Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Motorcycling around Ireland

I set off recently to do a ride of Europe and managed to tour Ireland before having to put the rest on hold. I took my previous post about my plans down to reword but now I shall just write a little about riding the Emerald Isle. 

My plan was to first pick up the 2007 Kawasaki Versys 650 I have had sitting in Ireland in storage. I purchased this bike very reasonably priced and have it stored with, Motofeirme. This is a service that purchases and stores motorcycles for people wanting to ride Europe more affordably on a bike they own rather than high rental fees or shipping a bike there. In Ireland my plan was to ride the Wild Atlantic Way from Kinsale to Derry. Arriving at the bike storage place to see the Versys in real life first time I was pleased it seemed in good order. Tyres were as new and it had a Scott oiler fitted and full luggage. It even had a Garmin 220 Zumo and heated grips installed. I was able to leave my suitcase at the storage centre and once packed was ready to tour. I had lunch in Kinsale a lovely seaside town and then started on the Wild Atlantic Way.

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Explore The Route

Above is the Wild Atlantic Way route. I was starting at the bottom near Cork.

Despite it being summer the daytime temperatures were only 10-11 degrees. Prior to leaving I had been reading reports of a heat wave in Europe so had considered bringing only summer riding gear. Fortunately I decided against that. The cold wind off the ocean made the real feel more like 5 degrees and that was really colder than I would normally ride in. Some summer Ireland has! Still I guess it is all what you are used to. I saw a beach party being set up inside one pub in small town I was staying. People were in t-shirts laughing while I was in three layers with steam from my breath in the cold rain.

The Versys offers little protection compared to the FJR so I was really missing the big tourer and windscreen on the road especially as soon after starting the weather  deteriorated further with heavy rain and strong wind. It was some of the most challenging conditions I have had to ride in. I found myself wishing I had my thermals but it was meant to be summer so I only took my newly purchased Alpinestars Andes touring outfit which at least had quilted liner. 

The jacket was mostly keeping me protected and warmer than it probably was designed to do. I had a issue in that it leaked small bit of water at the collar where the zipper ends. There is a gap and the wrap around collar is not wide enough so it allows water to enter (and wind if you are not wearing a scarf or buff). The Andes pants were mostly ok however wanted to ride up my legs a long way when seated on the bike. Standing, the pant bottoms almost touched the ground so they are plenty long however the Versys has less leg room than I normally enjoy on the FJR and puts my legs into a more bent position. The cut of the pants somehow makes them want to slide up my legs to sit almost above my boots and that was annoying but I stayed dry except for couple leaks at the collar. The new TCX boots which I had been concerned about kept my feet warm and dry and my Held Rainstar gloves kept my hands dry but the temperatures were at the borderline of needing glove liners which I did not have.

I got lucky with a fine day on a very scenic portion of the route and was able to get my camera out which lifted my spirits considerably. Waking up early and seeing sunshine outside I loaded up and left the motel very early before breakfast to get a shot of the Killarney national park below. How’s that straight out of the camera no editing (click to enlarge). Then the weather held for the famous cliffs of Moher (enlarge the photo to appreciate the scale) and other sections of the Wild Atlantic Way.

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The scenery was splendid all day however sadly this was the only fine day of the ride. Still even with the rain Ireland is such a beautiful place, besides the dramatic coastal scenery I equally enjoyed the the green checker rolling hills, stone fences, yellow fields of rape seed and interesting old country pubs. Visible to the eye, alas not able to be photographed in the rain. Roads were low traffic despite it being school holidays. Unlike say rural Germany or here in Japan there were few trucks on the B roads in Ireland. That makes a huge difference to the driving/riding enjoyment not always being stuck in a queue behind another lorry crawling along. If fine I would have stopped more in the interesting towns in route but walking around in rain with riding gear on is not the best. Whenever I did stop people were incredibly friendly. 

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HDR scene

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I enjoyed that train crossings are still depicted as steam locomotives, and MC Hammer still had some fans in Ireland. These little things that caught my eye brought a smile while struggling some days in the wet. The ‘house’ which looks like a castle above was something I spotted from the other side and tried to get closer to but all the land belongs to it but it was nice the rain eased a few minutes to allow me to get a photo.

I arrived at Derry/Londonderry and scored a break in the weather. Extra interesting I stayed a couple days to explore and give my injured shoulder a rest.

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My right arm (same side as broken collar bone) was causing me considerable discomfort. The jarring transferred from the bike on the bumpy roads and also an ongoing issue not being able to fully straighten my right arm without pain shooting along it from perhaps torn ligaments and often this was not easy to avoid such as tipping the bike into right turns where my right arm of course stretches to counter steer and in slow traffic balancing bike but needing to hold throttle or brake. If it had been my left arm it may have been less of a issue. I also aggravated things when holding the bike from almost slipping over on soft grass of the road verge. Things progressed to being in discomfort just holding the throttle open or operating the front brake at which point I decided I was trying to ride too much too soon and the big mileage in the next part of the trip would be difficult. I could have forced myself to continue but I only ride for fun now. Not some personal challenge or to prove anything. So I decided to explore some more of the Irish countryside with a some very low mileage days to slowly make my way south and if things did not improve return the bike and better to return another time.  

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Couple of familiar names from my home area I came across while meandering back down south on country roads and still light at 9.30pm below.

