Dreaming in Green: Cheeky’s Route

3 months, 1 hurricane, 2 plane rides and a train ride later, I arrived at the Southwest Coast of Ireland ready for an epic adventure!

Cheeky Backs it up: I had planned my trip back in June, but when my departure date came I was watching Hurricane Harvey unfold around Houston. I was very lucky and came away with very little damage to my house. But there was some impact to my trip which would be cut 2 days short of the original plan. I had planned for 9 days of riding, but it was now cut to 7. Honestly, with the tragedies others suffered I can’t complain.

The tour company that planned the routes worked with me to help modify my new shorter schedule and we decided the best approach for my self-guided tour would be to combine two days of our routes into one longer day, and cut another day entirely. No problem! I was up for a little extra challenge. After all, I was feeling MEGA confident after my training for the AIDS Lifecycle just 3 months earlier, and I was excited to see as much of this incredible country as my legs would allow.

Okay! Now time for epic adventure!

I picked up my rented Fuji road bike in Killarney, changed out the saddle and pedals I had brought from my own bike at home, made a few more quick adjustments for size and fit and pedaled out the door. The sun was shining (awesome!) and the following day I would set off for an epic adventure riding the Irish coast, and a nice portion of the Ring of Kerry, through some gorgeous forests and up many mountains.

Quick view of the Itinerary, route, mileage, and expected climbing.

Day Route ~ Miles ridden / Elevation Climbed
Day 1 Killarney to Gougane Barra + an additional ride around Lough Allua 49 miles / + 3070 feet
Day 2 Combined two days into one —> 56 miles / + 3172 feet
Part 1: Gougane Barra to Glengarriff 20 miles / + 1010 feet
Part 2: Glengarriff to Kenmare 36 miles / + 2162 feet
Day 3 Kenmare to Waterville 38 miles / + 2454 feet
Day 4 Waterville to Killorglin 36 miles / + 2047 feet
Day 5 Killorglin to Dingle 35 miles / + 1624 feet
Day 6 Dingle Loop 0 miles, a rest day for my legs that felt like raw hamburger.
Day 7 Dingle to Tralee

Tralee to Dingle: happily took the train

30 miles / +1250 feet

Bikes on a train!

When it was all said and done, the route map looked like this:

Killarney-Tralee-GarminMap-2017

Wait, did you see that average speed?! I was clocking it in at a blazing 6.4 miles per hour average! When it was all said and done, the route map looked like this:

Honestly, I’m not a fast rider (after all, one of Cheeky’s core values is: If you can’t be fast, you still can look fast. So precautions were made and I wore my fastest looking socks throughout the trip). But 6.4 mph is significantly slower than my normal pace.

In fact 6.4 mph is darn-near fall off your bike slow!

There were a few occasions where I forgot to turn my Garmin computer off while stopped, so my little computer  logged a chunk of 0.0 mph speed while I was eating lunch, but it really doesn’t matter that much. I intended to take a slow pace on this trip. Why rush through this gorgeous landscape or pass up opportunities to meet some amazing Irish people along the way?!

Well all of that is true, but what I haven’t told you is this: because of my quick planning and because I’m a little bit of an idiot, there was A LOT more climbing than I expected.

Which brings us to our story for next time about a little phenomenon I like to call “Irish Flat.”

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Dreaming in Green: The beginning of a cycling adventure in Ireland!

One of the best things about riding a bicycle is that by your own power, you can get yourself to an entirely new place, it just takes the time to do it, and a will to keep moving your legs.

This past June, I rode my bicycle for 7 days in beautiful California, cycling 548 miles ( from San Francisco to Los Angeles. This experience that showed me how much I am capable of, even if slow. Like a good Sous Vide, I ride low and slow, but I keep moving! This challenge opened my eyes to the realization that if my legs could take me through the hills and valleys of California, my legs could take me anywhere!

I have always been enamored with the lush greenery of Ireland, or at least what I knew of Ireland from pictures or movies. And since I always enjoyed riding my bike, a friend in college once gave me a bicycle guide-book for Ireland. “Someday!” she encouraged.

