstructed by the depth of the walls at the top. We failed to see any puffins and we have since learned that their numbers are dwindling, probably from loss of habitat, global warming, and loss of food supplies. The protective walls along the trail on these high cliffs are lined with tourists so you just have to sort of wait your turn to get a good vantage point. The Irish seem pretty obsessed with safety as everyone from bus drivers to road workers were in green safety vests, warning signs abound, and there are lifesaving rings everywhere there is water.

Along the ocean, at many points on our trip, we enjoyed the fresh ocean smell of low tide. I joked that it is always low tide in Ireland. The smell brings back some of my favorite memories of clamming in Oyster Bay as a kid. This was driven home when we stopped at the highly recommended Vaughn’s Pub for a late lunch in Liscannor. Their seafood chowder would turn out to be the best of the trip and tasted like that special wonderful fresh low tide smell.

Sheer cliffs Isles abound
Henges old houses castles
Where are the puffins

We had planned this as a short day so that we could take in lots of sites. On arriving in Ennistymon and checking into the Station House B&B (a converted RR station), we decided to take a ride to Kilfenora where old Celtic influenced burial crosses can be readily seen. Only one cross has been left standing in a field, the remainder moved into an old church and cemetery for safety. A quiet, sleepy town with several pubs/B&Bs as well as a visitor’s center for the Burren (which was closed by the time we got there). There’s even a bike shop servicing local rentals and electric bikes.

Cemeteries and old churches would become one of the themes of our trip. I lost count of how many we visited as the old churches double as burial grounds with graves right up to and in most cases into the old churches themselves. The fascination with or need to build walls has extended itself to what in many cases, are family plots containing 2 or 3 generations. The plots are surrounded by a low 4 inch or so stone or cement wall, covered in stone/gravel, with a monument listing several generations. Others have both old and new monuments to the deceased. Many also have some kind of dedication noting “erected by … loving husband/wife/children of…”.

 

Day 4: Roller Day

Friday, July 20, 2018, 34 miles (54 km) – Total so far: 150 miles (241 km)

Lingering in Ennistymon the next morning, we discovered that due to the drought, the town’s famous cascades were dry. Dry was not the theme of the day though and our ride to Kilimer can best be described as roller day: light rain, mist, constant rolling hills, and messy road construction. Early into the ride, we were passed by a young woman from the Netherlands who asked us if we were following the “Green Route”. She was traveling from hostel to hostel using what turned out to be the same book we based our routes on.

The two places that I had listed as possible food stops were closed and we ended up eating cheese, crackers, and fruit trying to stay out of the wind and mist next to the second of these pubs. I was able to fill water bottles at a faucet in back though. Given the massive Irish breakfasts we were having at B&Bs, we ended up having late lunches when convenient or a mid-day snack and a good supper at a pub at our next destination. We got spoiled by the excellent dairy (cheese and butter and cheap yogurt), very good bacon, and pork in general, as well as smoked salmon with breakfast.

With the EU, the Irish have specialized in all things cattle, mostly grass fed, at the expense of their fishing industry through fresh seafood was readily available. Many are unsure what effect Brexit will have as the Irish seemingly enjoy being in the EU but their biggest trading partner is England, let alone issues related to N. Ireland.

At the watershed ridge, we found a wind farm and dense fir plantations on old bogs that were impenetrable to the eye and generated a sense of magic or haunted forest right out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales or Lord of the Rings. More ups and downs as well as a several mile road reconstructions that we made it through during a light rain, left the bikes and trailers covered in muck. The never-ending rolling hills somehow suggested to Audrey that haiku was in order. Taking the challenge, I started composing in my head, calling out ideas to Audrey or recording to my phone, as well as thinking back on what we had seen and done already.

As we made it to the River Shannon, biking along the rolling banks, with several miles to go to our B&B, Audrey quoted my Law 3 of Bicycling Thermodynamics: There is no last hill. And the first haiku of the trip followed.

