My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

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JennyB
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My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by JennyB » Jul 04, 2012 6:51 am

My sister Avis came to look after Mum for a week, giving me the chance to get away and clear my head. I intended to cycle up to see my brother in Limavady, then on round the coast, dropping in on a cousin in Larne on the way. I'd been planning it for a long time, but I still almost managed to sabotage it in several interesting ways.
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Shadowfax ready for the road
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The bag on the back holds the Ping 36v 15 ah and the two chargers; a 5amp, and the 2.5amp original for overnight charging and to add its input through the output connections for a 7.5amp charge at lunch breaks. Total weight about 8 kg. The stuff sack held a change of clothes for evenings, and everything else went into the bar bag. On the first night I would be staying with my brother.

DAY ONE
To Limavady - 78 miles, 25ah
Since I thought I might need a wider range of gears I took of the single chainring I had on and replaced the original triple. That was the first mistake.

On the middle ring the slightly lower ratio meant that I was not using the motor quite as much as normally, but in the right conditions I could still spin the pedals at 22 mph, which seemed quite fast enough for a holiday. Everything was going well until 10 miles into the ride, when a pedal began to unscrew. :oops:

I made the two miles into Fintona on one leg and the motor to look for a bike shop because I hadn't brought a pedal spanner. There was no bike shop, but the owner of a hardware shop helped me out. He had no spanner exactly the right size but he took one slightly too big, jammed a screwdriver into the gap, and tightened the pedal that way. And so it remained until the end of the trip.

I was following Sustrans' Ballyshannon to Ballycastle route (mainly on minor roads)which passes within a few hundred yards of my front door, but planning to bypass Strabane and Londonderry by one of several possible routes through the Sperrins.

At 36 miles, less than half the battery was gone. I had been intending to perhaps visit the Ulster-American Folk Park two miles further on but since I had started late, and had most of the climbing still to come I knew I would have to take another charging break before journey's end. Besides, the day was getting brighter and the hills looked inviting.

So I started to climb for Gortin.

Second mistake: I should have brought something to eat, or stopped to buy something in Omagh, but one disadvantage of a trail that avoids traffic is that it also avoids handy shops. :? The next four miles drained 2.5 amp hours.
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Gortin
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I stopped at the Pedlar's Rest in Gortin, almost too hungry to eat - thinking perhaps I'd recharge for an hour, and ordered a small all-day breakfast and a large pot of tea. While i was there the rain started, so I had another pot of tea and waited. At 1 hour40 minutes, the rain stooped and the lights on my bms began to flash, so I was ready for the road again. :)

Third mistake: dodgy Anderson connectors left in the rain. I was plagued with intermittent power for the next two miles, and finally couldn't get away at all. The main culprit was the connection between the the CycleAnalyst shunt and and the controller, because the CA display showed zero watts, not the two watts normally consumed by the controller at rest. I cut off the offending Anderson and rewired using a bit of connection strip. The Anderson at the other end of the shunt still gave problems from time to time, but that could not be so easily replaced because I had to remove the battery for charging. I put up with it for the rest of the trip.

Gortin is the centre fora lot of outdoor activities, and I followed the signs for a local cycle trail up an unsurfaced road into the hills, heading for the Barnes Gap. There I met some sheep, who began to trot down the road in front of me. I followed as slowly as I could and managed to get by most of them when they stopped at the next gate, but two yearlings panicked and ran on down the road. Despite their mothers bleating for them there was no way they were going to come past me, unless they found a field to turn into. The track was now between steep banks, with no gateway in sight. As I went on the two running before me met more sheep - and yet more - until I found myself driving a flock of perhaps thirty. This went on for nearly two miles, until we at last came to a strange car and a tempting patch of nettles. The driver managed to get the sheep back past me as I edged very slowly down the farthest side of the track, looking the other way.

By the time I had passed the Barnes Gap it was already past six o'clock, so I phoned my brother not to expect me soon. The rain was lashing down in Limavady but with me it was bright and warm, if humid, and I had the entire Glenelly Valley to enjoy (if you want scenery, don't look for the road that goes over the hill - look for the road that goes along it).
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Barnes Gap
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Glenelly Valley, looking towards Cranagh
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The track I was taking from Cranagh to Park was classified as a Category 3 climb. I'd been over it in my mad fit days, and had to walk part of it then. Even with the help of the motor, I still had to walk now. Ah, well - its a lot easier when a little touch on the throttle means you don't actually have to push. At the top a sheep grid marked the border between Counties Tyrone and Londonderry, and then there was the long freewheel down the other side. Because the road was unfamiliar I kept my speed below 30 mph - most of the time. :D
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Approaching Limavady
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As I got closer to Limavady the weather got worse and I began to meet headwinds, but I got there with less than an amp hour to spare. Then came my last mistake of the day:

As I was explaining the charging system to my brother, I noticed that the red light was on on the 5 amp, but it wasn't charging. I picked it up. It rattled. "Well," I thought "I probably can't fix it, but perhaps I should open it up and their may be something obvious that I can take a picture of for the experts on ES."

