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Not quite a tour round Ulster but My Da is one of the organisers of the Tour of Ulster bicycle race and I often work as a Motorcycle Marshall assisting the police with rolling road closures and this year I decided I needed a weekend ride so went over for the craic.

Left Norwich (my current home) on Thursday about 3 for some road crunching upto Telford where I had booked the DaysInn overnite for a cheap deal at £27!! Wanted to take it easy and leave myself more time to enjoy the ride through Wales the next morning before catching the ferry.

I was also sporting bruised coccsycs froma snowboarding accident a week prior, not much fun but making sure you sit on your seat bones releaves it until you hit a big bump or crouch back onto your tail bone again.

Decent digs, nice people, 24hour desk and they ask you to leave your bike outside the door so they can keep an eye on it for you! They even gave me a room on the ground floor just beside where it was parked so my Alp was just outside the window.

Craicin weather the next morning, filled up and headed up the A5...roundabout city until you turn off the wide roads and a fair bit of traffic. Headed up the Horseshoepass for a photo op and a wee burn, once id made sure the boys werent about. Nice area and will go back there for a weekend i thinks.

Loved the A5 from there to the top of Snowden, the decent was fun too but gettin a bit greasy so had to take it easy and eventually rain as Holyhead approached.. nothin new there then.

On the ferry and I met a bloke heading up to Lisburn to meet a mate, didnt sound like he had ever done a trip this far before and I had to help him tie the bike down as the slow ferry was near empty and no assitants about at all.

Dublin was Dublin, got in at 5PM so I just headed for the new tunnel - £10 one way for bikes/cars et all, and we had to que as there was only one cashpoint open... crap for £10 but it does save you the city traffic at peak.

Just blasted it up the motorway to my parents in Warrenpoint Co Down - did pass a few bikes, some commuters but 2 blokes on BMW's with the usual metal cases but these had some sort of 'Long Way Round My Granny's' type of branding - nice chaps, waved and tagged on for a bit but I was making time on these roads. New motorway to NI is ace, still being completed in Newry after the boarder but I done ferry to home in 75 mins so a bit improvement on the old 150mins it used to take.

For the weekend, I met another top bloke on a bike, Dave, who had a 98 Blade to ride for the weekend - given that he was used to riden a Virago this was gonna be fun. We left his house in Newry and on the way up the Armagh road I had to ring it to keep up - we were at a ton until he pulled over.. he says 'Can you take the lead and sit at 70 as my speedo is not working right and I cant tell on this feckin thing!' LMAO Apparrently last year, the police at the race, asked him if he was enjoying his new bike... to which he said yes of course, was keeping it below 80 but finding it hard... the copper laughed and said he never had it below 100 except when he was pulling over.... asked him to take it easy and get some new clocks for next year... he didnt!

If you want a nice ride in the north without going the entire way to the top, head from Newry to Armagh (via Tandragee if youve got time for twistys) and then head for Omagh/Eniskillen - this road is at best quick twisty's with decent surface and at worst, straight with long open bits and blind crests.

We headed along this route until Augher where i remembered the road to the left was really tight and twisty, dropped a gear and took off only to hear a beep behind me... Dave had pulled over... I forgot we were going to Omagh and had turned for Enniskillen along this nice twisty, lost in the excitement of the old roads I havent been on in nearly ten years! Shame, had to make time for the police sign on and debrief.

For those who dont know what im on about, in Ireland, when we run a cycle race, we usually get full cooperation of the police for a race with as many riders as we regularly have (70-100) and they operate a rolling road closure with 12 bikes and using the catipilar system, 8 bikes up from as far as a mile ahead take it in turns to stop oncoming traffic and traffic coming from side roads. This is where civvy bikes come in as to keep the closure rolling, they cant stop for long at junctions and side roads or obstacles like dangerous turns/bridges/car round a tight bend etc, so we stop until the entire race with calvacade has passed and then make our way back to the front. Can take a while to get back through the group of cyclists especially when they ride using both lanes (technically and legally not allowed to but PSNI are great and allow it when they see riders being responsible with it).

Its a lot of fun to do if hard work, quick blast, tentative throught the peloton, bigh blast to the front to pick up the next big obstacle whilst reading the route map to find where the major town/T Jct's are.

Put simply - without a minimum of 6 PSNI bikes and 6 civvy's - these races couldnt happen for safety reasons so a little bit of help makes a big difference if you ever consider having a go. B&B in a decent hotel in Omagh, evening meal with the organisers and a nites craic with the other civvy riders makes it a great weekends entertainment too.

The race stayed within the areas close to Omagh in the north west. Took in the Glens with Gortin being the biggest but it rained that day so we had to take it easyish on the road... i couldnt believe how unconfident some of the PSNI riders where though, we had fishtails on the way down but keepin the throttle open solves that easy, just not the natural thing for most i suppose. Lovely scenery when you do get a chance to stop and look, very aggresive race so the boys didnt give us many opportunuties to look around - you will be amazed how quick a group of cyclists can catch you up on the road especially on the decents.

