Why cycle in Ireland?
Vast numbers of empty roads
Ireland has one of the longest road networks per capita in the world. Ireland’s small population and large amounts of good farmland has resulted in vast amounts of almost empty roads.
The main cities have been linked by motorways in a massive building programme over the last 15 years, removing a huge percentage of traffic from the roads that cyclists use.
Ireland is famous for its green valleys, mountains and coastline. Much of the west coast is wild, while other parts of the country are appreciated by tourists who spend more than a few days here. Wherever you are in the country, you are not far from somewhere interesting.
Hills that are just the right size
Ireland doesn’t have the famous, gigantic climbs that France, Italy and Spain do, but it does have dozens of smaller climbs of 2-300m in height. And because of good visibility and the unusual geography of the island, with many isolated mountains and ranges, the views are often astonishing. It is not unusual to be able to see 60km from a typical climb 3-400m high.
Cycling is booming in Ireland
Cycling in Ireland underwent a lull since Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche retired in the early 1990s. However, in January 2009 the government in the Republic (the UK government had done so previously) introduced a scheme whereby workers could buy a bicycle by salary sacrifice, saving themselves a big chunk of income tax. The popularity of cycling in Ireland has exploded since. At the same time, Nicolas Roche (Stephen’s son) and Daniel Martin (Nicolas’s cousin) have risen close to the top of the professional ranks in the past few years.
Cyclists are out on the roads in numbers never seen before.
On June 21st, the sun rises at 4:57am in Dublin and sets at 21:57pm, – a 17-hour day, with an added 2 hours or so of twilight. This varies only by a few minutes in the rest of the country. The long days from April to September allow you to do plenty of cycling along with plenty of sightseeing and long lunches if you fancy them.
Villages. Lots of villages.
Few parts of the country will see you ride for any significant amount of time without passing through a village or small town – making it easy to plan your stops for water and food. That said, there are parts in remote areas where it is useful to know exactly how far away the next shop is. You can use our app for that.
Drastic reduction in road deaths
Road deaths have greatly decreased in recent years. All of the following figures relate to the Republic. The figures in Northern Ireland have shown a similar trend.
Between 1987 and 2001 there were over 400 deaths Ireland’s roads each year. A succession of government campaigns have reduced that number greatly – to 238 in 2009 and just 162 in 2012.
Well, no significant tunnels on roads that you are likely to be on, to be more precise. Ireland has three tunnels which could be considered long for cyclists, and all are barred to cyclists. The Port Tunnel just north of Dublin City Centre is on a motorway. Both the tunnel and the road it is on do not permit cyclists.
In Cork, the Jack Lynch Tunnel is on the busy South Ring Road. Cyclists are not permitted in the tunnel, and the ring road is an unforgiving ride without an adequate shoulder, and is not used by cyclists. The Limerick Tunnel is similar, also being on a ring road which is not used by cyclists. Again, cyclists are not permitted in the tunnel.
Apart from these three, the only tunnel on the island that might be used by cyclists is on the Kenmare to Glengariff road on the border between the counties of Cork and Kerry. It is approximately 100m long and has no bends so you can see clearly from one side to the other. It is a little narrower than the road it is on, so traffic slows through it. It is not lit but does not present any difficulty for cyclists and appears on several Cycle Ireland routes, which approach it from the north, as the road is wider and the climb up to it has a gentler gradient.
Cycling in Ireland is booming and for good reasons. There are thousands of kilometres of quiet roads in scenic areas. Whether you are cycling for a few hours or a few weeks, it has something to offer everyone.