Chris Armstrong Mountain Bike Officer
Chris looks after all things mountain biking in Northern Ireland ...it's a tough job but someone's gotta do it!
January 17, 2017
December 13, 2016
December 6, 2016
November 30, 2016
November 23, 2016
With the Red Bull Foxhunt taking place in Rostrevor this weekend, we caught up with local MTB legend Glyn O'Brien from First Tracks MTB to chat a little bit about the #rbfoxhunt and how he reckons the first summer has gone for this new flagship trail centre on the shores of Carlingford Lough, Northern Ireland.
Looking forward to the Foxhunt this weekend? Third last time round, what do you reckon your chances are this year?
Yeah I have been looking forward to this one all season. There has been a lot of hype and with the huge entry list its obvious I am not the only one getting excited. 3rd last year was great for me on a track that didn't suit my style. This year its a full on downhill track so with a decent start who knows.
Have you been able to get up for a sneak preview of this year’s course? Thoughts?
I had a few test runs down it last week!! One could be tempted to ride a downhill bike with the nature of most of the track but with the start being so important its a tough call. Its nearly a 500m drop from the top of Slieve Martin down varied terrain so throw in 350 odd riders and you got a whole lota fun.
Image courtesy of Think Studio
You’ve had plenty of time to soak up everything the new trails in Rostrevor have had to offer this summer. On reflection, how do you feel these trails compare to other venues you’ve ridden across the world?
Its hard not to be biased as I have been riding in Rostrevor most of my life and its right on my door step but biking sure has taken a turn for the better. Its cool to chat to people on the street and they have all heard about the new trails. People have really embraced the fact that mountain biking is for everyone and it has given so much back into the local economy. Rostrevor has surpassed all expectations in its first season but its important we stay ahead of the game.
Major MTB magazines are waxing lyrical about Rostrevor with thousands of people flocking to these trails every month. What do you think lies ahead for Rostrevor?
Geographically Rostrevor is in a very good position and it has a lot going for it outside of biking. I believe with the introduction of a phase 2 and developing a more extensive trail network we can create something very special. Blue and green graded trails are needed to attract beginners and families. A pumptrack and skills area is a facility that people now expect at every major trail centre so this should be implemented straight away. Rostrevor has always been renowned for its downhill tracks so additional tracks would be a welcome sight for repeat custom. Rostrevor has already proven itself with major events being ran successfully there. I hope this continues as its fun to celebrate to the wider communities what is on offer.
Practice for this weekend's Red Bull Foxhunt takes place in Rostrevor on Saturday with the main event starting at 1pm on Sunday. Spectators are more than welcome so be sure to get down to the Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails to check out this unique race.
Now the sensible thing to do on a Saturday morning, after the severe weather warnings for the North Coast proved to be oh so accurate, would have been to not even get out of bed, never mind drive up at 5.30am to the start line of the 2013 Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive. But how many people would describe the Belles as sensible?!
In winds of 25-30 mph and torrential rain, the 4 girls set off to tackle the longest of the 3 route choices – 182km also known as the 'Giant killer'!
The very start itself set the tone for the day – Julie and Andrea nearly colliding over the timing mat and crashing out before they even began. Yip, the wind was to blame?!
Sections of the route had already been closed by 9am, due to dangerous conditions, and from the very beginning extreme cold was also to be a key challenge for many of those taking part.
The first 50km was truly horrendous, and many who had set off with the intention of doing the long course, aborted at this point….which brought you back near the start area before heading off on the remaining 135km. The Belles, did a quick pit-stop at the van to find more layers and they did debate (not even a “heated debate”, as the heat would have been nice!) not continuing and just throwing the towel in and heading to the nearest coffee shop. But no, the girls continued.
Two miles down the road the decision was already being questioned, and Julie asked “shall we flip a coin to see whether we’ve made the right decision”. Cathy replied, “we don’t have a coin”. Julie responded, “let’s flip a bike then”.
The Belles soldiered on. (with a banjaxed bike! joke!).
By the 2nd feed stop at 100km conditions were a tiny bit better, but warmth was a distant dream. By the 3rd feed stop at 150km there was maybe the first feeling of not being totally frozen – aided by delicious soup, sandwiches, cake, flapjacks, jelly beans, tea and coffee.
