Via de la Plata and El Norte Caminos, Spain on a Bike Friday, June 2018
Over 90% of people who walk or ride ‘The Camino” in Spain do the Camino Frances or French Way across the central north of Spain to Santiago de Compostela.But there is a large network of Caminos from all areas of Spain, Portugal, France and beyond.I started in Seville in the south at the end of May.
I chose the Via de la Plata – the wide Roman Road as I found an excellent bike guide for it – in Spanish – but maps are universal and you soon work out the symbols for fords, bike shops etc. The other essential ingredient was a Credential de Peregrino for 3E – a passport allowing you to stay in the municipal and church supported albergues (v cheap but excellent hostels) along the route.
Seville is very bicycle friendly with bike paths along all their wide avenues and highways.In May the Jacaranda trees are in full glory.
As I was travelling by myself I allowed a week at a language school in Seville to also get my bike together and ensure it was working well. To make sureI ventured out west 35km to a solar thermal farm.
Then I launched off on the 1000 km to Santiago de Compostela along quiet country roads, farm lanes and through wild flower strewn parks. The Via de la Plata route is approx 1/3 dirt roads, 2/3 bitumen but the guide gives a full bitumen option.
The roads are very well signposted and the few drivers were very cautious and courteous.
After two dry years then a very wet winter the wildflowers were magnificent.
This French walker was resting as I came up to the ford. As I balanced along the stepping stones, still getting used to the unwieldy extra weight on the back of my laden bike – he met me in the middle to help – so that all my precious lube wasn’t washed off.
Essie – my bike is a Pocket Crusoe Petite so I was restricted to under 10Kg extra – hence the smaller paniers and a light sleeping bag.
Over the old Roman bridge into Merida – my first rest day to explore the Roman ruins.
Spot Essie – shows the size of the aqueducts
The Camino has reassuring yellow arrows, but often they are subtly placed.
Via de la Plata and El Norte Caminos, Spain on a Bike Friday June 2018
Lovely firm single track through farm paddocks then out on quiet country roads leading into the mountains.
My time was up so I caught another overnight bus south to Seville where the language school was holding my case.
Much of the Via de la Plata passes through non-tourist areas and similarly the mountainous area of El Norte where very little if any English is spoken so some basic Spanish is necessary – but high school Spanish or an introductory travellers language course along with a smile and a smart-phone app will ensure you enjoy the delicious food, always have a bed to sleep in and get any repairs needed.
Special thanks to Charlie and his amazing wife Audrey for this Bike Friday tour story which will inspire us all to raise our glasses and say Erin Go Braugh!
Introduction: 100 Ecuadorians Descend on Drogheda, Biking Ireland, July 2018
Thursday July 12, 2018
The local Irish paper reported “100 Ecuadorians descend on Drogheda for statue unveiling”. Bicycling Ireland had not been on our radar when several cousins announced plans for a family reunion in Drogheda to honor an ancestor born there. For many years several members of my family have researched family and related history concerning our mothers’ home country of Ecuador. This ancestor, recognized as a national hero of Ecuador, joined the British Navy as a child (think movie/book series Master and Commander), and became one of the many Irish leaders of other nations. Through trips and research, they made contact with living relatives and made friends with the Drogheda community who embraced us in typical Irish fashion.
Needing no further excuse than a good party to build a vacation around, we decided to add time for bicycling and to see some of the biggest cities in Ireland. The complication, for relaxed bike travel, was that the family event coincided with peak tourist season and the World Cup. My wife Audrey found a good book on biking Ireland and checked out all the Ireland guidebooks from our 2 libraries, we did some online research, ordered some maps, and decided that seeing the west coast of Ireland was the priority. The route took in some of the best of the Irish Wild Atlantic Way (https://www.wildatlanticway.com). Roughly, we bicycled a section of the Connemara north of Galway and then did Galway to Kinsale and Cork crossing the Burren, seeing the Cliffs of Moher, Dingle Peninsula, the Gap of Dunloe, and other parts of the Ring of Kerry.
Even though we’ve bicycled together for years (our first date was a 65-mile ride) and we’ve done a number of bike trips, none were more than a week-long together. This was going to be a test of equipment and stamina though I did several long, self-contained pannier/camping bicycle trips in my youth. From past trips to Australia and Spain, the time had to be built in for site seeing and picture taking so we planned around 50km or 30-40 mile days.
From the experience of an earlier trip where we rented bikes and paid for a great week of self-guided riding, seven years ago we bought Bike Fridays with full packing trailer equipment so that we could be freer in our choice of routes and timing. Our Bike Friday’s come apart and fold to fit inside a suitcase that converts to a trailer pulled behind the bike. These “fly” at no extra cost as one of our checked pieces (if you keep them to about 50 pounds). We double our time out expense wise so the bikes have paid for themselves. The downside is that you are dragging up to 45 pounds behind you, another factor along with our age, in setting daily mileages. We both qualified for the senior discount in Ireland!
We flew from Chicago, arriving in Dublin on July 12 and joined the family in Drogheda for the non-biking part of our trip. I had a backup plan and map of biking from the airport by bike but after an overnight flight and knowing the hassle of having to repack the bikes to go to Galway, the temptation quickly passed.
Ireland Logistics: Transportation, Dublin Airport, Bikes, Food, Accommodations, etc.
Transportation1. Buses: Ireland has an extensive public bus network with Bus Eiriann: http://www.buseireann.ie/ serving within major cities as well as travel between cities, towns, and even villages. There are numerous private tourist charter services and competing private companies serving the Dublin airport and major cities. We used a combination, Bus Eiriann to get to and from Drogheda and the Dublin Airport and then CityLink to get from the airport to Galway as well as to get to the Connemara region. CityLink let us put our assembled Bike Fridays in the luggage compartment for our trip to the Connemara region (https://www.citylink.ie/).
2. Trains: Ireland has a well run and on time train service that increasingly accommodates bikes. We used an express service between Cork and Dublin’s Heuston station that has a baggage car at the front for roll-ons (Irish Rail at http://www.irishrail.ie/). You do have to indicate that you are bringing a bike on the long-haul trains though we saw people walk on with bikes for a separate commuter style trip we took to Cobh from Cork. You can book trains in advance and print out a ticket at the station or just buy tickets at the kiosks.
3. Tram service in Dublin – there are electronic ticket booths that take Euros or credit/debit cards. It was rather crowded when we used it.
4. Hop on Hop off Bus Dublin – several competing services: Not sure which is the best but we broke even using the Dublin day pass combination for the private Gray Line service in conjunction with museum entries. The 24-hour aspect is a bit suspect as the service does not run 24 hours. There are lots of caveats with these day pass combinations. Buyer beware!
5. Taxis – these are all over major cities and two apps can be used: Lynk and MyTaxi. Rather than hassle with trying to get to one of the many bus services that serve Dublin Airport, we scheduled a taxi the night before our return via Lynk and it only cost 26 Euro with tip. A bus trip would have been at least 14 Euro so the hassle savings here with our 50 pound packed bikes was easily worth it. Taxis are cheaper than Uber.
When we arrived, there was one customs checkpoint that asked the reason for our visit, stamped our passports, and then we collected our bike suitcases walking out of the airport following the signs to the buses. There are taxis but no train service. The bus service is located outside and down, in the middle of the horseshoe that is the airport. Follow the signs out of baggage claim but it helps to know which bus stop to go to as there are at least 14 of them, some of them subdivided. The express service we wanted was the very last, at 14b! You can buy tickets (cash) on the bus or from a kiosk (cash or card).
They say to allow 3 hours to get through security for outgoing flights and that’s not a bad estimate – why is noted below. We left in our taxi at 9:15 am for a 12:25 pm flight back to Chicago. There were no traffic issues getting to the airport. Having boarding passes in advance allowed us to go straight to United baggage drop where we were also met by an Irish immigration official who was wandering around checking folks off using a portable scanner. A very nice use of technology…you need to sign out of the country so there is probably a desk somewhere you should plan on stopping at if you don’t see one of these strolling agents. We saved at least 45 minutes of standing in line by being able to use the baggage drop. There are two Terminals: 1 and 2 with Delta, United, and American sharing one end of Terminal Two, to the left end as you walk in the front doors, on the 2nd-floor departure area.
Leaving the country, you go through the usual baggage and electronic detection security – keep all your liquids in a separate plastic bag. If you are headed to the US, you go through this whole process again ending with a US Customs agent and they ask about food, duty-free, etc.! We had 30 minutes to spare before boarding began for our flight. But the kicker is that having gone through US Customs in Dublin, you arrive in the US at a regular gate so the time spent is saved on the other end. This is the only location in the world with such an arrangement (outside some places in Canada as I understand). This saved an incredible amount of time in Chicago on our return as we didn’t have to deal with being in the very separate International Terminal 5. We should have scheduled our return bus trip home for an hour earlier! And if you have Global Entry, there’s even more time saved.
Our starting point was the book Around Ireland on a Bike by Paul Benjaminse. This is referred to as the “Green” route by bicyclists we met on the road. This was supplemented by a waterproof country map from National Geo (Ireland Travel Adventure) and smaller regional maps picked up at tourist information type places as we rode around. The Benjaminse routes are supposedly available for GPS download somewhere though I used RideWithGPS to create a set of 10 or so routes based on our modifications that I downloaded to my Garmin Edge 610. I also use the OpenStreetMap Ireland map found here:http://garmin.openstreetmap.nl/ which combined with the RideWithGPS .fit files worked perfectly for turn by turn including the elevation profiles of upcoming climbs. Note that Ireland is not flat and we had several 10-14% grades to deal with.
Remember to back up your existing Garmin provided maps and I recommend backing up all of your Garmin settings as well as I’ve had to restore too many times. I recommend using a separate micro-HD card for each map you download. I even created a backup HD card to take with me and since I had a laptop, even created a new route on the fly the night before riding. For more on Garmin backups and maps see for example: https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2013/05/download-garmin-705800810.html
Some bicyclists do the full Wild Atlantic Way (https://www.wildatlanticway.com/home) but this involves many main roads with little to no shoulder though Irish drivers are very considerate. However, you do want to visit some of these scenic locations!
