Between wild and rugged coastlines, sprawling green fields and charming rural villages, the wonders of Ireland are almost always best seen from the saddle.
And while cycling adventures to the Emerald Isle are certainly growing in popularity, they’re not exactly a travel style for freewheelers.
For a successful ride, travelers need to know the terrain, get the right gear, and most importantly, plan ahead. Fortunately, the adventure specialists at Wilderness Ireland are experts in the realm of biking trips abroad and can provide first-time cyclists with everything from helmet to pedal. Thinking of hopping in the saddle this year for a whirlwind, two-wheel tour? Here are 5 tips for cyclists of all skill levels preparing for their first biking trip abroad, courtesy of the expert guides at Wilderness Ireland:
1. Pick the Bike Trip That’s Best for You
“Ask yourself, first of all, what you want to get out of your bike trip in Ireland?” says Patricia Doe, Wilderness Ireland General Manager and Road Cycling Enthusiast.”Are you looking to explore a particular region, or to challenge yourself? Or do you just want an easier-paced option that allows you to explore Ireland’s nature, history, and culture along the way? Understanding your reasons for taking this bike trip will help narrow down the options.”
“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 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 a trip to join.”
Blend fitness and cycling with a Biking & Yoga Escape (Level 3)
2. Break in Your Gear Beforehand
“Avoid buying new bike gear just before you head off on a cycling vacation,” advises Duncan Warner, Head of Wilderness Ireland Guides.
“You must make sure that your clothing fits comfortably and helps you stay at the right temperature. It’s also best not to buy new cycling shoes and pedals without testing them out at home for a while. Your first day on a cycling adventure in Ireland is not the best time to learn how to clip in and out of your shiny new pedals.”
Put your new gear to use while peddling Donegal from Cliffs to Coast (Level 6)
3. Put Fitness First
“I would always recommend that anyone joining a group biking trip start with fitness first, so go on at least one to two rides a week whether it’s on a turbo trainer or out on the roads,” states Warner Wilders, Wilderness Ireland Guide & Fully Qualified Mountain Bike Instructor.
“Prepare yourself for your upcoming trip with some regular exercise – everything else should come after. Your equipment and gear don’t really matter if you’re not fit enough to use it!”
Up for a challenge? Bike the best of the Wild Atlantic Way (Level 7)
4. Be Prepared for a (Somewhat) Bumpy Ride!
“The vast majority of Ireland’s (more than 67,000 miles’ worth of) roads are based on ancient pathways that have crisscrossed the countryside for centuries,” says Eoin Warner, Wilderness Ireland Guide & RTE Nature Documentary Host. “In fact, the Gaelic word for ‘road’ is bóthar – bó being the Irish word for ‘cow’ – so it literally means a ‘cow-way’ (so you may even find yourself sharing these roads with cows heading home for milking)!
Ireland’s country roads are part of its charm when cycling. While biking the meandering country lanes, be sure to watch out for uneven road surfaces, sharp turns, and lumbering tractors. Just remember: stay on the left and share the road!”
Cycle the countryside’s winding roads of Dingle with the Kerry Peninsulas Bike Tour (Level 5)
5. Consider Renting Your Wheels
“Some say taking your own bike on a cycling trip is best because you can jump straight in with your old friend right away,” shares Dean McMenamin, Wilderness Ireland Guide & Long-Distance Bikepacking Expert.
“That said, it can also be a hassle with extra costs. Most airlines accept bicycles as part of excess sports luggage, but fees vary. If you do decide to take your bike on the plane with you, it will have to be packed into a bicycle box. There’s also the chance it could be damaged in transit – or even worse, not arrive with you! If this is your first time joining a group bike trip, compromise by taking your own saddle and pedals and attaching them to a rented bike.”
Saddle up for a trip through Connemara & the Aran Islands (Level 3)