After 3 days of riding with the race it was back home after a craicin race dominatd by Under23 cyclists - the future of the sport in UK and Ire is looking great, we had teams from IOM and England there and its not just the tracks we are going to win medals at with cycling. Just watch mark Cavindish this year.

I really enjoyed the run back to the Point for a last nite at my parents - great to catch up with family back home.

Next morning it was an early depart for the Dublin ferry at 9.45 - met a bunch of Goldwing owners from NI on their way to Spain to talk bull.. sorry, see the bulls! If anyone knows them say hi - one of the guys is the fella that sponsors the Tandragee 100 - he owns 'Around a Pound' from what I gathered - sound bloke and they where all looking forward to their annual trip - safe journey had by all i trust. One fella even came from the same street as me but left when he was 6 or something, moved to bandit country to take up the struggle.....LOL he will know the joke if he reads this!

Verry different on this ferry, I took the fast ferry back, about 12 bikes on it and they crew where right on us to tie the bikes down and ensure we where all happy etc. tied my own down anyway.

Met another bunch from the south headin to mid Europe, various bikes but equally decent blokes with usual sense of humour. Safe journey too guys.

Got off the ferry first with the other bikes, pretty quiet crossing again. Had an excellent ride up the A5 again, stopped off for a few photos at Snowden and then again at Llangollen where there is a big viaduct and canal, love this bit of the A5 even at reasonable speeds under 70. Sunshine and windy but the valleys give the best riding conditions.

This is the only spot where it all got a bit heavy - I was aiming to stop at Birmingham on the M6 - Chorley for a power nap and lunch, breaking up the 340 miles trip (40 from start to Dublin). Got to the M6 and all was well apart from someo signs saying the M6 was closed at J4a - 5? Could make head nor tails of it so I just kept going until I reached diversions, couldnt be bad for a 1 jct diversion.

As I was ridin along the M6, 3 lanes inside me a rubbish truck was loosing it load in the wind (and he was doing 75) - some roof insulation flew out and I was thankful I wasnt behind him, felt a bit of dust though.

Within a minute I was blind in one eye with excrutiating pain and the natural reaction to squeeze my eye closed, knew it wasnt a fly though so thought id better pull in, lokked to the right to make a move and my right eye did the same... once I remembered I had to keep my eyes open, i forced one eye open and tried to see through the tears - thankful that there wasnt much traffic on the left at this point. Finally stopped on the hard shoulder before nearly getting run over as I lost sight and balance getting off the bike!
Just remembered I had water in the top box so fought through the pain to find my keys and get some water out, got my lid off and drowned my eyes!! Feck that hurt... took my 20mins to recover from it... can only guess it was fibreglass dust from the insulation... had swollen eyes for a week after that, very painful and unballancing too - I only got back because the wind was cold and I kept plenty of air coming into the lid to cool my eyes.

Then I find that the diversion went via Coventry as they werent letting you back on after the jct5 where the closure was... eejits. Sitting in traffic que's for ages with my eyes killing me in the heat - had to stop on the M1 about 4pm to rest my eyes with some ice and didnt get back til nearly 7pm in the end.

Overall a craicin weekend with approx 1k miles and getting about 180 miles out of 14/15 litres in all conditions. The bike is way comfortable - might try some riser bars for my shoulders but other than that I had no issues. The coccsycs werent an issue at all, infact, the injury forced me to sit plump straight upright in a perfect spine position and it actually trained me to sit properly instead of slouching whilst strengthening my back to do so.

The bike even livend uo too as I opened it up for periods during the race, revving up to the top of the clock for quick gettaways on a regular basis, with police escourt!!

The engine seems to have loved it as its well loose now - or maybe im more keen on revvin it.

The new tyres are awesome too - BT45's - anyone doing road only just gotta have them, not a sign of a flat spot yet and the chicken strips are gettin thinner!

Cant wait til my next trip - August bank holiday weekend to somewhere far away and cheap, possibly with a tent, or plastic bag, or begging, or just the stars! As long as its in Europe I dont particularly care - really fancy the highest pass in the Alps as its written on the side of my bike! Add in all the famous passes in the Tour De France Alps and ive got reason and ryhme to the trip.

If this is too long to read - drop over for a few pints!
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)

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Sounds like a great trip sorry to hear about the eye !
I'm in Lowestoft and all I see round hear are sport bikes (and very clean ones at that)
I'm off on a 15 day trip round the coast of the UK on 25th May. Alan (Alan O Neill) | MySpace.com
I've fitted bar risers, the bike is way more comfortable and the pain has gone from my shoulders and back.
 
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