Up Down torn up Road
Riding to River Shannon
Mist Rain no last hill

We finally made it to Cois Na Sionna, cleaned up, and strolled across the street to eat at the Old Brogue Bar. Both are on the north bank right at the Ferry Terminal which we proceeded to explore after eating. On my asking about a way to clean up our bikes, the owners of the B&B whipped out a hose in the backyard and helped us clean up everything before storing our bikes in their shed.

 

Day 5: Tarbert to Tralee

Saturday, July 21, 2018, 41 miles (66 km) – Total so far: 191 miles (307 km)

Tralee (and the Holiday Lodge) was our next destination, a fairly easy and uneventful ride from Tarbert that began with a ferry ride across the River (https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27884682). Once we got our fix of shorebirds

along the bay, we found the route dotted with old churches and cemeteries. Of particular interest were the old monastery and churches in Ardfert where we spent considerable time walking on and in the walls and grounds of the Abbey as well as getting a very informative explanation of items and architecture at the cathedral museum up the road.

In Tralee, we stayed at a hotel a couple blocks from downtown and were met by the most energetic manager of the trip. Patty got our bikes stowed, recommended where to eat, where to catch music, and did all this while handling a bus full of tourists staying overnight and to whom they were serving dinner! Not taking her advice, we were disappointed by dinner at Finnegan’s which had been recommended by one of the guidebooks Audrey was consulting – it was good but standard Italian though in a very romantic atmosphere.

It was not a quiet night for sleeping. At one point, a drunk tried every door on our floor looking for his room. Someone was yelling in the parking lot and then the tour bus left early. Audrey slept through it all. The highlight was a couple hours the next morning at the Kerry County Museum where there was a very good timeline and explanation of the life of one of the leaders and martyrs of the 1916 Easter Uprising that ultimately led to Irish independence.

In Drogheda, we had stayed at the Scholars Hotel, a converted Christian Brothers School, that also had one of the best restaurants in town but most importantly, had really great coffee. We figured Ireland would be like Australia and every little place would have great coffee. Not quite. Like Australia, instant coffee, tea bags, milk, and a hot pot in every room. But the $10K espresso machines were harder to come by and we couldn’t find one this morning. It was hit or miss in some of the places we stayed and a search for good coffee would start some days if French Press wasn’t part of breakfast. As Americans, we missed our drip coffee.

 

Day 6: Over Conner Pass

Sunday, July 22, 2018, 32 miles (52 km) – Total so far: 223 miles (360 km)

The route to Dingle is mostly flat with a view of the bay and a big climb at the end. The route starts fairly busy until the road splits. The big buses and most tourists use the main road, leaving the old road for use as the “scenic” route (https://ridewithgps.com/users/596344/routes). We stopped for lunch, dropping towards beach territory at Castlegregory, to Moe’s Café where we found very good coffee and a satisfying brunch. We spent considerable time looking for a pub and the matching picture in the guidebook, never finding it. Names change, no one knew what we were talking about, maybe that pub up the street.

We climbed back to the main road via a quiet farm road and 33 km into the ride, the signs started with a warning to bicyclists of the 7.2% grade, 5km climb ahead. It took us just under an hour to get to the top where there were misty but expansive views. We couldn’t see the tops of the mountains but it was still impressive. Up and down, cattle, goats, and sheep were our companions. The sheep and goats have been color-coded with red, green, and/or blue dyes which in combination with the terrain, evoke a very sci-fi realm. There’s a reason for Star Wars and Lord of the Rings to have used these environments! And of course, the goats ignore the stone walls. It only took about 12-14 minutes to descend on “Spa Road” where we had to keep an eye out for that night’s B&B. As a light sleeper, I much prefer being away from the center of towns for a quiet sleep.

Into the Irish mist
Conner Pass Dingle dangles
Tourists and Trad mix

The Ring of Kerry is jam-packed these days but thanks (or no thanks) to Rick Steves, Dingle has been discovered too. Dingle has the Shea’s Head loop with a number of historical and archeological treasures and many bicyclists consider it one of the prettiest loops in Ireland. Duinen House, where we stayed, is about 1km uphill from downtown Dingle and we planned for 2 days thinking we’d have a “rest” day of sorts and ride the Loop.

