Biking & cycling in Connemara will provide you with a memorable experience of unforgettable scenery, an insight into a rich and diverse heritage and culture and leave you more refreshed and invigorated. This section will assist you to prepare for such adventures.
Connemara’s people are generally very hospitable people and welcome visitors with open arms. However, there are a few simple guide lines to ensure that the welcome remains warm and friendly. As a general rule, if in doubt ask. There will always be somebody around with whom you can talk to. They may not be the right people all of the time, but most will be able to assist to some degree or other. When in the Connemara outdoors we would ask you to:
- Take responsibility for your own actions and act in a safe manner
- Respect other people’s privacy and space
- Help land owners, farmers and their like to work safely and effectively Care for the environment; do not leave your litter in the countryside, dispose of it sensibly upon returning from your outing.
- Don’t disturb the wildlife
- Keep your dog under control
- Leave your contact details with someone before setting out – when you are departing, where you will be and when to expect you back. This is particularly important if you are spending time in remote areas.
- Goodwill and commonsense will ensure that biking & cycling will thrive to everyone’s benefit.
- Follow the rules of the road as they apply for any other road user.
- Connemara roads and lanes can be very narrow, so stay on the correct side of the road (left) and as close as safely possible to the side.
For those of you planning a summer holiday in Connemara, you will no doubt have heard about the dreaded Midge or Culicoides. Generally speaking, most tourist operators forget to mention minor things like Ticks, Midges etc
This primarily applies to dog owners and occasionally to humans. Ticks are tiny blood sucking insects found in Connemara; or rather they will find you when mountain biking &/or camping in the country vegetation. They inhabit damp, coarse vegetation in woodland and bogs, bracken fronds are a popular spot and they are transferred to passersby who brush against them. Ticks can carry several diseases afflicting both animals and humans. One of the major tick-borne diseases which affect humans is Lyme disease. Seldom fatal and eminently treatable, Lyme disease is a debilitating condition that can remain in the body for many years, affecting nerves and occasionally leading to chronic arthritis and heart conditions. Lyme disease is very rare. As a precaution, visitors to Connemara are advised to be aware of the disease and to contact their local physician if feeling unwell after an outdoor adventure to Connemara, or anywhere else for that matter. Common symptoms include flu-like illness with fever, muscle and joint pain, malaise, a rash and a sore throat.
Always remove the tick when discovered. If you see one, it looks like a speck of dirt with legs, (in the early stages) and when it finds a suitable spot, (usually in warm moist hairy places like arm pits, navels et al) it starts to feed. As it feeds it can fill up almost to the size of a beige coloured pea. If left it will drop off and is usually painless but may be itchy. To remove get a tweezers, grip the tick body as close to the head as possible and gently twist and pull. If done correctly the head should come with, if not it could turn septic, but it normally forms a scab and falls harmlessly off. To ease itchiness, treat with anti-histamine.
For dog owners: apply a dose of Frontline tick repellent a few days before setting off on your adventure and this will prevent any problems.
Midges are tiny biting flies that are active from mid-May to September particularly when it is calm and overcast. Thriving in the acidic boggy conditions, they can be an annoyance to people mountain biking & cycling Connemara. Tending to be most active at dawn and dusk they can be prevalent at other times during the day if the conditions are right. If it is a midge day then activities such as picnics should be avoided. Staying in one place will quickly result in midges congregating around you.
“Forewarned is forearmed”, and that by telling you about midges you will know how best to avoid midge attacks and by taking a few simple precautions; your safari in Connemara will not be disrupted by them. The first time you encounter them you will probably just feel itchy as the bites are not painful just irritating, and they are so small you can hardly see them. Everyone has different reaction to midge bites; some hardly notice they have been bitten with not even so much as a red spot, whilst others have a reaction rather like a rash. However, they will provoke a strong immune reaction in some individuals. This may lead to swelling and intense itching around the site of the bite. The severity and intensity of biting accentuates people’s discomfort. Scratching of the bites may lead to infected sores. There is no known disease transmission from midges to people in Ireland.
- Tourist’s especially unprepared ones!! Apply repellent before the time; it’s already too late when you start to itch.
- Cool, shady, calm conditions and are most active early morning and evenings
- Wet summers help their breeding cycle, with a resulting increase in numbers.