We use Bike Fridays where the suitcase converts to the trailer that you can pull your gear in. We find that we can travel with a book bag sized backpack and a Rick Steve’s bag and all fits. However, we can’t combine air travel with hauling our camping gear unless we have a way to store the bike packing gear in a location we come back to so as to make space for the camping gear (which we’ve done for example, by parking a car). There are many bike planning/travel services as well as luggage hauling options between locations. We haven’t tried hanging additional panniers off the bikes for camping gear but this clearly could be done if you can handle pulling the weight. We met one couple out for a week and they had a luggage service for about 40 Euros per day. We’ve used the Bike Fridays flying into Australia, California, and Nicaragua. In Spain and Ecuador, we rented bikes and hired a service to both plans and haul our stuff. We were on the road for 15 days in Ireland for the cost of a week in Spain.
We did most of our stays at B&Bs that ran about 75 Euros a night. Hostels are slightly cheaper and Hotels more expensive. We did use Airbnb in Dublin and Galway as we stayed 2 nights in each. Booking.com was a convenient way of organizing most of our stays. With time, you can save money by booking directly with the B&B as many are not listed through Booking.com where a commission is charged. I did find many B&Bs with vacancies even in the height of tourist season but Booking.com makes it sound like everything is full (and many places were) but it’s nice to know where you are staying the next night! I was also able to route us directly to many of the B&Bs with RideWithGPS by knowing them in advance and marking them on my routes. RideWithGPS, when used in a very magnified mode, notes many B&Bs, hotels, food locations, and so on though I did find that several pubs were closed or no longer in existence. Camping is doable but not very easy in Ireland. Warmshowers.org is another possibility but we didn’t really look into this. We spent 40-50 euros more per day eating and such.
Lots of pubs to choose from as well as more upscale restaurants in bigger/Tourist locations. We shopped at a variety of grocery stores too including Tesco, Aldi’s, and Supervalue. Aldi’s probably had the best prices. Cheese and yogurt from Ireland are very inexpensive and very good. The fruit was available and of similar quality and price to the US. Irish strawberries were in season and these were delicious.
Smart Phones/Cell Phones
Wireless is widely available though speed was an issue in several places we stayed. Good cell coverage in Ireland is provided by Vodafone and Tesco. Tesco provides a low-cost pay as you go plan that competes with Vodafone though it is 3G. We successfully used Vodafone sim cards in our Samsung 7 phones in Australia and we got one phone on Tesco’s 15 Euros for 5gb data service in Ireland. Make sure you have an unlocked phone or know how to bypass the supposedly “unlocked” Verizon phones that we have where the ADT has to be manually set. We did rely on Google Maps via my Irish sim card on several occasions making life much easier!
Audrey downloaded a copy of the Moon Guide to Ireland to her smartphone and consulted it regularly. She also read a number of books beforehand including Rick Steves and we had a copy of the Lonely Planet Top 10 guide to Dublin. She serves as our guide on most trips. We’ve used a lot of Rick Steves tips through the years and he’s pretty spot on for many things. For example, we tried to use cash except for the big things like B&Bs (though some only take cash) and expensive meals. I found the Bank of Ireland ATM machines reliable and safe.
Day 0: Getting to Galway by Bus
Monday, July 16, 2018, 8 miles (13 km) – Total so far: 8 miles (13 km)
We left Drogheda on Monday by bus, switching at Dublin Airport for a Galway Express, arrived around
4 pm, and assembled our bikes at the station in a quiet corner. I was surprised that no one seemed at all curious about our bikes as they usually attract at least a few curious folk. We walked out the door
and andjumped into rush hour traffic, at first going exactly the opposite way we wanted to. I thought I had the route to our AirBnB in my head.
The distractions of family and tourist events in Drogheda like visiting Slane Castle, touring New Grange, seeing Oliver Plunkett’s head in a church, and sampling a variety of adult beverages with family as well as having another party for the world cup final had delayed us getting sim cards for our phones as we had done in Australia. Luckily, I had looked at Google Maps while previously connected wirelessly for our Airbnb so found it using the downloaded cache information (remember this useful Google maps feature!).
That night, we rode back into downtown Galway for dinner at the Pie Maker, explored the old quarter by bike and walking, and then biked along the harbor in the twilight. One advantage of peak tourist season in Ireland is the sun setting at 10 pm (and rising before 5 am) so maybe we wouldn’t get caught out in the dark as has happened in the past (though we do travel with great bike lights now). We were anxious to get on the road.
Day 1: Connemara National Park and Loop – A Test Ride
Tuesday, July 17, 2018, 32 miles (52 km) – Total so far: 40 miles (65 km)
On a whim, I had grabbed a 15 euro data package and sim card at a Tesco store where I was getting food supplies as we like to have one meal on hand when we ride. In hindsight, I should have grabbed one for Audrey as well. I had just enough time that morning to swap it with my American one over breakfast as Audrey had decided that we should hop a bus to the Connemara region (www.connemara.net) and get in a test ride without our loaded trailers.
We caught the 2nd bus to Recess on Tuesday around 10 am storing our bikes in the luggage compartment underneath laying them on their sides. We could have folded and bagged them but this wasn’t required and the spacing was perfect. From Recess, we bicycled to Letterfrack where we had an excellent early dinner at the Cloverfox. Our meal was the first of many to contain Seafood Chowder as there are almost as many recipes as there are pubs. And did I say it was loaded with potatoes? We spent the day bicycling the area including walking in Connemara National Park and getting all the way out to Rinvyle Castle and Tully on the Connemara Loop, returning to catch the bus in Letterfrack back to Galway. We even ran into a group of my cousins who were sightseeing by car doing a similar Galway to Cork route. I was stressed out by there being only one bus back to Galway as I did not relish biking all the way back another 100km!
Early on in our planning, we were concerned about the 2-month heat wave that was leaving some towns short of water but we had perfect temps for bicycling. We had our first experiences with rain and mist, coming on for 10-20 minutes at a time. I was riding with a wool jersey and shorts as well as wool socks expecting 60ish degree weather and light rain. The mist was handled with a light bicycling jacket but I found myself alternating hot/cool so adjusted zippers a lot. There was a lot of jackets on and off for both of us. We use Keene bicycling sandals and I also use a pair of off-road bike shorts without liner over whatever pair of bicycling shorts I plan for the day to have an extra set of pockets for stuff. Fenders and rain gear are a must. We were pretty satisfied with our choices for clothing and bike performance.
Jackets off mist comes
Rolling hills climb walk drop fly
Road work muddy hell
Day 2: The Burren – Walls Walls, Everywhere a Wall!
Wednesday, July 18, 2018, 45 miles (72 km) – Total so far: 85 miles (137 km)
On Wednesday, we hit the road via CityLink Lost and Found for Audrey’s biking gloves (recovered) negotiating the traffic through downtown Galway, walking on some sidewalks. Street signage is tricky as roads are labeled with arrowed signposts, street names hard to find on the sides of buildings, and a variety of one-way streets. It took about 10 minutes and help from a passerby to realize the road out of town was sitting in front of us so practice in advance with using Garmin routing or whatever system you are using! Over the course of the trip, I learned to resize the navigation window on my Garmin to see the actual route instead of relying on named turn by turn. Oh, and don’t forget, you bike/drive on the left in Ireland!
The route to Lisdoonvarna is about 30 miles of flat and then 15 miles of climbing with a quick descent to our destination. We knew this would be our longest day as we couldn’t find a B&B with a vacancy in advance around Curran which was our original idea. Six miles out of Galway and noonish, we had to stop at Castle Oranmor for lunch on the harbor. For those who haven’t guessed, we are not early morning riders and do our best “work” in the afternoon. Arriving early somewhere is rare.
Right after leaving the “suburbs”, we stopped for a moment only to have someone ask if we needed any help and to invite us in for tea at his house down the road! We were thankful but explained that we were very early in our ride for the day and politely declined. Down the road, he showed up at the end of his driveway with ice cream treats! We were to discover that any time we stopped, the generosity of the Irish would inevitably lead to someone checking on us.
The route (https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27880392) gets you off the beaten path very nicely moving from County Galway to County Clare, from suburbs to farmland. It was a beautiful clear day perfect for the slow uphill into the Burren where the farm roads were one lane and lined with rock fences and hedges. A number of flowering plants were in bloom, plants we would see for our entire trip. The Irish fascination with fences began to dawn on us as we rode. It was hard to understand the purpose of thick stone walls leading way up into the rocky hills and even harder to see how cattle, let alone people, could find habitable space here.
Biking the hedges
Fairy rings forts and henges
Stone walls for fences
Around 30 miles, we hit our first real climb meeting a pair of German tourists out for the day on rented electric bicycles. They zipped out of sight quickly. It was late afternoon when we finally got to Curran and a steep climb, a marked Strava challenge! But I forgot to check how I did. The next couple hours were spent dealing with 3 climbs ending in a nice downhill to the Burren Hostel. The steepness of one drop was such that Audrey walked it, the fear of meeting an oncoming car being very real (and it happened). We ended with a very late dinner at the Burren Storehouse, an old hotel converted to restaurant and media space. The locally made brew was pretty tasty!
Day 3: The Cliffs of Mohrer
Thursday, July 19, 2018, 31 miles (50 km) – Total so far: 116 miles (187 km)
Riding towards the Cliffs of Moher (https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27884622) via Doolen began as a quiet day where we tried to sneak in the back way via a gravel farm road. A mile or so in, we discovered bicycles are banned along the actual walking trail which we didn’t really see earlier as many people were walking this same gravel road. But we took advantage of the site and another lunch overlooking the sea with a view of the Aran Islands resulted! Biking our way back out, we got on a rural road overlooking the farmsteads with incredible views of the ocean and Islands. We explored several abandoned structures and finally had to negotiate the main road for several kilometers to the entrance of the actual Cliffs of Moher park area.
Every tourist in Ireland was on hand. A nice, historic/archeological touch, where the gift shops built right into the hillside leading to the information center. Since we biked in, our entry was free. Those driving pay to park. At the edge of the shops is a bike parking area along with a bike station. Unfortunately, the tools were all rusted as one might expect next to ocean corrosiveness. The views are pretty spectacular but the castle tower isn’t really worth it as the views are obstructed by the depth of the walls at the top. We failed to see any puffins and we have since learned that their numbers are dwindling, probably from loss of habitat, global warming, and loss of food supplies. The protective walls along the trail on these high cliffs are lined with tourists so you just have to sort of wait your turn to get a good vantage point. The Irish seem pretty obsessed with safety as everyone from bus drivers to road workers were in green safety vests, warning signs abound, and there are lifesaving rings everywhere there is water.