Our hosts were very nice, offering tea and information, and even a ride into town if we wanted. Their breakfasts were made to order and expansive. This was the best of the B&Bs we stayed at, their 9.6 Booking.com rating well earned!

After unloading our trailers and grabbing just the dirty laundry, we finished the descent into town where we found a downtown outdoor laundromat with 2 sizes of a washing machine and a single dryer, a new experience for us. We were too tired to hang out and listen to music but it was coming out of several pubs along Main Street. We grabbed some food supplies and ate in our room that evening.

 

Day 7: Shea’s Head Loop

Monday, July 23, 2018, 41 miles (66 km) – Total so far: 264 miles (426 km)

The morning found us looking at very grey skies as we started out on the Shea’s Head loop. Counterclockwise is recommended as the buses go clockwise and we found this good advice. About 5 km into the ride, the rain really got started and we were soaked by the time we got to the old archeological site Cathair Na.

BhFionnurach at the very north end of the extended loop. We trudged up a hill to find it, not well marked but well protected. Hard to imagine a clan living in these conditions as all that’s left are the stone walls and bases of their housing, complete with underground space.

In southern dwellings

Ancient rock lords fence out foes

Monks save Civ Oh Christ

We found our way to the café and tourist destination, Gallarus Oratory, drying out over coffee and cake. Audrey decided to go back to the B&B so we split up for the day and I finished the loop. Of course, the rain stopped and I spent the rest of the afternoon with better and better views.

Since I said I’d be done by 5, I rode hard between photo stops and did more mileage and climbing than expected. So much for a rest day! It’s hard to describe the scenery except that it changes and is never boring. The Blasket Islands, the Three Sisters in the distance, archeological sites, beehive huts, and an old fort (which was heavily damaged by the hurricane last year so is closed to the public) (https://www.dingle-peninsula.ie).

Rainy mist lifts clear
Blaskets Aran Skellig Michael
Views to die for too

Back in Dingle, I picked up tickets for a show that night featuring some excellent local but nationally known talent: Gerry O’Beirne, Jon Sanders, and Eoin Duignan. I discovered that I’m just another tourist sucker for the uillean pipes. And of course, dinner beforehand at a well-rated pub, the Ashes Bar, complete with their version of seafood chowder.

 

Day 8: Herding Cows

Tuesday, July 24, 2018, 34 miles (55 km) – Total so far: 298 miles (480 km)

Leaving Dingle via the southern route, we avoided the main road almost completely and found ourselves herding calves (https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27884918). The owner told us they were hungry from the drought so he was moving them with help from his two young children and a dog using a small pickup like a horse giving commands to the dog and children both. At one point I thought we were about to move onto a dirt road but it was just a well-used farm road covered in what cows do.

These roads are a bit bumpier and probably hillier but so quiet compared to main roads and very similar to the chip and seal roads we have at home. The views though are a lot nicer than our corn and soybeans! From our first days on these narrow roads, we had learned to use the pullouts just as the vehicles do. And don’t forget a friendly wave! I started to think that having 1.5-inch tires would have been better than the 1.35’s we were riding on, the usual debate of resistance versus comfort that I find myself increasingly having inside my head.

Off the busy road
Moving little doggies along
On shite lined bike path

Just before Annascaul, as we were coming off the country road, there’s a very short jog on the main road and then a steep uphill. I waited at the top for Audrey to show up. Realizing she missed the turn, I went looking for her along the main road. She had turned off at a small gas station and was looking at a neat old railroad bridge that we would have missed taking the side streets.

Just after passing through Annascaul, where major reconstruction of the main road back to Tralee was ongoing (complete with multiuse lanes for sidewalks), we moved to the coastal road, another difference from the Green route. This was a scenic and not busy secondary road that I’d recommend over the green route. Not sure how the author missed this great route. Interestingly, we’d talked to several locals who recalled Benjamanse having passed through doing his research on his book.

