As easy as falling off a bike




This is the Irish tricolour, flying high at the back of the fire station across the road. I was asked to hoist it myself this morning, as it was on the 24th April, 1916 when the Easter Rising began. I wasn’t asked because my granddad was in the GPO or anything; nothing like that. I just live across the road and get all these odd jobs landed on my head.

Mind you, this one I was happy to do. I gave it a quick salute.

On Friday evening, with the weather still holding fair, I had a quick 5k run in the park along the trails. I say quick, but actually I took my time, as I knew I was running again in the morning. Some lovely shots to be taken too.

‘Coos’, as my Scottish friend would say! In the far background, mid-shot, is the Great Beech; one of the park’s most noble trees.

Yesterday, I introduced my mate Mark to parkrun. We’ve been hitting the trails most Sundays, and I wanted to add a little spice to the workouts. So barcodes were duly printed out, laminated and punched, and we headed off to Castletown in Celbridge. It was a perfect morning for running, and we dragged ourselves around in a decent time. Marks’s 24:30 is very respectable for a first time out, not least considering that he’s a relatively new convert to this running lark.

On Sunday, I took the Orbea out for the first decent spin. I had mentioned to Terry (a good mate and serious cyclist) that I fancied heading into the Wicklow hills, so he tempered my enthusiasm just a wee bit, and worked out a route that took me out into Wicklow, and around Blessington Lakes. I’m not sure why Poulaphouca Reservoir (to give it its official title) is called lakes plural, as there is only one lake. It’s part of the Liffey system, though it is not a natural lake. Perhaps the other valley that was drowned when they dammed the Liffey for a hydro-electric power station  – the King’s River – is where the ‘lakes’ comes from.

Anyway. Not like me to digress. 🙂

I headed off from Leixlip soon after ten in the morning. The route was out through Stacumny towards Newcastle, over the N7 and up by Saggart. Somewhere along here I got a smack of a bumble-bee on the side of the face. Heavy-duty insects, these. They look quite benign when they trundle along from flower to flower. At 30km/h, they give you quite a start.

Just out of Saggart is your first decent hill, at Slade, up towards the N81 to Blessington. It’s a lovely road, and I’ve always enjoyed it in the car. Just never had the pleasure on two wheels. It’s a decent workout alright. Sadly, this stretch seems to attract illegal dumping (well, that’s a tautology if there ever was one).

On through Brittas, and left into Manor Kilbride. Just before the village there is the left I would normally take if I was heading up Sally Gap. Another day, perhaps!

Soon I caught my first glimpse of the reservoir off to my right, and a few miles later, I was alongside the shore. Next up was Lacken, and here I rekindled some very happy childhood memories. My Dad spent some time out here renovating a large cottage for a client, and my brother and I often joined him in the summer. I’m sure we were absolutely no help whatsoever in terms of building. More likely we were just getting out from under our Mother’s feet at home.

But the highlights were many, starting with the Meals on Wheels. Aga-cooked sausages into slices of toast, wrapped in silver paper. These were not to be eaten ’til we arrived, which was quite a challenge as it was a long drive out in the old Transit van. Then there were miles of open fields and the lake itself. The shoreline maintained a rather creepy feeling, as if the very ground was still affronted by the decision to drown the valley. When the water levels were low in the Summer, odd gnarly tree stumps would rise from the depths. Indeed there are whole submerged homesteads and farm buildings down there, though I have never seen them. My memories of this place all involve glorious sunshine, which I’m sure is not the reality. But that’s childhood memory for ya’. Here I would have seen my first Common Lizard, and found, and probably ate (pan-fried) my first Field Mushrooms. The drive to this cottage was down a tiny lane, covered in grass and bound on each side by high stone walls, thick with ferns and bracken. I’m hearing the rich, heavy buzzing of insects as I type this, though again, how much of this is memory and how much is fiction is hard to say. Though I seem to recall horseflies were definitely something you needed to be on the lookout for.

