Mick Murphy cycling hero

January 17, 2007

Mike Murphy’s victory in the 1958 Ras Tailtean has the whiff of a movie script about it. He was a poor labourer who dreamt of winning Ireland’s toughest cycling race . In keeping with the best traditions of Hollywood the 26-year-old underdog, after completing an epic journey, crossed the finish line in Dublin as champion.

The myth that has grown up around Murphy and his exploits is captured in the following quote from documentary maker Liam O’Brien.

In the case of the Kerry cyclist Mike Murphy, ‘The Iron Man’, the truth exceeds the legend and the legend… Well the legend goes a bit like this: he trained with weights made from stones, he made a living as a circus performer, on one stage in the 1958 Ras, after his bike had broken down, he stole an ordinary bicycle from a farmer and chase down the leading pack. It’s said that he rode for three days with a broken collarbone, that he would cycle for forty miles having completed a grueling stage just to cool down, that he drank cow’s blood and ate raw meat .it said he was indestructible.

O’Brien’s documentary, convict on the road, is the story of Mike Murphy as told in his own words. It can be listened to by clicking on the following link to the RTE website.

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Comments of cyclist

January 17, 2007

Below are comments taken form the online noticeboard Dublin.ie. The comments have to do with the suggestion of having free civic bikes for the city and how it would be possible to prevent them from being stolen.

This is what Pierre had to say

‘At some of Comhairle na n-Óg discussion and election days earlier in the year the possibility of free city cycles (like Copenhagen) was one of the proposals made by some of the young people present.
Of course, security was a major concern.
In Copenhagen some of the measures adopted to prevent the bicycles being stolen are:
* distinctive design and markings, ie solid wheels, puncture-proof tyres, “city cycle” logos
* limiting their use to the city centre zone with penalties for use outside the prescribed area
* parts connected in a unique way
* special unique tools needed to disassemble the bikes
This might be of use to Dublin City Council in considering this option. The reason I’m mentioning this is because I think it’s a nice idea and I wouldn’t like to see it disregarded without giving it proper consideration and having all the possibilities explored.
Ride On!’

Drummer had an even more original idea

‘Free bikes would be a great idea for the city.

People say they would all get robbed, but there is a simple way around it.

You buy about 2 million, therefore, if you want to sell one on, no one will buy it because you already have access to free ones everywhere. Plus you make them with non standard sizes on the parts so that the parts cant be used on other bikes.

In addition, 2 million bikes at even a 200-300 euro would be a miniscule ammount compared to what would need to be spent on buses, trams and other pulic transport.’

False ended the discussion on something of a downbeat note

‘I’m sure people would be throwing them in the Liffey left right and centre. I seriously doubt that this would work in Ireland/Dublin or any town in Ireland. You will always get the few who want to ruin these good things for people.’

A Bicycle shop owner’s view

January 17, 2007

Below is an interview with the own of Fairview’s Bicycle shop.

[odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/5936963/view]

Cycling Gymnastics

January 17, 2007

Gymnastic cycling is an unusual pastime, as you will see from the video. In Europe it’s popular in Germany, where it’s known as Kunstrad. It’s believed the sport had its origins in Asia. A variant is cycling football. This is where participants play by only hitting the ball with the bike.

The Boss of Irish Cycling

January 17, 2007

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The most powerful man in Irish cycling is optimistic about the future. Declan Byrne, who six weeks ago took over the top spot in Cycling Ireland, believes the sport’s regulating body has turned a corner.

After the glory days of the Roche and Kelly era Irish cycling went into something of a prolonged hangover. It’s governing body was bankrupt for long periods and many of the countries elite cyclists were forced to abandon their sport because it was bereft of prospects.

This year Cycling Ireland expects its membership to break the 4000 barrier for the first time. It has an ambitious infrastructural program planned and is confident that more Irish riders will make it to the professional level than ever before.

Byrnes, while acknowledging the problems of the past, prefers to focus on the positive. A phrase he uses throughout the interview is ‘things are healthy’. And so they certainly appear. The organization has a vigorous policy in place to attract new members. To introduce children to cycling it’s instituted a program of open days in its 130 affiliated clubs. In a pilot scheme in Ulster, which it hopes to roll out countrywide, two posts have been created, that of development officer and talent spotter.

