Welcome to our cycling Blog. Whether you are a cycling enthusiast or complete beginner, looking for ideas for the family or planning trips with friends this blog will aim to provide you with up-to-date, relevant information on cycling in Northern Ireland. CycleNI.com staff will be keeping you in touch with local events and new routes whilst industry experts will be revealing their secrets on everything from bicycle maintenance to hidden gems for cyclists of all abilities to explore.
For your definitive guide to cycling in Northern Ireland visit www.cycleni.com
Posted on May 13, 2013 @ 3:24 PM in
Charity bike events are a great way to get involved with your local community, raise money for good causes and have fun too. I did my first charity bike ride several years ago and this year will be my seventh Wirral Bikeathon, a charity bike ride near Liverpool.
Truth be told, I didn't enter myself into the first one, it was my Wife. Before we had children, I used to cycle a lot but when they were young (we had twins) it was a never ending cycle of feeding, washing, cleaning, shopping and sleeping (me as well as the kids!). So there was never any time to go cycling and I gradually withdrew from any form of exercise. As a middle-aged man, this was bad news and the love-handles became a spare tyre of more tractor proportions than a bicycle.
Ever supportive, unbeknown to me, my Wife entered me into that first Bikeathon. Bit of a shock, and an even bigger one when I realised it was just six weeks away and I hadn't been on my bike for around five years. I needed a plan. Here's what I did.
I had just six weeks to prepare so I needed to get back on my bike and build up my fitness levels. At first I found it a little daunting but then I said to myself, I can walk a mile, so I must be able to cycle five. The first circuit of the Wirral Bikeathon is just 14 miles so all I had to do was a small amount of cycling in each of the six weeks and I'd be fine. In the first week I did one ride lasting 30 mins, that's it, nothing too strenuous there. The following week I increased this to 45 mins and 60 mins the week after, all of which were on the flat.
For those of you asking if you have to do any fitness training, you can just turn up on the day but with just a small amount of preparation, you'll enjoy the event so much more. My article on How to Prepare for a Charity Cycling Event gives advice on a wide range of topics and is well worth a read. The article looks at basic fitness training as well as what you should eat, drink and wear. In addition, it gives guidance on how to prepare your bike and what bike gear you'll need.
So having done three gentle rides, I wanted to step it up a little. My fourth ride was for 60 mins again but this time I included a gentle climb. The following week I did this again but added an extra climb, nothing too steep or difficult. Finally, the week before the actual event, I was feeling good so I did a 90 min ride and included a couple of small inclines.
The big day came and I was really excited but a little nervous if the truth be known. I got to the event early and was amazed at how many people were there, all as excited as me! It was such a buzz to be surrounded by one thousand (yes, a thousand) other cyclists. There were people aged from 8 to 80 (truly), people on road bikes, mountain bikes and several tandems. There was a real party atmosphere and everyone was clearly looking forward to setting off.
So off we went. The Wirral event is split into two circuits, both of 14 miles, but most do just the first one and this is what I had intended to do. However, by the time I'd finished the first circuit, I felt so good that I decided to complete the full 28 miles. And believe it or not, I could have kept going (but didn't). I was so proud of myself for having taken part and I enjoyed it so much, I've entered every year since.
So, as well as raising money for a great charity, cycling events like these are a way to motivate yourself into getting fit and having fun.
Posted on March 11, 2013 @ 2:35 PM in
In preparation for the launch of the Davagh Forest Trails, the MountainBikeNI.com team were joined by local biker Mickey Regan to carry out a promotional photo shoot of the trails. Mickey is keen adventure racer and has biked all over the world, so no better person to guage opinion on the new trails @ Davagh!
Davagh Forest is my local forest and probably the forest in which I really started my love of mountain biking.
Davagh is situated in the Sperrin mountains between Cookstown and Draperstown. For years mountain bikers helped maintain a network of old walking trails that had fallen into disrepair through lack of maintenance and no use from walkers. As the trails were forgotten mountain bikers created a small series of trails to ride. For years locals campaigned to try and get some help to build a more sustainable network of trails in Davagh Forest with little success.
