Rolling Back The Gears: Personal Cycling Tales and Memos

B.J. Quinn

Today we are in a boom time for bicycles. Throughout the lockdown, rusty bikes were dusted and sales of new ones skyrocketed. The quieter roads, anxiety over public transport, and a surge in people taking up exercise has meant that more and more are opting for a two-wheeler. But whether you’ve taken up cycling since the pandemic or have been a lifelong pedaler, Dublin Cycling Campaign wants to hear from you.

A Call For Your Cycling Stories

UCD School of Communications and Media Studies, and Dublin Cycling Campaign are looking for photos and cycling stories for an “Irish Cycling Stories” series. They are particularly interested in photos and stories from people who may have cycled to school, work, or just for fun in the past.

Here NewsFour brings you just a sample of the types of stories that will be included in the “Irish Cycling Stories” series:

Lorcan Bermingham

“Growing up in Sandymount, myself and my brothers and sisters cycled everywhere. The younger ones got the cycling bug too. I remember my younger brother Michael being particularly mad about his trike. One time I was in the house to hear my mother answer the phone. It was Monsignor O’Regan from Star of the Sea church who had found Michael cycling round the altar in the church on his trike, with a local dog happily trotting behind him. Another time the Gardaí called to inform us he was discovered cycling at Merrion Gates, apparently on his way to Blackrock… He was four years old at the time. Warnings not to “go off on the trike” didn’t work and our dad had no option but to dismantle the trike! My own cycling was as delivery boy for Sandymount Travel Ltd., also cycling to school at Star of the Sea for primary and ‘The Row’ for secondary, to Sandymount and Donnybrook Scouts, and eventually to Kevin Street for college. Today I cycle with my daughter, Emilia. I taught her to cycle in the Phoenix Park, close to where we now live. May she only know pleasant cycling!”

Marie Horan
Mountjoy Square & Cabra.

“It was 1951. I was 17 and worked in the Smurfit printing company. I cycled to and from work, social events and the shops. If there was a ‘hop’ on in Mountjoy Square on a Thursday, the gang and myself would head down on our bikes. Going from my friend’s house in Cabra, meet the gang and cycle to the dance. It reminds me of one night when we were cycling out the Navan Road, around six of us, and one of the girls had a puncture in her tyre. While that was being repaired two of the gang went exploring and came back to say there was a dance on up the road and the entry fee was one and six (1 shilling and 6 pence), now they didn’t have this but one of the lads did – Paddy MacIntire, who worked in the Central Statistics Office was on good money so he paid for everyone to go in. Lovely chap. It was the Porterstown Parish hall, there would be a house band on at these dances and at the interval they would have tea and cake. There was a fella who was asking me to dance and kept on saying my cousin was there when I said where I was from (at the time, Cabra). At the interval he brought the “cousin” over but we were not related at all! And like many love stories at the time, the man ended up being my future husband, Michael Horan. As we were leaving, the parish priest said “next time you come make sure you wear a dress/skirts or you won’t be allowed in.” After that night, we would head there (Porterstown Parish Hall ) every Wednesday. And of course, we would wear trousers under their skirts and tuck the skirts into the trousers when we were on the bike. Very fond memories of cycling to and from those dances, and meeting Michael at them.”

Mary McInerney

“Cycling is a way of life in our family. We have cycled in every city we have lived in so far… from Dublin to Singapore to New York. It has allowed us huge freedom, both in our everyday life and when on vacation. We introduced our now 10-year-old daughter when she was a baby to a bike seat and a bike trailer as soon as she could sit! We now have a bike trailer for our two-year-old dog, a labradoodle! We use our bikes as our main way to get to school and work and not forgetting our Half Moon swims – it saves so much time and is a great way to wake up and get our heads clear for the day ahead!”

Teresa Timoney Sandymount and Ballaghaderreen, Roscommon.