Good working relations with sporting bodies is also something that’s keen he emphasized. Being a 32 county organization it receives funds from both the Irish sports Council and its Northern Ireland counterpart. Byrnes doesn’t hide the fact that members subscriptions merely cover the insurance premium for riders and without government assistance bankruptcy would be inevitable.

The organization has teamed up with Sean Kelly Academy and the Sean Kenny cycling team to offer younger cyclists what Byrnes terms ‘a route to market’ for the first time. Being a lesser cycling nation Irish riders, unless they were exceptional, found it difficult to break into the professional league. The new structure will see younger riders getting the opportunity to train on the Continent and the real possibility of cycling for a professional team.

Byrnes also wants his organization to be more than just a bureaucratic structure. ‘We have always been a competition-based organization, we were not facilities-based. While other organizations had football fields and swimming pools, all we needed was the open road. The Irish road in 2007 is now a perilous place. We need to start looking at getting more facilities.’

In the near future he expects to see a velodrome built in Belfast and funding has been secured for the redevelopment of the outdoor Dublin track. With these facilities in place he believes that Ireland has a realistic chance of winning an Olympic medal in London in 2012.

He also acknowledges that his organization has had nothing to offer leisure cyclists in the past. Plans are already afoot to build two off-road cycling tracks. These are intended for community use and competition. Based on their success Bynre’s hope that a network of such tracks can be established countrywide.

Any discussion about cycling wouldn’t be complete without mentioning drugs. In the Irish context Byrnes sees them as being something of a nonstory. He says that the Irish Sports Council has conducted 100 to 150 tests annually and in the last five years all have come back negative. Internationally he believes the sport will get its house in order. Cycling now has become big business and drugs are frightening off the sponsors. It’s the fear of financial loss, he says, rather than the physical harm that drugs can do that is concentrating the minds of the large professional teams.

The first lady of Irish Cycling

January 17, 2007

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The first lady of Irish cycling is not how Dervla Murphy is usually introduced. It’s more common that the emphasis is placed on her literary output.

She, or more precisely her stories, have been responsible for turning a great many Irish people into long-distance cyclists. Many speak of having got the bug after having read her first book, Full Tilt.

That book chronicles her journey in 1963 from Dunkirk to India. The book’s prose is every bit as brisk as the author’s peddling; in 175 days she managed to notch up 4500 miles.

It’s difficult to summarize the attraction the book has had for so many cyclists. Some are captivated by the Murphy’s independent spirit of giving up everything and just taking off. Others are drawn to it by her descriptive ability, or that elusive notion of wanderlust, that’s the hallmark of any good travel book.

Full Tilt was the first of many books by this prolific County Waterford woman. Many of were written about exotic locations; she has travelled, often solo and unaided, in the Andes, Central and South Africa, Asian and Siberia.

It would be unfair to label Murphy as being just an escapist writer. In a Place Apart she writes of her impressions of sectarianism in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, while in The Ukimwi Road she tells how the AIDS epidemic has ravished the communities of Central Africa.

Murphy’s last book, Though Siberia by Accident, was written at the age of 71. When not travelling, she lives a somewhat eccentric existence her modest bungalow in Lismore County Waterford. In her autobiography Wheels within Wheels she says of Lismore that it is one of the world’s most beautiful places and if it wasn’t for the joy of cycling she may never have let it.

Mick Murphy cycling hero

January 17, 2007

Mike Murphy’s victory in the 1958 Ras Tailtean has the whiff of a movie script about it. He was a poor labourer who dreamt of winning Ireland’s toughest cycling race . In keeping with the best traditions of Hollywood the 26-year-old underdog, after completing an epic journey, crossed the finish line in Dublin as champion.

The myth that has grown up around Murphy and his exploits is captured in the following quote from documentary maker Liam O’Brien.