We found ourselves at a very popular beach, Inch Strand, where we sat at the outdoor café and enjoyed lunch guarding our food to the ever-present and hoovering seagulls. In Whitegate, we took a side road and visited the very old, retired Keel cemetery where most gravestones were obscured though a directory had been developed for historical purposes. Evening found us at Leahbrook House outside the village of Castlemaine. We were in the mood for some live music but nothing was happening that night, we checked!

Day 9: The Gap of Dunloe, Where the Manure Flies

Wednesday, July 25, 2018, 34 miles (55 km) – Total so far: 332 miles (535 km)

We discovered that the backroad to rejoin the Green Route was closed adding a few miles on a busier secondary road this morning (https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27885152) where another deviation from the Green Route was to take us through the Gap of Dunloe via the popular tourist destination of Kate’s Cottage. The Green Route crosses on the other side of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks range. With more time, it would have been fun to do both sides and get out to the tip of the Ring of Kerry.

Some pie and coffee before the start of the climb had us holding onto everything as the wind was really blowing. Chairs, hay, and related from the horses used to ferry people up the gap were whipping by. Joining the hikers and buggies (cars are restricted) we set off discovering a series of climbs, some of them with short 12-14% sections up a series of 4 lakes. There’s a 9-mile circuit trail up to the highest peak in Ireland, Carrauntoohil, that folks regularly hike taking something like 8 hours.

It was a clear day with the blue skies contrasting with the stark rock and green growth making it very surreal and awesomely beautiful. This turned out to be my favorite day of riding. As much as I like oceans having grown up near them, my earliest memories of childhood are from the mountains of Ecuador.

Manure flakes flying
Horses hoof it up the trail
Colored sheep abound

Once at the top, you really can’t see all the way back to where you came from and then you drop into the Black Valley. Quickly too I might add. This is another scenic section but very different in that it runs along a creek/small river for a bit in addition to the regular farmland viewing predominant in Ireland outside cities.

There are places to fish and picnic along the creek. Horseback riding seems to be a popular activity through here as well. A short climb at the end of the route brings you to Moll’s Gap and a fun descent on the main road into Kenmare. Once again, we were watching at the end for our B&B which was about 2 km from the center of town. One thing I should have done was edit each of the ride with gps routes to end at the actual place we were staying.

Lakes rocks sheer beauty
Wind blows through Gap of Dunloe
Molls Gap at last, Whee

Our B&B was an actual farmstead and, over tea, of course, we found out that he farmed, she ran the B&B, and they closed up at the end of tourist season to go to the Canary Islands. She didn’t indicate how they met but she was from County Clare south of Galway. For many Irish, county identification seems important, much like Americans refer to the state they are from. We even saw houses and cars with county flags. In talking about Irish ancestors, knowing what county they were from is important. You see county affiliation on many gravestones as well.

We dropped down to Kenmare for dinner where we found a very nice pub for dinner and live music at TJ McCarthy’s. As it was starting to get dark, we quickly toured the town to get the layout making plans for where to visit in the morning on our way out.

Old men keep fiddling
The sky still bright with twilight
Bats foxes full moon

 

 

Day 10: The Drought Ends!

Thursday, July 26, 2018, 27 miles (43 km) – Total so far: 359 miles (578 km)

Our route leaving Kenmare would take us away from the Ring of Kerry. To the west there’s more of the Wild Atlantic Way to see and the lesser known Ring of Beara. Instead, we were headed for Ballylickey and County Cork. But first we had to check out a church and the local henge where it started raining. We weren’t too concerned and put on our rain gear. It was warm enough that we skipped the pants.

Once across the bridge out of town to the south, we were able to get on another back road for a few kilometers before emerging for Lorge Chocolatier. The French owner was giving classes when we stopped by. It had started pouring and we stood there dripping on everything as we enjoyed the chocolate, buying some for the road. Before our trip started, I had jokingly told Audrey that once we got on our bikes, the drought would end. Sure enough, though we’d gotten pretty wet in Dingle, this was rain like the Midwest. All that was missing were thunder and lightning.

