So, final day before we kick off Mizen to Malin and everyone is pretty excited. Fortunately the chest infection is much improved, but with a short 55 miles to start with tomorrow, I should be in fairly decent shape (Having said that there is a Cat 3 climb to negotiate in the Caha Pass, but we’ll deal with that when we get to it).
Yesterday was spent doing a whole lot of little things, like unpacking and repacking the gear, to make sure nothing was missed. I also managed to do some last minute tweaking to the bike itself. I tidied up the mudguards on the back (one of the nuts fell off and no spares: some tidy work with cable ties have everything now secure). Also I cleaned the chain and re-lubed, and gave a final rub of proofide to the saddle: I’m hoping in some karma, if I’m nice to the saddle it might be nice to me over the 450-odd miles next. And as a final weight-saving measure I removed my Lezyne mini-pump (other lads have bigger frame pumps, so no point hauling it).
In this edge-of-the-seat post I’ll just go over what’s in the right bag.
Pretty much the only stuff in this pannier are (off the bike) clothes and toiletries. We’re only doing a week, and staying mainly in B&Bs, so I’m bringing the following:
- 2 x t-shirts
- 1 x pair shorts
- 1 x hoodie
- 3 x pairs boxers
- 3 x cycling jersey (2 should be enough, but can always use 1 if it’s
- 2 x pairs cycling shorts
- 3 x pairs socks
- 2 x schwalbe inner tubes
- Park I-Beam multi tool (light but feels solid)
- Park tyre levers & patches
- Spare cash (just enough for a phone call or emergency
- And an inhaler (breathing is one of those things that are useful when cycling)
- Few small cable ties.
- And the saddle bag itself is crivit (bought in Lidl). I had tried a smaller bag before but couldn’t put half of what I needed in. This is cheap and does the trick.
Now for a very exciting post: how I’m packing panniers for the Mizen to Malin cycle next week!
Gripping stuff for the non-cyclists, I know, but since we’ll be on the bike for a week it makes sense to put a bit of effort into getting it right. Now, I haven’t done a multi-day tour before, but even from one-day tours I know it makes a big difference in knowing exactly where everything is (it’s just started pouring rain, and you can’t remember where you’re rain jacket is: having to pull out all of you once dry clothes into the rain because you stuck your jacket at the bottom of the bag doesn’t make sense, now does it?)
Because we’ll be doing a light tour (A.K.A. credit card touring, because you can buy anything you need), in that we are staying in hotels and B&Bs, rather than camping, 2 x 20L panniers should be enough. So in this post I’ll go into what goes into the left pannier, and a follow post will cover the right.
Why the fuss about left vs right pannier?
Right, let’s get down to brass tacks: why is there any difference between left and right bags? Well, like I said having a system is important. So the way I’m packing the panniers is that in my right bag I’m putting clothes and toiletries (i.e. things I’m only going to need access to when I’m off the bike, at night-time), and in the left pannier I’m putting things that I’ll be using during the day, such as rain gear, phone, food etc.
Why am I putting the most used stuff in the left bag? Well, because I mount and dismount on the left (sounds pedantic, but if you use clipless pedals (Ie pedals with clips!), you have a routine to clip in and out, so it’s second nature. If you try to do it the other way you’ll fall over and buckle yourself!). And because I dismount on the left, I nearly always end up leaning the right side of the bike against something. So the left is always facing me.
In the pannier I’m carrying:
- Bad Weather Gear. Unfortunately the weather for next week is going to be pretty changeable, a lot of showers, wind etc, but not over cold. So I’ll be bringing the following:
- Light, hi-vis jacket
- Arm warmers
- Leg warmers
- Waterproof Overshoes
- Food. Since we’re cycling around Ireland and not in a desert somewhere there’s not really a need to bring a lot, we should be able to just get by with stopping in shops, cafes etc along the route.
- I’m bringing some bikefood satchets, one per day. These are about as good as you can get in energy drinks, but the main reason I’m bringing them is that I don’t tend to eat that much before/during rides, so normally after about 50 miles I can run out of steam. With a bottle full of this I can at least get some carbs on board earlier in the cycle. The one draw back is that if the powder gets on the outside of the bottle it gets really sticky. So I tend to mix this at home by putting the powder into an empty bidon, then hal filling and mixing. Once mixed I top it up and rinse the outside of the bottle.
- To help with hydration I’ll use some nuun tabs. Basically these should help restore elctrolytes, and other things I haven’t a clue about. But they’re cheap, easy to use and taste alright, so not exactly a burden.
- And to help with emergency bonkage/running out of steam going up Cat 3 climbs etc, I have a powerbar and energy gel in reserve. But these are really a last resort!
- 2 water bottles, 1 x 750ml, 1 x500ml (these will be on the bottle cages). The reason for the different sizes is just that it’s awkward taking a 750ml bottle out of the rear cage. So I tend to just put plain water in the larger bottle, and then either of the powders,/tabs etc in the smaller.
- First Aid. To be honest, it’s not much of a first aid kit, but just a few things to help with non-emergencies. One of the other guys has a bigger kit.