- Sitting ducks – as far as possible, try to avoid sitting out early morning and late evening. Realising this is just the time when you do want to sit out, and most times you will not be bothered by them, but once they find you, you will need to move to get rid of them.
Armed with a little knowledge, you minimize the inconvenience to yourself and family in Connemara and enjoy the great outdoors relatively free of them. Below are a few tips and precautions you can take to avoid them altogether, or at least to minimize their nuisance factor.
- sun – midges tend to avoid direct strong sunlight, so sit in the sun not shade whenever conditions allow.
- wind – try to find a seat or occupy a place in a breeze, and it is surprising how little breeze is required to keep them away
- biking & cycling – midges cannot keep up with you at normal biking & cycling pace, so you will be able to take long midge
free trails and routes or participate in any active pastime at any time of day.
- white or light clothing, avoid dark clothing at high activity times, although this alone will not deter them
- inside – escape by sitting indoors with the doors and windows open with lights turned off. Like every other insect they are attracted to lights.
- wear anti midge hats which have mesh rather like bee-keepers nets but with smaller holes to keep out midges. Not a good idea when you are riding though.
- machines available now which attract and kill them
- some makes of repellent – Skin so Soft from Avon is not actually a repellent but seems to be very effective in keeping them away. Jungle Formula is another favourite. In any event please test them to see what works best for you.
Wild cyclists should leave these wild places unblemished by their visit and protect them for future visitors and fellow users. Please leave the environment as you found it. Report vandalism, abandoned equipment, litter (better still pick it up and dispose of it correctly) and ensure all fires are put well out before being left unattended. Human waste spoils a natural environment: it stinks; it’s very unsightly and makes one want to run far and fast away. If nature calls, please dig a hole before and bury when finished. Ladies this applies to toilet paper too. It puts me off even writing about it, leave only your tyre prints!
Connemara Wild Escapes is keen to reinforce the principles of responsible behaviour for visitors wild camping in the countryside. Wild camping is encouraged throughout Connemara provided campers apply the good practice ‘leave-no-trace’ guidelines:
- Avoid overcrowding by moving on to another location
- Carry a trowel to bury toilet waste and urinate well away from water courses
- Use a stove or leave no trace of any camp fire.
- Never cut down or damage trees
- Take away your rubbish and pick up other litter as well.
- If in doubt, ask the landowner. Their advice might help you find a better camping spot.
Suggestion for first timers: before you leave to go camping in the wild spend an evening, night and morning camping in your garden outside your kitchen door. So if you have forgotten anything you can quickly pop inside and get it. So pitch your tent, cook your evening meal and breakfast, wash your utensils, do the things you want to do on vacation and sleep in knowledge that if you have forgotten anything it won’t ruin your holiday.
Tents these days are easy to erect, when you know how. So even if you don’t take our advice to camp in your garden, at the very least, take your tent out of its packaging and spend the time learning how to put it together. As all seasoned campers know, your first day will be rushed, you will arrive later than expected, you are in unfamiliar territory (in more ways than one), the weather will turn, the kids will be hungry and grumpy and the pressure will be on to get the tent up quickly and if you haven’t done it before, well your first night isn’t going to be a good one. Be prepared.
This is a guideline kit list of what is normal biking & cycling equipment for Connemara during the summer months. The Irish climate is so unpredictable that every eventuality has to be prepared for – it can either be very hot and dry or wild, wet and windy and everything in between, all in one day!
|Good biking & cycling boots/shoes – please no new boots/shoes. Boots need to be “broken in” and the wilds of Connemara are not the place to get blisters and sore feet.
Socks – the more the better, have a clean pair for each biking & cycling day.
Good quality rain jacket (Gortex or similar)
Warm woollen or fleece hat
Swimwear (for those warm summer loughs and ocean)
Biking & cycling helmets and other protective gear. Includes reflective clothing for road users.
Small thermos flask
|Fleece or wool sweater plus at least, 1 spare sweater.
Warm biking & cycling trousers preferably with one spare pair (no
Long sleeve biking & cycling shirt plus a spare
Insect repellent – Avon’s Skin so Soft good midge repellent
Small day sack for day trips with
casual clothes for evening /pubs
First aid kit – see below for details.
