OutdoorNI.com Does... Mountain Biking in Tollymore
Posted on October 14, 2011 @ 3:15 PM in
OutdoorNI.com Does… Mountain Biking in Tollymore is the latest in our regular blog feature ‘OutdoorNI.com does…’ which is our opportunity to showcase the exciting outdoor activities on offer across Northern Ireland.
OutdoorNI.com’s Chris Armstrong spent an afternoon with friends (Clare and Liam) mountain biking around the new purpose-built trails course and pump track at the Tollymore National Outdoors Centre in the Mourne Mountains; just one of the many Activity Ideas available on OutdoorNI.com.
I will begin by stating that as much as I would love to label myself a hardcore mountain biker, sadly, this is by no means the case. Instead the reality is much less impressive. I would say I’m the definition of a fair weather mountain biker always dreaming of getting myself more involved in this adrenaline activity however if truth be told my bike spends most of the year feeling underappreciated and neglected in a corner of my garage.
The handful of times when I have been out this year has included a blast around the new cross country trails through Castle Ward in County Down and an afternoon testing out my (very limited) tricks and skills on the Blessingbourne Estate pump track in Fivemiletown. From chatting to friends, the natural progression for me was to go and work on my technique on some of the more challenging features at the new Tollymore Mountain Bike Skills Course in the Mourne Mountains.
Located in the grounds of Tollymore’s newly refurbished National Outdoor Centre we arrived and parked in front of the high ropes course where we could see the skills course weaving in and out of the wooded area next to the centre. After paying at reception (£3 per adult, £2 per child) and fixing are bikes up we set off on a quick reccie for our first glimpse of what this 1.5km course had to offer.
First impressions were good. The course rolls really well and all three of us were pleasantly surprised with how much was on offer. The very nature of this compact course means that you are only ever pedalling for a few metres before coming up to your next obstacle. Whether it is rock gardens, rollers or table tops, the course will certainly keep you on your toes.
Consisting of intermediate red loops and a more advanced black route, signage is clear and easy to follow throughout the course. Clare and Liam spent this initial run eying up some of the tastiest drop offs on the menu whereas I was keeping a mental note of a possible route which might give me the best chance of not ‘dropping off’ after our warm up lap.
Needless to say my routes for the afternoon were very much dictated by the red arrows around the course. Technical features are just as abundant on these red loops only not quite as severe as on the blacks - much more suitable for those less experienced mountain bikers. That being said, after my first few loops, even I was managing to pick up a decent head of steam throwing myself around tight corners, between trees and carefully placed boulders.
As for Clare and Liam, the more advanced black loops did not disappoint, delivering some pretty hairy elements for even the most experienced of mountain bikers to conquer. One particular section of log roller which dropped onto a seemingly gravity-defying section of northshore (boardwalk) proved to be Liam’s own personal nemesis for the afternoon!
From the perspective of someone who is quite new to mountain biking, this skills course is challenging and needs to be ridden with caution. Undoubtedly, it is a lot of fun and when you navigate your way along a slippery, wet log roller with just inches on either side of your tyres and realise you’ve made it across - the feeling is hard to beat.
From watching Clare and Liam, I cannot recommend the skills course enough for avid mountain bikers looking to hone their skills and techniques. There is nowhere else in Northern Ireland which has the same shear volume of technical features which will test your bike handling skills right to the limit. Be under no illusions, despite being a short skills course, both routes include some tough sections for bikers of every level.
In conclusion, the skills course is a must for mountain biking enthusiasts looking to fine tune their techniques and under the right supervision is a perfect facility for less experienced and/or younger mountain bikers looking to develop their skills and indeed feel the adrenaline of mountain biking in a safe environment.
The Tollymore Mountain Bike Skills Course is open 7 days a week, year round, from 9.30 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. From May – September, it is also open on Tuesday – Friday evenings until 9.00p.m.
Tollymore National Outdoor Centre
£3 per adult, £2 per child