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.

Fergal KilkennyKelly HargieSarah Nelson
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7 Bits of Advice for New Mountain Bikers

Posted on August 7, 2020 @ 1:00 PM in Mountainbiking

Northern Ireland's Mountain Bike Trails have seen a drastic increase in numbers during lockdown as more and more people turn to nature to get their exercise groove on. With that in mind, we asked our followers for advice they would give to new mountain bikers that are maybe just starting out. Enjoy!

 

1) "Talk to other bikers"

Mountain biking is a profoundly social sport at heart. New mountain bikers, as they're getting to grips with how to handle rock drops and lean into corners, will probably be out with friends. When you bump into other riders, maybe just before descending Run Ragley Run at Davagh Forest MTB Trails, don't be afraid to say hi. Mountain bikers love to talk shop on trails, bikes or even just the weather. We're a friendly bunch really.

2) "BUY A HELMET" / "Trees don't move out of the way"

Two pieces of advice for the price of one! Buy a helmet. Use it. Why? Because trees don't move out of the way, as you'll quickly come to realise. Helmets are literal life savers and every mountain biker you ever meet, from the pros at the top to the weekend warriors ripping up the local trails will tell you that you NEED a helmet. 

 

3) "It's about having fun"

Strava times and insane jumps are great, but all mountain biking should be about fun. Portraying it as a a 100% high flying, gravity defying ultra sport actually prevents more people from getting into the sport (and possibly, eventually joining in the extreme stuff). Do it your way and don't get too hung up on the super skills that some people are able to show off as they blitz past you on the trails at Blessingbourne Estate.

 

4) "Consider your budget"

Buying a bike for the first time is 9 parts exciting, 1 part scary. Don't let the scary bit put you off. If you're unsure of what bike suits you best (are you a 27.5 rider or a 29er? E-bike or hard tail? How about a full sus?)then talk to somebody. The team at Chain Reaction Cycles are experts at helping people choose their first mountain bike - just give them an idea of your budget and they'll throw plenty of different options your way. A word of warning, as you fall in love with the sport, you may find yourself eyeing that second bike. And then third...

5) "Ride at your own pace on trails within your skill level, but still challenge yourself from time to time"

Similar to 'It's about having fun' but with an extra emphasis on the features. Features, if you're not familiar with the term, are the obstructions or varients in the trails which you'll encounter along the way. It's important when you're starting out to not let yourself get caught up in what you think you should be able to do. When you come to tackle your first rock drop (like the one below at Barnett Demesne MTB Trails), decide if you're happy to give it a go. If not, keep practising on the smaller ones until you feel you've got the hang of it. Then, when that day comes, go for it and enjoy the buzz!

 

6) "Look where you want to go, not at the stuff you want to avoid"

A straight forward piece of MTBing advice as old and true as time. Your hands have a tendency to follow your eyes, so don't lock on that tree that's up ahead. Instead, track the trail with your eyes as you move and you'll find that all those rocks actually pass much easier than you would have expected. An ideal place to practise this is the boardwalk at Rostrevor MTB Trails.

 

7) "When you get older, after falling off a mountain bike for 30 years, all those injuries are gonna come to haunt you, so give them time to heal!"

When the day comes that you fall off your bike for the first time (and it will come) then get up, pat yourself down and examine the damage. As this commenter put it, those smacks start to add up so if you feel you've done any damage, call it a day and allow yourself time to fix up.

Looking for some more advice? Pro rider Dan Wolfe made a video of great tips for new mountain bikers at Davagh Forest Mountain Bike Trails which you can see here.

Latest comment posted by Arun on August 13, 2020 @ 9:16 AM

It is nice to know about these tips, and I feel it will help all adventure sports enthusiasts. I am a biker, and I also love being a stunt pilot. I got trained from a camp arranged by ... Read more >

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Sperrin View Glamping at Davagh Forest

Posted on February 28, 2020 @ 3:20 PM in Mountainbiking

Having somewhere to stay close to MTB Trails is always a joy; you can leave your things there when you set off and can put your feet up when you come back. The lovely folk at Sperrin View Glamping contacted the MountainBikeNI team and offered your favourite blogger Kerry a chance to check out their newly opened pods!

