Bray People

350 kilo­me­tre bike ride on a knife-edge

- Fr Michael Com­mane OP Bicycles · Outdoor Hobbies · Hobbies · Tralee · Dublin · County Kerry · Ireland · Limerick · Castlegregory · Evel Knievel · Newbridge

IHAD an early morn­ing ap­point­ment in Tralee on Friday, Septem­ber 11. It meant I had to travel from Dublin to Kerry the pre­vi­ous day. The plan was to take the 07.00 Heuston ser­vice to Tralee on Thurs­day. In the time of Covid I find it safest to take ei­ther early or late trains as they are the qui­etest of the day.

Cy­cling home from work on the Wednesday a wild thought en­tered my head. Why not drive the mo­tor­bike to Kerry? In the last 12 months it has seen few out­ings. I had driven it to Brit­tas Bay for a swim on a balmy day in Au­gust. It was I who was swim­ming not the bike.

But driv­ing from Dublin to West Kerry was a dif­fer­ent story. For peo­ple who have never driven a mo­tor­bike, maybe the best way to ex­plain how ex­posed you are on a bike is to say that you’re re­ally sit­ting on top of an en­gine with no pro­tec­tion.

The weather fore­cast was rea­son­ably good. Maybe one or two light show­ers and no wind. They were im­por­tant fac­tors in my de­ci­sion mak­ing.

By any stretch of the imag­i­na­tion I’m no Evel Knievel. No chance of that at 71 years of age.

Once I had made my de­ci­sion to take the bike I found my­self ex­pe­ri­enc­ing mo­ments of ter­ri­ble angst. What would I do if I had an ac­ci­dent, broke a leg, or worse? The mantra was to drive care­fully, take my time and al­ways keep to the speed limit.

The most te­dious as­pect of driv­ing a mo­tor bike is don­ning all the gear, padded trousers and jacket, back pro­tec­tor, gloves and hel­met and then try­ing to squeeze my glasses on un­der the hel­met.

I’m ex­hausted be­fore I ever throw my leg over the bike. Part of the ex­haus­tion is due to all the worry and ner­vous ten­sion that de­scended on me the mo­ment I de­cided to drive the bike to Kerry.

Once out on the mo­tor­way I feel like a vul­ner­a­ble fly, who could be swat­ted within sec­onds by a ma­raud­ing gi­ant of a truck. I’m so ner­vous I stay in the slow lane, trav­el­ling at no more than 80 km/h. Every­thing on the road passes me but I’m not em­bar­rassed. Let them off. I want to stay alive.

Slowly but surely the nerves calm down and some sort of con­fi­dence seems to be tak­ing over. Some­where near New­bridge I’m feel­ing re­laxed. It seems as if the mo­tor­way is not as nasty a place as I thought it was 40 min­utes ear­lier, and it’s a lit­tle qui­eter. I am too.

I no­tice the nee­dle on the speedome­ter be­gins to edge up. I’m re­laxed, en­joy­ing an Ire­land that’s look­ing its best.

East of Lim­er­ick I ex­pe­ri­ence a pins and nee­dles sen­sa­tion in my hands. Best to stop and take a break at the next park­ing fa­cil­ity. A quick few strides, check the phone and off again.

On the top of the hill, west of Abbeyfeale the Kerry moun­tains come into view. Magic.

Ar­riv­ing in the West Kerry vil­lage of Castle­gre­gory a lovely sense of achieve­ment comes over me. I’m de­lighted with my­self. The fear and nerves have been re­placed by ex­cite­ment and yes, eu­pho­ria too. I did it.

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