The experts on ES will know - as I didn't then - that to take the top of a Kingpower changer you only have to undo four screws and press the sides together. I found a loose nut inside, but I'm not sure if it was there when I started. The experts will also know that the first red light shows on the charger when it's connected to the battery, even if its not connected to the mains! :oops: :oops:

To be continued...
Last edited by JennyB on Jul 08, 2012 11:53 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by dogman dan » Jul 04, 2012 7:06 am

Mighty lucky you found that loose nut before it shorted out the charger and let the magic smoke out. Mighty smart you would have had a second charger if it had happened.

I learned on the long day trips, carry enough water and food in case you break down completely. Goes for driving too, in this climate.

Wish I was there riding by your side. Sounds great fun.

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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by MattyCiii » Jul 04, 2012 8:19 am

JennyB wrote:Everything was going well until 10 miles into the ride, when a pedal began to unscrew.
That should not happen... Pedal threads are oriented such that the slight friction force of pedaling tends to tighten, not loosen, the pedal mount. However it can happen if your crank arms are mounted on the wrong sides though. I did exactly that :oops: the first time I installed the ATS drive on my folding bike. You might want to check to ensure your crank arms are on the correct sides, otherwise either pedal can back off slowly at any time.

Here's a picture of me installing the crank arm on the wrong side... [Considering] EDIT: Installed a Schlumpf/ATS Speed Drive. Can't tell from this picture, can you! But on the inner surface of the crank arm, there are clear "L" and "R" markings - I should have paid attention to! I didn't realize I had the cranks on opposite myself until my pedal started to unscrew while pedaling. Very embarrassing!
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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by TylerDurden » Jul 04, 2012 8:22 am

Nice pix, a beautiful country.

Dogman, it might be a shock to the system... Ireland is practically a polar opposite to your desert living. :lol:
Have a Nice Day,

TD

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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by dogman dan » Jul 04, 2012 4:12 pm

Pedals can still unscrew themselves if you haven't snugged em up quite tight enough. Generally you do notice if the chainring is on one side, and the chain on the other.

Watching the TDF, just to see green.

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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by MattyCiii » Jul 04, 2012 7:25 pm

dogman wrote:Generally you do notice if the chainring is on one side, and the chain on the other.
Right :oops:
That's a failure of experience and/or imagination on my part. I've limited myself to a small, specialized collection of parts lately that I've forgotten the vast number of bikes have the spider integrated with the drive side crank.

Back to the tour... That's some beautiful countryside, you are blessed to have such places within biking distance.
1st build: Dahon Jetstream folding bike. Quick, reliable, capable of 32mph. Light enough to lift, folds for easy transport by car/bus/train.
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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by JennyB » Jul 06, 2012 4:08 pm

DAY TWO June 28
To Ballycastle - 52 miles, 18.85 ah
It had been a very wet night, and still raining when I set out. there had been reports of flooding in Belfast on the news. I had been expecting that, so I had brought a poncho-style rain cape. No rain trousers: I knew the weather would be warm and went on the principle that the less there was to get wet, the sooner it would dry again. So throughout the trip I wore a wool cycling jersey, lycra capris, a cheap pair of crocs and no socks when the road was wet.

At the foot of Binevenagh the clouds were low and foreboding, but I decided to climb anyway. It felt almost like a bad day in the Pyrennees on the TDF.
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As I got higher the cloud began to lift, a skylark started singing, and I could see across the Foyle to the mountains of Inishowen. At the top was a viewpoint from where I could look back almost to Londonderry, and forwards over Portrush to Fair Head beyond Ballycastle where I had booked into The Castle Hostel for the night. Then another long descent to Downhill, and the house of the man who built the road, now a National Trust property.
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Downhill, former home of the Earl-Bishop of Derry
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The rain and the headwinds began again as I headed for Coleraine. I found that the best compromise between rain protection and wind resistance was to tuck the front of the poncho into my waistband. My legs got wetter, but they soon dried.