Along the ocean, at many points on our trip, we enjoyed the fresh ocean smell of low tide. I joked that it is always low tide in Ireland. The smell brings back some of my favorite memories of clamming in Oyster Bay as a kid. This was driven home when we stopped at the highly recommended Vaughn’s Pub for a late lunch in Liscannor. Their seafood chowder would turn out to be the best of the trip and tasted like that special wonderful fresh low tide smell.
Sheer cliffs Isles abound
Henges old houses castles
Where are the puffins
We had planned this as a short day so that we could take in lots of sites. On arriving in Ennistymon and checking into the Station House B&B (a converted RR station), we decided to take a ride to Kilfenora where old Celtic influenced burial crosses can be readily seen. Only one cross has been left standing in a field, the remainder moved into an old church and cemetery for safety. A quiet, sleepy town with several pubs/B&Bs as well as a visitor’s center for the Burren (which was closed by the time we got there). There’s even a bike shop servicing local rentals and electric bikes.
Cemeteries and old churches would become one of the themes of our trip. I lost count of how many we visited as the old churches double as burial grounds with graves right up to and in most cases into the old churches themselves. The fascination with or need to build walls has extended itself to what in many cases, are family plots containing 2 or 3 generations. The plots are surrounded by a low 4 inch or so stone or cement wall, covered in stone/gravel, with a monument listing several generations. Others have both old and new monuments to the deceased. Many also have some kind of dedication noting “erected by … loving husband/wife/children of…”.
Day 4: Roller Day
Friday, July 20, 2018, 34 miles (54 km) – Total so far: 150 miles (241 km)
Lingering in Ennistymon the next morning, we discovered that due to the drought, the town’s famous cascades were dry. Dry was not the theme of the day though and our ride to Kilimer can best be described as roller day: light rain, mist, constant rolling hills, and messy road construction. Early into the ride, we were passed by a young woman from the Netherlands who asked us if we were following the “Green Route”. She was traveling from hostel to hostel using what turned out to be the same book we based our routes on.
The two places that I had listed as possible food stops were closed and we ended up eating cheese, crackers, and fruit trying to stay out of the wind and mist next to the second of these pubs. I was able to fill water bottles at a faucet in back though. Given the massive Irish breakfasts we were having at B&Bs, we ended up having late lunches when convenient or a mid-day snack and a good supper at a pub at our next destination. We got spoiled by the excellent dairy (cheese and butter and cheap yogurt), very good bacon, and pork in general, as well as smoked salmon with breakfast.
With the EU, the Irish have specialized in all things cattle, mostly grass fed, at the expense of their fishing industry through fresh seafood was readily available. Many are unsure what effect Brexit will have as the Irish seemingly enjoy being in the EU but their biggest trading partner is England, let alone issues related to N. Ireland.
At the watershed ridge, we found a wind farm and dense fir plantations on old bogs that were impenetrable to the eye and generated a sense of magic or haunted forest right out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales or Lord of the Rings. More ups and downs as well as a several mile road reconstructions that we made it through during a light rain, left the bikes and trailers covered in muck. The never-ending rolling hills somehow suggested to Audrey that haiku was in order. Taking the challenge, I started composing in my head, calling out ideas to Audrey or recording to my phone, as well as thinking back on what we had seen and done already.
As we made it to the River Shannon, biking along the rolling banks, with several miles to go to our B&B, Audrey quoted my Law 3 of Bicycling Thermodynamics: There is no last hill. And the first haiku of the trip followed.
Up Down torn up Road
Riding to River Shannon
Mist Rain no last hill
We finally made it to Cois Na Sionna, cleaned up, and strolled across the street to eat at the Old Brogue Bar. Both are on the north bank right at the Ferry Terminal which we proceeded to explore after eating. On my asking about a way to clean up our bikes, the owners of the B&B whipped out a hose in the backyard and helped us clean up everything before storing our bikes in their shed.
Day 5: Tarbert to Tralee
Saturday, July 21, 2018, 41 miles (66 km) – Total so far: 191 miles (307 km)
Tralee (and the Holiday Lodge) was our next destination, a fairly easy and uneventful ride from Tarbert that began with a ferry ride across the River (https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27884682). Once we got our fix of shorebirds
along the bay, we found the route dotted with old churches and cemeteries. Of particular interest were the old monastery and churches in Ardfert where we spent considerable time walking on and in the walls and grounds of the Abbey as well as getting a very informative explanation of items and architecture at the cathedral museum up the road.
In Tralee, we stayed at a hotel a couple blocks from downtown and were met by the most energetic manager of the trip. Patty got our bikes stowed, recommended where to eat, where to catch music, and did all this while handling a bus full of tourists staying overnight and to whom they were serving dinner! Not taking her advice, we were disappointed by dinner at Finnegan’s which had been recommended by one of the guidebooks Audrey was consulting – it was good but standard Italian though in a very romantic atmosphere.
It was not a quiet night for sleeping. At one point, a drunk tried every door on our floor looking for his room. Someone was yelling in the parking lot and then the tour bus left early. Audrey slept through it all. The highlight was a couple hours the next morning at the Kerry County Museum where there was a very good timeline and explanation of the life of one of the leaders and martyrs of the 1916 Easter Uprising that ultimately led to Irish independence.
In Drogheda, we had stayed at the Scholars Hotel, a converted Christian Brothers School, that also had one of the best restaurants in town but most importantly, had really great coffee. We figured Ireland would be like Australia and every little place would have great coffee. Not quite. Like Australia, instant coffee, tea bags, milk, and a hot pot in every room. But the $10K espresso machines were harder to come by and we couldn’t find one this morning. It was hit or miss in some of the places we stayed and a search for good coffee would start some days if French Press wasn’t part of breakfast. As Americans, we missed our drip coffee.
Day 6: Over Conner Pass
Sunday, July 22, 2018, 32 miles (52 km) – Total so far: 223 miles (360 km)
The route to Dingle is mostly flat with a view of the bay and a big climb at the end. The route starts fairly busy until the road splits. The big buses and most tourists use the main road, leaving the old road for use as the “scenic” route (https://ridewithgps.com/users/596344/routes). We stopped for lunch, dropping towards beach territory at Castlegregory, to Moe’s Café where we found very good coffee and a satisfying brunch. We spent considerable time looking for a pub and the matching picture in the guidebook, never finding it. Names change, no one knew what we were talking about, maybe that pub up the street.
We climbed back to the main road via a quiet farm road and 33 km into the ride, the signs started with a warning to bicyclists of the 7.2% grade, 5km climb ahead. It took us just under an hour to get to the top where there were misty but expansive views. We couldn’t see the tops of the mountains but it was still impressive. Up and down, cattle, goats, and sheep were our companions. The sheep and goats have been color-coded with red, green, and/or blue dyes which in combination with the terrain, evoke a very sci-fi realm. There’s a reason for Star Wars and Lord of the Rings to have used these environments! And of course, the goats ignore the stone walls. It only took about 12-14 minutes to descend on “Spa Road” where we had to keep an eye out for that night’s B&B. As a light sleeper, I much prefer being away from the center of towns for a quiet sleep.
Into the Irish mist
Conner Pass Dingle dangles
Tourists and Trad mix
The Ring of Kerry is jam-packed these days but thanks (or no thanks) to Rick Steves, Dingle has been discovered too. Dingle has the Shea’s Head loop with a number of historical and archeological treasures and many bicyclists consider it one of the prettiest loops in Ireland. Duinen House, where we stayed, is about 1km uphill from downtown Dingle and we planned for 2 days thinking we’d have a “rest” day of sorts and ride the Loop.
Our hosts were very nice, offering tea and information, and even a ride into town if we wanted. Their breakfasts were made to order and expansive. This was the best of the B&Bs we stayed at, their 9.6 Booking.com rating well earned!
After unloading our trailers and grabbing just the dirty laundry, we finished the descent into town where we found a downtown outdoor laundromat with 2 sizes of a washing machine and a single dryer, a new experience for us. We were too tired to hang out and listen to music but it was coming out of several pubs along Main Street. We grabbed some food supplies and ate in our room that evening.
Day 7: Shea’s Head Loop
Monday, July 23, 2018, 41 miles (66 km) – Total so far: 264 miles (426 km)
The morning found us looking at very grey skies as we started out on the Shea’s Head loop. Counterclockwise is recommended as the buses go clockwise and we found this good advice. About 5 km into the ride, the rain really got started and we were soaked by the time we got to the old archeological site Cathair Na.
BhFionnurach at the very north end of the extended loop. We trudged up a hill to find it, not well marked but well protected. Hard to imagine a clan living in these conditions as all that’s left are the stone walls and bases of their housing, complete with underground space.
In southern dwellings
Ancient rock lords fence out foes
Monks save Civ Oh Christ
We found our way to the café and tourist destination, Gallarus Oratory, drying out over coffee and cake. Audrey decided to go back to the B&B so we split up for the day and I finished the loop. Of course, the rain stopped and I spent the rest of the afternoon with better and better views.
Since I said I’d be done by 5, I rode hard between photo stops and did more mileage and climbing than expected. So much for a rest day! It’s hard to describe the scenery except that it changes and is never boring. The Blasket Islands, the Three Sisters in the distance, archeological sites, beehive huts, and an old fort (which was heavily damaged by the hurricane last year so is closed to the public) (https://www.dingle-peninsula.ie).
Rainy mist lifts clear
Blaskets Aran Skellig Michael
Views to die for too
Back in Dingle, I picked up tickets for a show that night featuring some excellent local but nationally known talent: Gerry O’Beirne, Jon Sanders, and Eoin Duignan. I discovered that I’m just another tourist sucker for the uillean pipes. And of course, dinner beforehand at a well-rated pub, the Ashes Bar, complete with their version of seafood chowder.
Day 8: Herding Cows
Tuesday, July 24, 2018, 34 miles (55 km) – Total so far: 298 miles (480 km)
Leaving Dingle via the southern route, we avoided the main road almost completely and found ourselves herding calves (https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27884918). The owner told us they were hungry from the drought so he was moving them with help from his two young children and a dog using a small pickup like a horse giving commands to the dog and children both. At one point I thought we were about to move onto a dirt road but it was just a well-used farm road covered in what cows do.
These roads are a bit bumpier and probably hillier but so quiet compared to main roads and very similar to the chip and seal roads we have at home. The views though are a lot nicer than our corn and soybeans! From our first days on these narrow roads, we had learned to use the pullouts just as the vehicles do. And don’t forget a friendly wave! I started to think that having 1.5-inch tires would have been better than the 1.35’s we were riding on, the usual debate of resistance versus comfort that I find myself increasingly having inside my head.
