The Pan Celtic is a self-supported ultra-endurance bike race through the Celtic Nations, following a different route each year. Below is Lawrence Walters' account of the Pan Celtic on a fixed gear bike.
The 2022 edition of the Pan Celtic, the third instalment of the race, journeyed through Wales and Ireland. Two route options of 1600 miles and 850 miles encapsulated the attention of over 200 riders for the largest number of entrants in the race’s four year history.
I sketched out a plan for the 1600 mile route and saw the race in two halves, either side of the second checkpoint in Dingle. The first half was significantly hillier than the flatter stretches in the north-west. I chose to take freeze-dried Expedition Foods meals that covered the main meals for this first section to get to Dingle in one piece. I took eight of the 800 calorie meals split between the breakfasts and mains. I ate all but one (the last) cold and found it incredibly convenient to make them on the go and get guaranteed quality fuel for riding!
The scenery was absolutely stunning and the route just kept on giving incredible coastline to ride. Mid-July we were very fortunate with sustained high pressure, giving light winds, very little rain and warm-to-hot temperatures throughout the whole week. My favourite section was north of Galway in Connemara National Park. There were the most incredible colourful beaches, winding in and out of peninsulas and natural harbours with idyllic anchorages.
Life was very simple out on the road, with very little to think about beyond food and turning cranks. The continual influx of epic scenery and food provided welcome lifts in mood along with shared miles with other riders as we leap frogged each other up the coast.
The route’s ‘Everest’ came some 1000 miles deep into the ride with a 680 metre ascent of the Croaghaun, one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe. The Pan Celtic Race is a predefined route and often passes or incorporates Celtic monuments, stone circles and sites of interest.
Sligo was the last major town on the west coast before cutting across inland back to Dublin for the return ferry to Holyhead. The heat was blistering into the mid-30 degrees Celsius in the final few days, requiring lots of salts to replenish sweat and ice in the bottles to keep cool.
I finished in 10 days with a couple of days of graft at the end nursing some injured quads after trying to ride brakeless when I damaged my front rim on the brake surface on the evening of the seventh day! I was super stoked to make it round, completing the race as the first person to do so on a fixed gear bike. It was great fun meeting the rest of the clan on the road, at the checkpoints and having a good old knees up at the finishers party. I can’t recommend the Pan Celtic Race Series enough for anyone looking for an ultra with something a bit special and some Celtic spirit. Huge thanks to Expedition Foods for the support and making preparations and first few days super easy and convenient in terms of nutrition. I’d definitely look to take more in future!