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A ride on EuroVelo 1 – Atlantic Coast Route before conquering the world!

2020. január 31., péntek
Last summer Ben van Baardwijk and Linda Reimersdahl went on a 30 day test ride in Ireland to prepare for an upcoming round-the-world adventure.

From Rosslare, on the country’s most south eastern point, they initially cycled on EuroVelo 1 – Atlantic Coast Route westwards towards Waterford before leaving the EuroVelo route and turning north towards Dublin. They rejoined EuroVelo 1 again in the north west corner of Ireland and continued along the route southwards along the wild Atlantic way.

The ride formed part of their preparation for a 7 year bicycle trip, which will take them to all continents and see them cover approximately 100,000 km. This 100% CO2-neutral trip will be for a good cause: they will collect 1€ for each kilometer cycled to help people who live in poverty. Three months before starting their big adventure, they decided to share their mission with the EuroVelo community!

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Linda and Ben

“We have been planning our world bicycle tour since September 2017. At our wedding on 24th June 2018, we were displaying our planned route on a map and asking for gifts to allow us to purchase some sturdy and reliable bicycles. Building our website, looking for a design studio and sponsors while establishing our new Foundation XPLORid kept us busy in 2018 and 2019. We still need to clear our apartment in order to rent it out, decide on our international health insurance and arrange a double passport. But we are slowly getting ready.

There are now only 3 months left. Time is ticking. On 29th March, we will have a fundraising party for our family, friends and acquaintances. The big departure is set on 4th April. We will leave from our home in Maastricht and cycle to the east, crossing Turkey, Iran, China and Mongolia. Then to the south, visiting India, Indonesia and Australia. After that, we will head towards Canada and the US. Through Central America, we will cycle all the way down to Patagonia. Finally, we will ride along the west coast of Africa and back to Europe.

But first, let us get back to our ride in Ireland in August 2019.

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The loaded bike

Upon arrival by boat in Rosslare, we immediately started cycling towards Waterford partially on EuroVelo 1 – Atlantic Coast Route. We did not want to spend the night in busy Waterford itself, so we cycled a bit further and agreed with a friendly local man to pitch our tent in his garden for one night. Our unexpected visit was a pleasant surprise to him and we could sleep safe and sound in our tent on this first night in Ireland.

For the next leg of our journey, we left behind Atlantic Coast Route, and headed north towards Dublin. On the way we cycled through the beautiful Wicklow Mountains. We were very fortunate with the weather and the traffic. But during the second week, the weather gods were less favorable to us: every once in a while there was a big rain shower. Raincoat on, raincoat off, hood on, hood off, rain pants on, rain pants off, sunglasses on, sunglasses off. We could laugh about it. It must have looked like a dress up party.

Our first introduction to a full Irish breakfast was at that time and it became a regular feature of our trip. When you burn so many calories a day, your body starts screaming for food!

We rejoined EuroVelo 1 again in County Donegal. The route here was beautiful, with several lakes and high mountains in the background. Every time we arrived at the coast, it was a pleasure to watch the differences in low and high tides. At one point we followed a small stretch of a local cycle route going directly on the beach.

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The alternative route at low tide

From Westport to Galway, the route went off the beaten track through nature. A single house could sometimes be seen faraway in the direction of the inland but the villages were very distant from each other. On arriving in Galway, the switch to a crowded city was quite a change!

Linda and Ben at Healy Pass a bit further south

Everyone we met on the way advised us to visit Dingle as well, so we followed their advice. The Conor Pass, leading to Dingle, was not easy to cycle, particularly because of the strong stormy headwind and the rain we encountered. Linda had to push her bicycle a few times. Even Ben said he thought sometimes that he would get blown off his bike. However, the view from the top made us forget about all these hardships. The route along the coast in Dingle was magnificent: a beautiful blue sea, with rocks and green grass. The fog was making it look mythical and mysterious.

A little more south, the Ballaghbeama Pass looked like a scene from the Lord of the Rings: huge rocks on both sides and a narrow road in between. It took us a few more days to get back to Waterford and thus complete our tour around Ireland.

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The scene from the Lord of the Rings

After our experience in Ireland, we decided to make a few changes in the planning of our world bicycle tour, especially on the following subjects:

Linda in front of a breakfast place

The load: The most important thing that needs to be changed is our luggage. We were carrying too many kilos! The emergency food ration needs to be limited to the minimum. In general, carrying enough food for one day is enough. Moreover, comfortable folding seats will be left at home, and Ben will carry some extra kilo’s of Linda's luggage. And we will exchange the chainrings of our bikes, putting the small one in the front and the big one at the back, making it easier to cycle up the mountains.

Necessary resting day: After 6 days of cycling, you really have to take a day off. In Ireland we were bound to a time schedule because we had to catch the ferry on time, and we cycled non-stop for 30 days. We both wanted to be near the ferry as quickly as possible. After a few days of cycling we were also in such a nice flow that we actually did not want to rest. But oh boy, we were so tired after those 30 days!

Wet feet: We have tried various things to keep our feet dry in the rain. Nothing works when you are cycling in the rain for 5 hours. Even with our waterproof socks, we ended up having wet feet. We now bought good bike cover boots that we hope can keep our feet dry.

Oscillation: we noticed that both bikes suffered from oscillation. This is a vibration which causes the bicycle not to be stable. To solve this, we placed a “ViscoSet”¹ on the forkhead of our bikes. Although the bikes are heavily loaded at the back this works perfectly.

Just like in Ireland, we will usually spend the night in our tent during our world tour. Wild camping is often prohibited and is not always safe, which is why we ask locals if we can pitch our tent in their garden, garage or shed. In this way we will meet many people living in different conditions. We often get invited to their home and introduced to their family and community. Complete strangers sometimes share their food with us and offer us shelter. People want to know where we come from and where we are cycling to. These people have their own needs, worries, wishes and dreams, and yet they demonstrate enormous generosity and hospitality. We would like to help the people we meet, when needed.

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Linda and Ben sleeping in the straw

With donations we can give help in a direct way; not by giving them money but by buying the things they need. For example, groceries from the market, a goat, a sheep or a cow, a new fridge or a freezer. Or else repairing a bicycle, a moped or a car, or even paying for a visit to the doctor or the dentist, medicine, clothes, shoes, a new roof, etc. We are collecting 1€ for every kilometer we cycle in order to accomplish this dream.

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The lakes and mountains of Ireland

Overall conclusion: Ireland is a beautiful green country with very generous people. Although the Irish do not appear to cycle a lot themselves, by staying on the back roads we did not encounter dangerous traffic situations. However, keep in mind: you can face some challenging hills and sometimes you face strong (head) winds and rain – there is a reason why Ireland is so green!² All in all, it was the perfect preparation for our world tour.

Read more about Ben & Linda’s adventures on their blog www.xplorid.today. You can also find them on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

All pictures are taken by Ben van Baardwijk and Linda Reimersdahl.

¹ViscoSet = Utilizing specially designed damping plates above the bearing in the upper assembly, ViscoSet stops the oscillation before it can grow to a dangerous level. These micro-thin plates are inter-leaved in an encapsulated cartridge and connected to both the frame and the steerer tube. As they rotate against each other, a fluorocarbon gel between each layer provides viscous damping and stops the oscillation of the handlebars before it grows to a dangerous level.

² Editor’s note: The best way to minimize head winds when travelling by bike on the Atlantic Coast of Ireland is to ride south to north as the prevailing winds are from the south west.