The WRONG way to cycle the West Coast of Ireland

Bike on Wall

For those of you interested in cycling the entire Wild Atlantic Way route there are loads of interesting ways to do it. Here’s the wrong way to do it:

“Stop”

“Keep going”

“Stop”

 

“A little further”

“We’re tired”

“Fine. We’ll stop for two minutes, but only two minutes.”

This is not a conversation between a frazzled parent and two sulking children, but the conversation between me and my 27-year-old legs.

It’s day four of my ambitious cycle from Sligo to Cork and my legs were not enjoying themselves.

A quick stop in sunny Strandhill

Day one was a train ride from Dublin to Sligo station and then an easy 60 kilometre stretch along the coast to Enniscrone. The sun was shining and Legs were delighted to show off what they were capable of, and my ten Euro speedometer said we hit 57km/hr on the hill out of Strandhill.

“We’ll probably be recruited for the Tour de France next year if you keep this up Legs” I told the pair of them.

We reached Enniscrone well ahead of schedule and myself and Legs found a lovely warm bed for the night. I gave Legs a good stretch and a warm down and ate a horrific amount of food and a lovely pint of Stout.

“It doesn’t get much better than this” I mused. Little did I realise quite how true that would prove to be.

Day two was the first real test. I was depending on Legs to bring me 104km to a hostel on Achill Island.

“We’re a little tired, but we did 60km yesterday, so it’ll be fine” said Legs, “What could possibly go wrong?”

Valley House Holiday Hostel, Achill was a welcome sight

Eight long hours later on Achill, just as Legs was about to give up on me, we found ourselves at the top of a long sweeping downhill road that would bring us to the door of our hostel. A sense of achievement swept through me and down to Legs.

“I like cycling” said Legs, and I was inclined to agree.

I was giving Legs a massage in the Hostel when I met another cyclist, also cycling the Wild Atlantic Way.

“You’re going from North to South? Most people go South-North because of the wind!”

“You’re an idiot” said Legs to me.

The next morning I discovered the problem with long, sweeping downhill roads. They tend to become long, steep uphill roads when you have to back. No sooner had myself and Legs mounted our bike, monsoon season seemed to hit Achill.

Struggling against the wind, rain and gradient, Legs muttered “I hate cycling”,  and yet again I was inclined to agree.

When you’re cycling by yourself people tend to initiate conversations with you, usually to tell you that you’re mad or to comment on your cycling shorts.

“There’s not much room for modesty in them is there?” exclaimed Achill Man #1.

“I dunno, looks like there’s loads of room in there to me” quipped Achill Man #2

Sound.

Over the first few days, I had become accustomed to seeing my speedometer resting above 20km/h. What I wasn’t accustomed to was 40km/h winds blowing into my face on day three. The only saving fact was that most of my journey was on the amazing Greenway Cycling Trail from Achill to Westport was wonderfully flat and devoid of cars. However, from Westport to the Clare Island Ferry was a different story.

Cute little stop point near the end of the Greenway

“When the Tour de France comes looking for us, we’re going to have to tell them that we actually don’t like

My little bike on the Clare Island Ferry

 cycling” I told Legs. They agreed wholeheartedly. Day three did eventually come to an end on Clare Island where I again doubted that I was on the way to the harbour on account of me still going uphill, and that I couldn’t see any water. Eventually, the ferry port came into view and we coasted down the hill.

“I’m sore” a little voice grumbled.

“I know you are Legs, but we’re finished cycling for today”

“I’m not Legs, I’m Back” said the grumbling voice

Great.

On Day 4 we made our way towards Clifden. Legs were loving the start, a nice downhill where they could show off how fast they can go when gravity was on their side.

Back was quiet for long enough to get to the middle of nowhere with no possibility but to keep on cycling.

Delphi Valley. Beautiful, but windy in the wrong direction

Once the downhill leveled out and the landscape became uniformly flat, legs rejoiced… for a while. The advantages of not having to cycle uphill are negated by the negatives of not having downhill stretches to rest on. A flat road is a road you have to constantly cycle on. Coming into the stunning Delphi Valley, the wind picked up again and I was pushing hard to go downhill

“I hate cycling” cried Legs once again.

“I agree with Legs” mumbled Back.

Once in Clifden I introduced Back to my old friend Deep Heat. They seemed to get on rather well at first but Back was still moaning.

“How you getting on Legs?” I asked, looking for any kind of positive

“A little cramped to be honest” whispered Legs “ You forgot to stretch us this morning after you stretched Back”

Myself, Legs and Back struggled on bravely on Day 5, intent on reaching Galway. We cycled past my old Irish College in Ros a ‘Mhíl. Nostalgia was quickly washed away by a heavy downpour reminding me that it’s not called the Mild Atlantic Way.

Back was causing more and more trouble as we went on headfirst into the wind and rain.

“Maybe we should just give up” groaned Back

“Back isn’t as stupid as I thought” piped Legs

Once we reached Spiddeal we decided to get into a pub and get real food, and maybe a cheeky pint.

“After we eat, it’s only one more hour to Galway” I said, with a clear strain in my voice.

“Well that’s good for you, but I’m not going anywhere” declared Back

“Doesn’t Mike have a car in Galway?” asked Legs.

I had decided that I would make the last hour of the journey, even if it killed me.

“Come on! We’re leaving!” I stated. Legs and Back worked simultaneously pull me back into my plush pub armchair.

“Ya, I’ll be there in 20 minutes, sure it’s only out the road” Mike told me.

“Only out the road” I repeated “Only out the road”

Legs and Back were very quiet.

 

Sitting in the car I heard a little voice “We would’ve made it if it wasn’t for Back acting up” said Legs.

Back was too busy screaming obscenities to hear the slight.

“Maybe you’re right Legs. Maybe you’re right.”

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