Off the busy road
Moving little doggies along
On shite lined bike path
Just before Annascaul, as we were coming off the country road, there’s a very short jog on the main road and then a steep uphill. I waited at the top for Audrey to show up. Realizing she missed the turn, I went looking for her along the main road. She had turned off at a small gas station and was looking at a neat old railroad bridge that we would have missed taking the side streets.
Just after passing through Annascaul, where major reconstruction of the main road back to Tralee was ongoing (complete with multiuse lanes for sidewalks), we moved to the coastal road, another difference from the Green route. This was a scenic and not busy secondary road that I’d recommend over the green route. Not sure how the author missed this great route. Interestingly, we’d talked to several locals who recalled Benjamanse having passed through doing his research on his book.
We found ourselves at a very popular beach, Inch Strand, where we sat at the outdoor café and enjoyed lunch guarding our food to the ever-present and hoovering seagulls. In Whitegate, we took a side road and visited the very old, retired Keel cemetery where most gravestones were obscured though a directory had been developed for historical purposes. Evening found us at Leahbrook House outside the village of Castlemaine. We were in the mood for some live music but nothing was happening that night, we checked!
Day 9: The Gap of Dunloe, Where the Manure Flies
Wednesday, July 25, 2018, 34 miles (55 km) – Total so far: 332 miles (535 km)
We discovered that the backroad to rejoin the Green Route was closed adding a few miles on a busier secondary road this morning (https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27885152) where another deviation from the Green Route was to take us through the Gap of Dunloe via the popular tourist destination of Kate’s Cottage. The Green Route crosses on the other side of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks range. With more time, it would have been fun to do both sides and get out to the tip of the Ring of Kerry.
Some pie and coffee before the start of the climb had us holding onto everything as the wind was really blowing. Chairs, hay, and related from the horses used to ferry people up the gap were whipping by. Joining the hikers and buggies (cars are restricted) we set off discovering a series of climbs, some of them with short 12-14% sections up a series of 4 lakes. There’s a 9-mile circuit trail up to the highest peak in Ireland, Carrauntoohil, that folks regularly hike taking something like 8 hours.
It was a clear day with the blue skies contrasting with the stark rock and green growth making it very surreal and awesomely beautiful. This turned out to be my favorite day of riding. As much as I like oceans having grown up near them, my earliest memories of childhood are from the mountains of Ecuador.
Manure flakes flying
Horses hoof it up the trail
Colored sheep abound
Once at the top, you really can’t see all the way back to where you came from and then you drop into the Black Valley. Quickly too I might add. This is another scenic section but very different in that it runs along a creek/small river for a bit in addition to the regular farmland viewing predominant in Ireland outside cities.
There are places to fish and picnic along the creek. Horseback riding seems to be a popular activity through here as well. A short climb at the end of the route brings you to Moll’s Gap and a fun descent on the main road into Kenmare. Once again, we were watching at the end for our B&B which was about 2 km from the center of town. One thing I should have done was edit each of the ride with gps routes to end at the actual place we were staying.
Lakes rocks sheer beauty
Wind blows through Gap of Dunloe
Molls Gap at last, Whee
Our B&B was an actual farmstead and, over tea, of course, we found out that he farmed, she ran the B&B, and they closed up at the end of tourist season to go to the Canary Islands. She didn’t indicate how they met but she was from County Clare south of Galway. For many Irish, county identification seems important, much like Americans refer to the state they are from. We even saw houses and cars with county flags. In talking about Irish ancestors, knowing what county they were from is important. You see county affiliation on many gravestones as well.
We dropped down to Kenmare for dinner where we found a very nice pub for dinner and live music at TJ McCarthy’s. As it was starting to get dark, we quickly toured the town to get the layout making plans for where to visit in the morning on our way out.
Old men keep fiddling
The sky still bright with twilight
Bats foxes full moon
Day 10: The Drought Ends!
Thursday, July 26, 2018, 27 miles (43 km) – Total so far: 359 miles (578 km)
Our route leaving Kenmare would take us away from the Ring of Kerry. To the west there’s more of the Wild Atlantic Way to see and the lesser known Ring of Beara. Instead, we were headed for Ballylickey and County Cork. But first we had to check out a church and the local henge where it started raining. We weren’t too concerned and put on our rain gear. It was warm enough that we skipped the pants.
Once across the bridge out of town to the south, we were able to get on another back road for a few kilometers before emerging for Lorge Chocolatier. The French owner was giving classes when we stopped by. It had started pouring and we stood there dripping on everything as we enjoyed the chocolate, buying some for the road. Before our trip started, I had jokingly told Audrey that once we got on our bikes, the drought would end. Sure enough, though we’d gotten pretty wet in Dingle, this was rain like the Midwest. All that was missing were thunder and lightning.
With no sign of clearing, and since we were already wet, we decided to head over the Caha Pass with its 4 tunnels and several druid monuments. The area has at least 6000 years of recorded habitation. The ascent was literally a blur in the rain through my glasses. We had looked for cover at the Molly Gavans Visitor Center where we saw two touring bikes parked but didn’t see where to go in the rain so just kept going.
Towards the top, we realized how much rain was falling as waterfalls were appearing everywhere, the only dry being in the short tunnels themselves. The tunnels were an interesting experience where we made sure to turn on our lights and since they are one way for whoever gets there first, we were watching the curves ahead before going into any of them. Audrey said we invented a new sport, swimbiking. Our Gor-tex rain gear was inadequate though our suitcase trailers were staying pretty dry.
The view of the Bonane Valley was pretty phenomenal even in the very wet! We should have found and stopped at the Bonane Valley Heritage Center but we just wanted and needed to keep moving. We did stop at the summit for a picture of me standing next to the County Cork sign. The descent was tricky as the road surface was a bit bumpy and though I usually feel confident and descend quickly, I found myself riding the brakes the whole 9 km down. Audrey was miserable, she hates downhills where it’s easy to exceed 35-40kph. Luckily it was 60ish degrees, not colder. I thought I’d never dry out.
We bike, the rain comes
Caha Pass waterfalls galore
Bonane beauty awe
We knew about a small natural area at the bottom of the descent before getting to Glengarriff so I stopped only to find that there was no visitors center, just an office and a now muddy trail from the parking lot. However, the park ranger recommended a pub/hotel in town and sure enough, Casey’s came through. They had a covered outdoor eating area where we parked our bikes since no one was sitting outside. Took off our wet gear, hanging it to drip, and went inside shivering. A good meal later, we found ourselves drinking a liquor proffered by the owner (Casey’s grandson Doald if I got his name right) to heat us up for the remaining part of the ride to our B&B.
Wet bumpy downhill
Shivering cold stiff and wet
Saved by Casey’s pub
Ard Na Greine B&B is in the country outside town such that we never saw Ballylickey. We turned off the coastal route to find a steep uphill, downhill, uphill by a raging River Coomhola before getting to it. As we climbed the last hill, we were startled by loud bells from the Coomhola Church. Luckily the rain never returned after Glengarriff and we found out that a near record 2.83 inches in four hours had come down. Everyone seemed relieved that the drought might be ending.
This B&B is owned by a pair of teachers with 4 entertaining children and is adjacent to his father’s farm. During the school year, they get au pairs to help out but in the summer, they use the guest rooms for their B&B. That night we had a gorgeous full moon across the farm valley and morning entertainment provided by a kitten, rabbits, and birds. The children proudly showed us their garden projects and one of them was an enthusiastic bicyclist already honing his mechanical skills.
Day 11: Off the Tourist Trail
Friday, July 27, 2018, 35 miles (57 km) – Total so far: 394 miles (635 km)
Our route to Bandon was another deviation from the Green route as we wanted to go to Kinsale before Cork. Though I had some country roads in mind, we ended up using fairly busy secondary roads because only a few kilometers into our ride, the rain returned and our bodies wanted a smoother surface.
A very easy crossing of Cousan’s Gap and a stop in Dunmanway for lunch led us to a hole in the wall café owned and run by a German immigrant who at first wasn’t interested in talking. But on complimenting her wonderful vegetable soup, she started to open up and we found out a bit about how she ended up in Ireland. She seemed unhappy at the new Europeanization of Ireland, the only person we met who complained about the changes. She also very much likes living in the country and had a place out of town.
On leaving town, we made a mistake of sticking to the main road to Bandon. We would have been far better off moving to an obvious route on the south side of River Bandon. If I had known how much truck traffic combined with the continuous rain we would have, I would have worked harder to find that quiet country road. We arrived wet and dirty to the Munster Hotel where our bikes were placed in a conference room and 7 wet bikes of German tourists in another! I rinsed my wet bike clothes out in the tub turning the water muddy brown.
Traffic Trucks Tractors
Over Cousans Gap soaked again
Saved by the Munster
Bandon is very much a working Irish town with industry and agricultural services. No obvious tourism here; the shops cater to the townspeople and surrounding community. The town has a long history of commerce where parts of the Norman built stone walls have been incorporated into other buildings or left standing. Two big churches (Catholic and Protestant) and the oldest Methodist Church in existence all lie within blocks of each other. Though we walked the area, the best pub was right across the street from the Munster where one bartender and 2 cooks handled a sizeable crowd handily.
We found a very small farmers’ market the next morning and then visited a big garden shop with appropriately enough, a thatch-covered roof. Several plants amazed us, the Hydrangeas grow to be big bushes and the Buddleia trees, though not native, fit right in.
Day 12: Old Head
Saturday, July 28, 2018, 28 miles (45 km) – Total so far: 422 miles (680 km)
When mapping the route to Kinsale and Cork (https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27885622), I didn’t really have a good guide so I tried to use secondary and farm roads getting some recommendations as we got closer. I thought that routing us near the Bandon River would be pleasant and flat only to discover some pretty steep terrain crossing from one area to another. But along the river, it was scenic and enjoyable and I was able to get some bird pictures. We were moved by the Kilpadder Famine Burial Ground just before reaching the River, a mass grave site near a once populous area. A recommendation led us to stop in Ballinspittle for a tasty lunch at the Diva Cafe.
The beach to the south was recommended as well though I was very hesitant as we’d done some pretty good hills already. Audrey persisted and she got to enjoy a walk on the beach checking out the tide pools. She pushed us on and we did several more hills as we ended up all the way out at Old Head. At the marker for the Wild Atlantic Way, there was also a memorial to the Lusitania. Survivors were brought in at Old Head as well as up the coast in Cobh (formerly Queenstown). There’s a very expensive golf course on this point that uses the remnants of an old castle as the gateway.
