Welcome to Northern Ireland's Outdoor Adventure Blog. This blog will keep readers up to speed with all things ‘adventure’ in Northern Ireland this year. The OutdoorNI team will be posting up new and exciting information on the best ways to get out and enjoy the Northern Irish countryside whilst industry professionals will be letting us into their tips of the trade in order to get the best from Northern Ireland’s ultimate activity playground!

This blog is packed full of useful information for everybody looking to take part in outdoor activities from the hardcore adrenaline junkie to those simply looking for some fun ideas for all the family.

This outdoor adventure blog will cover a range of land, water and air based activities such as caving, coasteering, hover crafting, zorbing, surfing, sky diving and many more. You can also find more activity specific information by visiting the other three blog sections on cycling, canoeing and walking.

Welcoming Synge and Byrne Café to Rostrevor MTB Trails

Posted on April 10, 2018 @ 10:53 AM in Mountainbiking

Rostrevor MTB Trails recently saw the opening of a new café at it's trailhead. Synge and Byrne is a well established chain across Northern Ireland, and their promise of awesome food, great coffee and outstanding customer service is already being well received by the MTB community. We spoke to Damien Garvey, Director / Pot Washer in Chief of Synge and Byrne about the nitty gritty of opening a cafe at a MTB Trailhead.  

 

Hi Damien, congrats on the new move and thanks for speaking to us! What do you think makes Kilbroney such an attractive place for a café like Synge and Byrne?

As a brand we are committed to Northern Ireland and the best it has to offer, providing healthy choices and engaging in a better working life - so Kilbroney and its world class MTB trails, amazing environment and what it gives to the community and visitors couldn’t sit better with the values of our brand. That and the numbers of thirsty and hungry visitors that arrive every day!

How aware were you of the MTB trails before the move?

Being a local business and the fact that one of the owners is a World Champion Level Iron Man competitor, biking and the local biking scene is quite high on our agenda, so we have been regular visitors to the trails in the winter months since (the café) opened….roadies during the dryer brighter months.

 

Mountain bikers have been known to enter a café with mud and rain dripping from them. Is that a pain or something to be embraced?

That was a frightening prospect at the beginning and we did worry about having some softer seating, but we have used fabrics that can deal with quite a high level of abuse. Besides, they might be a dirty bunch but they have great manners normally and so sit on the hard chairs when they are filthy... usually! So no issue really, every site has its particular challenges and a bit of dirt is fine as the dirty guys are usually the ones that are really hungry.

Have you or any of your staff been out on the MTB trails yet? If so, what did you / they think?

As we said we have been out on the trails a number of times and we have a semi-pro turning pro on our payroll, Jack Devlin and he thinks the trails are the best. If he isn't charming the customers in our Boucher Road branch he is shedding the trails in Rostrevor…. a man with his head screwed on!

 

What would you say is the perfect feed for a MTBer having just come in from taking on the 27km loop?

Definitely one of our Roast sandwich specials. Slow Honey Roast Ham, mustard mayo, rocket on a Corn Dolly award winning bap served up with Sweet potato fries, Zingy Slaw and Pesto Mayo Dipping Sauce... probably followed by a Serious coffee and some chocolate, homemade Caramel Square maybe. The best in the country, Fact!

 

What’s a healthy treat you’d suggest for mountain bikers?

I didn’t know mountain bikers did healthy I thought that was for the runners & roadies! On the occasion they are out with their other half and trying to impress I would say one of our “Bliss Balls” – vegan, Gluten Free, additive free, made locally buy the lovely Lisa and simply delicious washed down with one of our range of Green teas……and back the next day for the S&B Breakfast!!

 

Quick fire round:

Favourite film?

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

 

TV show you’re currently into?

G.O.T……the only one and we get to watch them filming in the beautiful Mournes.

 

Favourite food?

Our own Caramel Squares…..that’s why we bike!

 

Favourite song at the minute?

BB King “Better not Look Down” (not current I know but on repeat in the store at the minute)

 

Worst injury you’ve picked up?

Thankfully just the nasty pussy scrapes and cuts that come with using your ass for brakes on tarmac while clad in Lycra only! One of the team has had the whole Airlift job for a broken leg while competing in the Cooley Thriller a couple of years ago….nasty!

 

Anything else you’d like to share with the MTB community?