On 31st January, Sperrin View Glamping opened its doors – a new dark skies space near Davagh Forest Mountain Bike Trails that allows campers to sleep in a luxurious pod with the best view of the night sky.

They invited MountainBikeNI to come down and spend a night, and I couldn’t refuse! I set off after work from Belfast, which takes just over an hour and a quarter, and arrived on the Blackrock road.

I passed Beaghmore Stones and shortly after, the subtle lighting revealed the site. I pulled up into the car park and walked across the Communal Hub where I was greeted by owner Michael, who couldn’t have given a warmer welcome, including a lit fire at the hub!

The hub is, simply put, amazing. There’s nothing they haven’t thought of; a kitchen for guests to use any time they wish, a bathroom, and plenty of space to chill out, play some board games, or sit in the reading corner. The attention to detail in here was fantastic, with all the décor and little pieces carefully strung up or placed around the room – it feels modern, but still has that homely Northern Irish touch.

The pods are like a larger version of the TARDIS - way bigger on the inside

All the buildings have been designed with such a unique design

Every detail is thought of inside

Walking towards the pods, it felt like being on another planet. The one thing you can’t miss are the giant windows on each pod. I was immediately excited to get inside and start the stargazing.

As you walk around the back, there are picnic tables and little firepits ready for anyone brave enough to brace the colder evenings or toast a marshmallow in the warmer ones.

Michael then showed me the inside - wow! As you walk in there is a spacious bathroom to the side with a good-sized shower. On the other side of the room is a sofa which can be pulled out into a sofa-bed if needed. There is a fridge, kettle, and plenty of materials for keeping your outdoor fire alive. Mairead, who also owns the site popped down and gave another warm welcome. She also revealed the cheese board made up in the fridge for us! They suggested some places to go for food near the area and left us to get settled in.

Towards the front of the pods there are some large stairs that lead up to the giant window and the first-floor bed. There is also a TV but watching the sky is a much better alternative! There is then another bed up a wooden ladder, so 5 can fit in it in total.

 

Mountain bikers will love the design every bit as much as kids will.

After a quick cup of coffee, we headed out to get some food in nearby Cookstown which is only a 20-minute drive out from the site. One thing to keep in mind is that if you are arriving a bit later on in the evening midweek and planning to eat out, aim to get out as early as possible.

Eventually we found somewhere to stop and enjoyed a nice cold drink along with our meal. Alternatively, the kitchen in the communal hub is totally decked out so if you wanted to bring along food and cook, there is more than enough equipment to whip up a storm.

Cooking is very much an option

On returning to the pods, we lit the fire out the back and brought out the cheese board to enjoy under the stars – what an experience! Even though it was a cloudy night, when there was a break in the sky, the stars were so bright.

Just a taster of some of the incredible views you can expect

Determined to see some constellations, I kept my eyes peeled and luckily, I was able to spot some of the obvious ones like Orion’s belt. It’s incredible how small looking at the night sky can make you feel. It’s so vast and this was the perfect way to escape the city lights to experience them. After demolishing the cheeseboard and warming up by the fire, it was time for bed, but not before checking the window for one last peek at the stars.

 

Sometimes work isn't so bad

The expectation with glamping might be that despite not being in a tent, it’s still cold, but that’s not the case with Sperrin View as they were very cosy, and the beds were really comfortable!

Waking up, the first thing you want to do is open the curtains of the window to see the difference from night-time to daylight; It was bright outside, but I knew it was going to be a colder one. We got out of bed, got ready and headed over the hub where we had our breakfast – opting for cereal but the facilities are there for anyone wanting to have a more adventurous breakfast!