I was feeling strangely tired as we biked on to Kinsale where, thanks to a quirk of Google Maps, we were put at the wrong house on the wrong side of the 7 hills of Kinsale. Regrettably, we hadn’t seen or noticed that the owners had sent us specific instructions on how to get to their house. Kinsale is a very old community with very narrow, steep, and twisting roads. Eventually, we found our way to a splendid house overlooking the harbor on Compass Hill. The house was of modular construction designed and built by German engineers in the Bauhaus style and completely different from the usual Irish home.
Round and Round the hills
Narrow Kinsale twists and turns
We spent an hour or so talking with our hosts about their house, families, and nutrition. We had luckily stopped for groceries on our way so we had a quick dinner along with the snacks they provided. I slept very soundly, feeling much better in the morning.
Day 13: Cork at Last
Sunday, July 29, 2018, 25 miles (40 km) – Total so far: 447 miles (720 km)
With the owners’ advice, we came up with a new, back roads route to Cork that I mapped out the night before. This would turn out to be our last bicycling day too. Taking advantage of the late sunset, we spent the day exploring more of Kinsale visiting St. Maltose Church, exploring the Charles Fort controlling the entrance to the harbor and having our usual late lunch/dinner at the Spaniard. Dinner included 4 kinds of potatoes: chips, scalloped, mashed, and baked (no skin), 3 of these in one dish. There may have been more potatoes in my seafood pie too! There are jokes about the Irish and their fondness for English Fish and Chips let alone for all things potatoes.
The route up to Cork (https://ridewithgps.com/routes/28194477) turned out to be fairly quiet though it involved several steep ascents/descents that found us walking again. There were markers along the route as well referring back to the uprising in 1600 where the Irish Army of the time camped on this high ground before attacking the fort in Kinsale. This key battle was won by the English after many previous defeats. Had the Irish united and won it, an entirely different subsequent 300 years for Ireland may have occurred. Lots to discuss the constant invasion and various occupations of Ireland over time.
Connemara to Cork
Burren cliffs and sea all green
The steepness, who knew
We hit fairly busy traffic through Cork to our B&B near the train station. Missed a turn onto a pedestrian bridge and was surprised by routing through a large public walkway but with the help of a paper map, the RidewithGps route got us within a meter of the door. We were able to haul all our stuff, bikes included, up the stairs into our room so that we could pack them up later.
Monday, July 30, 2018
We spent the next days visiting Cork, Cobh, and then taking the train to Dublin. Though we had planned to bike to Cobh, since we were staying next to the train station and not having had any rest days, we just hopped a commuter. Cove or Cobh is a historic community associated with early trade through the heyday of luxury liner travel including the last stop of the Titanic. It’s all described in the museum adjacent to the train station.
In Cork we visited the indoor market, the Museum of Art, the Honan Chapel on the very beautiful campus of UCC which has 2 giant sequoias in the central quad along with a display of Ogam stones in their visitor’s center, and had a wonderful meal at Eastern Tandori. We even had time to ring the Shandon Church Bells before leaving town the next morning.
We had, the night before, suit cased our bikes, and loaded with luggage, boarded an express for Dublin July 31. Train and bus service in Ireland, along with 5 regional airports, make Ireland easily accessible. With a bit more time, we could have very easily kept using our bikes in Cork and Dublin or even ridden from Cork to Dublin along the coast continuing on the Green route.
Into the flatland
Train whizzes Cork to Dublin
Many cows and sheep
In Dublin, our AirBnB was near Parnell close to an information office and starting point for many bus tours. Dublin has an active bike-share program, DublinBikes though we didn’t have time to try it out. Others may find it a useful way to get around as they have 3-day tickets. One user we spoke with using it to commute to and from work daily plus run a regular daily errand figured his membership to be 4 cents a day!
With the help of one of those hop on-hop off bus tours, we managed to visit the Tall Ship Jeannie Johnston, the Epic Emigration Museum, the Writers Museum, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral supposedly built next to a well used by St. Patrick to baptize converts. We even walked the Temple bar area where we saw the only real presence of police, on horseback, of our entire trip. The Gaol, the Guinness Brewery, and the large cemetery would have to wait for another day. Dublin deserves at least 3 days to get to all the tourist sites. And we got locked into the World War I Peace Memorial which was pretty amusing though we luckily surprised the guard as he was leaving via the elevator.
Dublin in a day
Coffinships gaol people outbound
So many buses
We left with tired legs, overloaded minds, and a desire to come back and pick up the route again.
Finally ready to leave the Carmona Parador headed for Osuna
We had done a tour of Southern Patagonia last year. (For more details on that tour, see the log posted on the Bike Friday website.)That tour was epic.This year’s tour of Andalusia was tame by comparison.It was all about riding through wonderful country, staying in nice hotels and trying to find the best of meals.Just the same, there is quite a bit about this tour of southern Spain worth sharing.
We flew into Sevilla airport with our Bike Fridays packed away.We had four Samsonite suitcases in all – enough baggage that most of the small taxis couldn’t fit everything in.However, it didn’t take long to get a cab that fit it all, even though it was a little crammed.We went to the small town of Carmona, around twenty miles to the east of Sevilla.We had a reservation at the parador there.What a wonderful place to stay!Paradores are nationally run hotels, frequently in renovated castles, fortresses or mansions.
The Parador at Carmona had once been an Arab fortress, and was perched on a ridge overlooking a beautiful valley.We were there for two days at the beginning and for two days at the end.We took advantage of the first two days to catch up on sleep, put the bikes together and visit Sevilla.The Parador had a storage area where we were able to store our suitcases while we were away.We took the public bus for the 45 minute trip from Carmona to Sevilla – inexpensive and very comfortable!It was a “feria” (fair) in Sevilla and everyone seemed to be celebrating.Lots of women on the streets dressed in their full flamenco!
One façade of the Parador of Carmona.
The end balcony shown was the balcony for our room.
This Parador started out as an Arab fortress.It went through changes and assorted uses before being converted into a Hotel in the 1930s.The Spanish government owns and operates all of the Paradores in Spain.There are almost one hundred and each one has it’s own history and is unique.
We planned the route using Ride with GPS and an out of date map of Andalusia.We have a Garmin etrex-30.We also treated ourselves to purchasing City Navigator Europe.Having the city navigator was a real benefit.We downloaded planned routes before leaving home. We planned a clockwise route from Carmona that connected eight of the most popular towns in Andalusia.We had booked lodging in Ronda for four nights, the half-way point of our tour, but did not book any rooms along the way, either before or after Ronda (except for the Parador at the end).We ended up having the manager where we stayed make a reservation for us for the following day.This gave us the flexibility to change our route as and if needed.
FRIDAY, APRIL 20, 2018 – Carmona to Osuna
We left Carmona around 10:30.It was hard to leave Carmona and the Parador.It was lovely, luxurious and the breakfast buffet has to be seen to be believed.(As you will see we’re big breakfast people). On leaving Carmona, ride with GPS had us on a small road to get out of town before merging onto the main road after a mile and a half.Unfortunately, that road didn’t actually exist – it had been pulled up to start a new road from scratch.We left town on that torn up roadbed anyway.It was a little too much like the “ripio” we had experienced the year before in Chile.Not the best way to begin our journey.It wasn’t long, though, before we found an actual road to ride on.Finally on the correct road, we had another enemy that we would be dealing with the whole day: the wind.
It blew at 30 mph with gusts to 40 mph – right in our face – for the entire day.So loud and strong, we couldn’t talk or sometimes even think!.On one downhill we managed to get to 18 mph! The saving grace of the day was the amazing wildflowers and the fields of wheat rippling in the wind.So green in this very southern part of Spain, we couldn’t believe it!
Washington Irving beat us to exploring Andalusia.Apparently, he visited Andalusia and took a journey through it that led to his writing two books about his travels.For a lot of these towns, not much has changed since he visited.
After battling the wind all day, we arrived in the town of Osuna.We managed to get an odd suite in “El Monasterio”.Although it was a relatively small room, it had three levels – with the bathroom on the first level, one flight down from the bedroom.No railing – picture that in the middle of the night!On the plus side, it also had a large balcony, where our bikes spent the night, and a wonderful view of the town!We had been a little concerned about storing our bikes in some of the older hotels, but it was never an issue.Hotel staff didn’t even blink when we arrived with our loaded touring bikes – they seemed to be used to it.One even kept our bikes in the hotel office!
Today was only 43 miles, but we were pretty well beat.We did get there early enough to take a great walk around the town.Osuna is famous for it’s 17th century home facades.They were obviously in competition to see who could build the most unique façade. The worst meal of our trip was that night in Osuna. We hadn’t yet gotten used to the Spanish late meal times and were really ready for some food around 6:30 pm.Well, nothing was open except for a little greasy spoon on the main plaza and all they had to offer was tapas. – and not good tapas either.We soon learned, there were “tapas” and then there were “tapas”.It’s good that we had the perfect lunch stop in Marchena in a supermarket!The market had empanadas and little pizzas that were priced by the pound.Very much like in Chile, you had to weigh and tag your goods before going to the cash register.And they had clean bathrooms!In fact bathrooms were remarkably clean wherever we went on this trip.
This is one of several 17th century homes in Osuna that were built with elaborate entry facades.Even the composition and craftsmanship on the entry doors is amazing.
As far as traffic goes, cars and trucks were well behaved on the roads.In town there just isn’t enough room for cars and pedestrians, let alone bikes.One careless move and you are a goner.Somehow it all seemed to work.
SATURDAY, APRIL 21, 2018 – Osuna to Antequerra
Breakfast at El Monasterio was minimal but leaving town was direct and quick.It was overcast, cool and hazy with a little less wind than the day before.Today we were able to ride uphill faster than we rode on the flats yesterday. However, we did hit strong headwinds on a climb before we stopped for coffee in Martin del la Jara.We had lunch in Campillos from Supermercado Dia.Leaving Campillos Ride with GPS wanted us to take a dirt road to avoid a section of the much larger A384.We took A384, which had a four foot shoulder with no debris.In about six miles we left A384 and headed to Bobadilla on MA438.In Bobadilla, we rejoined the Ride with GPS route.The last 10 to 12 miles were on very pleasant and low traffic roads.Gordon changed GPS batteries, left the zipper open and lost his battery box at 40 miles – Oh well!