Many trails and routes in Connemara are in early stages of development and not particularly well marked or purpose built (all part of the charm!) and even those marked on maps can be difficult to trace, or may have changed course. However, for longer routes and more particularly for more remote routes, preparation is essential and adequate precautions should be taken whilst on your bike. Use your map (GPS) and check your location at all times. The varying terrain, makes biking & cycling in Connemara exciting, but also slow and exhausting.
Connemara roads are narrow, undulating with twists and turns and often have very little margin or hard shoulder. Two cars passing leaves little to no room for the cyclist. Viligilance is required at all times, particularly if you have children in your party. The wearing of high visibity jackets and other reflective accessories are encouraged.
Biking & cycling in winter should be regarded as more difficult and time consuming. Daylight hours are shorter and weather conditions more severe. Don’t forget to ensure your bikes lights are in good working order and you have a supply of batteries.
Before setting out on any trip, check a weather forecast. Changeable is the best way to describe the weather in Connemara – and it can change quickly! If the weather does change for the worse, consider revising your plans. Detailed forecasts can be found at the Met Eireann (www.met.ie) and RTE Weather (www.rte.ie/weather).
Choose a route/trail which is appropriate to your abilities and the prevailing weather conditions. As a general rule, take children only on routes which allow for a safe and easy retreat and don’t take them on long rides. Leave word of where you are going and remember to advise of your expected time of return. Areas of Connemara have routes and trails to suit all levels of ability. Consider turning back if you or someone in your group is tiring or getting cold.
What to Take:
- Clothing – warm, wind and waterproof clothing is essential for most parts of your body depending on the time of year.
- Equipment – for cycling, always carry GPS (Global Positioning System) and a map and compass and know how to use them (Ordnance Survey maps scale 1:50,000 or 1:25,000 are recommended).
- Carry equipment for use in an emergency such as a torch, whistle, First Aid Kit and emergency shelter. The emergency signal is six blasts on a whistle or six flashes with a torch.
- Your bike – should provide good comfortable seating and be appropriate to the surface on which you are travelling. For rough terrain mountain bikes are a must. Please do not arrive with a new untested bike, buy in advance and make sure it is correctly set up to suit you before going on a serious trail or route. If you are hiring a bike ask the providers to set it up correctly for you.
- Food and Drink – take ample food and drink. Always take reserve supplies. Simple high energy foods are best, as are hot drinks in cold wet weather.
First Aid Kit:
The First Aid kit that you carry should be capable of dealing with a variety of situations. Usually, where first aid is required; the need is for simple and relatively straight forward treatment. The items listed below should form the basis of your kit:
- Two triangular bandages – can be used for slings, dressings, bandages.
- Two wound dressings (medium and large) – to stop bleeding.
- Crepe bandages – for holding on dressings (bleeding), support and/or immobilization of fractures, strains and sprains.
- A roll of general purpose medical tape. A roll of electrical or masking (it is easier to tear) tape wouldn’t go amiss.
- A selection of sticky plasters – a long strip which can be cut to suit is good (NB some people are allergic to some makes). Pain Killers. If you are at all unsure about administering pain killers – DON’T.
- Sharp scissors – useful for trimming bandages and cutting away clothing.
- A supply of various sized safety pins.
- A few pairs of rubber or plastic gloves – must be used every time you deal with loss of body fluids.
More information on the size and contents for a first aid kit can be please contact Cycling Ireland (www.cyclingireland.ie) or your local physician. Remember it must be both practical and portable!
In an Emergency:
If you or one of your parties has an accident and cannot be moved:
- remain calm;
- keep yourself and the casualty as warm and dry as possible;
- treat any injuries as best you can;
- calculate your exact position on the map (or GPS);
- if possible, leave somebody to care for the casualty whilst others safely get help;
- on reaching a telephone and/or getting mobile signal, dial 999 and ask for the police;
- report the map grid reference where you left the casualty and details of their condition.
All those who are injured and immobile are at risk from hypothermia. As a priority add any extra layers of clothing you have available to the casualty and ensure they are insulated from the ground. If you have a group shelter, ensure the casualty, you and the rest of the group are under the shelter.
Our experts are passionate cyclists or mountain bikers who know of no better way to get to know a place than by biking or cycling on it! Connemara Wild Escapes have packaged activities catering for most fitness levels, varying degrees of comfort from sleeping out to luxury 4 star accommodation and degrees of difficulty. These can be interspersed with various local interests or crafts or events! If you want to maintain your individuality contact us to put together a bespoke guided package to make your safari even better!