Three significant occurrences in the past seven years have turned cycling in Ireland into a more popular activity. They are the Dublin Bikes scheme in the city, the establishment of the Great Western Greenway in Mayo and the bike-to-work tax-relief scheme. In just a few short years cycling has become mainstream, with people cycling who never would have imagined themselves back on a bike.
The success of the Great Western Greenway can be seen in the hundreds of Irish people who take to the route every week. The first and longest offroad cycling route is well supported by key cycle hire bases along the way offering bicycle hire for all the family and collection if necessary.
All year round, people are cycling the 42km track that follows the former rail line from Westport through Newport and Mulranny and on to Achill. A surprising number of them are Irish; many are families wanting to take their children to do something different. You can watch the RTÉ Nationwide programme on the greenway at https://goo.gl/C9AFDb
In Dublin the success of the Dublin Bikes scheme can be seen in the fact that there are more than 58,000 long-term subscribers, using 5,000 bikes dotted around the 102 stands in the city. Last year subscribers in Dublin made over 3.7 million journeys. The Coca-Cola sponsored bike scheme has spread to Cork, Galway and Limerick in the past two years.
The progress of the planned coastal cycling route around Dublin Bay, the Sutton to Sandycove S2S cycle track, is still painfully slow. While work may be going on behind the scenes, very little is evident. The proposed East Coast Greenway, which could link Drogheda to Arklow, is still a long way in the future. The Carlingford to Omeath greenway opened last year and is a lovely cycle along the lough shore.
Around the country, cycling tour companies have sprung up and are an ideal way to see a lot of a destination in a day or so. Explore Dublin, learn some history and hear stories of famous landmarks on a guided tour with dublincitybiketours.com: €27 for adults for a two- to three-hour tours.
In Kerry you can get off the beaten track and explore beautiful parts of the Killarney National Park, see the Dingle Peninsula and view the coast of the Iveragh Peninsula, or cross the Reeks with greenroadcycletours.com
The colourful scenery of Connemara offers enchanting country roads, sheep-dotted uplands, coral beaches and prehistoric islands to explore. A five-day self-guided trip with accommodation and luggage transportation will cost from €495pps with connemaraadventuretours.com.
Discover the Wild Atlantic Way at the Inishowen peninsula and see some of the finest scenery on the 2,500km route. Cycle Inishowen does a one-day tour on Wednesdays and Sundays in the summer for €60 with bike hire, starting in Carndonagh. Private tours are also available: cycleinishowen.com.
The Copper Coast of Co Waterford is the location of one of Ireland's two geoparks. It is named for the former mining industry, the legacy of which now makes it a tourist attraction. Ride quiet roads and laneways, explore coves and beaches along the coast with Tramore Cycling Tours. A half-day tour will cost €45: tramorebiketours.com.
The green riverine valley of the Barrow is the perfect place to enjoy a cycling trip. The towpath by the river takes you through beautiful scenery, with not a car to be seen. The Waterside Guesthouse at Graiguenamanagh has bikes to hire from €20 per day or €25 for electric bikes: watersideguesthouse.com.
Electric bikes might seem like cheating to some people, but they are the perfect way to have a substantial tour without wearing yourself out. In Co Leitrim join Electric Bike Trails for a guided tour over Sliabh An Iarainn mountain with breathtaking views of Lough Allen and great expanses of upland blanket bog. The 65km day out for a minimum of four people costs €75 each and include a gourmet picnic lunch and all equipment: electricbiketrails.com.
Adrenaline freaks will love hurtling down a forest trail in Co Tipperary. Bike Park Ireland at Fairymount Farm in Ballingarry has six downhill tracks to choose from. They can rent you Kona mountain bikes and provide trail maps: bikeparkireland.ie. Make a holiday of it and book a self-catering house or stay on the campsite, with a cafe on site: fairymountfarm.com.