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I considered renting a car to carry on my trip but besides Ireland which was new to me I have already seen most countries in Europe and was returning just to ride. Airfares are usually the smallest portion of my travel and whilst this one admittedly was higher the largest expense was still hotels, food and fuel. The exchange rate to the Australian dollar was low 60 euro cents and 45 pence so this made things double Australian prices and triple Japan prices (which people don’t realise have remained flat last 20 years). Just an average motel became 4 star price and a simple kebab and drink best part of $20. Fuel was $3.20-$3.40 a litre.

My original idea with the Versys was to do a couple of rides from Ireland and store the bike in between but the prices are proving much more than I envisioned. When a cappuccino and a (admittedly very fancy) sandwich cost $23 (converted) it has to make you pause and take stock. Now the Aus dollar is tipped to fall to 50 euro cent matching the record low of the 2009 credit crash and I just cannot justify paying maybe $4 a litre fuel and $200 a night for a room with so much good riding waiting in SE Asia where $200 pays for a week of travel.

Still it is very hard for me to give up on this because I have been trying to do a variation of a Euro ride for three years now. In 2013 I arranged to rent a Ducati Multistrada through Adriatic tours in Slovenia but had to cancel. Then in 2014 booking a BMW with IMT in Spain but again had to cancel and 2015, previous to this trip I had been all been set to try a ride up to Scandinavia when I broke my collar bone. I would normally never say this but I can’t help but wonder if a higher authority is trying to tell me something.

For now, with the woeful exchange rates I may have to just let this go. I think it may be a few years before more favourable winds are blowing for a return to Europe.

One totally unexpected learning from this trip was discovering I had underestimated how well my FJR1300 suits my current touring. Yes it is big and heavy and slow turning and has a few other things I dislike but it is also such a comfortable bike delivering a magic carpet ride by comparison. Any ideas I had about going back to a smaller naked or adventure bike were firmly squashed and I am really pleased I could find this out as I had made my mind up to to sell the FJR after autumn which now I know would have been a mistake. So that discovery kind of offsets some of the money spent on this trip that was not able to be fully actioned/realised. 

13 comments:

  1. Ireland sure is pretty and looks like it could have been so much more had the weather played ball. How did you break your collarbone, I don't remember you telling us. Was it bike related?

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    1. Yes it is true what they say about it being beautiful. Even if the rain defeated my camera I was able to enjoy endless rolling green hills and meadows of yellow rape seed, stone hedges etc. A bit like a greener Tuscany. The stories of the beauty of Irish girls is also true and if I was young again I might have never wanted to leave.

      I broke my collar bone off the bike, no extreme sports, just a simple but painful fall down a set of slippery stairs. Torn some ligaments too but I am wondering now if I have another injury in my arm as the bone is mostly healed but other issues persist.

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  2. Ireland is on my list as well, it has been far too long since last time around. But your pics make me want to return soon. Bummer, to hear about your collarbone issue. I hope things will heal up and you will be able to continue your Europe tour eventually.

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    1. Hi Sonja, If circumstances were different I could have easily stayed on in Ireland for an extended stay, such a lovely place.
      Would be a shame not to try again so I will see what I can think up but I do want to free up next summer for something new.

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  3. Stunning photos. Despite the crap weather it is hard to complain when riding in Ireland I think.

    Hope you get the collar bone sorted. No fun to be off the bike when you had a nice adventure planned.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  4. I toured Ireland and most of Europe last year and I agree with your comments about the roads in Ireland. The west coast is stunningly beautiful but the roads were very bumpy, quite poor motorcycling roads really.

    If you go back there again I would recommend the Causeway Coastal Route from Belfast/Lorne to Derry. In my opinion (and a few others have said the same) this is one of the best, if not THE best, motorcycling road in Europe.

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    1. Alas I was set to ride from Derry along that coast road but the weather was so bad. Well I would love to go back but difficult for Aussies at present exchange rates.

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  5. Hey IC . Enjoy your write ups. I did Ireland in May 15 for on a hire BMW 800 . 9 days . Did Dublin up to Belfast and then the Coast Rd up around Ballycastle and the Nthn parts before doing west coast . The scenic coast road is well worth the trip to add on a day or two. Atlantic Way, Ring of Kerry and Sky road were awesome. I was lucky and had only 1 really wet day.. I found the drivers great ( apart from hire cars) , the people friendly , but like you the shitty $A makes it expensive but worth it . Andy

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    1. Hi Andy, I was supposed to be there in May originally also. I injured myself end of April a week before I was set to fly. I want to return in 2016, try pick up my grand tour again but I am considering if I am better to simply fly/rent in a couple of key locations given the exchange rate.

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  6. I can recommend Celtic rider / Outskirts Dublin . Great bikes and gear . Just got to cop the exchange rate. I as lucky as a few weeks after me most hire bikes were out because Isle of Man race. I'd try and tie that in if I did ireland again. ( that's on my list - watch not race lol)
    Hope you are recovering ok. Maybe you can find yourself an Irish lass next time .ill keep following you .
    All the best - Andy

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    1. Thanks Andy. The collar bone is taking real long time to heal but it will get better and nothing serious compared to other people. I do think however I should cancel my plan to try skiing in February... IOM also on my list along with Spain, Sicily and Adriatic. Going to try for some of them this year.

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  7. Forgot to say to anyone going to Belfast try and do a Black cab tour . It's run by cabbies and takes a tour of certain city parts ( Protestant & Catholic ) and explanation of the troubles . It's very inexpensive and certainly one of the highlights. Incredibly moving and informative.
    Cheers all

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