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5 Ireland Travel Tips from Local Experts: Tips for Bike Trips

5 min read

By Dawn Rainbolt, Marketing Executive
More by Dawn

5 Ireland Travel Tips for Biking

For those interested in joining a bike trip in Ireland, here are some Ireland travel tips for cycling that will help make your experience perfect!

Whether you’re new to cycling or you’ve been cycling for years, this article highlights a few tips for joining a bike trip in Ireland.

This is part one in a short series that will provide Ireland travel tips to those looking to join small group trips exploring the lesser-known wild corners of Ireland.

1. Fitness Will Always Matter More than Gear

Biking Donegal cliffs to coast

Not all of the climbs are as impressive as the Mamore Gap in Donegal, but no matter what trip, you’ll have a few climbs that you’ll want to be ready for!

You can have the best, most top-end gear in the world, but if you don’t have the fitness to join a bike trip in Ireland, you won’t be able to make the most of this unforgettable experience. Therefore, as a bike guide, I would always recommend to anyone who wants to join a group biking trip to start building your fitness first, getting to a level where you are comfortable with your ability to cycle long distance, as well as tackle both ascents and descents.

I’d recommend getting in at least 1 to 2 bike rides a week whether it’s on a turbo trainer or out on the roads. Think about incorporating biking into your routine – perhaps a lunchtime cycle? Or maybe you can even commute to work by bike! Also keep in mind the type of cycling – take into account ascent, uneven road surfaces, weather (such as rain),

Start by increasing your fitness to prepare for your upcoming bike trip first and everything else should fall into place because your equipment doesn’t matter if you’re not fit enough to use it.

This tip was provided by cycling guide, mountain biker and Sligo local, Warner Wilders.

2. How to Pick the Best Bike Trip for You

Connemara Aran Islands biking

Biking Connemara & the Aran Islands is a great introductory trip through varied scenery like the craggy Burren, mountainous Connemara, steep Cliffs of Moher and quaint Aran Islands.

“Ask yourself, first of all, what you hoping to get out of your bike trip in Ireland? Are you interested in exploring a particular region? Are you looking for cycling challenge? Or perhaps you simply want an easier-paced option that includes a plethora of opportunities to explore Ireland’s nature, history and culture along the way?” Understanding your reasons for taking this bike trip will help narrow it down to find the best trip for you.

Finally, and most importantly, consider your fitness level and current biking experience. You’ll be joining a small group bike tour so you want to pick the trip that best matches with your interests and fitness level. In many cases, you will need to design a training workout to build up your cycling fitness before arriving for your tour, or else maintain your current fitness levels. So another thing to keep in mind is how long you have to get fit before deciding on which grade of trip to join.”

This tip was provided by Wilderness Ireland General Manager and road cycling enthusiast, Patricia Doe.

3. Break in Your Gear Before Your Trip

Biking Ireland 5 Countries

Having the right gear is always important – but particularly so on the longer trips like our 5 Countries trip through the UK and Ireland.

You’ve heard it before – break in your sports gear before you use it for anything too serious. If you’re willing to break in your running shoes before going to jogs, why wouldn’t you do the same thing for bike gear before you arrive in Ireland for your bike trip?

It’s best to avoid buying brand new bike gear just before your bike trip to Ireland . You’re going to be using it every day for a week, so you need to be sure that your bike clothing and other gear fits you comfortably and helps you stay at the right temperature.

Also, I’d recommend not buying new cycling shoes or pedals without testing them out at home for some time. Your first day on a biking adventure in Ireland is not the time to learn how to clip in/out of your shiny new pedals!

This tip was suggested by Wilderness Ireland’s Head of Guides, Duncan Warner.

 

4. Rent a Bike or Bring Yours with You?

Trek ebikes

If you decide to rent one of our bikes, get the choice of one of our new TREK road or hybrid bikes – or even an e-bike!

One question people often have is, should I bring my own bike, or rent one of your bikes? For serious cyclists, the big advantage of bringing your bike is that you’ve cycled for hundreds of miles on your bike – it’s finely tuned to your movements and you’re used to how it works. There won’t be an adjustment period to settle into a new bike; instead, you can jump straight into your bike trip.

But the obvious disadvantage of taking your own bike is, you guessed it, the hassle of flying to Ireland with it. It’s true that usually you can bring a bike on most airlines (as part of the excess sports luggage), but there is an added cost to this. It will have to be folded into a bike box, and there is always the unlikely but scary fear that it could be damaged during the travel, or that it might accidentally be sent on holiday to Newark while you’re standing in Dublin waiting for it!

Most bike trips start on the west coast of Ireland, meaning you’ll also have to get your bike from the airport to the trip start. Trains do usually have a limited number of bike places, but added to your luggage, this might make your voyage cumbersome and difficult. If you wish to do any pre- or post-trip travel, once again, you’ll have bring the bike with you.

On the other hand, renting a bike from us will reduce the travel hassle, and the amount of luggage you’ll have to carry with you. True, this means you won’t be on your own bike, but we have a pretty cool new fleet of TREK bikes to use (new for the 2019 season!) that I’m excited about – and you should be too!

Particularly if this is your first time joining a group bike trip, a great compromise is to simply take your saddle and pedals and attach them to the rented bike.

This tip was submitted by our round-the-world cyclist and guide, Dean McMenamin.

5. Stay on the left! Why Biking in Ireland is Different than in North America

Sky Road Connemara

Irish roads can be narrow and twisty- a bit bumpy too! Connemara’s Sky Road is one of the island’s most impressive.

Though Ireland looks like a small blip on the map when compared to the USA or Canada or Australia, it’s a surprisingly large place that packs a bundle. Visitors are surprised at how many roads we have in Ireland. In fact, Ireland has a network of over 67,000 miles of roads connecting all manner of remote places.

Most visitors to Ireland also remark on the eccentric nature of Irish roads – Ireland’s narrow, twisty, and sometimes bumpy roads are a far cry from North America’s flat, straight and even roads and highways. Many visitors ask why Irish roads aren’t straighter and wider. Why are they so meandering and uneven? To answer that, we have to turn to history – and linguistics!

Instead of being planned or built on a grid, the vast majority of Irish roads are built along ancient trails and pathways that have crisscrossed the countryside for centuries. The Gaelic word for ‘road’ is bóthar (pronounced ‘boh-her’). As  is the Irish word for a cow, bóthar is literally a ‘cow way’ or ‘cow road.’ In fact, you may even find yourself sharing the road with cows headed home for the milking!

But, Ireland’s country roads are part of the charm of cycling in Ireland – lush emerald hills, blankets of wildflowers, a soft summer breeze in your face with the twittering of birds or the crash of waves in the background. For many, it is the best way to enjoy traveling! While biking the meandering country lanes, be sure to watch out for uneven road surfaces, sharp turns and lumbering tractors. And remember, stay on the left and be careful to share the narrow roads!

This tip was made by RTE wildlife documentary presenter and wilderness guide, Eoin Warner.

Meet the Author: Dawn Rainbolt

“American by birth but European in spirit, Dawn has called the US, Costa Rica, Spain, England, Poland, France and now Ireland home over the years. While she has travelled to more than 30 countries, she has fallen in love with the rich Irish culture and sweeping landscapes of Ireland. Armed with a Masters Degree in Tourism Marketing and a love of writing and photography, she is Wilderness Ireland's Marketing Executive since 2017.”

View profileMore by Dawn

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