I'd been a student at Coleraine 35 years ago, and it was a shock to see how the town had changed. All the little shops that I had known had been replaced by chain stores. I went to the university expecting it to be almost deserted, yet all the car parks were full. It was acting as a park-and-ride facility for the Irish Open golf tournament at Portrush. I was not inclined to linger, but headed for the sea at Portstewart, where the sun came out briefly once more.

Only 25 miles done, yet ten ah gone. I maintain an average touring speed of 15 mph (not counting stops) and reckon to use one amp hour in five miles on the flat with no wind, plus another amp hour for every 100 meters of climbing. I had already climbed over 400 metres that day, so the wind overall was not as unfavourable as I had thought. I stopped at a cafe on the seafront and ordered another pot of tea and a bacon, brie and cranberry panini while I put in a another 5 ah in 40 minutes. Most cafes and restaurants have outlets in the serving area, but I found few "Justin Junctions" outside. To tour here you really do need to have removable batteries.

The road to Portrush brought me onto the course of the North West 200 motorcycle road race, once the fastest road race in the world, with an average lap speed of 127 mph in 1978 (the year before three riders were killed). Here I saw the first fellow cycle tourists. The town itself was of course stuffed with coach-loads of golf fans.

There was a thunderstorm shortly afterwards and I missed the a turning for the cycle route to Bushmills and the route of one of the earliest electric tramways from Portrush to the Giant's Causeway. Samuel Johnston once said of the Causeway that it was "worth seeing, but not worth going to see," but he had to go by boat and was violently seasick. The Causeway is indeed smaller than it looks in some images, but there are plenty of other formations close by that are worth exploring for those who have the time and the weather.

A few miles further on the sun came out again, and I decided to go by the shorter and busier coastal route. As you can see, the scenery was well worth it. :lol:
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Rathlin in the cloud. Perhaps the Mull of Kintyre behind
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White Park Bay
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Just to show how steep some of the roads were. Fair Head in the distance
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Looking back on Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. £5 to cross, 60' drop
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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by Jeremy Harris » Jul 06, 2012 4:19 pm

Brilliant write up, JennyB, brings back happy memories of being on holiday in the Antrim Glens, and walking that rope bridge to Carrick-a-Rede (before they charged £5 for the privilege). I must go back to the Six Counties sometime, not been up there for quite a few years now.
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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by docnjoj » Jul 06, 2012 4:27 pm

An absolute joy to read your writing, Jenny, and to see that splendor. Perhaps some day..........................
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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by kevo » Jul 06, 2012 5:47 pm

Did our honeymoon touring Ireland and yes it rained, we almost bailed to Spain. Brilliant writeup, countryside and attitude! One of the best on covering adventure and that ebike grin...
Thanks Justin of http://ebikes.ca for your amazing talents, dedication and contributions to ES!
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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by Kingfish » Jul 07, 2012 1:26 pm

Very much enjoyed your report and braving the dodgy elements! Truly appreciate your pain with APPs and with the pedal. B-eautiful country 8)

Thanks for sharing, KF
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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by Ykick » Jul 07, 2012 6:13 pm

Great thread and thanks for sharing your ride!
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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by JennyB » Jul 09, 2012 12:23 pm

Sorry this is taking so long; Mum takes an awful lot of my time. I just hope I can finish before I forget. :oops:

DAY THREE June 29
To Larne - 38 miles, 11.75 ah

First, a word about food and energy. This day the electricity I used corresponded to about 380 kcal, which, given the difference in conversion efficiency between my body and my motor, translates into - quite a big meal. Coming from a cycle-touring background, I found myself wondering why I wasn't eating nearly as much as I would expect. I didn't manage to lose any weight on this trip at all. :(

Part of the blame may be laid on that standard of hostels and B&B's, the "full Irish breakfast." It goes like this:

Cereal; fruit juice, fruit and yoghurt ad lib; tea and toast (also ad lib) and then the Ulster fry, sometimes called the "heart attack on a plate."

This includes:

Egg, bacon, sausages, half tomato (for vitamins?) soda bread and potato bread - all fried - and probably either baked beans, mushrooms or black pudding.

Fully charged on a cloudy but dry morning, i set out on the climb past Ballyvoy. Another navigational error: I had been thinking of going round by Torr Head, but thought the road branched branched off after that for Fair Head. it didn't, and by the time I realised my mistake I decided it was just as well to continue. There was no flooding, but a lot of signs saying "Now try your brakes," and the disappearing lough at Loughaveema looked very full.

When ebike touring it is very easy to underestimate the steepness of a climb, because you judge it by how your legs are feeling. On moorland roads you start thinking "Why am i slowing down? Is my battery giving up?" and then you look back and realise just how high you have come.