- Immodium (in case of energy gel “side-effects”!)
- Small sewing kit
- Safety pins
- Small Bag. This is just a light, free bag I got, that can double as a backpack.
- Asthma inhalers,
- Sunblock (you never know!)
- Wet wipes (serve a multitude of purposes)
- small wallet. It’s actually called a pokitt, not the cheapest, but a good alternative to my wallet (see picture). I keep a spare debit card in it and some cash, so I use it on nights out, training spins etc. Basically when I don’t need much, and if it gets lost it’s not the end of the world.
- Notebook and pen, with lists of B&Bs etc
- Misc. Odds and end in this pannier
- A few cable ties
- Roll of electrical
- Sandals (just to balance the weight in the bag)
My better half just found this video on the New Times , about the bike mechanics with the Garmin team. Pretty good.
It’s now less than a week to the big cycle, and being worried about “over-training” I have done a grand total of 15 miles in the past 7 days! Also, as part of my carbo-loading regime I have spent the weekend first at a wedding (with a free bar) and then on Sunday at a stag party. Needless to say nothing even resembling restraint was displayed on either occasion!
Also I’m slightly concerned by a slight groin strain. This first occurred at the Ring of Kerry about 3 weeks ago, and has given a slight twinge on the last 75 mile spin. It’s not sore, but it just feels different at the minute, so I want to rest as much as possible. Hopefully the 2 week break will help. I definitely need to recover after the weekend, and hopefully the wedding the day before we kick will be more controlled (from my POV).
Originally when I got my bike (a Dolan Preffisio), one of the main reasons for getting it was it was designed to be used as a training/winter/touring bike. So when we figured out that the typical Irish Summer was going to be quite wet, and that we are doing a 450 mile tour in a few weeks, the fitting of mudguards (fenders) seemed like a good idea.
While some in the group went for simpler mudguards (just for the tour), I decided to go for something that I could just leave on the bike for the most part, partly because I’m not expecting any improvement in the weather. And since there were already all the eyelets and the bike is supposed to have added clearance I ordered these SKS Bluemels Olympic Racer Mudguards from Chain Reaction. SKS have an excellent reputation, and these look pretty good, so the black ones on my Black and White Dolan seemed an obvious choice. Here is how the bike should look (One thing that really annoyed me was I contacted Dolan several times, via email and twitter, trying to find out what guards they recommend , or even sell. Not once did I receive a reply).
Anyway, the mudguards arrived on Monday, so I thought 20 minutes and I would have them fitted. That was ambitious! All in all, I’d say I spent maybe 4 hours fitting them. I’ll spare the full details, but firstly everything was quite fiddly to do on you own. Then the stays had to be marked, disassembled, cut to length and reassembled. A hacksaw would be quite handy (off course I didn’t have one with me). Also I had to shape the bottom of the back guard, to fit it between the chainstays.
But the biggest issue was that even though the bike should have plenty of clearance, with 23mm tyres they were catching the guard directly under the brake bridge. It took quite a lot of messing (over an hour), and I actually thought that it just wasn’t going to happen. But after readjusting the brakes several times (releasing the bolt and pushing the brakes vertically uo), and pushing forward the guard I eventually managed to create enough clearance.
After the hassle of getting the guards on, I’m not too sure if/when I’ll take them off, adding/removing them is not something that can be done easily: might be easier just get a second bike!
So, as part of our plans for Mizen to Malin (less than 2 weeks now), we* decided to do a full day spin, on similar roads and with similar mileage as to what we plan for the main trip. And as a final prep we said we’d go with the bags fully loaded.
So the route we chose was around Lough Derg. In theory a nice route, but the initial enthusiasm was dampened firstly by the weather (blustery at times and with the odd very wet shower, but in my case in particular, by stag-night related, um, tiredness! I had planned on taking it easy, but, well…
Anyway, after a slow start (about 11mph for the first hour, and that was when we were moving) we eventually settled into a half decent rythmn. As per usual I was the slowest up the hills, but having the extra weight in the panniers definitely didn’t help (fully loaded the bike is now 20kgs). We eventually plled into Portumna after about 2 & 1/2 hours, where we stopped for a sandwich and coffee. The road out was lovely and flat, and for a while we were able to tip away at 16-17 mph, not bad into a 20mph headwind.
But after another 20 miles the lack of sleep and not enough food on board took a toll, and it was a real effort for me to get into Scarriff. But after more coffee and cake (good timing as there was a torrent of rain while we waited at the garage) we made the last hour handy enough to get back to the cars. And as a brilliant idea, Martin P suggested we go to Goosers for a brilliant feed of bacon and cabbage. Fantastic!
Overall it was a good spin out, well worth while and a good laugh. Physically I’d like to be further along, but we still managed about 14mph, which isn’t bad considering the extra weight on the bikes. The route is lovely, although at places the signposting could be better, and we skipped some of the really scenic bits, just to keep moving. Definitely worth a spin out again in future.
*NB: Some displeasure was expressed that I hadn’t mentioned any names of the rest of the group, so here is a photo of us, after about an hour.