The manager at El Monasterio had called and reserved a room for us at Coso Viejo in Antequerra.All we had to do was find it.We rode through a very active commercial district towards the old part of town and located the hotel with little difficulty.We cleaned up before going out and exploring.We visited the Dolmenes about a kilometer from our Hotel.The Dolmenes were built around 2500 BC!They are still somewhat of a mystery.Sort of like the Stonehenge, they don’t really have a good understanding of how they could have been built or why.
One of the Dolmenes Lunch!
GENERAL NOTE about Spanish drivers and Spaniards:
On the open road they drive with what seems like an intense concentration, with some exceptions.They do not get distracted.Before they pass they put on their directional signal even if there is no one else for miles.They go all the way into the other lane to pass.After passing, they put on the right directional to come back into the lane.
When you ask you ask directions from a Spaniard, most have to give you directions using the main “autopistas”.They seem to have forgotten that there is an older network of roads.So, stick to maps for directions.
A general note about Andalusia:It is hilly enough that about 45 miles a day is enough – plus there is just so much to see!We have given up on early rising and jumping on the bike first thing.You can’t get a meal until around 8:30 pm, so there is no sense arriving at a destination too early.We have adapted a Spanish schedule – late start and late to bed.Also at this time of year there is plenty of sun until 9:00 pm. Some one said that Franco changed Spain’s time zone to match Germany’s and they haven’t been able to change it back.
SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2018 – Antequerra to Álora
We had a rather minimal breakfast again, but were able to stop for a second breakfast in Valle de Abdalajis.What a neat little town – hills and agriculture all around – mainly olives and oranges.
There are three ways to get from Antequerra to Álora, all go through Valle de Abdajalis and from there you can go direct, or go through Chorro (El Caminito del Rey) or go to Ardales and then south.We decided on the middle route, less climbing and a few less miles than on the route through Ardales.
We had lunch at the Kon-Tiki restaurant just north of Álora and had a hard time finding the hotel Don Pero.When we did, finally, it was closed tight.Someone parking their car nearby pointed to the ice cream shop across the street and said we needed to talk to the proprietress there to get checked in.Who would have known?We walked up and down the town(after a shower) and visited the Arab Castle.Finding somewhere for an early meal on Sunday was a challenge, but we found a restaurant willing to do a meal at 7!House salad and pizza – good enough.
We had wanted to hike the “Caminito del Rey” (worth checking out it’s website and on YouTube).When we tried to get tickets about a month before the tour, there were none available for our dates.We think they book about a year in advance!A very popular site!
Section of road near “Valle de Abdalajis”
GENERAL NOTE about saddle sores:
For some time now, we have used Mepilex Ag, a medical adhesive foam bandage, for saddle sores.It is not only helpful at the very beginning of a sore but for helping protect and heal a developed sore.It isn’t cheap, but worth it and one box of pads lasts for a long time.We cut the pads into 2 inch squares.You can also use each pad for about a week, reapplying the old pad after you shower.Check it out.
This is as close as we got to the “Caminito”
MONDAY, APRIL 23, 2018 – Álora to Ronda
Gordon managed to find a coffee shop open early for a great cup of coffee, but no breakfast.Kay ate some leftover pizza! Later, along the way, we stopped in Pizarro for a quick bite. Gordon ordered a tuna sandwich.It turned out to be just canned tuna on a roll – possibly an entire can.Way too much – no mayo or anything.After asking, they made up some fresh tomato sauce to put on it.In Spain, they blend tomatoes in the morning to make a sauce for a toasted roll.No salt, no seasonings.That and a cup of coffee is about the extent of the usual breakfast.
Ride with GPS gave two shortcuts on smaller roads that we realized would not work so did not waste time giving them a try.It also wanted to take us off-route into Casa Rabunela, but we didn’t bite. You have to watch Ride with GPS every now and then.There were some long climbs marked at 9%, but there were some scenic rest spots along the way.It was threatening to rain as we stopped in Yunquera for lunch: clear chicken broth with sliced hard boiled eggs in it and for the main course, a whole plate of various sautéed mushrooms.That’s it – just mushrooms.After the owner learned we didn’t eat meat (except for fish and eggs), this was his solution.We had so many mushrooms that day, we knew it would be awhile before we would want them again.For the last long climb and on the 7 mile descent into Ronda we had the wind with us.It was great.Really, the whole day was great (except for the mushrooms!).Just cool enough and just overcast enough.
We arrived in Ronda at 5:00 pm.We found our Hotel “Enfrente Arte” in the middle of a traffic muddle that looked so confusing, we weren’t sure it would ever get sorted out.Up a side street there were two electricians working on the front of the second floor of a house.They had the base of their tall ladder out in the middle of the road.This was keeping any cars from getting into the street and cars were backed around the corner.This, however, wasn’t the cause of the muddle – that was caused by someone starting to go the wrong way onto a one way street and backed out far enough to block the road, but not far enough to get out of the one way street – a real mess.
The view from our balcony in the Hotel Enfrente Arte.
Nancy and the hotel staff welcomed us like family.The bikes went into a patio area with a roof.They had fresh lemonade for us.And a fabulous room!Madonna had stayed in it when she visited Ronda.
It is hard to adequately describe the town of Ronda.One side of the town is a cliff with about a 300 foot vertical drop. Walls and fences keep you from going over the edge.A small river has cut a gorge through the middle of town.There have been three different towns in that location over the ages.In the Arab town, a small bridge spanned the river and was built in the 13th century.Later, a higher town was built with the “Old Bridge” spanning the river at a higher elevation.This bridge was built in the 16th century.Later yet, the town moved further up onto the top of the plateau and the “New Bridge” was built.This bridge was finished in 1793 after 40 years of construction at a cost of 50 lives.The bridge is around 300 feet high.
A street in Ronda
The “new” bridge
There are many areas to explore in town and outside of the town.We were in Ronda for four nights – three days.The first day we hiked down into the valley.The second day we rode in the surrounding area.The third day we spent walking in town.Ronda has to be one of the most stunning towns on earth! We might have done more riding in and around Ronda but Kay was not feeling well!It could have been the plateful of mushrooms!But despite that, we ate well in Ronda – thanks to the guidance of the hotel manager, Alvaro.Among other things, we finally found tapas that were amazing and delicious!
Breakfasts at “Enfrente Arte” were all you can eat.Eggs and crepes prepared to order by Pablo, the chef.Homemade breads, fruit, smoothies and even some little plates of breakfast tapas. There were lots of fresh items that came from the owner’s farm on the coast.Also, one of the first things they did when you arrived was to teach you how to operate the full sized expresso machine.Coffee was always available, as were wine, beer and juices!
A Breakfast salad as prepared at “Enfrente Arte”
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25, 2018 – Ronda to Sentenil to Ronda
We had planned to do a loop out of Ronda up to Olvera but due to forecasted rain and Kay’s iffy stomach, we went only as far as the little town of Sentenil, a lovely little town with many shops and homes built into the side of limestone cliffs.
Views of Sentenil and it’s “Cave houses.
Who would have known?
On our final night at Enfrente Arte, we talked with Alvaro about making reservations for our next night’s stay.We intended to go to Zahara de la Sierra, but there weren’t any rooms available.The same for our back up town – Grazalema.The only rooms available were in Olvera in a hotel called Sierra y Cal.So north to Olvera we went.
FRIDAY, APRIL 27, 2018 – Ronda to Olvera
Got off to a good start this morning after a wonderful Enfrente Arte breakfast.We had six miles of downhill, after climbing out of Ronda.We decided to take a detour so that we could visit the Ruins of Acinipo, a Roman town, also known as Ronda Vieja (old Ronda).We spent about an hour roaming through what remains of the town.It was located on the top of a hill (of course!) with great views of the surrounding lands.Then it was a good climb over to the valley of Torre-Alháquime and Olvera.We arrived in Olvera around 3 pm and found the Sierra y Cal Hotel.We changed, walked to the top of the town and toured the Arab castle – more exercise.We ended up having dinner at Sierra y Cal for lack of other options.It was food but not very good.
Roman ruins near the town of Acinipo, also called Ronda Vieja.
SATURDAY, APRIL 28, 2018 – Olvera to Arcos de la Frontera
We had a marginal breakfast at Sierra y Cal.Breakfasts that are included with the room are not worth it, but some times there is no alternative.At least the coffee was good.
This day did not start off very fortuitously.Kay’s digestive troubles returned. Plus when we left town, it was very foggy and cold.We went down a very STEEP descent to the beginning of the Via Verde only to find a sign saying that the Via was closed.
The Via Verdes are rather interesting.Apparently, during Franco’s time, all of Spain was to be connected by railroads.The trestles, tunnels and rail beds were mostly finished.Franco died before any tracks were placed on these beds.Once he died, the project ended.No trains ever traveled on these routes.Since then, certain sections were opened as bike/hike ways.There is a section that goes from Olvera to Puerto Serrano, about 37 Km with 27 tunnels.This is the section we planned on riding.
Along the Via Verde
After seeing the “Cerrado” (closed) sign, it was a difficult climb back up to Olvera.We knew that the first tunnel was closed (there was a map of the route and it showed the first and last tunnels as closed). We had hoped there would be a detour around this first tunnel and had tried to get more information the previous evening but no one we talked to knew – not even in a bike shop.We did know (thanks to maps and GPS) how to get around the first tunnel.Once we got back to Via Verde beyond the first tunnel, there was another sign marked “Cerrado”.We were ready to give up on the Via when a couple of Spanish mountain bikers arrived.They said no problem going all the way to Puerto Serrano.However, there was a detour (maybe 4 Km) that you needed to take to avoid the next few tunnels.They showed us the way – it would not have been possible without them.The only issue was putting Kay back on gravel and trying to stay with the mountain bikes.Fortunately, they did not plan to go the whole distance but they at least showed us the detour.As we said there were many tunnels. Some were lit (barely) – some were not.Kay wore a headlamp on her helmet, Gordon held a small flashlight and they were not sufficient.Very scary in the total blackness, not knowing what the road surface was like ahead.But we made it without any mishaps. It was not the highlight of our tour as we had hoped.You had to concentrate so much on the road surface that you couldn’t enjoy the scenery.At the end (Puerto Serrano) a trail guide told us that the entire trail was closed, off limits and not to be ridden – Kay said “we just rode it”.It seems to be a question of money to keep the trail open and ridable.
After leaving the Via Verde at Puerto Serrano we ended up on a very quiet road in an agricultural valley.The road was just pleasant, even with the headwind.Once we got to Arcos de la Frontera, Garmin helped us find the Hotel Convento naturally at the top of the town, cobbles and all!.However, even with the Garmin it was tricky finding the winding alley that led to the hotel.We ate a meal at 4 pm at a pleasant outdoor café (just in time before lunch closing) and another (actually a wonderful Italian dinner) at 9 pm.