Just that we have a café in Slieve Gullion Forest Park and although you have to get yourself to the top it is a real undiscovered gem that should not be missed. Although there are no structured MTB trails ther...yet!

 

Thanks for chatting to us Damien!

Synge and Byrne at Kilbroney are open 9am - 5pm daily. They also currently have cafés in Dungannon, Newtownabbey, Newry, Derry/Londonderry, Belfast and Slieve Gullion. Rigorous food sampling took place prior to this interview. It was delicious.

 

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Castleknock CC's Journey to the Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive

Posted on March 29, 2018 @ 3:12 PM in Cycling

We've always been fasincated by all of the small stories that go on in the background in the lead up to the Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive. This year we've got an ear to the ground with one cycling club from Dublin. Noelle and Mark will be keeping us up to date on all their preparations from now right the way until the big day on September 8th. Follow along and share your own stories on the Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive Facebook page!

 

Mark: Saturday 7th April

Again we had fine conditions starting off our cycle and the numbers were great we had around 25 of us assembled in the carpenter pub car park ready to get going. Again we split into 4 groups but this time most people opted to go with the 24k group so that had to be further divided into two groups of 7 cyclists. Both the 22K and 24K groups were heading towards Kilbride and Rathoath doing a 50K spin and the 26 and 28k groups had a longer and more challenging 86K spin heading out towards Maynooth, Kilcock and Enfield. 

 

This week I headed out with the 24K group and we started out at a solid pace out past the Blanchardstown centre and heading towards Hollystown. Although it was not raining the ground was a little wet so we had careful to be on roundabouts ect.

We had the wind in our faces as we headed out the Rathoath road so we kept in a tight formation and changed the leader to keep the good pace we had going. We ran into the other 24K group as they were heading in the same direction as us, the roads were also busy with other groups of cyclists. We managed to avoid any mechanical mishaps this week but we did take one or two wrong turns which did slow us down a little. Crossing over the M3 motorway we passed along the back of the airport which is well known for being a hard drag with a strong head wind so that took the last of our energy.

 

Overall a really enjoyable cycle with a good bunch and a nice route through Meath and North Dublin. The weather seems to have changed at last and as a group there a feeling the maybe the eternal winter is over and that we can now get going with some long spins. Rumour has it we are going to go for our first adventure to the Dublin mountains next week, that will be a great test for our fitness early in the year.

 

 

Mark: Saturday March 24th

Following a few weeks of inactivity due to adverse weather conditions the numbers signing up for this weeks spins were huge. There was almost 25 of us assembled outside the carpenter ready to enjoy the bright but cold weather. We were split into four groups a 22K, 24K and two 26K (as we had reached the limit of 12 persons per group for that speed). So under instruction from our spin leaders we set off. All of us were heading for Kildare the 22s and 24s were heading towards Maynooth-Straffin and then back through Celbridge covering 55K in total. Both 26s were heading out over the n7 towards Athgoe and back also through Celbridge covering a distance just shy of 70K. 

I was with the second of the 26K groups being headed up by our fearless spin leader Tom who kept us safe and sound. We started out at a strong pace to keep the cold at bay, after going through Lucan and Newcastle we hit Athgoe. What I didn't know was that just outside Athgoe there is a huge hill that drags for a good 500 meters. After a serious workout getting to the top we took a much needed break for a few minutes to get some food and liquids in. I was dead last to the top of the hill- a few weeks off the bike was really taking its toll on me and I was lagging at the rear of the group. We had another break when one of our team had a puncture just outside of Clane however with some expertise and the use of some modern toys (i.e pocket gas) we were back on the road less than 10 minutes later.  

 

Coming back through Maynooth we caught up with the 22s and 24s and we all got to the coffee shop at about the same time for a cappuccino. Overall a very enjoyable spin with bright but cold conditions and a good marker for this time of year.

Noelle: 17th March 18

So today our organised spin was cut from 50km to 33km due to the snowing / sleety conditions ...not that I was complaining! Our Irish winter seems to want to take an extended holiday here and doesn’t want the sun to come out.

So 2 great leaders took the reigns today - Brian and Tony. They kept a tight ship and got us 8 "hardy bucks"around safely.
It was real cold but must say very enjoyable and the tea after was so welcome.

Again I’m not wearing the correct gear and a lot of comments on my inadequate shorts being short and not long so deffo need to get that sorted.

