My Favourite Spin
Having cycled a bike on many different roads and routes all over the World, I sometimes wondered what my favourite route is. Having given it a considerable amount of thought it turns out that I didn’t have too far to look.
For many people the conditions necessary for a good bike ride can be very different. For me, it has to be somewhere relatively quiet and as free from traffic as possible. I also like to have some scenery to look at and I also like a challenge. This route ticks all the boxes for me.
In my home town of Clonmel I leave via the Blueway to Carrick on Suir. This renovated tow path can be quite busy with walkers and joggers on the outskirts of the town so I take it very easy as I meander past the local Park and down by the Bulmers Orchards beyond Sir Thomas’ Bridge at Ferryhouse. The river flows gently beside me and sets the pace for the speed that I should be travelling at.
Staying tight to the riverbank as I approach Kilsheelan I look across at Gurteen Castle, the place where Marlyn Manson and Dita Von Teese were married. Men with make up and women with little attire are not an unusual sight in Kilsheelan.
Under Kilsheelan bridge itself I often bump into Boxcar Willie out walking his husky. Boxcar was a legend of the Christmas Hamper Race in Carrick on Suir, and would often be seen doing bit and bit with Phil Liggett when the leading group made it on to the finishing circuit around Sean Kelly Square. I always enjoy stopping for a chat with Willie and chats like that are part of what makes this my favourite spin.
Heading out of Kilsheelan again by the river bank I pass another castle, or tower. There was talk of a tea room being opened here which would be a fantastic amenity if it does happen. There was even a mention of being able to have your cards read there too. I know a few bike riders who would be interested in that aswell. Some might need it. The river flows gently alongside as I approach Hacketts fishery. Most fishing huts along the river are Galvanise sheds but here there is a luxurious log cabin. I might guess that the owners may have preferred the times when this was a much less public space, but we now all get to enjoy it.
The path gets busier as Carrick on Suir beckons. Normally at this point again you will meet a fellow cyclist or some member of their family out walking, running or fishing. Carrick is full of cyclists and ex- cyclists. If you see a flash of green and white and just about manage to make out something like Quick Step on the jersey that will have been Sam Bennett, the Worlds number 1 sprinter. If you want a coffee then you can head to Martys pantry in Sean Kelly Square. A square named after another World number 1 cyclist from Carrick on Suir. You might even meet Phil Liggett there.
I then quickly head across the Old Bridge and follow the road as it rises up ahead. Seskin hill is to the right but I normally choose the easier option up by the hairpin bend passing the cemetery along the way. Every single time I ride up along here my mind always thinks of three cyclists and one larger than life club chairman no longer with us, Tony Ryan, Bobby Power, Joe Kelly and Dan Grant.
Around the hairpin bend and I take the first left towards Kilmacthomas. Part of this road has been resurfaced lately and is like a carpet. Another part is like the cobbles of Paris Roubaix, but that’s a good thing. If the surface was so good all the way everybody would be on it, both cars and bikes alike. I prefer to endure a little discomfort from the road surface than from fifty cars a second whizzing by.
Rolling over a small bridge I look in at the roadway behind the big black gates. Kellys gates as they are known. The roadway leads to Curraghmore estate and is another great route, especially on my gravel bike. There are cobbles in there, real ones.
Sometimes as I roll along this road, I remember the time that I brought Roz Purcell out this way one easter. We stopped at the shop in Kilmacthomas and as we were coming out with our coffees in hand a black golf with five 19 year-old lads pulled up. They just saw two cyclists and didn’t give a second glance. There might have been a few selfies requested if they looked a bit closer.
Nowadays I don’t stop at that shop anymore. It’s always over to the Coach House that most cyclists will head to for their coffee stop. Here I often meet some of the gang from Group 4 in Dungarvan CC, especially on a Wednesday morning.
When I leave the coach house I then ride the Greenway all the way to the very end, (or beginning depending on where you are from) in Dungarvan. The Greenway is spectacular. Not for high speed training but for soaking up the Comeragh mountains on your right, the Durrow tunnel overhead and the Irish Sea on your left as you approach Clonea. O’Mahoneys shop in Durrow is another good stop along this way. I remember being in there when it was just starting to get busy with a local cyclist who said to me ‘Watch this’ as he asked for a Cappuccino.
A ‘what’ came the reply.
‘A cappuccino Tom, you know a coffee with frothy milk on top’ ‘Oh right’ says Tom’ That’s no bother at all, herself has the kettle on upstairs so I’ll throw in a good strong spoon of Maxwell house and you can put in as much milk as you like yourself.’
In Dungarvan I go through the park and then out past the Park Hotel, straight through the crossroads and head for Coolnasmear.
Staying right by the school, just after the two signposts on the one pole Dungarvan 8k, Dungarvan 10k, I head for Kilbrien.
A back road, off a back road, staying tight to the mountain will now bring me along one of the most scenic hidden gems in Ireland. I’m not saying too much, as the quietness and isolation of the road is part of what makes it so special. Carloads of lollypop licking, nose picking, over the ditch looking families of wannabe formula one drivers would spoil the ambience.
Instead I get to peacefully enjoy the very old slide in the middle of a field, the green post office that will never be found, and the freewheeling descent into the Nire Valley itself.
Every down needs an up, so here there are two choices. If I am training for an event and need to get fit I turn right and head for Powers the Pot. If I’m not, I stay left and go up the less steep side through the sheep and past the lay-by.
Slievenamon comes into view straight ahead as the summit is crested and then it’s a choice between a gentle 60kph roll down the mountain road back into Clonmel or a hair raising 80 – 85kph lash down Tickincor. The choice depends on the day and how brave you feel.