This is a follow-up to my first post on buying a bike, the first 50,000km. It took over eight years to get to the first 50,000km but only 3.5 years to hit 100,000km. The type of cycling I now do has also changed, back when I published the first blog it was all about road cycling and I rarely went beyond local routes. Now it is about a mix of cycling and discovering places I have never been before.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]
A return to mountain biking
A few years back I bought a second-hand mountain bike on a whim. It was a full suspension model and I tried some cross-country racing. While I had some power, I was severely lacking in skills and after a bad experience on a tricky trail, I lost interest and sold it. Roll on to 2019 and I started getting a bit fed up with constant road cycling and I went and got some advice. The end result was me buying a hard-tail mountain bike with geometry more suited to trails. This allowed me to experience places like Slieve Blooms mountain bike trails, an amazing facility with trials to suit all abilities. You still need to be careful but excellent for developing skills and getting that off-road buzz. The mountain bike also allowed me to participate in off-road events such as the Mayo XTRM 200.
Covid and making opportunities
As I write this in September 2022, it looks like we have the worst of the Covid epidemic behind us. During the initial lockdown, it looked like cycling was a big looser with everyone limited to 5km. It did mean lots of family spins within 5km but as the weeks went on, it felt like a challenge was needed. A group of cyclists from around Mayo got together on Zwift and started organizing virtual Sunday spins. We linked up via apps like Discord so that we could chat and the 3-5 hour sessions felt like we were getting a good weekly workout. During one of these virtual spins, an idea was floated, thanks Bryan! Why don’t we try and do a group virtual everesting? Everesting is where you climb at least 8848 meters which is the height of Mount Everest during a single session.
Once the seed was sown, there was no turning back. 13 cyclists signed up for the event and we elected to raise funds for Croi. For training, we upped our weekly virtual cycle from about 3 hours to 6+ hours. It was hard but we were making the most of a challenging time. It was great to meet up with fellow cyclists and have some fun away from the awful Covid news. We ended up doing the challenge on one of the hottest days of the year in 2020. Starting at 5AM, our plan was to complete the challenge in about 12-15 hours. Within Zwift there is a virtual climb called Alpe du Zwift and we had to climb this 8.5 times. The first assent took me 70 mins but as the day went on this crept out to 90 mins. It was by far the hardest thing I had done on a bike up to that point due to the heat and the never-ending climbing. In the end, all 13 cyclists completed it and we raised €20,000 for charity in the process. All of us got our names into the vEveresting hall of fame.
Another positive from the challenge was that I had good fitness and I logged my best 16km TT time trial a few weeks later at just over 22 minutes.
Gravel Bike, exploring more of the world
As I mentioned previously, getting off the main roads and onto more country lanes and gravel tracks became more of an interest to me. My mountain bike allowed me to explore more but it was a bit too heavy for the long-distance stuff. I did some research on a combined touring and gravel bike and I bought a Planet X Tempest. Buying a road bike back in 2009 was one of the best decisions I ever made and now buying the gravel bike is up there too as a fantastic use of hard-earned money.
During the Covid lockdown, I hatched a plan to cycle the perimeter of Mayo once we were allowed to travel freely within our county. I worked out a route that was to cover 650km in 3 days and take in the entire perimeter including places like Achill Island and Blacksod in north Mayo. I had purchased a collection of cheap camping gear and loaded up two panniers and headed off. It was an amazing experience and I got lucky with the weather. The pic to the right is one of my favorites from cycling over the years. Breakfast in Blacksod having spent my very first night away on a bike tour.
I was nervous at first when it came to finding a place to camp. Would it be private property, would there be livestock around, could the tide come in on top of me. I eventually settled on a place just behind some sand dunes and it worked out great. I have found that I have got better with spotting good wild camping sites the more I tour, you just get an eye for them. The gravel bike also meant I could take on events like the Lakelander Gravel Grinder, Galway Gravel Grinder, and Gravel Grind West. These are tough but very unique events that are possible to do on either mountain or gravel bikes.
At the start of 2021, I felt like I needed a goal, something new and I settled on completing an ultra-cycling event. A new local event was launching and I decided to go for the longest 650km option. I had cycled 598km previously as part of a Mizen to Malin challenge so I knew I could cycle through the night and complete a long-distance event. However, the Mayo 650 also brought a huge amount of climbing and so I was facing some unknowns.
In the end, I completed the challenge and you can read more about it here. An absolute epic on one of the hottest days of 2021 and I came third completing the course in 29.5 hours. Since then I have gone on to complete more ultra events such as the Galway 525km and I returned to do the Mayo Ultra 300 in 2022.
At the end of my last blog, I said that I wanted to get into Audax-type events more. This finally came into play in 2022. During the year, I completed:
- Ring of Clare Audax 400km
- Jimmys 3 County 400km
- Mayo 200km Audax
- East Clare Meander 200km
Audax is a form of long-distance cycling – riders strive to complete lengthy and often arduous routes within specified time limits. You have to navigate and support yourself while meeting up with fellow Audax participants along the route. I have really enjoyed this new cycling scene and I’m looking forward to lots more events in the future. My plan is to participate in the 2023 edition of Paris-Brest-Paris which is the most famous Audax event in the world. It does take a lot of effort to qualify. Assuming I can register in the next year, I then have to complete a 600km, 400km, 300km, and 200km event prior to the start date.
Getting to the 100,000km
Cycling can be all about numbers. It’s important not to stress too much over them but starting into 2022 I noticed that I had 95,000km logged on Strava. That got me thinking, how could I celebrate rolling past the 100,000km mark? The plan became a 1000km tour following the coastline from Enniscrone to Malin Head and back through some of the midlands. Trevor Costello joined me and we completed the route over 6 days. It was tough with nonstop climbing but each climb led to more amazing views. Overall an absolute epic and we were blessed with the good weather. Route map here if any of you ever feel tempted.
As I mentioned, I want to target Paris-Brest-Paris next year. It’s a significant birthday and so it is good to have something to challenge me and look forward to. I may also make a return to road racing, it took a back seat to the ultra and audax events in recent years. The main thing is to continue my adventures on two wheels. One thing that Covid and some of the world’s current challenges have taught me is that change happens. Try new things, try new challenges… There is just so much out there to see and discover and we are blessed with the freedom and health to be able to do it.