The reward is a view of the entire Antrim plateau and the North Channel, followed by a descent of 200 meters in the next five miles, along each slope of Glendun and crossing over a viaduct midway. There was a strong crosswind that caught the luggage on my bars, so I decided it was best not to try for membership of the 40mph club. On my way down I met some lycras struggling up and gave them a cheery wave.
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First sight of the North Channel
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Beginning the Descent
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Glendun. It's hard to convey the steepness, but that's a telephone wire top left and note the zigzag tracks ascending the other side.
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As I began to pedal again the weather broke, and I noticed my left crank coming loose. Motor only into Cushedall, following the rain, where I had to buy a complete set of allen keys to get one to fit the crank. I bought three bananas too and ate one, for the sake of something to do while I waited for the rain to abate. It didn't, and there was now a strong southerly wind blowing too.

At least from now on the road was flat all the way to Larne. The Antrim Coast Road runs next to the sea for the whole 25 miles, and was blasted out of the cliff in the 1830's. Before that, it was easier to sail to Scotland than to travel by road to the neighbouring glen.
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At Waterfoot, an interesting use of the derelict Glenariff inn: the posters explain the local history. This is the Antrim Gaeltacht - note the bilingual road name.
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Some day I shall explore the Glens more fully, but this was a day to carry on through.
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Like many areas of natural beauty, the Glens were once an area of mining. Here a tramway once brought iron ore down to waiting ships. On the headland can be seen the traditional 'ladder farms.' Each farmer lived at the bottom, and farmed the land between two parallel walls running up the slope. Beyond the topmost cross-wall was the summer grazing for sheep.
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Carnlough Harbour
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At Carnlough the weather cleared again, and i stopped at the Harbour Lights for another pot of tea and a ham-and-cheese sandwich. I went for a wander round the narrow back streets and noticed how, instead of dropping the footpaths to road level at junctions, they paved over the entire junction at footpath level and ramped the road up to meet it. Very civilised, and i just wish some so-called cycle paths could copy their example.
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From there on it was a pleasant, dry run if still windy. The traffic was light (mainly coaches) and at one point I was passed by a group of 1950's motorcycles. Shortly afterwards I heard a horrible sound and thought something drastic was happening to the front wheel. I stopped and tried to locate the cause, but whatever I did to the bike, the noise did not correspond. Then i realised that it was an oystercatcher on the shingle calling to her chick!

Now that's something that doesn't happen on a motorbike. :)

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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by 999zip999 » Jul 09, 2012 2:24 pm

Thanks Jennyb that looks as a beautiful trip and as you tell it I feel as if I could be there. I'm now looking for a good trip to take. Thank you

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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by Sancho's Horse » Jul 09, 2012 9:34 pm

This world can be such a pleasure. Thank you for sharing your corner of it.

As a young man, I loved taking trains (the Empire Builder, California Zephyr) and the intimacy you could share with the environment. Now that I am preparing my ebike, this is what I am most looking forward to. My environment is nowhere near as beautiful as yours, but you sharing this helps me imagine things.

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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by electraflyit » Jul 09, 2012 11:32 pm

JennyB,

Loved the journey..and the pics
I will be over in your part of the world early September.
We will spending a week B&Bing around N/Ireland.
Love to be able to ebike it .mmmmmmmmmmm

Eddie

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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by JennyB » Jul 10, 2012 4:37 am

Sancho's Horse wrote:This world can be such a pleasure. Thank you for sharing your corner of it.

As a young man, I loved taking trains (the Empire Builder, California Zephyr) and the intimacy you could share with the environment. Now that I am preparing my ebike, this is what I am most looking forward to. My environment is nowhere near as beautiful as yours, but you sharing this helps me imagine things.

Thank you, S.H. (Rucio?). Our local line closed when I was one year old, but I can still just remember steam trains from Omagh to Bundoran. My own youthful romance was to join the circus, where I was a ticket-seller for two seasons. It's interesting (and sometimes depressing) to see what has happened to all the old tobers where the Big Top once pitched. I keep finding out-of-the-way spots all over Ireland that seem vaguely familiar! :wink:

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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by JennyB » Jul 12, 2012 6:22 am