SUNDAY, APRIL 29, 2018 – Arcos de la Frontera to Utrera
Relaxing breakfast at El Convento – a very nice hotel with an incredible view.We had a little trouble getting out of town.There were choices as to how to leave and the Garmin wasn’t helping matters.It wouldn’t pick up that we were moving. It did finally figure things out.Kay persevered in her directional ability and we were finally underway.We stopped for coffee in Espera a little town off the tourist route – but cute with very friendly people.We stayed awhile in a coffee bar watching people and dogs.After leaving Espera, we took a road that would lead us to a secondary road that on the map looked like an interesting alternative.The Garmin didn’t care for the route, though, but after awhile it stopped telling us to make a U-turn.Soon we found out why it was not happy. The secondary road on the map turned out to be mud and rocks.Our best option at that point was to backtrack into the wind.It cost us about 18 Km – and neither of us was very happy!We got back on route and after a few miles left the hills and entered the plains with mostly a tail wind.The rest of the ride went smoothly.
We planned a stop in Utrera only because it was conveniently located along the route from Arcos de la Frontera to Carmona.Utrera, which is also off any tourist route, turned out to be a very nice town.We checked in to the Hotel Vera Cruz, which we found rather easily, then bathed, changed and took a walk.There were lots of interesting sections of the town to explore.Kay saw her first stork in its nest on the top of a church.Everyone seemed to be out – walking, drinking coffee and always talking.After all, it was Sunday before Utrera’s patron saint day and just before May Day.Kids don’t have to go back to school until Thursday.The only problem was that because it was Sunday before the holidays, a lot (most) of the restaurants were not going to open back up for the evening meal.We finally found an Italian restaurant open.We ate plenty and it was just fine.The Hotel turned out to be one of the nicer places that we stayed and Utrera turned out to be much more than what we had expected.
Storks nesting on a church in Utrera
MONDAY, APRIL 30, 2018 – Utrera to Carmona
We had the typical breakfast at the Hotel Vera Cruz but it was pleasant.Took our time getting ready – a gentle day today to get back to Carmona.We are out of the hills and generally had a tail wind.Cool and clear – it doesn’t get any better than this!
The map showed road 8100 going all the way from Utrera to Carmona, but the last 18 Km or so of 8100 have been closed to traffic and looked abandoned.The detour is A-3200.The Garmin agreed.We climbed up onto the ridge and into Viso del Alcor and had coffee.Then we rode along the ridge to Carmona.We arrived at the Parador, got our suitcases and packed up the bikes – first thing.Now that the bikes are older – Gordon takes less care in prepping them for packing.We finished, changed and went to have a late lunch in the hotel dining room while it was still being served.We had a full three-course meal!We didn’t finish “lunch” until 5 pm – so we didn’t need much “dinner”. Ah, the Spanish and their mealtimes!
We had yet another day so we went back to Sevilla by bus for a quick second trip into the city.Had fun walking around, timed lunch while it was raining outside and shopped for some of our favorite Andalusian delicacies – nut-filled nougat called “turron” and different nut brittles.
One final fabulous breakfast buffet at the Parador the next morning – a wonderful way to end our Andalusian tour – then off to the Sevilla airport.
A Last General Note:
While working on this log I have been listening to “RNE Clásica” radio station on the App “Radio España”.This is a great station with a variety of music types.
A last view of the entrance to the Carmona Parador
With that we say goodbye to our Spain tour and to Carmona
Cassandra Brooklyn is a New York City-based travel planner and tour operator specializing in off-the-beaten-path trips to Cuba and Mexico that emphasize biking, hiking, and cultural exchange. You can find more bike tour and trip information on her EscapingNY website or by following her on Facebook andInstagram.
Bike used on this adventure was a Bike Friday New World Tourist.
And now Cassandra’s story…
If you would have told me a year ago that I would be bike touring by myself across Cuba this year, I would have thought you were crazy. Though I’ve been a daily commuter for 12 years, lead a Food and Cycling group in New York City, and have ridden several century tours (on a single speed!), I had very little bike touring experience. Sure, I had gone weekend bike-packing to campgrounds in New York state and did a 5-day bike tour around Cape Cod, Massachusetts, but those were very short trips, all completed with friends, within 250 miles of my home in Brooklyn, New York. I will be honest with you, when I decided to bike tour Cuba by myself, I was flat out scared and worried I would die of heat exhaustion along some abandoned highway in the middle of sugar cane country.
When I began leading group tours to Cuba in 2015, I quickly began attracting a lot of cyclists so I launched bike-themed tours dubbed “Cuba: Cycling, Cigars, and Classic Cars”. We took cars in between cities and rented bicycles to ride around attractions within cities. There’s no better way to explore Havana’s energetic streets, Vinales’ tobacco fields and farm-studded valleys, or the Bay of Pigs’ quiet back streets than by bicycle!
Interest in cycling Cuba is growing so I wanted to explore the country by two wheels so that I could expand my tours to include proper bike tours in the future. I was also eager to return to some of the far-flung regions and lesser-visited provinces that I had backpacked and hitchhiked through a few years ago. I considered using my Surly long-haul trucker touring bike but instead opted to get a Bike Friday New World Tourist. I wanted to be able to throw my bike on a bus (or truck, or tractor, or horse carriage!) if I needed to save time. I also didn’t want to deal with a bike box since I planned to fly into Eastern Cuba and fly out of Western Cuba and I didn’t think the box could handle the trip. Bike Friday was the perfect solution!
I started my tour in Eastern Cuba, visiting sleepy fishing villages and swimming holes in Holguin. I then headed to ancient Taino burial grounds and quiet beaches in Guantanamo and on to countless historic revolutionary sites and Fidel Castro’s grave in Santiago de Cuba, a lively city that hosts a wild carnival each summer. In central Cuba, I returned to the Bay of Pigs, the site of the infamous failed US invasion and some of the best assortment of government-sponsored propaganda billboards in the country! I rode north to Varadero, the country’s first and most famous beach resort town, perhaps the only place on the entire island where you’ll find a five-star resort that is actually five stars. I opted for a casa particular, a B&B run by a local, then pedaled west to Havana to scout some new rides for my group tours.
One of my favorite parts of the tour was riding along Cuba’s northwest coast, between two of the country’s most popular tourist cities, Havana and Viñales. While hundreds of tourists crammed into tour buses and rusty classic cars that sped along the main highway – the most direct route between the two cities – I opted for the meandering northern coastal route, where I typically had the road to myself as I enjoyed ocean breezes, beach views, and spectacular mountain valleys. Though my group tours to Cuba always include a bike ride through Viñales’ magical tobacco valleys, this was my first time arriving in the city by bicycle, offering views that no 1950s Chevy can compete with! Instead of heading directly back to Havana along the main highway, I took another detour to visit a VERY mountainous region known for its waterfalls, swimming holes, orchid garden, and the country’s first eco-hotel.
Road conditions in Cuba vary dramatically but being a New Yorker, I’m very accustomed to dodging potholes so I didn’t encounter much trouble. Because my Bike Friday folded up so easily, I threw it on a bus or strapped it to the top of a classic car a few times to skip some of the longer stretches of gravel in Guantanamo and Santiago that are known to cause tons of flat tires. May is rainy season in Cuba so I rode through my fair share of rainstorms. Note to self: pack fenders next time! On several occasions, a pick-up truck picked me up during a downpour and drove me to somewhere I could find cover. Again, I was grateful that my Bike Friday fit so easily into their vehicles.
I was fortunate to not run into many mechanical problems during my tour, though I did lose my helmet the first day! I suspect my taxi driver unhooked it from my backpack on the drive from the airport, but I was able to borrow a helmet a couple weeks later and use it the rest of the trip. What we consider “everyday” bike tools and gear can be difficult to impossible to come by in Cuba so I brought absolutely everything I thought I may need (except fenders!), including tubes, spokes, spare washers and bolts, tire levers, lube, a multi-tool, and a wrench. Equally as important as bike tools are a tube of sunscreen, which can be surprisingly difficult to come by in a fiercely sunny country. Check out my How to Pack for Cuba blog post that goes over some essential items to take on your next trip.
Most bike shops in Cuba buy their bikes off foreign bike tourists and don’t receive shipments from manufacturers so it’s very unlikely you’ll come by a bike box in the country. Many bike tourists leave their bike box or suitcase at the casa particular they stay at then return to box it up at the end of their trip. Since I flew into and out of airports that were 450 miles apart, this wasn’t an option. I brought my bike suitcase on the bus with me from Eastern Cuba to Western Cuba, then had a taxi driver I work with bring it to Havana for me while I biked along a different route. I don’t recommend sending your bike box with just anybody but there are many trusted taxi drivers who would be happy to transport your box should you fly in/out of different cities.
Over the summer, I will write more blog posts about my bike tour, touring alone as a female, and about some of my favorite, less-visited parts of Cuba, like Baracoa, a small town in Guantanamo famous for chocolate, coconut “cucurucho”, and the country’s largest national park. You can follow my adventures by signing up for my monthly Adventure Newsletter or following me on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, or Pinterest. If you’re interested in joining my next bike-themed group trip to Cuba or you’d like help planning your own trip adventure, shoot me a message on my EscapingNY website!
Have you ever wished you could just jump off a plane, walk out the doors of the airport and be off on your adventure? No waiting for trains, Uber, Lyft or a smelly taxi?
The Bike Friday New World Tourist was created to solve these problems. It even has the option to addE-Assist that can fly with you and boost your ride if it gets tough.
Bike Friday has the solution.
A bike that folds to easily fit into a car trunk, train shelf or other transport
A bike that can pack into a standard airline suitcase (no over-sized fees)
A bike built for you so it fits and rides great and you can take it with you
Added benafit of 20inch wheels that climb hills better than a traditional wheel size
With E-Assist you will be able to have all this and a good Irish wind at your back at all times
If you have ever traveled by bike, you know just how good it feels to jump on your bike after a long flight. The first 30 seconds on the saddle you are still dreaming about how good it would feel to hit a pillow for 8-10 hours, but then a minute into the ride it’s like the clouds lift and you are in your happy place. It’s life-changing, to say the least.