After this I headed back to the pods to chill out for a little bit longer before heading off to explore. My first port of call was Beaghmore Stone Circles, only 2 minutes up the road from the site, and a really interesting place to visit. The stones are all so perfectly placed in circles, its eerie but faciniating – experts think that the stones mimic the comets and constellations in the sky.

 

Beaghmore Stones are just a short drive away

My next stop was, you’ll not be surprised to hear – was Davagh Forest Mountain Bike Trails which is really handy to the site, only a 5-minute drive away and very easy to find.

Davagh is such a great spot for all levels of mountain biking abilities, making Sperrin View the perfect overnight stay location for anyone wanting to shred. Davagh also has a number of walking trails so if you’re taking along a non-mountain biker but want to hit the trails yourself, there’s plenty of options!

The beauty of a dark sky site is that, you don’t have to pine for brighter evenings and longer days, because the magic happens when the sky is lit only by the moon and stars, it’s the perfect year-round destination – provided there isn’t complete cloud cover.

I couldn’t recommend this site anymore, it’s just amazing! The attention to detail, the hospitality and the location is ideal! Michael and Mairead are brilliant and the whole experience was unreal!

To see more and to book your stay, head to www.sperrinviewglamping.com

 

Locations like this are few and far between; the level of thought and care that has gone into every detail of Sperrin View Glamping is incredible. We can't recommend it enough the next time you're taking a spin on the trails!

Kerry Kirkpatrick
Kerry Kirkpatrick  Assistant Marketing and Events Officer

A true North Coast water baby, happiest when on the beach.

Winners of the MountainBikeNI Awards 2019 - 2020

Posted on January 31, 2020 @ 3:28 PM in Mountainbiking

The MountainBikeNI Awards, sponsored by Chain Reaction Cycles, are a great time of year where we can celebrate the very best of mountain biking in Northern Ireland. With hundreds of votes cast across eight exciting categories, the results, ARE IN! *Drumroll, confetti canon, and fanfare please… here are your 2019 - 2020 Winners! 

Crash of the Year 

Almost Got It, by Kai McNally 

A new category to the awards this year, and the entries did not disappoint. We'll be honest, we did have to cut the sound for reasons that will become obvious. Congrats Kai!  

 

Favourite Mountain Bike Centre in NI 

Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails 

Taking in 40% of the vote, Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails came out clear favourite here once again. Just look at that view – it’s not named #KodakCorner for nothing! 27km of red trail and 19km of black plus purpose-built two downhill trails make this consistently one of the top mountain bike centres in Ireland. 

 

Best MTB Event in 2019 

Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup 

Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup is one of the most anticipated events in the MTB event calendar for both the old hands and more recently, the newer riders on the scene. This vote just proves things as it was an extremely strong win! Castlewellan played host to one of the rounds of the series and it was all to play for, being the final. We’re already looking forward to the next one!   

One of the Vitus First Tracks riders showing us how it's done


Favourite MTB Trail section in NI 

Stream Trail, Davagh Forest 

A fast, flowy, and extremely fun section of trail, with plenty of berms and a few rock gardens thrown in, it’s not hard to see why the Stream Trail picked up its second MountainBikeNI Award in a row – this trail section is definitely worth checking out. Big props to Davagh Forest! 

Two sections of Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails fought it out for second place this year, with White Water Rapide receiving 74 votes and The Great Escarpe 69 votes. 

 

Davagh Forest's Stream Trail is one of the most recognisable sections of trail anywhere in Northern Ireland


Favourite Trailhead Provider  

Life Adventure Centre. Castlewellan

With another successful Christmas Trail Quest under their belts, another very popular PSYCLE 24 hour Enduro and the addition of more Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup events, 2019 was a great year for Life Adventure Centre at Castlewellan. Taking first place in the Favourite Trailhead Provider will hopefully have been the cherry on top! 