But I never thought that riding a bicycle through Ireland was something I could do; it was something for those extreme adventurers, not a weekend rider like me. I was resigned that if I ever visited this beautiful country it would be seen through a car’s windshield. But after my experience riding the AIDS LifeCycle a seed was planted. I thought, I just road 548 miles through hilly California! Maybe I could ride my bike around the Southwest coast of Ireland too.

I immediately started researching companies that could help me do what I have for years thought to be an impossible dream. Now to be entirely clear, because this was a late-planned trip my research hit the level of “just enough to get it done.”

I was drawn to a company called IronDonkey bicycle touring company because their services included  setting up custom routes for a self-guided tour in the Southwest of Ireland. After some back and forth setting exchanging ideas and requirements I was sold on the possibility of gorgeous cycling vacation. They would provide the routes, some digital route maps for my Garmin 820 Edge Cycling Computer & GPS (this was the greatest tool for the trip, turn by turn instructions!), and IronDonkey set up cycle-friendly B&B’s along the way.

And just like that, the vacation was planned and the countdown began.

Shout out to all the procrastinators reading this – the silver lining of last-minute travel is that you don’t have to wait very long for your adventure!

Part 4. Bike buying tips – Where should I buy my bike?

On your bike buying journey, you may get tired and frustrated and be tempted to just say, “I’ll take this one” simply because that means the process is over. But trust me when I say, take your time and find the right bike, it will make all the difference!

You have multiple options of where to buy a bike, and only you can know what makes sense for your situation. But I’d like to share with you a few thoughts and suggestions before you spend your hard-earned dollars.

Options for buying a brand-spanking new bike: local bike shop vs. big-box-store / huge online retailer. Full disclosure, I am completely biased toward shopping at your local bike shop.

  1. Buying a bike from a local bike shop: Bike shops are full of people who are passionate about bikes and want you have a great experience!. You’ll get one on one attention and the opportunity to ask an expert all your questions and get detailed guidance.
    • Buying from a local shop also helps you develop a relationship with the folks at the shop. Your local bike shop is a wonderful resource for support, information, they often host local rides, can they tell you about local trails to check out, and all other things bike related!
    • This relationship will come in handy as you may utilize the shop’s maintenance services, or perhaps you’ll order parts through them if you are a do-it-yourself kinda person.
    • Personally, I love going to my bike shop! My shop is an important part of my biking community; they know me, my bike, and respond to my specific needs! It doesn’t get much better than that.
  2. Buying a bike in a big box store / huge online retailer: I mean, it is an option…
    • It’s convenient (until you have to ask someone a question).
    • It may be a little less expensive but this is mostly due to the brands that are carried. These brands are commonly less expensive because they are made with cheaper materials, or with craftsmanship that isn’t as concerned with quality. There is a market for this, but if you identified with any of these bike riding goals, these big-box-store bikes probably aren’t the right bikes for you.

Buying a New-to-Me bike (a used bike):

If you’re buying a used bike, start with a little research to make sure you’re getting the best value for your money.

You already know what type of bike you want, and you know what type of material/metal and the component group that sounds best for your budget, and the approximate size of bike you need. Your next step is to do some pricing research. Use a site like bicyclebluebook.com to look up a bike’s proposed value, then see which used bike offers look reasonable.

