The Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle gets bigger and better every year. This year we had 11,500 hardy but generous souls cycling 180km around the largest of Kerry’s peninsulas. Thanks to all of these cyclists who come from all over Ireland and the world, the proceeds raised go to local and well deserving charities.
I’m lucky enough to be booked for the past 4 years to provide drums, excitement & encouragement for the passing cyclists with 1km to go. At this stage they’ve done it and they can sit up and enjoy the cruise into Killarney town and the thousands of supporters waiting to welcome them over the finish line.
From a cycling point of view this is a unique event. I get to see ¾ of the cyclists at close hand flying past with the finish line in sight. What the cycling world might think is the norm goes out the window here in Kerry every year. There are Carbon roadsters a plenty, but there are also High Nellies, Hybrids, Mountain Bikes and bikes that have no classification. Men and women of all ages power these bikes around the hilly circuit. Some are fitter than others but all get swept around by a wave of good will and a special atmosphere that exists for this long-standing event.
There were 11,500 cyclists this year and the event was sold out 3 months before hand. The servers crashed in the first few days such was the demand. Bear in mind there are no shorter options for cyclists. Unlike other sportive cycles that usually have a 60, 100 & 120km+ routes, the Ring of Kerry is straight up 180km, that’s it!
It is engrained in the psyche of everyone in Kerry. If cycling comes up in any conversation the next question is always, have you done the Ring of Kerry? Now they mean have you cycled on the day with the thousands of others. Of course us cycling enthusiasts hammer the hills and hollows that this beautiful county has in abundance every weekend throughout the year, but if you haven’t cycled this now famous event then you’re not a real cyclist.
Lots of people train hard for this event. Some are strong club cyclists who fly around but there are hundreds of cyclists who take their bike out of the shed a month or two before hand, take off the previous years event sticker, spray a bit of oil on the dusty gears, pump up the flat tyres and away they go. They don’t obsess over gear, lycra, the width of their tyres and the ideal PSI, the aero qualities of their helmet, the brand of chamois cream they use, whether their carb consumption is balanced with their electrolyte requirements.
It’s an annual right of passage for these people and it represents a daylong pilgrimage that they do each year. That’s it. Their bike is not important to them; it’s a tool that helps them to participate. They are the heart and soul of the Ring of Kerry cycle, the real warriors who battle climbs and real fatigue to be part of something great. I know for me it’s a grounding experience. I’m one of those MAMILS who get caught up in the technical side of cycling and I’m slowly coming to the realization that it’s about the cycling buddies, the craic, and the fresh air.
I’m not about to turn off Strava just yet though.