The last 35km included a couple of testing climbs – which also aided the thaw-out! As did the sumptuous and tasty, spicy pasta at the finish line.
The stormy conditions were a headache for the organisers, but they were amazing in their practicality and their upbeat attitude.
This is a top class sportive with second-to-none planning, mechanical support, food stops, and en route support. It boasts amazing routes, with spectacular (when visible!) scenery and roads.
As for the weather? The hellishness made it heaven to complete. Sweet satisfaction overriding how gruelling it was at the time! Anybody that made the start line on Saturday is a true Giant of spirit. Anybody that made the finish is a true…..nutter!
The Belles next BIG challenge is the 2014 Race Across America but to help them get to the start line they need to secure some sponsorship so if you know anyone that would be interested in sponsoring them take on this huge challenge please get in touch with The Belles via their Facebook page.
You have readed the Get Outdoors Weekend 2013 Blog. But don't worry there are lots of fantastic free family activities happening as part of Get Outdoors Weekend 2014 on Sat 20th and Sun 21st Sept. Click here to be directed to the 2014 Get Outdoors Weekend Blog
We all know family days out can often be expensive however the good news is on Saturday 21st & Sunday 22nd September there are over 70 FREE outdoor events taking place throughout Northern Ireland as part of Get Outdoors Weekend 2013.
Enjoy guided walks spotting red squirrels, rustle up some tasty treats on a wild cookery class, or be a detective for a day and solve the crime on your walk! The more adventurous can have a go mountain biking, scaling the climbing wall or shooting at archery.
With so many events to choose from here our top picks for the weekend. Make sure to visit the Get Outdoors Weekend Website for a full list and to register for your free place.
World War II Family Fun Day, Beech Hill Country House Hotel, Co. Derry~Londonderry, Sun 22nd Sept
A fun day for all the family to explore the unique, natural and historic trails, where the remnants of Base One Europe can still be found. Take part in the 1km fun run, learn new cycling skills on the trails, become a flora detective and investigate the various plants and creatures of the forest or learn how to cook up some unusual tasty treats on a wild cookery session. If that isn’t enough there will also be historic talks taking place in the house and onsite. Turn up on the day.
Family Nature Detective Trail, Banagher Glen Nature Reserve, Co. Derry~Londonderry, Sat 21st Sept
Can you be a Nature Detective and solve the crime at Banagher Glen? Follow the trails through Banagher Glen and collect the clues to solve the whodunnit! Pre-booking required.
Free Entry into Castle Ward, Sat 21st Sept
With more than 34kms of trails in beautiful surroundings this is a great place to discover by bike or on foot. Traversing stunning countryside, woodland, shoreline and parkland, all trails are moderate and suitable for families. Afterwards relax in the courtyard and let the kids enjoy some farmyard fun in the barn. Pre-booking required.
Try Canoeing Day on River Bann, Sat 21st Sept
The perfect opportunity to have a go at canoeing in a safe and fun environment. Instructors will be on hand to make sure all the family have fun on Gilford’s new flat water slalom course. Turn up on the day.
Ecos Park Family Fun Day, Sat 21st Sept
Explore the outdoors on a discovery walk, learn the art of nordic walking or fly fishing, take aim and fire in an archery session or enjoy a buggy walk! Ecos Park also has a 5km traffic free waymarked cycle route if you want to bring your bikes along to try it out! Turn up on the day.
Carnmoney Hill Family Walk, Sun 22nd Sept
Explore Carnmoney Hill with a self guided family trail following clues around this beautiful woodland then return to the foot of the hill and try out a pond dipping taster with the experts. Turn Up on the Day
Wildlife CSI Family Trail, Carnfunnock Country Park, Larne, Sun 22nd Sept
Do you have a budding detective in your house? If so then this is right up your street. Take part in Carnfunnock’s specially designed crime investigation trail - will you discover who the culprit is? Turn Up on the Day.
Ring of Gullion Get Outdoors Extravaganza, Sunday 22nd September
Survival training, climbing tower, archery, hill walking, cycling…it’s all happening at Slieve Gullion! There will be plenty to keep the kids amused as well as some interesting walks for mum and dad to enjoy around the Hawthorne Woods. If the events haven’t tired the kids out why not let them run around in the award winning adventure play park? With events happening all day be sure to pack a picnic and have a memorable day out all the family will enjoy! Some activities require pre-booking.
