Shimmering sea of lycra as thousands join charity cycle
Capital welcomes cyclists of all shapes and sizes for Great Dublin Bike Ride
Smithfield Square in Dublin 7 was a shimmering sea of shiny lycra early on Sunday morning as thousands of cyclists of all shapes and sizes gathered ahead of the start of the second Great Dublin Bike Ride.
As they approached the starting line on the north quays, more than 5,000 people and their bikes were separated into 100km pens and 60km pens before getting the nod by organisers to glide through a blissfully car-free city centre bathing in warm autumnal sunshine.
The organisers had stressed that this was a ride not a race so there was nothing by way of tension or competition to harden a gloriously relaxed mood and laughter and the gentle whirring of bicycle wheels were the soundtrack of the morning.
Poor Sarah Kelly from Clontarf wasn’t laughing. And her wheels weren’t whirring. She looked crestfallen as she carried her rothar along an otherwise empty footpath through the shadow of the Four Courts.
“I got a puncture before I even got here,” she said. “My dad was given a bike for his retirement last year but he hasn’t really cycled it so I booked me and him in. Otherwise he’d never get on the thing. We were driving in, happy out listening to the radio when we heard this almighty hiss coming from the boot. ‘That’ll be one of us out,’ he said to me. He was really hoping it was his bike.”
It wasn’t though. She wandered off after being directed by a steward to a bike mechanic who would be able to get her back on the road.
Nearby there was another bicycle mishap. A woman was just about to set off when the chain came off her bike and got mangled in her wheel cogs. Instantly she was surrounded by fellow travellers with offers of help. Seconds later the chain gang had freed up the cogs and off they all went together.
Solidarity was the day’s watchword .
Davina Graham, Jo Forde and Brenda Barrett, from Pembroke Dental in Carlow were all about solidarity too. “When it comes to cycling we’re definitely amateurs,” Barrett said. “We sit on their asses all day at work so at least this has got us moving. She’s the one to blame,” she added gesturing at Graham.
“Well, I have to do something to keep the pair of them ticking over,” Graham responsed.
“I think she’s worried about our hearts,” added Forde before the trio set off on the 60 kilometre road to north county Dublin and back again. .
“Can you guess what team we’re with,” asked a man surrounded more than a dozen people in gear emblazoned with the Avonmore Dairy legend. He introduced himself as Adrian Tiernan and his team as the Dunboyne Pedal Pushers. “We cycle for the craic. But we’re also raising money for the Cardiac Risk In the Young (CRY) charity. We’re definitely not racing and I’ve a whistle here for anyone who gets ahead of themselves.”
The Garda bike squad were out in force too. “I’m doing the 60km ride,” one said. “Sure’ we’d never get through the 100 kilometres on these yokes.”
Labour councillor and deputy Lord Mayor of Dublin Rebecca Moynihan was psyched for her cycle. “I’m a city cyclist and don’t go very long distances but I’m looking forward it.” She said the environment for Dublin cyclists had improved in recent years but accepted more could be done.
“We need to make cycling easier. We should be encouraging people to bring their kids to school on bikes and we need to improve the infrastructure. But we are making improvements. Nowadays you see people getting stuck in cycling traffic jams - you’d never have seen that before.”
She wasn’t the only cyclist with mayoral connections ready to roll. Fianna Fáil councillor and mayor of Fingal Darragh Butler was there too although he admitted he’d only be able to cycle half the 60 km route. “I’d love to do the whole thing but I have another function one. if I didn’t I’d definitely try and complete the route.”
He was one of the few people not wearing lycra and contented himself with a pair of baggy jogging shorts. “You certainly wouldn’t get any more votes if you were wearing lycra,” his sister Fidelma Butler said. And off the pair went full of laughs.
It was that kind of ride.