“My first experience of bikes was being brought to school in Roscommon in the 1930’s as a three-year-old on the back of my 12-year-old sister’s bike. Her class had been asked whether they had a pre-school brother or sister as the school needed an extra body for a few weeks to make up the numbers to be eligible for government funding. I’d sit beside my sister drawing for most of the day. From the age of 8 I cycled the 3 miles to primary school in Loughglynn and then from the age of 12, 5 miles to secondary school in Ballaghaderreen, Roscommon. I’d meet friends on the way and our system to let our friends know if we had already gone on earlier was to leave a few stones at the crossroads. When I came to Dublin I cycled to the shops and dropped my young children to school on the bike. My cycling days ended when my bike was stolen from outside the Gem shop at Sandymount Green and I never replaced it.”

Pat Corcoran
Sandymount and Clontarf.

“Growing up during the war, it was very hard to replace or repair tyres due to rubber shortages. I remember in the early 40’s my brother cycling a bike with solid rubber tyres from our home in Clontarf to school in the city. On the way he would meet a neighbour of ours, John Dunlop, cycling to work, and would cycle along with him. The Dunlop family, who invented the pneumatic tyre in the late 1800’s, owned the tyre factory in the city. The noise from my brothers ‘bone shaker’ irritated Dunlop so much that he told my brother to drop down to the factory and they would get him a replacement pneumatic tyre..which was my brother’s aim all along.”

Tom Corcoran – Sandymount and Rathfarnham.

“I’ve cycled all my life, cycling to school as a kid and then commuting and recreational cycling in Wicklow as an adult. In the 80’s a group of us from Sandymount would cycle to and from Scouts in Donnybrook and would occasionally be stopped by Gardai for having no lights. I remember one time a court summons came through the door to appear in court for having no lights. I was surprised as I hadn’t actually been at Scouts on the night in question. I suspect it was a friend of mine who was stopped by the Gardai and gave my name and address…we didn’t carry ID in those days. I was looking forward to telling the judge that they had the wrong guy but on the day the Garda didn’t appear and the case was thrown out.”

Brian Moore

“Friday 28-6-1963 Cycling home from work Smithfield Motors on her birthday, my wife Nora was prevented from crossing the Liffey to allow an open Limo with an attractive American to drive slowly past. His beaming smile + birthday wink converted Nora into a JFK fan to this day.”

And finally, my own story! My clearest cycling memory is – surprise, surprise – the day I learned to ride a bike. It wasn’t new and most certainly wasn’t impressive, but it arrived after a prolonged haggling session with my parents and therefore was my most prized possession: a Diamondback Cobra hybrid, complete with an adjustable seat, brakes, and a Shimano 6-speed drivetrain – whatever that means. There I was, in a small park opposite a Tesco carpark, pedalling with the aid of my elder sister, who gripped the back of my seat to save me from toppling over. This wasn’t our first rodeo, mind you – we had a deal: her hands on the seat at all times. So, there I was, enjoying a safe, all-hands-on-deck lap around the park… or so I thought. After about a 100 metres of Cobra cycle action, I look back to see my sister standing about 50 metres behind. That’s right! I did it! No hands – besides the ones on the handle bar, of course – cue the balloons, the cheers, the Kramer vs. Kramer happy tears. I was officially a cyclist.

Dublin Cycling Campaign ( are an independent, voluntary group whose aim is to bring about improved conditions for cyclists and greater recognition of the benefits of cycling. Their vision is for Dublin to be a vibrant, liveable city where everyone can safely enjoy everyday walking and cycling. One particular aim is to create safe routes so kids can once again cycle safely to school and play. Campaign members sit on the Transportation Committees of each of the Local Authorities in Dublin. Dublin Cycling Campaign are members of, the umbrella organisation for cycling advocacy in Ireland. Safe cycling everyone.

If you have a cycling story to tell, send your photos and stories (100-300 words preferred) to (083.333.9283)