 

Noelle: 15th March 18:

So tonight we had our first meeting to organise the 'Castleknock Cycling Club’s' weekend away to Antrim for the 'Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive' on the 08 Sept 18.


The meeting was headed up by a proud Kerry woman who had 7 diligent attendees. Tasks were divided out accordingly and I and my Mayo counterpart got tasked with organising the quiz for the weekend away. I love quizzes not that I’m any good, just nosey!

We had a gear fitting also post our meeting. There was all sizes of any thing stretchy with loads of padding. I myself am taking the plunge, splash out as you may and going to invest in a proper pair of club cycling shorts so after that there’s no stopping me, Antrim here I come!

We'll update this page with all of the club's antics as the big day comes closer. If you'd like to keep us updated on what your club is doing coming up to the big day, we'd love to hear from you! Email us to info@cycleni.com and tell us your plans.

Noelle Rohan
Noelle Rohan  Cyclist with Castleknock Cycling Club

Ulster Way Highlights- The Causeway Coast Way

Posted on March 9, 2018 @ 10:45 AM in Walking

Take a walk along Northern Ireland's most celebrated coastline: voted walkers 'Favourite Coastal Walk' in the 2017 WalkNI Awards. High cliffs, secluded beaches and numerous historic and natural landmarks are just some of the treats on offer along this section of the Ulster Way

Ulster Way Highlights

This 33-mile long linear route from Portstewart to Ballycastle in Co. Antrim is marvellously varied and can be explored in two days or in smaller sections depending on your length of stay. With frequent access points and terrain suitable for fit walkers, this is one route you'll remember for years to come.

Causeway Coast Way

Walking The Causeway Coast Way

Ulster Way Highlights

Day 1: Portstewart to the Giant's Causeway, 15 miles

Starting from the bustling seaside town of Portstewart, the route follows a popular stretch of path to Portrush. A long, sweeping beach and a medieval castle are highlights as you leave these Victorian seaside resorts towards Portballintrae. The next section of trail is entirely off-road, bringing you along a beach and onto high, wild coastline that characterises the middle part of this long-distance route. 

Day 2: The Giants Causeway Ballycastle 18 miles

The second day of walking picks up the trail at the Giant's Causeway and follows the cliff path. This section of trail offers a phenomenal bird’s-eye view of the UNESCO World Heritage Site from the Causeway's 100ft high coastal cliffs. You may wish to make a slight detour by following the 'Shepherd Steps' towards the sea and the infamous lava-formed columns. The trail from this point changes to grassy paths along cliff tops and over the route's highest point. Points of interest include sea caves, harbours used in Game of Thrones and Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge. From this point the walk follows a diversion to the finish in Ballycastle (please note some walkers choose to finish the route at the rope bridge to avoid the section of road).

Where To Stay

Ulster Way Highlights- Where to stay

There are a wide range of walker friendly accommodation options along the Causeway Coast Way. We recommend choosing one place to stay and availing of transport on each day of your walk. More accommodation information can be found on pg.17 of the Causeway Coast Way Guide.

Where To Eat

Ulster Way Highlights- Where to eat

After a long day walking, some good food and delicious coffee is a must! The Causeway Coast has a wealth of restaurants and cafes that serve high quality, home cooked and locally produced food. Along the trail, why not stop off at Mini Maegden for a delicious grilled cheese sandwich and hot chocolate or call into Bothy Coffee near White Park Bay. For a full list of where to eat on the Causeway Coast please visit www.heartofthecausewaycoastandglens.com and www.northcoastni.com

Getting Around

There are several ways you can travel around the Causeway Coast ideal for those who wish to base themselves in one location and avoid the hassle of carrying large rucksacks.

Translink have a number of bus services running on this route throughout the year. An additional 'Causeway Rambler' service is added in the summer months. Check out the Translink Journey Planner for more information. There are also several taxi companies in this area who can be booked as a pick up and drop off service each day. For contact details on all of the above check out Pg.19 of the Causeway Coast Way Guide.

Please be aware that this walking route passes through areas of open land such as hillside, working farmland and working forests. Livestock may be present, ground conditions may be uneven or wet underfoot and all forestry signage should be adhered to. Please refer to the ‘Walk Safely and Responsibly’ Guide.

Although this walk is waymarked walkers are always advised to carry the relevant map and ensure they are prepared for changeable weather.

