Out on the bike this morning for a 2 hour spin I had plenty of think time. There is no better place to do your thinking. Your heart is pumping and you are fresh and alert with no distractions other than the road ahead and the surrounding scenery.
As I rode along I became aware of how little traffic I was encountering. Having come across a report online last night that mentioned traffic volumes being a major factor in peoples concerns about cycling I began to take note of how much traffic was actually on the roads.
Within 1k of my home I can get into a network of deserted back roads, and this is usually where I find myself anytime I go out on the bike alone. Occasionally I have to cross a main road or spend a few hundred meters on a main road in order to get to the next junction but in general I like to train on the Irish back roads.
For one 10k section today I met two cars and one JCB. This is not an uncommon amount for any back road in Ireland.
Nowadays everyone, especially motorists are in such a hurry that they will often forego the shorter ‘as the crow flies’ cross country route in order to make time at faster speeds on main roads and by-passes. This is great for cyclists.
Occasionally you might encounter a motorist flying along but you will hear them long before you see them and can keep well in. The majority of motorists on the back roads tend to be people who live in the area and with the more relaxed pace of life tend to drive a bit more slowly . When you think of a farmer who spends most of his time at 20kph on a tractor, 40kph in a car really feels like they are moving.
Some might criticise the surface of the back roads. In my experience the lower volume of traffic actually makes for less potholes and uneven surfaces. Sometimes near farm entrances where machinery is coming and going regularly the road can show the effects but in general the roads are pretty good.
Going off out on a bike is supposed to be an escape from the rat race. Cycling along a hard shoulder of a main road with hundreds of cars, vans and trucks whizzing by is hardly and escape. In a large group it does make sense to stick to wider roads but when cycling alone or with just a small group of friends the back roads are the place to be.
There are other advantages to back road cycling too. A big one is the shelter from the wind that the narrow roads with close proximity to hedges and ditches has to offer.
Ireland has tens of thousands of kilometres of quiet back roads that are all absolutely perfect for cycling. The key is to get out there and use them.