The team at Life Adventure Centre have a habit of putting a smile on your face, even when it's pouring. 

 

Favourite MTB-Friendly Café 

Urban Coffee, Castlewellan 

Claiming the top spot by 5% of the vote, Urban Coffee, Castlewellan remains the favourite café for the coffee loving mountain bikers amongst us. In second-place we have Synge and Byrne at Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails. Urban Café is a haven for mountain bikers visiting the nearby?Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails; somewhere to rest up and grab a cuppa after a manic day on the trails. 

 Urban Cafe has won this category for three years in a row now.

 

Favourite Spot for an Apres-Ride Pint 

Kilbroney Bar and Restaurant, Rostrevor 

Thirsty? Some call this the most important category in the MountainBikeNI Awards – while we don’t know about that, we do know Kilbroney Bar and Restaurant truly deserve this award. Well done to all the team there for another winning year of pints (congratulate them next time you’re in)! 

Mucky gear welcome here

 

Favourite MTB Friendly Accommodation in NI 

Kilbroney Caravan Park, Rostrevor 

Coming in at top spot in the ‘Favourite MTB-Friendly Accommodation’, for the second year in a row: Kilbroney Caravan Park, Rostrevor. The Park is situated in a stunning location, where mountain, sea and valley meet to create some scenic wonderland. Overlooking Carlingford Lough, the Park boasts 97 acres of beautiful parkland nestled within the shadow of Slieve Martin and the Mourne Mountains. 

As if the views weren't enough, you'll be right beside the Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails!

 

Sincere congratulations to all of our winners, and a special shout out to Colin McIlhagger who won the top prizes from Chain Reaction Cycles!

Kerry Kirkpatrick
Kerry Kirkpatrick  Assistant Marketing and Events Officer

A true North Coast water baby, happiest when on the beach.

How to Plan and Enjoy a Night Ride

Posted on November 4, 2019 @ 5:11 PM in Mountainbiking

Mountain biking at night is a guaranteed way to up the ante on your biking sessions. The difficulty is higher but so is the reward. Today we're looking at how to make the most of your night riding and why it's so popular.

Before putting the bike on the rack and heading out, there are a few things to prepare ahead of a night ride. It's always best to do these in daylight.

Firstly, you want to ensure you've got the right lights. You'll want lights for both your helmet and the bars. Lights on the bars will inevitably be more heavy duty (and therefore literally heavier, which you don't want on your head) so it's just a case of ensuring they're all fully charged. You should also know their burn time - how long they'll work for on full power. You don't want to be going for a spin at Davagh Forest with lights that are going to die out after half an hour. That wouldn't help anybody aiming for a PB on the Stream Trail!

You'll also want to bring your usual goodie bag of spares and back ups. Spare tubes, multitool, pump etc.

And finally, layers. Unlike ogres, humans don't have layers so you'll need to plan for the temperature dropping, particuarly if you're heading out in the winter.

One last tip. It's never a good idea to go mountain biking at dusk. Your lights won't be as effective and your eyes won't see as well

 

That's you good to go! Now the actual business of night riding.


Now that you've the boring bit finished up, it's time to think about the ride itself. 

 

Riding at night feels like you've upped the speed setting. Your lights will illuminate bits of the trail for just a few seconds at a time - the ability to 'look up' at night is greatly diminished. This increased sensation of speed added to the pitch black of night and contrast to your usual sessions on the trails will combine to make your night ride feel like it's taking part in a completely different trail.

Expect to feel like you're riding an entirely different trail centre

It introduces a healthy element of anxiety that most of us haven't felt since the early days of learning to push a bike for our first jump. And on that note - jumps are something to be extra careful with during a night ride. Any lift on your bike will create a black patch so you'll either need a friend to stand and illuminate the landing area for you or else be confident that you know the jump like the back of your hand. Even then, we'd advise caution, particularly if you're not used to night riding. 