  1. Buying a used bike on consignment from your local bike shop: Not all bike shops may offer this great option, but it’s worth asking about if you’re looking to buy a used bike. As a broad example, a bike shop could sell a used bike on consignment from another personal seller, taking a percentage of the sales as a commission. In return, the bike shop will:
    • help validate the quality of the bike (look for major mechanical issues, and also look for major red flags like a defaced serial number which could indicate that the bike was stolen).
    • Service the bike so it’s ready to roll as soon as it is purchased.
    • Possibly offer a reasonable return policy if you end up needing to return the bike.
    • This may be more expensive than buying directly from a seller, but the upside may be worth it!
  1. Buying a used bike on Craigslist (or any other online exchange/sales platform): Full disclosure: I am a risk averse person and therefore am not a big fan of this option and would rather work through a local bike shop. But Craigslist can be a cost-effective option too, so here are some things to keep in mind while shopping Craigslist for your next bike.
    • Know that if you price range is less than a couple hundred dollars, you’re probably going to be buying a used box-store bike. These aren’t high quality to begin with, and it’s possible that this was a bike that sat outside in the elements for the past few years.
    • Was the bike stolen? Ask for the sellers name/information and ask about the serial number on the bike. If there is hesitancy or a scratched out serial number the odds are high that this is a stolen bike and you should move on.
    • Was the bike in a big crash before? In the last post we talked about one of the pitfalls of carbon fiber bikes. If this is a carbon bike, has it been in a crash resulting in fissures/cracks? I don’t want you to get a bike that literally falls apart while you’re riding it.
    • What kind of condition is the bike in? Visible rust? Tires are flat or have cracks in the rubber? These are things that will need to be replaced so keep in mind the cost of fixing the bike in addition to the selling price.

All in all, you have options and feel free to research bikes for yourself. A great way to learn about bikes is to read about them and then go try them out on a test ride! Only you get to decide what is right for you!

Next up in our Getting Started Series: What is a bike fit, and why do I need one?

Part 3. Bike buying tips – What is the right bike size for me?

You don’t want to rush into a long-term relationship with the bike that isn’t right for you, so finding the right size bike is key!

Bike size and bike fit aren’t the same thing, but you can only get the right bike fit (perfect tailoring to your body) if you start with the right size bike. A lovely analogy was once shared with me on this topic: It’s like a tailor working with your clothes, you may have something that generally fits, but a tailor (like a bike fit professional) can make it feel just right for your body. Proper bike fit is critically important if you are doing long distance riding, but may be less important for short rides. Either way, you’ll be more comfortable on a bike that is the right size!

Let’s get things started by dispelling myths and answering an age-old question among the female variety of cyclist. Can a woman ride a man’s bike? YES! Women shouldn’t feel limited to women’s style bikes only. A woman can ride a men’s style bicycle, which in fact, is a unisex bicycle. There are a handful of differences between a unisex bike and a women’s bike with the most significant being the length and angle of the top tube (not to be confused with a tube top).

A woman’s specific style bike also has:

  • more narrow handlebars to accommodate a woman’s typically smaller shoulder span
  • a women’s specific bike saddle to keep your lady bits more comfortable.

If you bought a unisex style bike, you can switch out many of these components to help tailor the fit of your bike to your body. Unfortunately, you cannot change the top tube length and angle as these are part of the frame design.

Cheeky Fun Fact: I found a unisex bike was a better fit for my body, but did switch out the saddle for a women’s specific. Don’t feel limited by “gendered” bikes, you should ride what’s comfortable to you!

How is a bike sized? What should I even look for? Bike sizes can be measured in inches, centimeters or as a Small, Medium, Large. And each brand of bicycle has its own specific sizing; a small bike in one brand may be the same as a medium bike in a different brand. So it is important to try out many brands of bicycles to find the best size bike for you.

To get you in the right ballpark, the foundation of bike sizing comes from three measurements:

  1. Inseam: start at the bottom of your shoes (or specific bike shoes if you have them) and measure to your the top of your inside leg.
  2. Total height: start at the bottom of your shoes (or specific bike shoes if you have them) and measure to your the top of your head.
  3. Arm Span: measure the distance of your arms when they are spread out. Measure from the fingertips of your left arm, across your body, and to the fingertips on your right arm.

Inseam_Height

With this foundational information you can use utilize generic bike sizing charts included below, or you can also use the stand over the frame measurement method + the arm span measurement to address your reach (holding your handlebars while sitting in the saddle).

