Ladies and gentlemen, it’s about time I answered your questions about my Irish 3 Peaks Ride – coming up very shortly! I was going to do an FAQ, but I realised that actually what I think’s important is probably nothing like what you think is interesting.
Q: How do you pack light for cycling tours?
I completely agree with you Rachel. It is so easy to over pack. I’m the kind of person who likes to take a spare fleece and a pannier when I’m just nipping into town.
The trick is to make do without. Once you’ve done it, you’ll realise what you can get away with. Or, if it’s for the first time, make a pile of all the things you want to take. Then get rid of everything except things that are essential. Slowly add bits back in until you still feel like you haven’t quite got enough clothes, but aren’t going to be desperate. That’s about right.
For reference, here’s what we’re taking to Ireland for cycling and walking and here’s a list for a longer trip.
Q: Who’s on the tandem with you and are you on the front or back?
I’m on the back. If you were reading my blog back when I was cycling around Europe, you’ll have heard me moaning about the way you’re treated on the back (aka the stoker). People go out of their way to tell you that you’re not pedalling… even if they don’t speak your language.
I go into it a bit in my post about why I ride a tandem. I ride a tandem with Joe, the chap I cycle to Switzerland and back with in 2016.
Q: What are you doing for accommodation?
We intend to camp most of the time. We’ll be either out in the wilds or in campsites, depending on where we are and what we can find. We’d also like to have a go at using Warmshowers – a bit like couchsurfing for the cycle touring community. From what we’ve seen there aren’t many hosts in our area and those that are look like they’re mostly on holiday.
But we’ll see what happens. We might even bump into friendly people who take us in when it’s raining torrentially…
Q: How long will it take?
We each have 2 weeks booked off work, across the August bank holiday (to minimise the precious holiday days). We’ve also got a ferry booked at each end that we need to get back for!
That said, we’re not 100% sure how fast we’ll ride. The Wild Atlantic Way doesn’t look particularly hilly, so we might find ourselves at the mountains really early. If that’s the case, we’ll probably fill our time with more walking and maybe cycle to another set of hills on the Dingle Peninsular.
Q: How are you financing it?
From our own pockets. Cycle touring is surprisingly cheap. The most expensive thing is the ferries and then campsite fees after that. It cost something like £600 to spend 50 days cycling around Europe, including the ferry tickets.
Q: What are you going to eat during the day to maintain energy levels? What will you eat afterwards to recover?
Oh Sarah, this question made me laugh. Not because it’s a silly question, but because I don’t think my answer’s going to be what you expect. I know you’ve got a big cycling challenge coming up and I know you give every challenge your 100% all. You’re looking at cycle touring from the perspective of races like the MDS.
I don’t think of cycle touring with a race or challenge mindset. It’s just an extension of my normal life, except I’ll be pedalling all day instead of sitting in front of a desk. So we don’t take lots of high-spec food or recovery shakes. Instead we’ll be going shopping every day or so, whenever we come across a shop and it’s a convenient time. We try not to buy too much in advance because food takes up a lot of weight and space.
So, what will I be eating to maintain energy levels? Biscuits. Almost certainly biscuits. Icecream if the weather’s not too bad. We’ll stop for lunch at the nicest place we ride past, around about midday. Lunch would usually consist of bread or wraps; cheese, sausage or peanut butter; cucumber and a piece of fruit (or a carrot).
Our recovery meal will be cooked on the stove we’re taking. It’ll probably be pasta or curry or tagine or chilli – nothing very remarkable! We over-provide and eat the leftovers cold for breakfast. Classy. Occasionally in Europe we got fed up of never eating normal breakfast. One day we had a fry-up for dinner and another we made pancakes. By that stage, I think we were going slightly mad…
Maybe I should do a specific food related post when I get back. There are definitely some tricks and tips I can give, if you’re interested.
Q: What made you choose this particular challenge?
You know Lucy, I’m not 100% sure how this happened. Joe and I wanted to go cycle touring again this year, on the tandem. We had also had walking in Ireland in the back of our minds, because a mutual friend went a few years ago and said it was brilliant.
We’re also pretty constrained by where we can take the tandem. It’s becoming more and more difficult to take it on trains, buses have always been a big no and neither of us have a car. Taking it on an aeroplane might be possible, but is probably an enormous faff. So, to get it anywhere, we really have to ride it there.
The one thing it is very easy to take a tandem on is a ferry. Luckily, the tandem is stored within cycling distance of a ferry port! So we can cycle to Plymouth and have a choice of ferries to France or Spain.
But I thought you said you’re going to Ireland? Right. We’re catching a ferry to France, stopping for a couple of hours of beach and crepes, then catching the overnight ferry to Ireland. Sounds a bit nuts, but we only have 2 weeks off work and we figured we’d rather spend it cycling in Ireland than cycling all the way to Pembroke to get the UK to Ireland ferry.
As for the particular 3 Peaks challenge, I feel like this is largely my fault. We decided we might like to go cycling or walking in Ireland.
I shout, “Both!”
We investigate where we can cycle to from Cork.
I say, “Hey, we could do it like the 3 Peaks challenge in the UK where people cycle between the highest peaks!”
And so it begins…