DAY FOUR June 30
To Portaferry - 70 miles, 23.18 ah

I was not sure exactly where I'd go on the second half of the tour, thinking of the Ards peninsula and the Mournes if all went well, but wanting some interesting short cuts if it did not, expecting to land up somewhere near Armagh on my final night. I'd brought a half-inch Ordnance Survey map of Down and Armagh - but it didn't quite reach as far north as Larne, so I got up Google Maps on my cousin's computer and printed out walking instructions from Larne to Carrickfergus. That's quite a good idea when you know where you want to go and haven't got a map; you can also have a look at the important junctions on Street View so that you don't mistake them later. I was basically following the old 18th century road, and old roads, as you know, go over hills rather than round them.
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Belfast from above Carrickfergus
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It was Armed Forces Day, and Carrickfergus was making its preparations. The centre of the town was cordoned off, there were armoured vehicles on the streets, and guys in camouflage were wandering around. Just like a happier version of 1972. Every society with military connections was gathering next the old castle on the seafront, and the displays were being set up. The Ulster Aviation Society were exhibiting a Martin-Baker ejection seat (developed by an Ulsterman), a Rolls Royce Merlin engine recovered from a Hurricane that crashed near Cushendall, and a couple of target drones. "We get them after they are shot down" said the man - and you could still see the bullet holes in the Banshee.
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Toys for the Boys
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The road to Jordanstown is part dual carriageway, with lots of fast heavy traffic and a shoulder of variable quality. I see now why some of you like ebikes that can go with the flow. Let's just say that if you get it right, the traffic wash will speed your journey. If you get it wrong, it's no fun at all.

A pot of tea and a scone at the cafe in the park, dodging a shower, then it was into Belfast on a cycle trail that was traffic-free all the way - if you could follow the signs. I caught up with a lycra and sheltered from the headwind a while, then we did bit-and-bit, fairly flying through the industrial quarter, with me occasionally squeezing the Anderson to make sure it kept contact.

Just as the trail began to get really complicated I felt the crank starting to rock, and my companion had gone. As I re-tightened the crank a guy appeared on a fixie, and the conversation went like this:

He: Are you lost?
Me: Yes.
He: So am I. That's the craziest cycle trail I've ever seen.
Me: (sensing an opportunity) It's just as bad that way.
He: (eyeing the storm clouds) The weather's better south of the bridge. I think I'll go back.
Me: I'll follow you.

So began my second wild ride. He was right about the trail: it goes up ramps, through gates, around buildings and across cobbles. Hardly had we started but the rain came lashing down, but he ploughed on and so did I. There is quite a large cycling population in Belfast, most of them sheltering in doorways or under flyovers. As we neared the Big Fish I lost power altogether, and fixie guy, too, was gone.

Just as I was thinking of the nearest bus station the rain stopped, the sun came out, and normal service was resumed. I set off, splashing through the puddles on the Sydenham Road, past Samson and Goliath the shipyard cranes, headed for the Comber Greenway. This is a a more straightforward traffic-free route, running on an old railway. It stretches seven miles from the heart of Belfast to Strangford Lough.

It crosses the bottom of the Upper Newtownards Roads near a small library and a statue commemorating CS Lewis (another local man). The very same spot, 35 years ago, was a patch of waste ground where a circus booking office was parked overnight. Some drunk put two bricks through the windscreen and tried (unsuccessfully) to set light to the petrol tank. I know, because I was sleeping in it at the time. Ah, the good old days! :?
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CS Lewis Statue
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Start of the Greenway
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Note the preparations for an Eleventh Night bonfire

Despite the weather, there were a lot of walkers and cyclists on the greenway. I met up with a man, a diabetic, who cycles to Comber and back every day for the sake of his health. He'd been down in my part of the world not so long before, and we had a long chat as we cycled past fields of Comber potatoes and I took advantage of his extra-loud bell. He recommended McBride's on the Square, so I stopped there with nearly 10ah gone, for a steak and mushroom pie and a recharge.
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A little bit of Narnia - Scrabo Tower near Comber
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Newtownards
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I had trouble again finding cycle route 99 for Portaferry, and followed the main road out of Newtownards, watching some kite surfers on Strangford Lough. When the traffic got too heavy I turned inland on a minor road. I asked the way from two girls on horseback. It took a while to explain to them that I was on holiday and in no hurry, and didn't want to go by the main road.

"You'll like Portaferry" said one, "it's great craic!"