The idea behind the stand over the frame measurement method is to have a few inches of clearance between the top of your inseam and the bike’s top tube. These few extra inches would allow you to get off the bike in a hurry by comfortably standing over the bike. However, this method only works with a bike that has a straight top tube; if you have an angled top tube, you will want to start with the generic sizing charts and work with your local bike shop experts to get narrowed down to the right size.

  1. Road bikes – When you stand over the frame, you should have approximately 1 to 2 inches of clearance between the top tube and the top of your inseam
  2. Mountain bikes and Commuter bikes – When you stand over the frame, you should have approximately 2 to 4 inches of clearance between the top tube and the top of your inseam.

If your inseam measurements put you between two different bike sizes, use your arm span measurement to help determine which bike size will ensure you have a comfortable reach:

  • If the length of your arm span is greater than your total height, you may want the larger of the two bike sizes.
  • If the length of your arm span is less than your total height, you may want the smaller of the two bike sizes.

Here are some generic Bike Sizing Charts that will help get you started:

Hybrid – Comfort & Commuter
Height Inseam Frame Size
4’10” + 26” – 28” 13”, 14”
5’0” + 27” – 29” 15”
5’2” + 28” – 30” 16”
5’4” + 29” – 31” 17”
5’6” + 30” – 32” 18”
5’8” + 31” – 33” 19”
5’10” + 32” -24” 21”
6’0” + 32” – 34” 22”

 

Road Bike
Height Inseam Frame Size
5’1” – 5’3” 27”-29” 48 cm
5’3” – 5’5” 28” – 30” 50 cm
5’5” – 5’7” 29” – 31” 52 cm
5’7” – 5’9” 30” – 32” 54 cm
5’9” – 5’11” 31” – 33” 56 cm
5’11” – 6’2” 32” – 34” 58 cm
6’1” – 6’3” 33” – 35” 60 cm
6’3” – 6’5” 34” – 36” 62 cm

 

Mountain Bike (Hardtail)
Height Inseam Frame Size
4’10” – 5’0” 26” – 28” 13”
5’0” – 5’3” 27” – 29” 14”, 15”
5’4” – 5’7” 28” – 30” 16”, 17”
5’8” – 5’9” 29” – 31” 18”, 19”
5’10” – 5’11” 30” – 32” 20”
6’0” – 6’2” 32” – 34” 21”
6’2” – 6’4” 33” – 35” 22”
Mountain Bike (Full Suspension)
Height Inseam Frame Size
5’4” – 5’7” 28” – 30” 14”, 15”
5’8” – 5’9” 29” – 31” 16”, 17”, 18”
5’10” – 5’11” 30” – 32” 19”, 20”, 21”

Getting the right size bike is going to make a huge difference in your riding. will take less effort while pedaling (especially up hills), feel more comfortable, and overall be a more enjoyable experience. It is normal that a bike off the shelf, even from a bike shop won’t be a perfect fit even if it is the right size. A bike shop can help you adjust the saddle height and positioning, and a more thorough professional bike fit will help you tailor your bike so it fits just right (we’ll talk more about this in a future post).

Once you have your target bike size you’ll want to start dating bikes! Try as many as you can!

  1. Visit your local bike shops and arrange to test ride multiple brands of bikes. Most bike shops carry a limited selection of brands, so you may need to visit different bike shops to test ride  bikes until you find a brand you like.
  2. You’ll find that some bikes just feel more comfortable than others and that is a start in the right direction. If it hurts or doesn’t feel right, it may not be a good size for you. What is right for someone else may not be right for you. Don’t feel pressured to make a quick decision. You’re the one who has to be comfortable on it!

So far you have sorted out:

The last step we’ll cover next in our Bike Buying Tips is to figure out: Where should I buy my bike?

Until next time,  Ride on!

Cheeky’s First Liebster Award!

Liebster 2017

Wow! Wow! Wow!

