"One day it started raining, and it didn’t quit for months. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin’ rain…. and big ol’ fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath. Shoot it even rained at night…." – Forest Gump
The Irish summer, as brief as it is, is even shorter in the west coast. The sun no sooner shines and it rains again. This leads me to think that there is no truer a quote to sum up the west of Ireland than that of Forest Gump. Years of constant battering from the elements has turned it into the world famous landscape that it is today. The sheer cliff faces that seem to stand like the walls of Helm’s Deep, acting as our greatest line of defence against the attacking sea. The sheets of exposed limestone of The Burren that seem to follow the contours of the hills for miles and miles. The thousands of coves and beaches. It’s all there, formed by harsh unforgiving weather.
Unsurprisingly then, I went in search of gear that I felt could withstand a bit of Ireland's finest.
Bike: Trek alpha 1.1
As my budget for the race wasn’t exactly flush, I spent money where I felt necessary. The bike for me wasn’t a huge issue and I didn’t feel the need for a new one. I used my five year old Trek Alpha 1 - tried and tested on many an Irish road. Granted, with its 8-speed groupset, I didn’t have the greatest selection of gears for the steep climbs I’d be tackling but it did me the finest. I did end up wearing out three sets of cleats walking up hills due to not having enough low gears, but the walk was a nice change every now and then. In saying that, if I were to do it again I would definitely use something with a greater selection of climbing gears. You don’t need overly high gears in this race because the wind will put a stop to any speeding you plan on doing.
Bags: Mackworkshop frame and bar bag
Now this was an area that took great consideration. With a lot of bikepacking gear designed and manufactured in sunnier, drier climates, they are often unable to stand up to the shite weather we have here in Ireland. I wanted to find a manufacturer that understood my needs for the race. I turned to Mackworkshop. It's a small British company that specialise in bespoke bike bags. Their knowledge of the types of weather I would be tackling meant I ended up with some pretty robust and slick bags. My bags and bike were two things that gave me zero issues during the race.
Saddle: Brooks Cambium C15 Carved
Cracking little saddle and would definitely recommend it.
Tri Bars: Profile Design T3 + Aerobars
These were incredibly comfortable. So much so that I fell asleep on them while cycling twice.
Pedals and Shoes: Road style
Dumb fucking idea. Just look at the pictures below. Get mountain bike style shoes and pedals. I went through three sets of cleats during the race from walking around in them. I’m also pretty sure they were a major factor in my achilles problems.
Tyres: Continental Grand Prix 4000S ll
I used a 25mm tyre and it was more than capable for all surfaces the race threw at me, including the gravel section in Donegal. I didn't get a single puncture.
Lights: Son Edelux ll
This was my first dynamo front light and I’m never going back to battery because of it. It performed brilliantly even at a slow pace up hills.
Dynamo: Son Delux
Another fantastic product from SON. Zero drag felt and I was happy with the power output. The only issue I had with it was that I could only charge my Garmin at speeds over 18kmp. This led to a lot of frustration around Donegal where it was difficult to keep that speed for long periods of time.
USB Charger: Sinewave Revolution
Brilliant charger and worked perfectly.
GPS: Garmin Edge 1000
It was my own cock ups rather than the Garmin's that made me go wrong so much in the race. I never downloaded detailed maps onto it. The extremely limited detail of the base map on the computer left me following the squiggly blue line of the route on a featureless white background. The battery lasted longer than I read online and it never failed on me once.
Bivvy Bag: Alpkit Hunka
It’ll keep you grand and dry in a cattle shed. I didn’t use it out in the open rain so can’t comment on how it performs there.
Sleeping Bag: Snugpak Travelpak 1
This is a nice little sleeping bag. It packed down nicely and fitted perfectly into my bar bag with loads of room left. Sure, it’s not the smallest or lightest but I will be using it again as it was grand and warm.
Clothing: I’ll list them for ya:
Gore bike wear Oxygen 2.0 Gore-Tex Active Shell Jacket X1 - The best cycling rain coat I've ever used. Even in the worst howling wind and rain it kept me warm and dry.
Cycling shorts X2 - Changed into the second pair when I hit Kerry.
Cycling jersey X1- Sure why would you need more than one.
Thermal base layer X1 - Worked amazingly well and it disgustingly never left my body for the whole race
Socks X2 - I ended up losing one pair on the second day so really I only had one pair for the whole thing
Spare tube X1
Plug for charging stuff in B&Bs
Sudocreme to help with the inevitable saddle sores
Spare cleats X1
Thanks to The Bike Shop for my newly built front wheel with SON dynamo. I'm all set to bait on into the night on the TransAtlanticWay race now :)
ar an rothar
endurance cyclist, adventurer and usually hungry