Thus encouraged, I quickly found the cycle route. It wound through rich farmland, on narrow lanes between hedges. Not as spectacular as Antrim, but very satisfying. The route reached the coast and, for once, the view eastward was clear. The Mull of Galloway could be seen on the horizon. This area is very like Scotland: even the street signs were bilingual - not Gaelic now but Ulster Scots.
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The crank was coming loose again every few miles, and I looked for a place to fix it permanently, but without success. Along the main road were almost all the way to Portaferry were plenty of new houses - holiday homes, retirement homes, or commuter homes, but little sense of a centre or economic activity anywhere. The route diverted to Burr Point, the most Easterly point of Northern Ireland and then on to the fishing port of Portavogie, which seemed like a different world. Businesses, yes, but mainly abandoned, except for one advertising "stand-up turbo tanning booths."
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A rather forlorn mural by the local primary school reads:

LET NOT THE PROSPECT OF REWARD MY SOLE AMBITION BE
WHEN AT THE URGING OF THY CALL I LEAVE THE SHELTERED HARBOUR WALL
TO VENTURE LIFE AT SEA
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Portaferry was very different. The girl was right - I did like it. Narrow winding streets led from the town square down to the waterfront. A tourist attraction, yet not too touristy. Unfortunately, I had arrived later than expected, and all the places where I would have liked to stay the night were full. The tourist information office was shut, but there was a list of local accommodation on the wall outside. I began ringing numbers, and finally found a place - a lovely old farmhouse - but four miles out of town. :(
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The view from the Bed & Breakfast
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Last edited by JennyB on Jul 17, 2012 10:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by Jeremy Harris » Jul 12, 2012 7:29 am

Nice write up again, Jenny. I lived just over the water from you there, in Portpatrick, Dumfries and Galloway, for a few years in the nineties. We used to joke that the local dialect there was "Galloway Irish".
Please ask questions on the forum, rather than by PM, as it helps others and you'll get a better range of answers.

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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by grindz145 » Jul 12, 2012 11:28 am

Awesome ride report Jenny! I hope to see ebike touring like this really take off! :mrgreen:

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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by JennyB » Jul 16, 2012 4:33 pm

DAY FIVE July 1
To Rostrevor - 59 miles, 20.6 ah

I was a little concerned when I woke. I was 130 miles from home, with a dodgy pedal, possibly dodgy weather, and no idea where I would be next night. It was Sunday, so I might not find anywhere to either fix the bike or book a room (no wifi in the B&B).

Then things got better pretty quickly: a beautiful bright morning, a full Irish breakfast, and a nice Scots couple of fellow guests who had come down from Larne the day before and were quite impressed that I had come that far by bike. My host was fixing his lawnmower, and together we got the crank back together and well tightened. He was sure I would find a tourist office at Downpatrick where I could book accommodation. :) Going North again seemed as long as going south, and I'd never been on the ferry across the mouth of Strangford Lough*, so I set off back to Portaferry.

* An old Viking name, relating to the strong tidal current. The lough is, technically, a fiord.

Portaferry was as pretty as I'd remembered from the night before but very quiet, and the ferry was loading (it runs every 15 minutes) so I didn't linger. It's definitely a place I want to visit again. I got talking with the ferryman and he asked if I'd seen a man walking with a white packhorse on my travels. He was walking round Ireland, starting from Dungarvan in County Cork. It was £1 to take the bike across. I did not ask how much the horse cost. In the middle of the channel is a turbine, like an underwater windmill, that generates electricity from the tide. Only the access shaft is visible above the water.
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Strangford, with Portaferry across the strait
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Once across, I quickly forgot my worries and once again began exploring the signed cycle route. The back roads around Downpatrick are the ideal place to lose yourself when you are not in a hurry; narrow and twisting with a lot of small drumlin hills, even more sudden and surprising than those of home. There are a lot of places associated with Saint Patrick, but I was not looking for them. I was just enjoying whatever came my way. I passed the church at Saul almost before I recognized it.
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Hello, young Ents - near Castle Ward
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It was nearly one o'clock when I entered Portadown and followed the signs to the Saint Patrick Centre I didn't know what to expect - for a moment I thought it was only a shopping complex - but the centre itself was behind. They were only just opening - it was the first Sunday of the year that they were open. I explained my situation, and the receptionist begain looking up addresses and dialling numbers. I was looking for a place near Newry, but in the end we found one in Rostrevor, ten miles closer. "Just as well," I thought, not knowing how long my crank would last. I'd only used about 6ah, but I recharged with a pot of tea and a sandwich at their cafe as I admired the terraced garden leading up the hill to the cathedral. I couldn't have eaten anything more.