A good ride shakes the flight out of your legs and gets you in the right mindset for the rest of the trip. As a tourist, there is no better way to see things than by bike. The simple pleasure of sleep will also come as a good friend when you finally do find your place of rest for the night, it may just be the best sleep you’ve had all year.
When you embark on the challenge of finding the perfect bike and seeing the world and a thirst for adventure is part of what makes you tick, check out Bike Friday.
The Problem with “normal” sized bikes, they are hard to travel with. No matter which way you turn the coin around they are:
Bulky = hard to maneuver through travel situations when Not riding
Big package = they cost extra money to put on airplanes
Too Big to fit into most vehicles in most places around the world
Rental bikes don’t fit like your bike does and can get expensive for long tours
Bike folds to fit easily into a car trunk
Bike packs into an airline checkable suitcase. Suitcase can turn into a bike trailer also!
In the words of the great Dr. Seuss “Oh The Places You’ll Go”.
Two people, two bikes, two suitcases ready to travel anywhere!
The New World Tourist would be a great choice and a welcome friend to make your adventure complete. If you have any questions on the wonders of having an E-Bike with E-Assist, please don’t hesitate to ask. We are pretty tickled by how amazing it is and what it can do to help you reach the next ridge, winery or small alpine village.
Because we are not good at tooting our own horn…we are truly thankful for our long-time customers who do. This is one such story which thankfully has a happy ending and is one of the many of our “Why’s” when people ask us what our “Why” is. E-Assist truly is a wonderful thing if done correctly. Enjoy the story.
“Hi Hanna, Alan, and the Bike Friday team.
It’s been awhile since we have been in touch with you, but there is a reason for doing so now—an unfortunate reason on one hand, and a positive one on the other.
Last August, a day after her birthday, Sharon had a very serious cycling accident that did not involve any car.It happened on an E-JOE EPIK SE electric folding bike.She described what happened before she fell on a downhill in a bike lane: “The bike’s steering began to wobble uncontrollably—the handlebars were going back & forth [laterally] rapidly and violently.” Because she could not control the steering, she knew she was going to fall either to the left or the right side. She could not remember whether she tried to brake. The odometer showed 925 cumulative miles and the max speed that day was 29 mph. She suffered a number of injuries but has been recovering well since; she isn’t sure whether she will cycle again.
In our effort to determine the cause of this accident we, and two excellent bike shops here in Boulder, could not find the “smoking gun.” Chuck Ankeny, who had previously worked on this bike to improve both the rough steering and the sloppy brakes to make it absolutely safe, said this accident could probably not be duplicated in a lab. An e-bike web site had several negative comments about this bike, but we had not checked it out before buying it. We concluded that the accident could have been caused by a combination of a poorly designed and manufactured frame and incorrect weight distribution (the bike had a 5-lb portable oxygen concentrator in a wire basket mounted on the rear rack, and rear panniers with a few items).
Then I made a comparison between the E-JOE and my 2007 Crusoe BF: both are folding bikes with 20-inch wheels, with a similar, but not identical geometry. The steering on the two bikes is total different, which most likely contributes to the difference in weight distribution on the bikes (excuse my lack of expertise here).
Here is the positive reason that I am writing to you.My emphasis here is the proven quality of the Bike Friday products.I have ridden a BIKE-FRIDAY CRUSOE, my 3rd Bike Friday (BF), since 2007. I rode my 1st BF (1995 New World Tourist) and 2nd BF (2001 Pocket Rocket Pro) on a number of Ride the Rockies tours and elsewhere, totaling thousands of miles (on one RTR tour a fellow rider had asked me how stable these bikes were on the downhill; I told him to follow me down, and never saw him again).During these years, I experienced not one accident attributable to the design or the manufacture of the bike itself. Moreover, Sharon rode her 1995 New World Tourist in Hawaii, New Zealand, and Colorado without a single incident or accident, until health problems required her to discontinue cycling (until she discovered e-bikes). In other words, a big thanks to all of you at Bike Friday! Keep up the good work.
I read with interest your postings and work on e-bikes.In 2011 when she discovered e-bikes, Sharon bought a RANS crank-forward bike with an 8-pound BionX battery. The bike worked for her, she took to it well, but the battery deteriorated after a few years, AND the bike was unwieldy and very difficult to transport.Still, it restored her freedom to cycle again after 12 years off the bike. Then, the unfortunate purchase of the E-JOE.
Sharon and Manfred S.”
We hope to see Sharon on an E-Assist bike soon so she can keep on doing what they both love to do. Happy Trails!
EDITOR’S NOTE: It has been nearly five years since Dolores McKeough sent us this email, reminding us that it’s never too late to chase your dreams!
Hi, I got home 24 hours ago.
What a fantastic, beautiful summer. The adventure, fun, stress, friends made, country seen, and on and on.
The trip started innocently enough with friend Cathy in Tampa on April 3. It ended yesterday after I biked from Malibu where I was camping with three companions, whom I met in Big Sur, to Santa Monica where I folded my Bike Friday into it’s suitcase (after I took the wheels off since it had been serving as my trailer).
So many good things happened on this extravaganza trip including the folding experience in Santa Monica. I didn’t want to disassemble the bike on the beach, although it was a beautiful day, there was too much sand.
So, I went to the REI store where Robbie, the bike repair manager, suggested I use part of his work space. What a generous offer. I took him up on it and had the trailer wheels and attachment off in no time. I then folded the bike (taking the accessories off is the most time consuming part of the process) and put it in the suitcase (the former trailer).
The suitcase with the bike weighed in at 52 pounds at the airport (even though it was two pounds over the allowance Suncountry let it go). My duffle bag with camping stuff, clothes etc weighed in at 28 pounds. And, I had two carry-ons.
So I figure the bike plus all my stuff was about 85 pounds. That’s a lot of weight to ride across the country and partly up and down two coasts. But, I did it and feel great.
I just added it up! I think I rode about 1,000+ miles from Mt. Dora, Florida, to Williamsburg, Virginia; then 4,500 TransAm miles from Richmond, Virginia, to Florence, Oregon; then 1,100 miles from Florence to Santa Monica California.
That’s 6,600 miles on my Bike Friday with 85 pounds, from April 3 til August 29. That impresses even me.
As you know it is not simply the miles that count but the terrain, the road surface, the elevation, the weather …
It was wonderful. The picture was taken North of San Francisco. Note the long sleeves; the weather did not warm up til Santa Barbara.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Before opening Bike Friday in 1992, Co-Founder Alan Scholz owned and operated a few bike shops, and spent time as a national level racer. Here are his expert tips on how to spend your money wisely when buying a bike.]
By Alan Scholz
Here are the basics I learned long ago about buying a bike on a budget, in order of importance.
1. Make sure you get a good frame in the right size. Get help making sure the frame fits your body by someone who is knowledgeable about fitting. Look for the best frame you can afford for the right type of riding you plan to do. Nothing else matters as much if you are on a budget. Everything else can be upgraded later if you are short on funds. Good designers, cyclists, and shop employees know this. It’s a good test of their basic knowledge.
2. Ride the saddle if it came with the bike just long enough to see if you can put up with it. If the bike does not come with saddle and pedals, thank the designer. That means they invested that money into the frame and wheels for you! Get a saddle that works for you — it is worth the individual focus. Price and weight are not good criteria to use to choose a saddle. You need to test ride a number of saddles and buy one that is acceptable.
After you have been riding a while, you will be ready to trade up to a better saddle. When your butt is new to cycling, an acceptable saddle is as good as it gets. When you can ride 15-25 miles a day regularly get a nice saddle if you feel you need a different shape. Don’t believe anyone who says “this is a men’s saddle, or this is a women’s saddle.” Get one that fits and feels good. Ignore the rest.
3. If you can afford it, get a good set of wheels. After getting a frame that fits, wheels that are relatively light will give you by far the most bang for your buck.
4. If you are pushing your budget, buy cheap heavy tires. You will be replacing tires eventually, and then you can get some good tires. Wearing out tires will happen sooner than you think. That’s when you can buy better tires. You will be best served to really enjoy your bike, although frame and wheels will do the most toward that goal.
5. Next change your steel stuff out for entry level alloy if you must limit funds. Steel chainrings, brakes, seatposts, and derailleurs are a dead give away that they are sub-standard for someone who wants to be a real rider and can afford more than the minimum frame and wheels. They may work fine but they were put there to save money and they are heavy. Your motor cannot be changed. Weight matters. Used parts are often a good choice, but you need to really know parts design. Brand is not always a clear indicator. Ask a knowledgeable friend or expert consultant.
6. If your ship has come in, you can be picky but not arrogant about parts and prices. People who ”buy” into the sport usually do not become good nor happy cyclists. The most pricey and light gear will not perform for you out of the box if you have not already gained top level skills to utilize and appreciate them. From the experience in my shop days starting hundreds of folks to cycling, it takes as a minimum, three progressively better bikes as an adult to get to the top level, best for you. It doesn’t matter how much money you have.
7. Full Custom is usually not available or understandable to you until the third level of bike and thousands of miles. Small custom builders must charge 2-5 times as much as off the shelf mass produced bikes. If you do not know that they still mostly make less than minimum wages doing so, you will not appreciate their output anyway. Your best choice then is to buy an off the shelf imported bike and think you got a good deal. All small manufacturing concerns, one person to 60 people are squeezed by this math. Imports are cheaper because the factories are larger and they have the economies of scale. But they often also practice a lack of respect for good design that a small custom builder will have. Inexpensive or dear, a bike can serve you well if you take the time to choose. Take a ride with the local bike club and you will find there are far more important skills than a full wallet to keep up.
Jim Langley has ridden his bike every day for the past 22 years. That’s an amazing streak. His numbers are staggering:
Nearly 8,000 days
More than 120,000 miles
Since December 30th, 1993, the former technical editor of Bicycling magazine has ridden every day. It’s a mind-boggling streak that begs the question: How did he do it? Perseverance and determination are certainly key factors, but Langley also has another element to credit: His Bike Friday Pocket Rocket.
Jim Langley and his new Pocket Rocket in 2006. photo courtesy Jim Langley
“I could never have kept the streak alive without my Bike Fridays,” Langley said. “Some of my all-time favorite rides were made possible only because I had my Pocket Rocket along with me, like riding up and down the Haleakala volcano in Maui. If you’ve never done that you need to.”
Do you have a streak? If so, Like us on Facebook and share your streak and story with the world.
It all starts with having a bike that fits your body and is equipped to do what you need it to do. Bike Fridays can fold and travel with you. Our cargo bike the Haul-a-Day can do the work of your SUV while you get exercise.