You can read our previous blogs in the series here: 'Ulster Way Highlights- The Mourne Way', 'Ulster Way Highlights- The Sliabh Beagh Way'.

Jayne Woodrow
Jayne Woodrow  Marketing Officer & Active Clubs Coordinator for Walking

Jayne joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in March 2014. She oversees the marketing and communication on WalkNI, OutdoorNI and Walking in Your Community Project. Most recently she has been working with Parkrun Ireland & UK to introduce the 'Walk @ parkrun' initiative.

An Interview with Greg Callaghan

Posted on February 28, 2018 @ 11:48 AM in Mountainbiking

The 2018 Enduro World Series is rapidly approaching, and some of the big names have recently been showcasing their newest teams and gear. Greg Callaghan, one of Ireland's best known mountain bikers and rider for Cube Action Team has been in training for months now to put himself in a strong position ahead of the series. We got chatting to Greg about his gym routines, hopes for this year's event and also put to him a few questions from MountainBikeNI.com followers.


Hi Greg! Thanks for chatting with us. We know you started mountain biking at 15 - what was it that got you into it?

I was initially into motor bike trials, which my dad and uncle were big into. I could only get out with dad at the weekends though, and I eventually met some mountain bikers doing some jumps. I went up the mountains with them and pretty much loved it straight away. It was something I could do myself and there was a great crowd of ones who would go along.

 

You’ve mentioned Joey Dunlop was a big inspiration which is really interesting. What was it about him that drew your interest?

As I say, my family were big into motorbikes and that’s I knew of Joey. I just think he had a great mentality, you know, he did things his own way and never got a big head. Even when he was working with some of the really big guys, he still slept in his own van and worked away himself. He knew what way he liked to work, and he knew it worked for him.

 

How different is your mindset going into big competitions now with the support of major companies like Cube and Red Bull Ireland, compared with when you first started out with Dirt/Norco?

I guess it’s still similar in a lot of ways, the only big difference is that now I know what I’m doing. Back when I started, I just rode my bike loads and when I was there I’d aim to ride faster than everyone else. Now I’ve got a different approach, but the mentality of wanting to go out and win is the same.

We’ve seen your training video which is beast – has that evolved much since you first started?

I work really closely with my coach, Chris (Kilmurray from Point1Athletic). He works out a programme around my strengths and weaknesses and we go from there. Every year it evolves and it’s totally tailored to me. So my cousin Killian for example, who has Chris as his coach as well, could go into the gym with me and do a totally different workout.

 

I imagine the EWS squad is one big family anyway, but it must be nice to have Killian there with you when you’re on the other side of the world?

It is definitely yeah, him and Kelan and all the guys. To be honest, it’s just great to have Irish people around, I think our humour is pretty unique.

 

Last year was your fifth year in the EWS. Does it get a little bit harder or a little bit easier every year?

Definitely harder. It’s a young sport that everyone is learning super fast how to perfect their skills, meaning the level gets higher every year. I mean, every year you’ll go in knowing of 10 guys that could win and suddenly there are 5 new ones. And the year after there are maybe 20 who could win it. It’s definitely a good thing though, I think it makes the sport more exciting every year and pushes us all to up our game.

 

We’re only a few weeks away from the start of the EWS 2018. How are you feeling for it?

I’ve had a really good off season, probably the best off season I’ve had competitively. I’ve been training well and the body is in quite good shape physically. I’ve got a new bike too which I’m really excited about, but can’t tell you more about that just yet…

 

Which of the trails have you been to in Northern Ireland? Any favourites?

I actually think they’re all great, but I get a real enjoyment out of DH2 (On the Pulse) at Rostrevor.

How important do you feel purpose built trails are for growing mountain biking?

I’d say they’re incredibly important, you just have to look at the likes of Jacob Dickson’s success. He learnt his craft at Rostrevor and he’s doing incredibly well. They also make the sport so much more accessible and gives somewhere for riders wanting to try it for the first time exactly what they need. In winter it also means all riders have somewhere that’s going to be well looked after and improves the safety aspect.

 

How would you rate the quality of riders coming out of Ireland as a whole, and maybe particularly, Northern Ireland at the minute?

I’d say it’s really strong, like I said Jacob is doing really well and Kelan Grant is down training at the minute as well, it’s great to see. 