A huge thank you to fellow blogger Vesna for nominating me for my first Liebster award! I am so excited to receive this award and it is such a honor to be nominated by Vesna because I have just love soaking up her blog, Whisper, and learning about her life in Macedonia, and all of her travel adventures. She has inspired me to put Macedonia (and other surrounding areas) on my future travel list too! Be sure to check it out! Thank you, Vesna!

The Rules of Accepting The Liebster Award:

The Liebster Award is an award that dates back as early as 2011 and exists only on the internet and is given to bloggers by bloggers, whose work they find interesting, to motivate them, and to promote them. Liebster is a word with German origins and has several meanings: dearest, sweetest, kindest, nicest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome.

The instructions of accepting the award and passing it on:

  • Create a new blog post on your blog thanking the person that nominated you, link to their blog and put in a graphic of the award.
  • Answer the questions that were provided, and then share some facts about yourself.
  • Create a new set of your own questions for others to answer.
  • Nominate 5-11 others and share your blog post with them so they can accept their awards

Vesna’s Questions:

  1. Why did you start blogging? This year (2017) I completed a 7 day, 548 bike ride from San Francisco to LA, and it inspired a 7 day, 244 mile ride around the southwestern coast of Ireland. These trips made me realize that bike travel wasn’t reserved for elite athletes, but could be done by anyone! I want to share that message and hope to inspire others to get on a bike too!
  2. How has blogging affected your life? I have dedicated a lot of time to this blog by reflecting on my personal experiences as a cyclist and researching the information a new cyclist would want to know in order to get started. This has helped me get more creative, detail oriented, and thoughtful about finding pieces of inspiration that could help influence someone to start on their own adventure! I hope others will come back and share their adventures and stories on TheCheekyCyclist blog too!
  3. What is your favorite book or series and why? I’ve read some really lovely books lately and I would say my favorites currently stand as follows:
    • Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies, Ben MacIntyre. I loved this because truth is stranger than fiction, and who doesn’t love a good spy novel?!
    • The Marriage of Opposites, Alice Hoffman. I loved this book for its unexpected story. A historical fiction that follows three generations of characters and beautiful landscape, but describes hardship, sacrifice and love. It unexpectedly got under my skin in the best of ways.
  4. What kind of blogs do you like the most?I love a travel blog and blogs that tell stories of life outside of the places I know. I love to hop on my bike, go exploring and I love the dreams and ideas these blogs inspire!
  5. What is your philosophy in life? A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush. Don’t spend your life waiting for the ideal situation, go make the most of what you have today.
  6. What are you most grateful about? Friends and family. I wouldn’t be who I am without them and wouldn’t be where I am today without their support.
  7. If you have a time machine when and where would you go and why? I would go back to the first time I started pushing through some serious knee/calf pain while on a bike ride. I would slap myself upside the head and say “Stop! You don’t need to be a hero! If you are hurting while riding something is wrong and you need to get it fixed. Go get a proper bike fit and you’ll save yourself a lot of pain, money, and time off the bike.” I missed years of amazing rides because I didn’t know the importance of a proper bike fit.
  8. What 3 words describe you best?  How about 3 descriptors: An eternal optimist, lover of puns and wordplay, and coffee addict.
  9. What advice would you give your 18 years old self? Change is constant, exercise your soul-of-flexibility.
  10. What makes you happiest? Riding my bike, and drinking coffee. Best when they can happen together!

My questions:

  1. Why did you start blogging?
  2. How do you get inspiration to create your blog posts?
  3. What is your favorite dessert that everyone should try?
  4. What is your favorite memory?
  5. What is your favorite book or series and why?
  6. What is your favorite way to prepare an egg?
  7. Where do you want to travel most, but you’ve never been?
  8. What is your top blogging tip for others?
  9. What is your spirit animal?
  10. What is your favorite post that you have written? (Link please!)

As I’ve started getting more exposed to the blogging world I have come across some amazing blogs with great stories of life, poetry, travel and more. While it is difficult to narrow the list, I would like to nominate these great blogs for the Liebster award:

Thank you again to everyone for all your support in this journey!

Ride on!