I set off recently to do a ride of Europe and managed to tour Ireland before having to put the rest on hold due to my collar bone injury. I posted my original Europe ride plan here then took it offline to reword a few bits that could have been interpreted the wrong way but I shall just write a little about Ireland.
My plan was to pick up the 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 affordably on a bike they own rather than pay huge rental or shipping fees. 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 to be 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.
Above is the Wild Atlantic Way route. I was starting at the bottom near Cork.
Despite it being summer the daytime temperatures were only 11-13 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 looked at Ireland temps and decided against that. The cold wind off the ocean made the real feel more like 5-8 degrees and I was not well prepared for it being that cold. Some summer Ireland has, I would hate to see their winter. 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. Then things deteriorated further with heavy rain and strong wind. It was some of the most challenging conditions I have had to ride in. That was the forecast for the week ahead. I was not prepared to sit it out that long on the chance it would improve since hotels were so expensive so I just tried to ride a bit and stop at times when it was too heavy look at the rain radar on the phone and see one valley would be rain while another not and try route a bit that way with limited success. I would have been fine if I had brought my thermals and full winter ride outfit which I couple with my Rev’it rain suit and have ridden in heavy cold rain all day before fine. However it was meant to be summer so I took my newly purchased Alpinestars Andes touring outfit which was not up to the task.
The jacket leaked 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 also had a problem wanting 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 allowing cold air to the lower parts of my legs and if I did not constantly reach down and pull them down water would have got into my boots.
The new TCX boots which I had been concerned about turned out to not only be all day comfortable but kept my feet warm and dry too. And my Held Rainstar gloves kept my hands totally dry despite the very trying conditions.
I got lucky with a fine day on one of the most scenic portions 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.
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 rolling hills and farms. Roads are mostly low traffic, occasionally in a town there will be congestion mainly because the streets are too narrow people will need to stop to let busses or trucks through but there is not the volume of cars and more importantly the volume of trucks is very small compared to other places. There are countless pretty little towns and historic pubs along the way and people are so friendly.
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 and possible the town as well if like in the UK but it was nice the rain eased to allow me to get a photo.
I arrived at Derry/Londonderry and scored a break in the weather.
My right arm (same side as broken collar bone) was by now in considerable discomfort. The jarring transferred from the bars on the bumpy roads and also the ongoing issue seemed to be I was not able to fully straighten my right arm without pain shooting up from what I suspect is 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 etc. I also at some point aggravated things when holding the bike from nearly falling over in soft grass on the road verge. Things progressed to being in discomfort just holding the throttle open for any length of time and operating the front brake so I realised I was attempting this tour too soon and the big mileage in the next part of the trip would be beyond me in current condition. That was always a chance I was aware of and decided to take since a window of time was available there and then. I could have forced myself to continue but I decided not to. I only ride for fun now. Not some personal challenge or to prove anything. If I am not able to enjoy it then no reason to go on. So I decided to explore some more of the countryside with a some very low mileage days to slowly make my way south and leave this just as a tour of the emerald isle.
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.
I considered renting a car to carry on my trip but I have already seen Europe and was only returning for the riding. Airfares are usually the smallest portion of my travel and whilst this one was a little higher the largest expense was 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 stayed flat last 20 years). Just an average motel became 4 star hotel price and a simple kebab and drink best part of $20. Fuel was around $3.20-$3.40 a litre!
My original thinking was to do a couple of rides and store the bike in between but the cost is hard to justify with existing currency rates. Lunch when I ride in Japan is usually a sandwich and coffee which costs about $4. When I work out that a cappuccino and a (admittedly very nice) sandwich cost me $23 in the UK things have crossed the line of affordability. Compounding this 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 I had previous to this ride all been set to ride Scandinavia when I broke my collar bone. This trip was the fourth attempt to ride there so I am starting to wonder if a higher authority is trying to tell me something. There is a good number of other places I want to visit that need the summer timeslot so perhaps I will park this until more favourable winds are blowing my way in the future.
One positive thing from this trip was I discovered I have grossly underestimated how well my FJR1300 suits my current riding. Yes it is heavy and slow turning and has a few quirks I dislike but it is also smooth like a magic carpet ride and a supersonic armchair on the expressway. Any ideas I had about going back to a naked or a adventure type bike in the future were firmly squashed.