 

Some quick fire questions now from our followers! What's the best piece of MTB advice you've ever received?

Look up. From the trials years ago, I was always used to looking down, but keep your head up, see what’s coming and you’ve more time to react.

 

Best cardio exercise for endurance riding?

You could get bogged down into it, but honestly riding your bike is the best thing you can do, simple as that.

 

From flisjan: "Hi @greg_callaghan, just one question, is it too late for me to become a pro enduro rider? I started riding 1 year ago and I'm 19 years old. Thanks and keep on shredding."

Definitely not, you just need to look at Steve Peat, who took up mountain biking when he was about 17 and he did pretty well for himself. It’s never too late.

From liam_macgearailt: “Will you ever see yourself leaving Cube and going to another team in the near future?”

No, I’m genuinely really happy where I am and am loving what I’m doing.

 

How many proteins do you eat a day?

So many proteins. (Greg instructs me to bash the numbers key) 648,249,159 or so.

 

From samgeddes123: "Can I have free stuff??"

(With philosophical gravitas) Nothing in this life is free.

 

Check out Greg's visit to Davagh Forest Mountain Bike Trails here, and keep up to date with how Greg - and everyone else - is getting on at the Enduro World Series on MountainBikeNI.com. Thanks to Greg and Red Bull Ireland for arranging our chat! 

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Mountain Biking, Disability and Me

Posted on January 30, 2018 @ 2:38 PM in Mountainbiking

We were fortunate enough to get speaking to Brian Lenehan. Brian has a long history of playing different sports at a high level. After an accident that changed Brian's life, his brother helped him to discover mountain biking. This is his story.

 

Hi Brian! Thanks for chatting to us. First thing is first – what are you riding at the minute?

Hi Ethan, how are you?

At the minute I’m riding what started life as a 2016 Giant Trance 3- but it’s had constant evolution/ tinkering over the past 2 years!

It's currently running Giant Contact dropper, Pike 160s up front, shimano xt m8000 brakes, xt 1x 11 drivetrain, Bontrager Rhythm wheelset- Nobby Nic rear and Magic Mary front, Nukeproof warhead bar/ stem and nukeproof pedals. I've also just finished a hardtail build- On One Parkwood frame, Pike 140s up front, Sram roam 40 wheelset, Nobby Nic rear, Hans Dampf front, Slx brakes and xt/ Zee 1x 10 drivetrain.

 

Do you want to tell us a little about your condition and how it impacts on your day to day life?

I have a condition called NMO (Neuro Mylitis Optica) which until relatively recently was bracketed as a form of MS- so it’s in the same Neurological spectrum- some similarities, some differences- in my condition, the main one being that I am registered Blind, as my central vision deteriorated massively since onset. I still have and use my peripheral vision, but without any meaningful central vision it’s basically a life without detail- so daily life, recognising people is difficult, reading, judging car speeds and distances, timetables in train station etc. I can’t manage without assistance- I’ve been on a fair few wrong trains when pride got in the way and stopped me asking the simple questions, made a decision on guesswork and ended up on the way to Larne instead of Lurgan!

Another aspect of my condition that is ever present is “tingles” or sensation issues in my lower legs, feet, arms and hands- best way I can describe this is as “constant fuzzy pins and needles”, whilst not the greatest comfort wise, I can use them as a barometer when something maybe isn’t right- if they intensify for example, my nervous system is telling me something is putting it under strain, so I am able then to back off a little and just let it calm down again.

On the bike it can become a bit of an issue where the sensation can develop, particularly on my right side, to feel like that feeling of a trapped nerve (but more extensive) from my shoulder right down to my finger tips and my trunk area. Ultimately it affects grip strength on the bars but as I said I am learning about the sensations and causation more and more and therefore managing it.

In relation to the combination of both, fatigue can be a major factor. You're constantly on alert when getting from A to B so I can get it done as safely as possible and this has an effect on fatigue levels which can be debilitating, and again, when that occurs, it’s just a matter of resting correctly. It took me a while to differentiate between fatigue as a symptom and regular day to day tiredness - two completely different things, but now that I know my condition, I am able to manage away.

 

It sounds like you've got a great handle on everything. So how did you first get into mountain biking?

My brother Eamon was integral in my entry into this current mountain biking mission, and it was his idea that has made this entire journey what it is now. We ride every week.