Arriving into Lacken required a stop at Zeller’s famous pub. Mind you, the stop I engineered was rather unorthodox. I free-wheeled gently into the empty beer garden out the back, and as I came to a stop by the tables, I couldn’t unclip my shoes. Not sure why, but I put it down to brain freeze. When you’ve been cycling so long without clippies, your body’s natural reaction to arriving at stasis is not to swing your heels out as if you’re doin’ the Dosey Doe at the hoedown. Nope. It’s to try and put your feet on the ground for balance. Even as you try to do this and your pedals do a sterling job of keeping you attached to the bike (as they are designed to do) your brain still hasn’t worked out the obvious, until the obvious suddenly hits you. Before I knew it, I fell over onto my right and hit the deck.

Rule Number One when falling off your bike: is anyone watching? No? Okay. All good.

Number Two: your bike is valuable and irreplaceable. Your shoulders will heal, and the skin on your knees will similarly grow back. That’s its job. Take one for the team! I went down with my bike, still clipped in. Off course, unclipping seemed a rather easier task now. Quick check for damage (bike first): nothing serious – a few scuff marks. Ditto knees. Always a relief to get a few scrapes on your new (insert appropriate object here, e.g. bike, car, shoes, etc.). Then it becomes part of you and your story.

So, we continued on the route, and the route became ‘lumpy’ to use Terry’s expression. Lumpy, it turns out, means lots of hills. Nothing too long but enough to get you out of the saddle at times, and then you can whizz back down the other side. Conscious, as Rob Cummins would say, that freewheeling is not training, I made an honest effort to keep peddling at all times. Mind you, this new saddle does not feel that comfortable. I might swap it out with the old one on the Mercian. Same make, as far as I know. And it may not be the saddle itself, but the actual position. I recall going to a lot of trouble to track down one of those famous leather Brooks saddles. Even second-hand they are not cheap. Well, I gave it a go, and it was just not for me. I  had to move it on. I hope the new owner found it more acceptable than I did (or my skinny arse bones, anyway).

From Lacken to Ballyknockan and beyond, the lumpiness continues, and then you hit Valleymount and cross the bridge, and suddenly the lovely lakeside spin throws you back on to the N81. Left at Blessington and out towards Glending. Here I had a reminder of triathlons past when one of those serious-looking triathletes on a tri-bike with tri-bars, sporting their triathlon club colours, went past, head down, feet whizzing furiously.

My own legs were starting to feel a bit weary, and the saddle wasn’t helping. I was now back in Kildare County. Next stop Eadestown and Rathmore, and then Kill. Now we were back within range, as we crossed the N7 and into familiar territory. For a brief while, I toyed with the idea of getting off the bike once home, and having a quick run, just to see where the legs were at. When I made it home and found my Dad in the garden, I had to show him the pic of Zeller’s pub on my phone, and he seemed suitably impressed. But then I went inside and sat down, and that was the end of that. I watched the Dublin v Kerry football league final and had a bath. The run didn’t happen. Still, let’s not be hasty. Four months of training up ahead. Plenty of brick sessions will happen, no doubt.

Zeller’s pub in Lacken. In the old days, this was your classic spit and sawdust pub. It’s been a while since I had a pint in here, but then, it’s off the beaten track. You need a designated driver for this one…

Overall, happy with the spin. The official stats (which include at least four stops to answer text messages; the downside of having a phone to track your progress) are 92.6k covered in about 3 hrs 49 mins for an average speed of 24.2km/h. I suspect I will do this route again over the summer, so it will be interesting to see how the time improves.

 Not sure what happened to this little fella’. It’s a Greenfinch, and at a guess I’d say it hit the back door, as they are mostly glass, and got a bit stunned. It vanished after a while, so hopefully it’s made a full recovery. I can relate to that whole ‘hitting things you weren’t supposed’ to lark…

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