I followed the main road out past the racecourse, but soon the back roads started calling once more. :D
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The Mountains of Mourne (roll down to the sea)
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The same spot, looking south
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When I joined the main road again near Dundrum I saw a crowd of Orangemen in their sashes gathering for a service or a parade, and more and more people out walking, cycling or driving, enjoying the weather. now there was a choice to be made: either climd the north shoulder of the Mournes 13 miles to Hilltown, and then more climbing and a steep descent to Rostrevor which Majella at the B&B had warned on the phone might be busy with holiday traffic; or follow the main road south round the coast. The wind seemed to be blowing from the west, straight down Hilltown road, so the choice was simple. Perhaps I was influenced by the only time I'd been high in the Mournes on a bike, when I foolishly took a fixie on a "Cycling challenge." I'd stayed with the group to the start of the climb up to the Spelga Dam, and somehow managed to complete it without dismounting, but they all disappeared into the distance on the 10 mile, 1,100' descent to Kilkeel. :(

Traffic got heavier and heavier as I approached Newcastle, a popular seaside resort. Once again I had missed the signs for the cycle route, which followed a traffic-free shore path. Once in the town itself it was not so bad. There was a one-way system, with several light-controlled crossings built up to footpath level to accommodate the multitude of pedestrians. There was still heavy traffic on the other side, where the road squeezes past the mountain at Maggy's Leap, with a hundred foot drop to the sea below. I began to wish I had headed for the hills. :?

Once past that point the traffic thinned out, and the sort of spread-out development I had seen in the Ards re-appeared. Some developers, it seems, were not welcome.
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The sign on the footpath reads "SHOW HOUSE OPEN, " the sign on the left "ILLEGAL SITE ENTRY" while the sign on the pole pleads "Love each Other"
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A more traditional message: "MY HELP COMETH FROM THE LORD"
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Soon the wind was directly head-on, and I began to wonder if I would make it to Rostrevor without another charging stop. I adopted my most aerodynamic position - elbows on the bars, hugging the bar bag - but I am no longer lissom enough to pedal effectively like that and it feels rather foolish when your speed drops below 15 mph. :oops: Then Carlingford mountain in the Republic came into view across the water, and I knew I was nearly there. I quickly found the B&B, a lovely old Victorian terace house on asquare with a green in the middle, loking out onto Carlingford Bay. At the foot of the Hilltown road, I found a small cafe converted from an old schoolhouse, where I had a pot of tea and some lemon meringue to celebrate - and assured myself that the Hilltown road was indeed steep, and narrow, and very, very, busy. :D
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Carlingford Mountain from the window of the B&B
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Coming soon: One hundred miles home
Last edited by JennyB on Jul 17, 2012 5:34 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by RyanTo » Jul 17, 2012 4:34 pm

"Coming soon: One hundred miles home"

Sounds interesting!

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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by The fingers » Jul 18, 2012 10:43 am

Ref. Photo: Hello, young Ents - near Castle WardAIR_20120716_00001.jpg (71.02 KiB) Viewed 52 times
Your narrow path photo is very beautiful and inspiring, obviously worth traveling many miles for. Thank You and God bless! :D
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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by JennyB » Jul 20, 2012 2:38 am

Day 6 July 2
Home - 101.5 miles, 25.11 ah

As you might guess from the energy used, this was a lot easier than it might seem. First, the B&B was everything that could be wished for: friendly, quiet, a proper bath, lots of interesting books to read, proper wi-fi and of course, a full Irish breakfast in the morning. :D

I hit the road just before 9.00 am, in a light drizzle, taking the main route through Warrenpoint to Newry. It was a fast road with fairly heavy traffic, but had a good cycle lane on a wide shoulder for most of the way. Market stall were just being put out on the main square of Warrenpoint as I passed by. What wind there was must have been from the south, because I found myself buzzing along at 20+ mph, hardly using any power. Just under 1ah in ten miles! :shock:
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Just before Newry, the cycle lane runs out
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I knew the main road to Armagh would be busy, with a stiff climb out of town, so I was looking for Sustrans Route 9, the old canal towpath that runs north towards Lough Neagh. There are two canals in the centre of Newry, and I had to stop and ask a few times to make sure I had the right one. Apart from crossing roads, this route is traffic-free as far as Jerretspass, and there were quite a few walkers, joggers and other cyclists out. Gentle cycling, but the power assistance was still welcome after negotiating the road crossings.
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A bridge across the canal - and the towpath
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It's not stuck, it's a Shetland pony
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At Scarva I left the canal to link up for a while with the long distance cycle route from Ballyshannon to Belfast. Once again I missed a signpost, and once again I followed my usual rule of not backtracking if an alternative route would serve. So I found myself in Tandragee, where the road into town passed between red brick animal feed mills that seem to date from the 19th century. With the smell of ground maize in my nostrils I headed west, and soon found the official route, which leads into Armagh following minor roads.