In the case of the Kerry cyclist Mike Murphy, ‘The Iron Man’, the truth exceeds the legend and the legend… Well the legend goes a bit like this: he trained with weights made from stones, he made a living as a circus performer, on one stage in the 1958 Ras, after his bike had broken down, he stole an ordinary bicycle from a farmer and chase down the leading pack. It’s said that he rode for three days with a broken collarbone, that he would cycle for forty miles having completed a gruelling stage just to cool down, that he drank cow’s blood and ate raw meat .it said he was indestructible.

O’Brien’s documentary, convict on the road, is the story of Mike Murphy as told in his own words. It can be listened to by clicking on the following link to the RTE website.

Irish cycling trails strategy

January 17, 2007

The development of a national cycling network moved one step nearer on Friday with the launch of the Irish trail is strategy.

The strategy, which was unveiled by John Tracy, the chief executive of the Irish sports Council, laid considerable emphasis on the need to improve cycling and walking facilities.

The document highlighted the importance of cycling tourism to the economy. In quoting Bord Failte figures it said that cycling attracts 100,000 visitors and is worth €90 million annually.

However poor infrastructure is placing this lucrative niche market in danger. The strategy said that Ireland is out of step with its European partners in not having a national cycling network. A consequence of this has been the rise of complaints from tourists about road safety and poor signage.

Working with a budget of €650,000 the national trails office will focus its attention on co-ordinating groups involved in constructing trails for walkers and cyclists. Later it plans to include within the scope waterways and horse riding tracks .

The type of trails that falls within its remit are varied. They include city routes, trails linking urban areas to the countryside, links between towns, mountain bike routes and a possible long-distance national network.

Currently Ireland has no official mountain bike trails and only a scattering of unconnected on road cycling routes. According to the strategy this deficiency in infrastructure has been one of the factors behind the decline in activity holidays here. It contrasted the Irish experience with that of Britain, where adventure holidays have been a growth area and where there has been a national cycling network for over 10 years.

The strategy also mentions a few other reasons why it would be good to develop a model similar to that of the UK. It said that a third of all trips on the British national cycling network were now replacing car journeys. It listed the health benefits and the need to cater for a public who have ever-increasing leisure time.

What the strategy did not do was to state when we can expect to have a dedicated cycling network that traverses the country. Northern Ireland possesses two such routes.

The lone trick cyclist

January 17, 2007

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Paddy Waters cuts a solitary figure on his bicycle. In fact he is the only cyclist of his kind in Britain and Ireland. He is what’s known as a trick cyclist.

On what looks like an ordinary bike Paddy manages to do some extra ordinary things. His two wheeled routine is strikingly similar to that of a Cossack on a horse. He goes from being on the saddle, to under it, at the side of it, to standing on it and not just by himself. In one act he manages to ride with four other people planted around the bike.Click on the link, Paddy Waters, to see his performance.

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Paddy, who is from Dublin, is doing a degree in circus entertainment in London. As his specialty he has chosen trick cycling. This was once a popular act in most circuses, but is now almost extinct in these islands.

The advantage of using a bicycle to entertain, according to Paddy, is its power to surprise. ‘The bicycle is a vehicle I use for performance. It’s a machine that people are familiar with, or at least that’s what they think at the beginning. It allows me to take them to unusual places where they don’t expect.’

Waters doesn’t feel lonely about being the only practitioner of this old art, rather he sees his solo status as being something of a selling point. However Paddy, who doesn’t come from a circus family, has no illusions about the difficulty of making a living in the industry he’ll be entering after completed his degree next April.

‘Circuses in the UK are far behind those on the Continent and Ireland is quite a few years behind that of the UK ,’ he says.

On a more optimistic note he believes that the inclusions of circus acts into the bill at summer festivals such as Oxygen and Electric Picnic are encouraging signs of diversification for the future.

At this moment in time he isn’t particularly concerned about the fortunes of the circus industry. He has far more pressing thoughts on his mind, like trying to break the world record for cycling backwards. The current record for100 km stands at just over four hours. He is planning to make his bid for the record before the year is out, but first he needs a route and a sponsor.

Dublin’s Bicycle Courtiers

January 17, 2007

Below is an interview I record with Neil Keogh spokesman for Dublin’s bicycle couriers. The interview touch on topics to do with road safety, pay and conditions of couriers and the underground world of the courier.

[odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/6176733/view]