E-Bike Travel Trend pt6: The Irish E-Bike Tourism Network
By: Susanne Brüsch
This summer, Susanne Brüsch went on a new Pedelec Adventure in Ireland. Together with her partner Silvio, she rode the northern part of the Wild Atlantic Way, crossing the untouched and virtually unexplored counties of Donegal, Sligo and Mayo. The Wild Atlantic Way is the world’s longest fined coastal drive. It starts at Ireland’s Northern Headlands and runs 2,500 kilometers down south along the raggedly beautiful west coast, all the way to the Haven Coast near Cork. In this article, Brüsch tells her story.
Our 2-week trip on electric bikes was a cooperation project with the local tour operator Electric Escapes. They are based in Westport, a colorful, bustling town north of Galway. The city of Galway serves as the hub to Conemarra and many other tourist destinations of western Ireland. Electric Escapes offers guided e-bike tours along the Wild Atlantic Way. During one or multi-day trips, guests from all over the world experience the marvelous coastal landscape, local food and the country’s unique wilderness with local guides. Fresh catch from the ocean and picnics in the nature are part of Paul Harmon’s program who is the founder and head of Electric Escapes. As summers in Ireland are short, Paul runs a second business––LoveMyBike. Under this label, he is the general distributor for electric bikes of the German brand Kalkhoff in Ireland. The bikes he sells are taken to the test right away as he uses various Kalkhoff models for his touring business.
Businesses Share and Win
Paul is also the initiator of an entire network of small independent tourism businesses located along the Wild Atlantic Way. They help each other out with bikes and information and send guests, who want to travel to a different area, over to the partner who is based closest. This way, tourists get the best local insight into Irish life, tradition, cuisine and sights.
Ireland By Bike, for example, is based in the county of Donegal. The business is run by Seamus Galagher and he is the best contact to explore the highest sea cliffs of Europe and the area around Slieve League. Another example is Rachel’s Irish Adventures based in Ballina in the county of Mayo. Owner Rachel Nolan is a young and energetic lady who offers all kinds of adventures, including cycling, in one of the most remote areas of the west coast.
One of the highlights of Rachel’s area is the windswept outcrop at Downpatrick Head. The view at the lone sea-stack standing close to the edge of the cliffs is spectacular. It’s name - broken fort - gives a hint to the historic significance of the place which is one of the symbols of the Wild Atlantic Way today.
The network closely cooperates with Failure Ireland, the tourism board of the country. The organization does an amazing job in marketing the Wild Atlantic Way in and beyond Ireland and is represented internationally through its sister organization, Tourism Ireland.
Visitors Discover and Explore
For our trip from the Northern Headlands down to Westport, we were equipped with two Kalkhoff Endeavour pedelecs from Electric Escapes. One used the Bosch system, the other one came with the Impulse system, for comparison and testing. We brought bags, tools, camping equipment and everything else we needed along from Germany and traveled on our own, visiting other partners of the network along the way. Basically, we did, what people would do if they want to go bike touring at their holiday destination but don’t want to bring their own bikes along. Instead they would rent bikes at location, get local advice and either travel with a guide or on their own. This can be an attractive option for those who don’t have an e-bike at home or who want to take a flight but can’t take the battery.
Talking about batteries––our bikes used 500 Wh batteries and the range we got out of one charge varied between 50 and 70 km while riding in the medium assistance modes and carrying 20 to 25 kgs of weight. We charged at camp sites or in B&Bs when the weather was too nasty to sleep outdoors. Whenever we could, we camped in the wild. This required us to stop at a café or restaurant for a couple of hours during the day to re-charge our batteries, including one spare battery each. All in all, we found a great mix of infrastructure and wilderness in Ireland that leaves travelers with lots of options to stay, eat and stock up energy and food supplies or be away from everything.
The Wild Atlantic Way itself is a well marked road and defined route that follows all along the coast line while leaving thousands of opportunities to discover and explore little side roads and what’s behind – lonely beaches, hidden castles, and secret treasures. In fact, we experienced the Wild Atlantic Way as a trip that was all about getting lost in the beauty of coastal nature. Forget about kilometers! Having planned to do an average of at least 100km per day, I had to learn, to just let go and indulge in what makes Ireland so unique – lots of room for mind and soul.