With no sign of clearing, and since we were already wet, we decided to head over the Caha Pass with its 4 tunnels and several druid monuments. The area has at least 6000 years of recorded habitation. The ascent was literally a blur in the rain through my glasses. We had looked for cover at the Molly Gavans Visitor Center where we saw two touring bikes parked but didn’t see where to go in the rain so just kept going.

Towards the top, we realized how much rain was falling as waterfalls were appearing everywhere, the only dry being in the short tunnels themselves. The tunnels were an interesting experience where we made sure to turn on our lights and since they are one way for whoever gets there first, we were watching the curves ahead before going into any of them. Audrey said we invented a new sport, swimbiking. Our Gor-tex rain gear was inadequate though our suitcase trailers were staying pretty dry.

The view of the Bonane Valley was pretty phenomenal even in the very wet! We should have found and stopped at the Bonane Valley Heritage Center but we just wanted and needed to keep moving. We did stop at the summit for a picture of me standing next to the County Cork sign. The descent was tricky as the road surface was a bit bumpy and though I usually feel confident and descend quickly, I found myself riding the brakes the whole 9 km down. Audrey was miserable, she hates downhills where it’s easy to exceed 35-40kph. Luckily it was 60ish degrees, not colder. I thought I’d never dry out.

We bike, the rain comes
Caha Pass waterfalls galore
Bonane beauty awe

We knew about a small natural area at the bottom of the descent before getting to Glengarriff so I stopped only to find that there was no visitors center, just an office and a now muddy trail from the parking lot. However, the park ranger recommended a pub/hotel in town and sure enough, Casey’s came through. They had a covered outdoor eating area where we parked our bikes since no one was sitting outside. Took off our wet gear, hanging it to drip, and went inside shivering. A good meal later, we found ourselves drinking a liquor proffered by the owner (Casey’s grandson Doald if I got his name right) to heat us up for the remaining part of the ride to our B&B.

Wet bumpy downhill
Shivering cold stiff and wet
Saved by Casey’s pub

Ard Na Greine B&B is in the country outside town such that we never saw Ballylickey. We turned off the coastal route to find a steep uphill, downhill, uphill by a raging River Coomhola before getting to it. As we climbed the last hill, we were startled by loud bells from the Coomhola Church. Luckily the rain never returned after Glengarriff and we found out that a near record 2.83 inches in four hours had come down. Everyone seemed relieved that the drought might be ending.

This B&B is owned by a pair of teachers with 4 entertaining children and is adjacent to his father’s farm. During the school year, they get au pairs to help out but in the summer, they use the guest rooms for their B&B. That night we had a gorgeous full moon across the farm valley and morning entertainment provided by a kitten, rabbits, and birds. The children proudly showed us their garden projects and one of them was an enthusiastic bicyclist already honing his mechanical skills.

 

Day 11: Off the Tourist Trail

Friday, July 27, 2018, 35 miles (57 km) – Total so far: 394 miles (635 km)

Our route to Bandon was another deviation from the Green route as we wanted to go to Kinsale before Cork. Though I had some country roads in mind, we ended up using fairly busy secondary roads because only a few kilometers into our ride, the rain returned and our bodies wanted a smoother surface.

A very easy crossing of Cousan’s Gap and a stop in Dunmanway for lunch led us to a hole in the wall café owned and run by a German immigrant who at first wasn’t interested in talking. But on complimenting her wonderful vegetable soup, she started to open up and we found out a bit about how she ended up in Ireland. She seemed unhappy at the new Europeanization of Ireland, the only person we met who complained about the changes. She also very much likes living in the country and had a place out of town.

On leaving town, we made a mistake of sticking to the main road to Bandon. We would have been far better off moving to an obvious route on the south side of River Bandon. If I had known how much truck traffic combined with the continuous rain we would have, I would have worked harder to find that quiet country road. We arrived wet and dirty to the Munster Hotel where our bikes were placed in a conference room and 7 wet bikes of German tourists in another! I rinsed my wet bike clothes out in the tub turning the water muddy brown.