Lurgan Park Family Fun Day, Co. Armagh, Sun 22nd Sept
Round up the family and head to Northern Ireland's largest urban park where there will be activities throughout the afternoon to entertain the whole family. See who has the best aim at archery, test your sense of direction on the orienteering course and join a wildlife expert for a guided walk through the park. Turn Up on the Day.
Fermanagh’s Get Outdoors Family Fun Day, Castle Archdale, Saturday 21st Sept
Come along and try some new activities in the beautiful surroundings of Castle Archdale Country Park. Take aim at archery, paddle a canoe on Lough Erne, pedal your way around the forest or go on a guided walk to discover the nature and history of the area. Add into the mix balloon making and face painting and this is sure to be one fun packed family day out. Pre-booking required for some activities.
Scavenger Hunt, Clement Wilson Park, Sat 21st Sept
Daring Dragonflies, Darting Damselflies & Mischievous Mayflies. Explore the banks of the Lagan looking for these fabulous creatures & take time out from your exploration to create a dragonfly masterpiece! Turn up on the day.
Baby Grow; Gardening for the Little Ones, Minnowburn, Sat 21st Sept
Come along to Minnowburn with your tiny tots and toddlers for a family morning planting snowdrop, daffodil and bluebell bulbs with a National Trust ranger. Don’t forget to bring a picnic to enjoy in Terrace Hill garden overlooking the beautiful Lagan Valley. Turn up on the day.
Red Squirrel Family Fun Day, Gortin Glen Forest Park, Sun 22nd Sept
A great day out for families, you can drop into the park between 2pm and 4pm to take part in the guided red squirrel walk, go nuts about the autumn activities and take part in the art competition. Turn up on the day.
To find out more information on all these great activity events and how you can take part in a FREE event near you visit Get Outdoors Weekend!
Every now and then people very kindly take time to send us their reviews and opinions of Northern Ireland's new pupose-built trail centres. We thought this particular review of the Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails captured the essence of the place so well that we would share it with everyone. Many thanks to John McInerney for sending this through!
I first rode the Rostrevor MTB Trails in July while on holiday in the north midlands ( I'm from Wicklow). Myself and my 17 year old son rode together. I'm 54 and took up mountain biking 6 years ago - best thing I ever did. Anyway, I came back again in August this year with my son and a friend of his to ride here again. On the way up my son and I were extolling the virtues of this particular trail centre to his friend and running out of definitives when I began to wonder if we had somehow got this wrong. Is Rostrevor as incredible, as amazing, as fun as we thought?
We'll know soon, I thought as we unloaded the bikes at the trailhead. We were soon ready and started up the hard but very worthwhile initial climb on the red trail, It was a warm day and we were soon all panting and sweating and very thankful to reach the first section of singletrack. It was friendly enough to keep you working toward the higher sections and yet technical enough to wake you from the monotonous plod, plod, plod of the climb. We powered on, and soon came to a road crossing and from there up a long corkscrew hill taking us higher into the hills with beautiful views of Rostrevor and Carlingford Lough.
We drove on, with beautiful scenery and fresh air and gravel and rocks and all the things you expect when on a mountain bike on a mountain. And then it happened, the hills, the mountain, the country, the very sky just began to give. Giving long, fast, flowing, open single track where you could just let go and ride like there was nothing behind you and nothing in front except the next rock, the next berm, the next adrenalin rush, the next Yahoo, the next Yippee. Giving tight turns where your shoulder came within half an inch of a tree and your wheel a quarter of an inch from a rock. Giving long technical sections that keep you working, watching, picking every line into and out of every bend. Giving parts so smooth and flowing that you can daydream or make shopping lists. But always giving.
The conclusion we came to, was that these were the most generous trails we had ever ridden, the effort of the the initial climb was repaid time and time again by the thrill, the fun, the speed, the reward of the descent, like no other trail we've seen. We have been to Ballinastoe, Djouce, Kindlestown, Ballyhoura, Coed-y-Brenin and many unmapped trails and have firmly decided that Rostrevor will be a regular destination from now on. 10 out of 10.
Click here for more information on the Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails powered by Chain Reaction Cycles.
Trails are awsome!! Hope there are more built. Only one bad thing is the take offs on mega mission there like 1/4 pipes. They need to be shaped out better so they don't shot u as high n as far way ... Read more >