Atlantic Seaboard (Part 3) Ireland (Rosslare to Aran Islands)

My original idea was just to cycle the Wild Atlantic Way (WAW) in Ireland, catching ferries from Fishguard to Rosslare and from Larne to Cairnryan. But why not follow the Atlantic seaboard from Lands’ End to Cape Wrath and then extend it to John o’Groats too?  Part 1 and 2 cover England and Wales, now into the meat of the ride.

After an uneventful ferry journey and nice campsite at Tagoat, I set out for the start of the WAW at Kinsale. Along the country lanes I immediately notice I am getting the finger from local drivers, but not the f’off sign I get back home, but the inverse – a gentle acknowledgement and welcome.  This is pleasant cycling as I follow the new Eurovelo 1 signs through gentle remote farmland.

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The ferryman at Ballyhack collects €2 and transports me to the opposite bank of the River Barrow and into Country Waterford. The car registrations confirming what the boundary signs tell me. It is a brief cycle to a cafe in Waterford Quay for lunch, before I connect with the Waterford Greenway – a traffic free cycle route along a rail line to Dungarvan. The route is easy under wheel, but hard going into the wind. I have to give way to a tourist train that runs parallel to the cycle path, full of warm cosseted passengers.

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The sea comes into view after passing through a tunnel, decorated with pixie like carvings by local school children. I stop to check directions and meet Jack and Sonia again, a couple I met on the ferry. We cycle together to Caseys campsite and are made most welcome by the owner, busily preparing the site for the summer season.

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Thoughts on the Thorn Sherpa

Now approaching it’s second birthday, my red Thorn Sherpa has carried me around the North Sea Cycle Route and the Atlantic Seaboard.  Time to reflect on the quality and performance of a dedicated touring bike after a fair amount of abuse.  I would estimate it has covered 10,000km over 100 long riding days, perhaps as much as 50% off-road.

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I purchased the bike with a few sensible modifications and added an Alpkit Frame Bag and Ortlieb panniers:

  • Thorn Sherpa Mk3 frame 600L – straight bars
  • Shimano Deore hubs, 10-speed triple chain-set (48/36/26) / cassette (11-36) with XT 9-speed rear derailleur and Dura Ace thumshifters
  • Andra 30 wheels, standard front and CSS rear, with XT V-brakes/levers, standard brake blocks front, Swiss-stop blue pads rear
  • Schwalbe Marathon Dureme 26 x 2″
  • Brookes B17 saddle
  • Shimano T780 SPD pedals
  • Thorn expedition racks front and rear and a T-bar extension for the handlebar bag
  • Ortlieb Front Loader Plus and Bike Packer Plus panniers
  • 20-year old Ortlieb front bag
  • Cateye Volt800 front and TL-1000 rear lights
  • Bordo 6000 lock

Over a period of 2 years I have changed:

  • 3 chains – replaced with Shimano HG-X 10-speed
  • 1 Marathon Dureme tyre (rear)
  • 5-6 front brake blocks
  • Shimano T780 pedals for Shimano T8000
  • Front hub outer cones and bearings
  • Complete chain-set for an XT M780 triple (42/32/24), including Bottom Bracket
  • 11-36 cassette

I was expecting greater durability from the transmission, but given the wet, gravel, cinder and off-road tracks I frequented, I am happy with the 6,000km the original set covered.  Finding HG-X chains at bike shops proved difficult, as they tended to cater for road bike transmissions.  I changed these every 3,000km.  After the major service, I replacing the entire system with lower gearing XT chain set. The 42/32/24 front chain rings gearing are my preferred my choice now – they are more durable and ideal ratios for pushing heavy loads up steep hills.

The Dura Ace thumb shifters are great and changing gear becomes second nature after a while.  Gear changes have been faultless and accurate on the whole.

The bottom bracket came loose after 2,000km due to a broken spacer shim, easily fixed.  But the bearings were a wreck shortly afterwards as water had found it’s way into the frame and bottom bracket cavity.

The tyres are superb, offering grip and durability and tackling loose gravel and heavy conditions easily.  However, the replacement pair doesn’t seem to be lasting as long, perhaps they are using a different compound.  Continue reading

Just need an engine 

All the gear together, just need to tune the engine.

I’m now at the dangerous stage of adding things I don’t need and removing things I do. Pleased to see the gear weight is 13kg. Bike weighs 21kg including tools, lock, lights and fitted bags. Add another 8kg for consumables. I shan’t say what the engine weighs, but the fuel consumption is terrible.

North Sea Cycle Route

I have been having fun with Google Maps. Now the whole of the North Sea Cycle Route has been mapped out as I plan the route and decide how how I am going to navigate.  I have a few paper maps, but Google Maps, MyMaps, ViewRanger and BackCountry Navigator provide too many options.  I have also used OpenCycleMaps too, downloading custom routable maps for each section that I can just about squeeze into my Garmin GPS. See http://garmin.openstreetmaps.nl for more info and perhaps donate a few Euros to this project.

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My Android Nexus 5X is more than up to the job of storing the maps, and the UK section is adequately covered by the Ordnance Survey offline 1:50k maps. Plus, at last, OS have re-released the Road Map series at 1:250k, which is nigh-on perfect for cycle touring, other than it doesn’t show cycle tracks, but it does cover the whole of the UK in 8 maps.

Now to overlay campsites, points of interest, ferries and find a means of attaching photos as I progress, as I mean to use this Blog in real time, with weekly updates.  Just add StreetView and I can start now with a virtual tour.

Back to Stanfords next time I am in London.