Traffic Trucks Tractors
Over Cousans Gap soaked again
Saved by the Munster

Bandon is very much a working Irish town with industry and agricultural services. No obvious tourism here; the shops cater to the townspeople and surrounding community. The town has a long history of commerce where parts of the Norman built stone walls have been incorporated into other buildings or left standing. Two big churches (Catholic and Protestant) and the oldest Methodist Church in existence all lie within blocks of each other. Though we walked the area, the best pub was right across the street from the Munster where one bartender and 2 cooks handled a sizeable crowd handily.

We found a very small farmers’ market the next morning and then visited a big garden shop with appropriately enough, a thatch-covered roof. Several plants amazed us, the Hydrangeas grow to be big bushes and the Buddleia trees, though not native, fit right in.

 

Day 12: Old Head

Saturday, July 28, 2018, 28 miles (45 km) – Total so far: 422 miles (680 km)

When mapping the route to Kinsale and Cork (https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27885622), I didn’t really have a good guide so I tried to use secondary and farm roads getting some recommendations as we got closer. I thought that routing us near the Bandon River would be pleasant and flat only to discover some pretty steep terrain crossing from one area to another. But along the river, it was scenic and enjoyable and I was able to get some bird pictures. We were moved by the Kilpadder Famine Burial Ground just before reaching the River, a mass grave site near a once populous area. A recommendation led us to stop in Ballinspittle for a tasty lunch at the Diva Cafe.

The beach to the south was recommended as well though I was very hesitant as we’d done some pretty good hills already. Audrey persisted and she got to enjoy a walk on the beach checking out the tide pools. She pushed us on and we did several more hills as we ended up all the way out at Old Head. At the marker for the Wild Atlantic Way, there was also a memorial to the Lusitania. Survivors were brought in at Old Head as well as up the coast in Cobh (formerly Queenstown). There’s a very expensive golf course on this point that uses the remnants of an old castle as the gateway.

I was feeling strangely tired as we biked on to Kinsale where, thanks to a quirk of Google Maps, we were put at the wrong house on the wrong side of the 7 hills of Kinsale. Regrettably, we hadn’t seen or noticed that the owners had sent us specific instructions on how to get to their house. Kinsale is a very old community with very narrow, steep, and twisting roads. Eventually, we found our way to a splendid house overlooking the harbor on Compass Hill. The house was of modular construction designed and built by German engineers in the Bauhaus style and completely different from the usual Irish home.

Round and Round the hills
Narrow Kinsale twists and turns
Thanks, Airbnb

We spent an hour or so talking with our hosts about their house, families, and nutrition. We had luckily stopped for groceries on our way so we had a quick dinner along with the snacks they provided. I slept very soundly, feeling much better in the morning.

Day 13: Cork at Last

Sunday, July 29, 2018, 25 miles (40 km) – Total so far: 447 miles (720 km)

With the owners’ advice, we came up with a new, back roads route to Cork that I mapped out the night before. This would turn out to be our last bicycling day too. Taking advantage of the late sunset, we spent the day exploring more of Kinsale visiting St. Maltose Church, exploring the Charles Fort controlling the entrance to the harbor and having our usual late lunch/dinner at the Spaniard. Dinner included 4 kinds of potatoes: chips, scalloped, mashed, and baked (no skin), 3 of these in one dish. There may have been more potatoes in my seafood pie too! There are jokes about the Irish and their fondness for English Fish and Chips let alone for all things potatoes.

The route up to Cork (https://ridewithgps.com/routes/28194477) turned out to be fairly quiet though it involved several steep ascents/descents that found us walking again. There were markers along the route as well referring back to the uprising in 1600 where the Irish Army of the time camped on this high ground before attacking the fort in Kinsale. This key battle was won by the English after many previous defeats. Had the Irish united and won it, an entirely different subsequent 300 years for Ireland may have occurred. Lots to discuss the constant invasion and various occupations of Ireland over time.

