2020 has been a strange year for everyone but even before Covid-19 I had already thought about changing my focus away from racing to endurance events. Once the initial few weeks of lockdown were over I started riding some longer distances building up to a couple of 200km days. In the endurance world this would be considered a short spin but after a winter of gluteal/piriformis pain I wanted to build the distance without any injury.
I was already aware of the Transatlantic way. It’s a self-supported endurance event of either 1500 or 2000 km that goes down the west coast of Ireland starting in Derry and finishing in Kinsale. I seriously considered entering the event but thankfully I opted to follow the shorter route at a pace that involved coffee stops and nice dinners in the evening. I would not have been prepared for the type of endurance that the competitors undertake in these events but my journey did give me some insight into the world of endurance riding, so maybe next year.
My first day was travelling to Moville to start the actual route. I booked the first 4 B&B’s planning to stay in Moville, Dunlewey, Sligo and then Achill. Finding somewhere suitable to stay at the distance you want to travel is more complicated than it looks. I found that he best places for me to stay were in a town that had somewhere within walking distance that I could get a nice dinner. But I was about 3 days into my trip before I worked this out. After my first few days I also realised that if I wanted to enjoy my trip I needed to plan shorter days especially if there were hills involved.
I used my CX bike, a Vitus Energie CRX. It has single ring 40T and I changed the rear cassette from 11-32T to 11-42 T. This set up was able for even the steepest hills in Donegal. My tyre choice was Continental Four Seasons 28mm. They worked very well, I had no punctures even though some of the roads were more gravel than road. My final change to my bike was my trusty Selle Italia Diva saddle which appears to suit my ass fairly well. The bags I used were Podsacs from Planet X (borrowed from my son Craig). I had saddle bag, handle bar bag, a small frame bag and small top tube bag. The size of my frame meant that I couldn’t use anything bigger if I wanted to get access to my bottle. I was pleased with them, everything stayed dry in saddle bag and handle bar bag but there was a bit of leaking into top tube bag and frame bag but as I was aware of this I knew to pack them appropriately. I used a Wahoo Roam Element for navigation. I downloaded the short route from the Transatlantic Way website and followed most of it. I previously used a Garmin 810 but I found the Wahoo much easier to use.
After Achill I had a recovery day travelling to Westport where I spent 2 nights as heavy rain was forecast for the whole day. After my rest day I was back on the road to Galway, Kilrush, Kenmare, Dingle, Schull and then finishing in Kinsale.
I covered 1550 km with 15027 m of climbing in 12 days cycling. I got from Malin Head to Mizen Head with many iconic Irish roads and sites in between. Once you get the first few days over life on the road is just great. All you need to worry about is where the next garage is and hope the B&B will have a warm radiator or at least a hairdryer to dry your wet shoes. I loved every minute of it even the relentless headwinds and crosswinds. My only bad point was a B&B in a very dodgy estate in Sligo. Fortunately the B2 crew were staying in the Sligo Southern and I was able to book into a room there and enjoy a meal with the team.
This year’s Transatlantic Way was won by Rachel Nolan in 6 days and she covered 2100 km. I will need to up my game if I want have a go at it next year!
Julie Rea August 2020