 

Brian and his brother tackling Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails

I have always been into bikes, just loved every aspect of them, and all disciplines, whether it was watching track cycling, doing a bit on the roads myself or tinkering away at bikes in the garage. It took a back seat though as football and hurling became more prominent in my life. I had a few seasons with Armagh County hurling from Minors through to Senior squads and that became my primary focus. Then when I moved to Liverpool, football became my primary sport. It was only after my injury, and the subsequent change in life path for want of a better term, that mountain biking became the focal point.

I was struggling badly both emotionally and psychologically coming to terms with my diagnosis. The words 'permanent' and 'visually impaired' and 'registered blind' etc- I couldn’t accept them at all. Plus sport as I knew it, and my identity that came with Gaelic games, changed over night. I was slipping further and further into depression and it came to a head. My brother basically said “Right, let’s go. We are going to Castlewellan - get your bike ready”. It turned out it was the best decision I ever made post diagnosis and within half the trail, I was hooked. I remember smiling on the bike and thinking “**** that hasn’t happened in a while!”

 

When you first approached it, did you think your condition would make it more difficult for you?

Initially yes. 1. Because I had conditioned myself to think “I can’t see properly now so I won’t be able to do this” and 2. I thought the physical sensations and fatigue would play a part and I would be stuck half way around a trail somewhere shouting “Eamon that’s me stuck now”!

But after run one in Castlewellan, which was only half a lap, the fears began to diminish and I quickly realised that every thought and notion I had going into this was based on the negative, as in "What if I can’t...” and “I can’t see properly so I might not be able to do this." So that evening, I distinctly remember making a list of the attributes and reasons as to why I CAN do this and subsequently how I will do this.

The very first building block was to begin right there and then in devising a system where I utilised my peripheral vision as primary and not the central vision. This meant re training myself not to instinctivly try and look or focus on a given area or object like I used to, but look off centre to the side of trails and use colour changes as markers. (This, Brian points out, is a conversation in itself details wise) But it basically started that very next Tuesday morning in going down to Craigavon lakes trails on my own with the bike and riding the loop on my own, trialling different head and eye positions, and then beginning the process of memorising corners, sequences and features such as trees etc as markers.

I worked away on my own at the lakes, hour after hour, day after day, just honing how I was going to ride my bike, and visually how I looked at the trail, how I memorised the trail and then how I can get faster! I still do this once or twice every week, 2 years in. This also allowed me to see how far distance wise and also time wise I could go before the nervous system decided to pack it in!

It became apparent very quickly that if I was conscious of my actual body position on the bike, that is my buffer zone if something unexpected comes up that I have missed visually.

I bring these methods with me now no matter where my brother and I ride- same rules apply whether it be Craigavon lakes on my own training on a Tuesday morning, Davagh Forest or wherever, identical thought processes are in play.  I also spend as much time using imagery techniques as I can; how I see a trail being ridden and how I see myself riding it. I spend as much time 'YouTubing' the trails we are going to ride as I do on them. That way I have an instant video in my mind’s eye for when we arrive - this eye is the bigger help!

 

What is the best part about mountain biking for you?

It’d be very easy to sound cliché here, but I love everything about it. From dissecting YouTube videos of the runs we'll ride, to actually riding them, right down to sitting down that evening and going through what worked for me and what didn’t. Thinking about what could I tweak to improve the ride and therefore the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment for the next ride. Above all though I think, I love the challenge. Beating my own constraints.

However sometimes it’s beating them by accident. My first time going over Boundary Rock on the left hand side, I thought it was just a wee grey slope down to the right hander - I was over it before I had time to re assess! So actually sometimes my sight is bliss as I'm over things before I've time to think!

Brian on the left in red and his brother Eamon on the right.


It has afforded me something that I can utilise in my every day life. Patience. Without patience I’d have given biking up at week 2 because that would have still meant I want everything now, instant results. With realising I was going to have to be extremely patient and look at the long game, it allowed me to curb frustrations, to not rush the development and in turn to do things like preparation or body position on the bike the way it is supposed to be done. Bringing that same mentality into my day to day life has allowed me to develop the strategies and coping mechanisms I need to move forward. No shortcuts!

In summary, I don’t feel at all labelled on my bike, and the further I go into this journey, I don’t feel constrained or held back by being on my bike. Theres a freedom to it, but also a focus that I had rarely encountered before.