Connemara to Cork
Burren cliffs and sea all green
The steepness, who knew

We hit fairly busy traffic through Cork to our B&B near the train station. Missed a turn onto a pedestrian bridge and was surprised by routing through a large public walkway but with the help of a paper map, the RidewithGps route got us within a meter of the door. We were able to haul all our stuff, bikes included, up the stairs into our room so that we could pack them up later.

 

Wrap Up

Monday, July 30, 2018

We spent the next days visiting Cork, Cobh, and then taking the train to Dublin. Though we had planned to bike to Cobh, since we were staying next to the train station and not having had any rest days, we just hopped a commuter. Cove or Cobh is a historic community associated with early trade through the heyday of luxury liner travel including the last stop of the Titanic. It’s all described in the museum adjacent to the train station.

In Cork we visited the indoor market, the Museum of Art, the Honan Chapel on the very beautiful campus of UCC which has 2 giant sequoias in the central quad along with a display of Ogam stones in their visitor’s center, and had a wonderful meal at Eastern Tandori. We even had time to ring the Shandon Church Bells before leaving town the next morning.

We had, the night before, suit cased our bikes, and loaded with luggage, boarded an express for Dublin July 31. Train and bus service in Ireland, along with 5 regional airports, make Ireland easily accessible. With a bit more time, we could have very easily kept using our bikes in Cork and Dublin or even ridden from Cork to Dublin along the coast continuing on the Green route.

Into the flatland
Train whizzes Cork to Dublin
Many cows and sheep

In Dublin, our AirBnB was near Parnell close to an information office and starting point for many bus tours. Dublin has an active bike-share program, DublinBikes though we didn’t have time to try it out. Others may find it a useful way to get around as they have 3-day tickets. One user we spoke with using it to commute to and from work daily plus run a regular daily errand figured his membership to be 4 cents a day!

With the help of one of those hop on-hop off bus tours, we managed to visit the Tall Ship Jeannie Johnston, the Epic Emigration Museum, the Writers Museum, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral supposedly built next to a well used by St. Patrick to baptize converts. We even walked the Temple bar area where we saw the only real presence of police, on horseback, of our entire trip. The Gaol, the Guinness Brewery, and the large cemetery would have to wait for another day. Dublin deserves at least 3 days to get to all the tourist sites. And we got locked into the World War I Peace Memorial which was pretty amusing though we luckily surprised the guard as he was leaving via the elevator.

Dublin in a day
Coffinships gaol people outbound
So many buses

We left with tired legs, overloaded minds, and a desire to come back and pick up the route again.

 

Climbing the Kaltwasserkarspitze With Mike F. on one amazing Bike Friday tour!

To boldly go where not so many went recently. Our friend Mike F. is doing just that with his Bike Friday and boy is that bike lucky!  Oh, the places you will go.

Halleranger Alp with the “Kleiner Lafatscher” in the background.

Saturday, 2018-09-08: From Mittenwald to the Kaltwasserkarspitze

I rode my bicycle to the main train station of Nuremberg where I entered the 06:29 train to Munich. After entering the train I folded my bicycle and put it into a bag to avoid an extra fee for the bicycle transport.

In Munich, I changed to another train to Mittenwald. I met a nice cyclist with a cyclocross bike who wanted to ride from Garmisch Partenkirchen to Rome. He was using a  bike-packing setup with only one big saddle bag. Today his destination was Gries am Brenner. We had a nice conversation and he stayed on the train until  Mittenwald where we arrived at 09:53.

I unfolded my bicycle while he checked his tire pressure at the bicycle shop at the train station, then we rode together to Scharnitz using the gravel road near the Isar river.

In Scharnitz he continued south towards Seefeld whereas I turned east into the Hinterau valley…

Cairns at the shore of the river Isar.

Cairns at the shore of the river Isar.

Read More about Mike’s Adventure: – Click Here –