There are some things in life that you just have to do more than once. And after last weeks fun ride up into the Wicklow mountains, Javier and I had another crack at it. This time Javier hired a better bike, from 2wheels over in Sandymount, one with gear ratios that were actually suited to hills (and that actually shifted properly!)
The plan was simple, if somewhat optimistic: we would head on up to the somewhat forbidding gate at the bottom of the dodgy service road leading up the last bit of Kippure that we rode to last time, but instead of doing the sensible thing and staying the right side of it, we would ignore the big yellow warning sign and go on up…
From the gate it is another 3.3km, climbing 220 metres or so to the radio mast on on the summit at 757 metres. It looks gentle enough from here, right?
(At this point I should note that I’m not some kind of super cyclist; the only thing I have in common with Bradley Wiggins is that Sky would not let me cycle this year’s Tour de France for them either – but for somewhat different reasons.)
The only thing is that it was a little bit windy on the way up. Or rather it felt like it was blowing a gale. Days like this press home why there are currently 216 wind farms in the island of Ireland, having an installed capacity of over 2,800 MW (16.4% of Ireland’s electricity in 2013 came from wind sources). It is a country with fantastic wind resources for energy production, although as we’ve been learning these past weeks, you can’t build a country’s renewable energy supply on wind alone – it’s too variable for a start, and with most of the generating capacity on the west side of Ireland and most of the consumption on the east, there are also transmission issues, with a proposed East-West grid causing some controversy. This day however, it felt like you could generate Dublin’s entire electricity supply from a couple of whacking great turbines placed up on Kippure (note: this is not an official recommendation of Dublin SCC)
Despite all this, Javier and I decided that we would give it a go…
Much like a Smarter Cities Challenge assignment, Kippure starts off reasonably hard work and then proceeds to get steadily harder with not much of a let up, until you get to the incredibly hard bit at the end that makes you realise that the start was easy in comparison. Anyway, I digress. Let’s just say it was a challenge, not helped by the gale force winds and a bit of rain. But we made it.
The second picture above is me holding my bike in the wind. I’m not holding it at a funny angle or anything – it’s being blown that way by the wind. I was trying hard enough to a) stay standing and b) not let go. Still, the view was worth it, and the sun even came out:
We didn’t hang around on the top. The only other soul there, a walker we found huddling behind a concrete block, had already struggled off into the wind, and we were woefully ill-equipped to be standing around on top of a mountain for any length of time. Going down was in some ways harder than going up – it was so windy we had to walk our bikes past the first few bends. (Did I mention it was windy?)
Finally though, we got to Enniskerry. The week before we had stopped in Poppies. This week we chose Kingfishers Kitchen – mainly on the grounds that they had a covered terrace with big warm towels on the seats, but their coffee and pannini were excellent.
This time next week, we’ll be on our way home, having finished our time here, presented our findings and completed our report – so this will probably be my last chance in the foreseeable future to get out into the Wicklow mountains. I’ll miss them; but it’s not all that far for me really – I can always come back…