I know I have limitation criteria, there's no getting away from that, but I am at a point now where I have realistic goals for what I want to achieve on my bike. I'm under no illusions they will be difficult to attain and may take a long time - but the key point is that they are realistic- and that in itself avoids frustration creeping in as long as I stick to my prepation routines and continue to try and improve every aspect of that.

 

The average person on the street often thinks mountain biking is a terrifying pastime. What would you say to people with disabilities who would potentially be interested in mountain biking but don’t know where to begin?

For me it was a blank canvas. I could make of it what I wanted. There are so many variables that can be manipulated to suit and turned into major positives. You are in complete control of where you ride, which trails you ride, how fast or slow you want to ride, how long for - the list goes on. Approach it at entirely your own speed and build it in any direction you want to or need to.

Personally I find being the person on the street infinitely more terrifying!! An example: A while back on University Avenue, I was crossing over and I did everything a person with a visual impairment should do to the letter- found the green man crossing, found the buzzing cone under the box to signify when green, listened for car noise when safe to cross and STILL got clipped on the wrist because someone decided not to stop. Luckily I wasn’t one step further out; my point being that mountain biking is no less terrifying than our environment, assess what you can do, assess how you want to do it, and talk to people like myself, who can maybe help out even a little bit with questions or possible solutions.

 

You posted about mountain bikers with a disability to a MTB Facebook page recently and it got a fantastic reception. Have you heard from any other MTBers in a similar position to yourself?

It was class! The mountain bike community here automatically wanted to talk about it and offered to aid in whatever comes from it. That was no surprise because all you have to do is go to any of our trails at any time of the week and you get chatting to the friendliest bunch of sports people about.

It’s early days but there are quite a few riders with a disability/ impairment in a similar situation as myself, so hopefully we will build a dialogue and a bit of a network where we can learn from each other’s experiences etc. I’ll keep you posted!

Trialling different head and eye positions, memorising the trails and playing YouTube clips on repeat are just some of his techniques that allow him to shred.

How would you like mountain biking in Northern Ireland to evolve in terms of inclusion for mountain bikers with various disabilities?

I mentioned earlier how I feel that when I'm riding my bike, I am not labelled and that is the very nature of our scene here; so I would be very conscious of the fact that by trying to raise an awareness and increasing the knowledge base of the issues of riding with a disability- that could inadvertently begin to stick labels on people.

But if we approach it in the way that we are riders first and foremost. We were riding our bikes before this, and regardless of the posts to get dialogue going, we'll still be riding our bikes, shows me that the way forward is not really to highlight “Oh that rider has sight loss” “That rider is an amputee” “That rider has hearing loss” – but rather to develop a network or a system whereby people can learn from each other’s experiences and use them to develop their own riding. We talk and listen to how we ride a race or train for a race etc., so same rules apply. If we can then convert that into a monthly run for example, that would be sweet!

Obviously not every sport is for every person- we would be naïve to think that - but our sport is as accessible as any other and broad enough by it's very nature that, if it is something that interested people with a disability, then a little bit of discussion and planning, coupled with an infrastructure of riders who already joined its ranks, theres no reason why 1. It cant be explored and 2. It can be moulded to suit. Even by discussing this, boundaries are already being broken.

  

Any shout outs you’d like to make?

I suppose to my brother Eamon Lenehan who began this whole thing. Michael Regan and Glyn O Brien who love biking that much they were more than happy to get involved with the aforementioned posts and have been fantastic in offering belp and advice. And to Disability Sport Northern Ireland (DSNI) who afford me the time to train away and practice staying upright!!

 

Finally, hit us with some of your results and tell us what you're planning next.

Previous results include:

2016 Davagh Enduro. 97th

2017 Davagh Enduro. 41st

2017 Davagh Nightrider. 31st.

2018. Davagh Enduro and Nightrider. Top 30 is my goal. Also to enter and complete at east one round of VFT Enduro.

 

Thanks for chatting to us Brian. If you have any questions, messages or comments you'd like to pass on to Brian just drop an email to info@mountainbikeni.com.

Latest comment posted by Gerard on February 27, 2018 @ 12:39 PM

OMG, it´s such an amazing post. Please keep on pushing and try to spread your story. We have a blog where we talk about eye health. Maybe you could check this ... Read more >

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

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