The Bikes: Specialized Cirrus Comp

You will spend a lot of time on the bike during the tour. For that reason I feel the quality of that bike and its modification to your requirements is one of the pivotal factors when it comes to your enjoyment of the tour. I think its fair to say the quality of bike provided on a tour is going to be representative of the standard of other key elements that go to make a tour special rather than just average.

You know the old saying "you get what you pay for" , well when it comes to bike quality there was never a truer saying. What is the first thing you do when your friend shows you their new bike ? ,,, you walk over and ,, and pick it up. In that moment you make a fundamental judgment about the bike. Invariably you will find lighter bikes sport better quality components. This quality complements the frame and fork material.

We use Specialized Sirrus Comp bikes. Combining their E5 Alloy frames, carbon fiber forks, Machined Swiss rims and top end SRAM shifters gives you a bike that weighs in at 8.5 Kg. They cost €1000 each and you wont find any other tour company offering such bikes . They come in five different frame sizes so you are assured of a prefect stand over height and optimum leg extension.

I have gone trough so many makes and models of bike before arriving at what I now consider the best bike for exploring the West of Ireland. Its probably safe to say my family and many of the locals in my village were beginning to tire from my obsessing about which bike would be best for the 2013 season. Even the guy who helps out on the family farm from time to time did not escape the never ending comparison of features and components (sorry Mike).

The quality of these bikes lies in the attention to detail that prevails in their design and construction. Little details like Zertz shock absorbing inserts built into the carbon fiber forks smooth out the road by eliminating high frequency vibration from the coarse chip and tar surface. This allows us to run the tires at 90 psi greatly reducing rolling resistance.

Here is an example of the detail that won me over to the most expensive bikes I have supplied on the tours over the past 14 years. The hubs are ground with cutting paste by hand after their manufacture to make them super smooth before the ball bearings are fitted. This helps the bikes to just roll forever.

Now its all very well having the best bikes but that's only half the battle. Proper fitting and adjustment is the other half of the equation. The wide variety of frame sizes helps but one of the main issues when fitting out people with a bike for the tour is handel bar height. Over the years I have found a preference for an upright riding position favored by most tour participants. I have modified these bikes slightly to accommodate a wide range of handel bar height settings. All the brake and gear cables have been replaced with longer cabling to facilitate the insertion of a device called a steering tube extension and adjustable stem. Its amazing how many people get their bike shop to replicate this modification to their own bike when they return home from the tour. Shoulder pain / discomfort is eliminated when you adopt a more relaxed upright sitting position. That's not to say some people prefer to get the handel bars in a low position to replicate the dropped bars one finds on a racing bike

The photos to the laft and right display the range of handel bar adjustment available on the bikes. The example on the left depicts the highest setting while the photo on the right gives you an idea of how low they can be set. If necessary the bars can be set even lower by moving the spacers above the adjustable stem.

 

Below you will find some of the features that set these bikes apart from other touring bikes

The Zert inserts in the carbon forks help to reduce high frequency vibration which facilitates a more comfortable and controlled ride.

I refit the bikes with stainless steel pre tensioned brake and gear cables as they don't react with the salty coastal air these bikes encounter during the tours. This exemplifies the attention to detail you can expect on this tour

The bikes come with a compact 20 speed gearing system. This equips you with all the ranges you will need throughout the tour. The SRAM X 7 derailleurs give faultless precise shifting at all times. The bikes feature internal cable routing to help reduce environmental contamination of the gear cables

We supply 3 types of saddle. Two are comfort gel saddles with sprung rails for extra comfort.

The racing saddle option has all the forgiveness of a thinly upholstered brick, for the experienced only.

You can opt to fit any of the saddles with gel seat covers for added comfort.

While the bikes came with excellent tires I was not satisfied with their puncture protection. This is why I upgraded the tires to puncture proof Schwalby marathon plus700 X 28c tires

They offer bullet proof reliability and facilitate 90psi thus reducing rolling resistance. The performance of the bike is further enhanced by their lightweight construction from advanced (expensive) materials. Remember "an ounce off the wheel is a pound off the frame"

It may seem like a small detail but the small chain catcher installed on the down tube saves you from the potential of a dropped chain following a hurried change of gears.

On the right an example of one of the gel seat covers which we supply.

We equip the bikes with regular pedals such as the one on the left.

If you prefer to ride with cages we can fit pedals such as the one on the right.

We don't supply SPD or LOOK clip less pedals but we will fit yours if you bring them.

 

The bikes come equipped with a detachable handlebar box which also houses your daily map. The the box is sufficient in size to carry some lightweight rain gear and a camera. You can easily fit a SLR camera in there. Better to store the cell phone we provide you with for the tour in one of the outside pouches so you can easily hear the phone ring if we call you during the ride. We spend as much time as it takes to set the handlebar grips, bar ends and the gear levers to your preferred position.

A wide range of gearing ratios are delivered by a drive train developed to be precise and lightweight.

 

Support vehicles:

The tours are supported with two Ford transit mini busses. Just in case of a breakdown we also have a spare bus equipped with bike rack and ready to be called into service at a moments notice if required.Each bus is capable of accommodation 14 passengers and up to 20 bikes which can be securely fitted to the custom designed roof racks in a few minutes. We never have to use the full capacity available as we limit group sizes. However it is comforting to know if bad weather threatened to disrupt a days cycling we can just load up the busses and head off to visit a few castles. The countryside is dotted with some fine examples of Norman castles and Tower houses.

The castle in the background of the photo on the right is Ashford Castle in Cong County Mayo. We were due to ride from Clifden to Maaum Cross that morning. Unfortunately it was a particularly windy morning so the group elected to visit this fine castle that morning. After a 40 minute sightseeing ride in the busses we had lunch in the castle and then proceeded to cycle a good 25 miles that afternoon when calmer conditions prevailed. We rarely loose even half a day to bad weather but its nice to know we have sufficient capacity to transport the entire group if necessary. We also have a luggage trailer with lots of capacity, so bring the kitchen sink if you think you may need it.

Supporting the group with a motorcycle allows us to have lots of contact with everyone, even though the group spreads throughout the day. This is particularly reassuring on the first day of the tour, as you are coming to terms with cycling in a different country, and getting accustomed to looking for the arrows painted at the junctions to guide you.

We've tried supporting the group with a guide on a bicycle (as all guided tours do) and found we just couldn't provide a similar level of contact for everyone in the group.

The chap could ride a century in just over 5 hours, and would cycle back and forth all day, he was still unable to achieve quarter of the contact with all of the participants as we now can with the motorcycle. You are also provided with a cell phone which allows you to contact the guides at any time.

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