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From Malin to Mizen: A charity bike ride to remember

By Dr Alan Moran - 17th Mar 2024

Malin to Mizen
Cyclists finishing at Mizen Head

At home my means of transport can be a car, a van, a motorcycle, or a bike. For years I have travelled most often on the bike. We all have things on our bucket list and one of mine was to ride from Malin Head to Mizen Head in as few days as possible. I could have done it myself, but I kept kicking the bucket down the road. My excuses ranged from the wind was wrong to the potential for rain (of course there was the potential of rain – this is Ireland!).

Then I saw Cystic Fibrosis Ireland (CFI) was doing a charity ride over four days in September and all I had to do was raise €2,000. Like a lot of doctors, I’ve trouble asking for money, but I have a wife who is not so afflicted, so Facebook was employed and word spread nicely.

After applying, I got the information pack that included a training programme. I looked at it thinking there’s no way that I could cycle 650kms in four days. Not at the age I’m at. So, I set about exceeding the training plan. But only by a little.

In the run up to the cycle, I was on a WhatsApp group and we were kept up to date about the progress and what was happening. It didn’t make a lot of difference to my training, but it was eye-opening to get a list of all the things I have to bring, such as 12 pairs of socks and four pairs of shorts. It seemed like someone was expecting a lot of rain.

The day before the start of the cycle we took a wee trip up to Malin Head on the Wednesday to witness a gale-force wind blowing from the south. I could hold my jacket out horizontally with the force of the wind. It wasn’t something to induce a peaceful night’s sleep. That night in Ballyliffin Hotel, Donegal, we had a pep talk about what good we were doing and how every little bit of sponsorship can help. We heard a story about a man discharged home from hospital with no State help. However, CFI was able to step in with enough money to get him a bed for downstairs and modifications to his downstairs toilet. It was the difference between going home or remaining in hospital or step-down accommodation.

For the ride we were divided into three groups: Those who expected to average 23-to-25kms per hour; those expected to average 25-to-28kms per hour; and those who would likely exceed 28kms. Considering all the anxiety I had about completing the cycle, I opted for the slowest group. No point killing myself.

Day 1

The following morning we got a combination of lifts and taxi to Malin Head for the compulsory photo shoot and to witness the early morning rain. Once we were underway, not only did the rain stop, but we felt we had a tail wind. We stopped later in Muff for refreshments to the sound of multiple cheers. Laid on were Jaffa cakes, bananas, jelly babies, tangerines, and many types of cakes and buns. There were volunteers filling our water bottles, and giving out when we did not drink enough! Lunch was outside Letterkenny, again food and water were plentiful. We had one more water and food stop before stopping and bedding down in Bundoran for the night. According to the GPS, we travelled 152km, with 1,133m of climbing. I have to say, it felt like less.

Day 2

The second day saw us leaving Bundoran. Having spent all of the first day travelling through Donegal, we were amazed that it only took us 20 minutes to cross Co Leitrim. Another big surprise was the quality of the road surfaces in Mayo.

Again, we had a food stop, followed by a lunch stop, followed by another food stop.

According to my GPS, we travelled 177km with just over 1km of climbing. Average speed was steady at just under 25km per hour, and I felt I could move to the faster group. But I didn’t. Overnight was in Oranmore and we had the best breakfast of the trip in the Maldron Hotel.

Cyclists taking off from Malin Head

Day 3

The third day saw us heading to Mallow via Limerick. We met with the other groups to bunch up and avail of a Garda escort to get us through the red lights and junctions of Limerick together. This was the day I was dreading, as I felt I’d be running out of energy and knowing there was still a full day’s riding ahead. But at 165kms, with 650m of climbing, it was relatively “flat”. Again, multiple stops helped energy conservation.

Day 4

On the fourth day, the last day, we left Mallow for Mizen Head. As they wanted us to arrive together, the ‘slow’ group left first, followed by the others at 40- and 60-minute  intervals. In relative terms, it was dry with a tail wind. Relative in that we had a misty type of drizzle, not enough for putting on wet gear, but no actual rain. We gathered near the Barleycove Beach Hotel and cycled the last few kilometres as a group into Mizen Head. We had great cheering and welcome, again with the usual excess of food on our arrival at the visitor centre.

Overall, I found the support brilliant. We had a support car at the front and back of each group and each group also had a motorbike marshal stopping traffic whenever possible to allow us through junctions as one unit. There was a roving bike repair van (with my spare wheels not needed). We had endless supplies of food and drinks, we had physiotherapists massaging us at the end of the day’s cycle, and much honking of horns in support of us and the cause. We could have inadvertently held up traffic for ages and there were no complaints from the motorists.

I couldn’t believe how manageable cycling the length of Ireland was for me

I couldn’t believe how manageable cycling the length of Ireland was for me. It proved the value of adequate calories and water, as well as appropriate pacing within a group, and the goodwill of so many people helping us achieve the seemingly impossible.

Cyclists and support crew at Malin Head

If it is on your bucket list, I would strongly suggest linking with CFI to cycle this epic route.

A big shout out of thanks to the sponsors, who included Dunnes Stores, Glenveagh Homes, Maxol, and Europcar.

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