The Chain Reaction Cycles team taking a scary night ride on the Stream Trail at Davagh Forest.

Going with mates is always a good idea with night rides. The levels of craic are raised the more people you have and if you take a spill, you definitely don't want to be by yourself. In a forest. At night.

The Feel Good Factor - an all girl MTB club - on a night ride

Finally, enjoy it! The sense of increased speed, slight disconnect with a familiar trail and excitement of increased difficulty contributes to an adrenaline pumping session on the bike, that will be magnified by the number of friends you have doing it. Take it easy the first few times you try it and let us know if it was a success by emailing MountainBikeNI.

 

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Trails and Tribulations Part 2

Posted on October 31, 2019 @ 11:48 AM in Mountainbiking

After *mastering* the trails on two wheels, it was time to put four wheels to the test as I tried out the new mobility trail vehicles at Gosford Forest Park.

“All Out Trekking” Project has been developed by Disability Sport NI to give those with a disability the opportunity to access the countryside through the provision of a range of specialist outdoor wheelchairs and all-terrain vehicles based at Gosford Forest Park in County Armagh.

Gosford is a brilliant location with plenty of activity for all the family and now, thanks to All Out Trekking, the beautiful countryside trails are even more accessible to so many more people.

We met up with Kelley from Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, and Brian and Aubrey from All Out Trekking/Disability Sport NI, to see how the trails compared on 4 wheels. They told us the background of the project and gave us a quick safety briefing before we got buckled in safely.

We put on our helmets, gloves and goggles and made it out into the courtyard in one piece, albeit very slowly and not at all smoothly. It was time to practice the basics of moving forwards, backwards and turning. The Quadrix’ are really light and easy to manoeuvre without having to make lots of effort. The rider can swap between forwards and backwards by flicking a switch on the handlebars and there is also the option to use a joystick instead of handlebars to manoeuvre through the trails.

Once we had the basics, we moved onto a skills course designed to mimic what would be on the trails. This can be altered and changed to suit the type of group and the guides are very patient allowing as much time as needed to learn the skills. In this section we practiced breaking suddenly, going around sharper corners and more challenging reversing.

We headed to the trails with our guide, Brian, who is amazing, and made sure that we were prepared for what we would find on the sections of the trail. We formed a single file line and headed in the forest. Compared to being on a mountain bike, you are much lower to the ground, so you get a slightly different experience and you feel like you’re in a tunnel of greenery around you. The trails are well suited to support the width of the Quadrix’ and it offers the same amount of adrenaline going around.  We stopped regularly and tested out two trails with lots of different elements such as berms, downhill sections and small steep bumps that added some extra fun to the ride.

Gosford Forest Park is a stunning location with a variety of different trails and shared paths. Through one section of the trail you can ride past Gosford Castle which recently featured in some episodes of Game of Thrones.

You really feel the fresh air on your face as you zip about and it’s an invigorating burst of activity for anyone who may have mobility issues seeking an exciting and fun day out. The ability to go around the same trails as everyone else makes it feel very inclusive and means that if there is a group of mixed abilities, the Quadrix can go along the single track with other mountain bikers; perfect for families or community groups. All Out Trekking can also be used by non-disabled members of the public if there is a mixed group or if you fancy a more leisurly trundle around the walking trails and paths, without just as much adrenaline,  there are Terrainhoppers available too. They can be seen in the video below.   

See how the pros do it in the official advert:

 

All Out Trekking bookings will reopen in 2020. Sessions are approximately 1.5 hours long. To find out more about All Out Trekking and to book please email allouttrekking@dsni.co.uk or call 028 9046 9925.

For more information please visit: https://www.dsni.co.uk/community-sport/key-community-projects/all-out-trekking

Kerry Kirkpatrick
Kerry Kirkpatrick  Assistant Marketing and Events Officer

A true North Coast water baby, happiest when on the beach.

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