You’re going to need to have a very good relationship with your machine given you’ll be closely associated with each other for up to 22 hours a day and for over five days in a row.
As much as your training and your crew, your bike can make or break a Race Around Ireland experience. For the duration of the race their bikes are the weapons which they take into battle. For a solo racer the bike becomes his or her home.
Over the years we’ve seen all kinds of machines, from flat-barred hybrids to full aero TT bikes. We’ve even had a tandem and this year we’ll welcome a recumbent for the first time
Bike choice is led by a number of different factors. Comfort, speed, weight and sponsorship are all aspects which must be considered and these decisions will also be a viewed along with the category they are racing in, and the aspirations they have for the race.
A solo racer will generally go for a standard road bike with a few ‘tweaks’. The handlebars will usually be raised quite a bit to give a higher resting position on time trial bars. This provides a more comfortable position over long distances and in theory can reduce the threat of the dreaded ‘Shermers Neck’, that affliction known only to the most committed of long distance bike riders.
As a racer’s hands and backside are the points of contact with the bike, these are areas where problems regularly arise. Sometimes we will see racers with pipe insulation on their bars to reduce impact and racer’s saddles can be quite unusual.
In the team event it is possible to see anything. The great thing about a team event like this is that anybody with a bit of structured preparation and training can take part. It is a great opportunity for people without much experience to take part in a massive event.
As a racer on an eight-person team needs only to cycle for three hours a day, this reduces the need for super-fast carbon fibre bikes and gives them an opportunity to use the same bike they may use on their daily commute.
The larger the team, the larger the issues of logistics can become. While it makes perfect sense for a solo racer to have one or two spare bikes, it can be less feasible for every racer on a team to have a spare bike.
To counteract this issue during a recent Race Across America, the Generali Race Around Ireland team split into two pods of four racers. These pods weren’t based on ability but on height. By having racers of a similar size in the same pod it meant that a spare bike could be shared more easily, if required.
Having said all that, there are some things which all bikes in the race will have in common. They are all required to have reflective tape attached and have front and rear lights for night cycling. Safety is a massive part of an event like this so for this reason every precaution is taken to reduce risk.
Top tip: Reflective tape can be super sticky, so rather than attach it to your bike and be unable to take it off afterwards, put electrical tape on the frame first and then the reflective tape over it.