I love thin roads, especially those with grass up the middle. They twisted and turned and led up and down hill, but I knew I would soon be in Armagh so I did not have to worry about using the throttle. Fun!! :lol: Now for the first time in the distance I could see the hills at the east end of the Sperrins and the Clogher Valley - almost but not quite familiar. A old song began playing in my head:

"Though they're highland hills, they're not my-land hills
Though they're green hills like the hills I love
They are not the hills of home"

Then - I made another wrong turning, and was spat out onto a main road. The only sign was the road name "Tandragee Road," which was not very helpful. Tandragee Road from where? and in which direction?

When asked if he ever got lost, Daniel Boone replied "No, but I was once mighty confused for about three days." Confused was exactly how I felt. There was a house at the crossroads and I knocked on the door, but got no answer, so I began to think. I'd gone north from the Markethill Road and, judging from the sun, I had hit this road on its north side. Any other road going to Tandragee I would have come at from the south. So this must be the same road, nearer Markethill, and I should turn right. And so it proved, and I came into Armagh by a rather faster route than I expected.

It was about noon, but I wasn't remotely hungry yet, so I locked the bike and had a wander round. Two cathedrals, a Planetarium, several museums and libraries - Armagh is one of those towns you could wander round for days and not get bored. But my journey was not yet half done - nor was my battery. A light lunch and a recharge, and I was on my way again.
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This time I was looking for the Navan Fort Road, which ran west parallel to the main Killylea Road. My maps were unclear was to how I would get there but it should be simple, I thought. Main road a bit out of town, then first right, first left.

First left led to a narrow lane with a bollard in the middle, and thence to a housing estate. I could see the Navan Fort road in the distance, but no road between. Concrete steps led down a steep grass bank. There was no path at the bottom, just a beaten track between weeds and nettles, but it came out on the road.
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The track comes out just behind the white container
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Navan Fort, now just a shape in the ground, was once at the centre of pre-Christian Ulster. There I found a group of adults and children, waiting for "men in masks" - the Armagh Rhymers. I heard one kid say "They might be ZOMBIES!!!".
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Nearby was a notice warning "Caution Road Bowling in Progress." I didn't much fancy getting in the way of a cast iron "bullet" the size of a tennis ball, but I was assured that the "score" had taken place the day before.

At Tynan I had a decision to make. The most direct route home was west by Caledon, Aughnacloy and the Clogher Valley - another 40 miles. The long distance trail turned north to Cookstown before heading west to Gortin and then south to within 200 yards of home - 108 miles. I could turn south-west across the border through Monaghan to meet the Kingfisher Trail at Clones. That would be another 70-80 miles all the way but I knew several interesting short cuts, so that's the way I headed. I'd been part of the way in the other direction and I remembered a rough track beside a demense wall, but it soon turned out I was going the wrong way, and ended up in Caldeon. :x

I've never liked the road from Caledon to Aughnacloy. It is straight and dull, with a lot of identical small rises, so you are always thinking you are nearly there and finding you are not. Every time I have cycled that road to or from Belfast I have got off and walked at some point, just to relieve the monotony. It's still a dull road, but that ghost is now laid! :)

From Aughnacloy I'm on roads I know well, where I could find a dozen different ways home without maps. With just over 60 miles gone the CA shows 15ah used. This is where I would have stopped if I had not recharged in Armagh.

4 hours 20 minutes riding at an average speed of 14.5 mph (including a lot of wheeling)
8.8 watt hours per mile!

If I was very careful I might perhaps make it home on what was left, but I was in no mood to be careful. Let's make it a century!
8)
I slipped into Fivemiletown on back roads, going faster now that I knew where I was, and stopped at the Valley Hotel just as the rain started. A pot of tea, a beef sandwich and 30 minutes recharge while I waited for the rain to stop. It didn't, but it was lighter and I was keen to get home. To Tempo, again by back roads. From there it was only eight miles straight home, but that would still leave me 8 miles short of the century, so I headed on to towards Enniskillen.
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The hills of home at last - Topped Mountain
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There is a wonderful road round Topped, but not in this weather. The rain was falling heavily now as I passed through Enniskillen and followed the lough shore out to Ballycassidy before finally turning for home. I arrived just after seven, in time to join Avis and Mum watching the highlights of the Tour de France! :D
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Avis and Mum before I left
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Final stats:

101.5 miles, 932.75 wh, 9.2 wh/mi
Maxs 32.9 mph, AvgS 15.2 mph Riding time 6hrs 39 min 56 secs.

I make that an average speed of about 17.5 mph for the last 40 miles.
Last edited by JennyB on Jul 20, 2012 4:47 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: My Tour of the North - Six days, 400 miles

Post by hjns » Jul 20, 2012 2:54 am

Lovely read, lovely ride!

Can't wait for your next tour...
Henk


All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. T.E. Lawrence

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