This would all change with the help of Cookstown District Council, Outdoor Recreation NI (Formerly CAAN) local representatives and the Northern Ireland Mountain Biking Alliance. Years of talks, planning, let downs, highs and lows finally have paid off in 2012/13. Outdoor Recreation NI created the frame work in which Architrail would design the trail network. Planning permission was agreed, Forest Service Northern Ireland would allow Cookstown District Council control over the trail network and local contractors FP McCann would create the trails.
Building work on the trails is nearing completion and the marketing team from Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland are now finalising their marketing strategy for Davagh Forest, Castlewellan and Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails under the new MountainBikeNI.com brand.
I was asked if I would come along to Davagh Forest on a photo shoot. The marketing team needed some mountain bike photos and I was delighted to help out. We spent the day on the new trails at Davagh and what a day it turned out. The trail network is fantastic.
The standard of trails in Davagh Forest is on par with anything I have ridden in Scotland. It is a trail that doesn't leave you wanting. Perhaps a bit short at the minute but that leaves room for improvement. This will definitely be a big boost for the local economy.
The trail designers Architrail and contarctors FP McCann have done a brilliant job. I will admit I was a bit skeptical when I heard who got the build contract mainly because this was the first time they will have produced trails like this. It would transpire that I had no need to worry because under the management of Phil Saxena of Architrail and his team they have really pulled it off. It is great for the economy that a local firm got the contract and had the ability to deliver a top class finish. Now they have the experience and the knowledge they can deliver more projects like this if and when funding is available. I am pretty confident you will see a massive boost to the area in this rapidly growing sport/hobby/lifestyle.
I am really looking forward to the trails officially opening on 10th April 2013. Well done to all involved and hopefully this is just the beginning.
Posted on November 7, 2012 @ 11:08 AM in
OutdoorNI.com does Mountain Biking is the latest in our regular blog feature OutdoorNI.com does - which is our opportunity to showcase the exciting outdoor activities available in Northern Ireland.
OutdoorNI’s Sarah Nelson spent an afternoon mountain biking with Rock and Ride Outdoors at Tollymore National Outdoor Centre. Here’s how she got on…
With Northern Ireland set to become the go to place for Mountain Biking in 2013 I decided it was time to learn a thing or two from the Mountain Biking experts at Rock and Ride Outdoors. A collective of three of Ireland's most qualified and experienced outdoor instructors the company offers introductory sessions, skills courses, coaching and qualifications in Mountain Biking, Rock Climbing, Mountain Skills and Mountaineering.
I wasn’t the only keen one from the office and so it wasn’t long until a few of us were heading down to Tollymore National Outdoor Centre to meet Ian Bailey aka the Rock and Ride mountain bike expert. A biking fanatic with over 25 years of MTB experience he is one of only two qualified MBLA tutors in Ireland allowing him to deliver the industry leading Trail Cycle Leader courses, the internationally recognised MTB leadership and guiding qualification – so we knew we were in good hands! Never one to be a ‘look, no hands’ kind of girl I have to admit I was slightly apprehensive about the whole thing. After a quick introduction ‘Hi my name’s Sarah and I don’t like speed or corners’ it was clear Ian was going to have his work cut out, thankfully this didn’t phase him and he was confident he would make a mountain biker out of me by the end of the session.
Gloves, helmet and shin pads on (I was taking all the protection I could get!) it was time to hit the saddle. Wanting to see how well we rode, our first mission was to ride around on the safety of flat tarmac. As we rode about Ian kept a watchful eye on us all to see where our strengths, or in my case weaknesses lay in order to make the training as beneficial and unique to each individual as possible.
Our first lesson of the day was all about weight shifting – one of the most basic yet essential skills needed for any mountain biker. This involved us all having a laugh as we attempted to sit on our back wheel and ‘kiss’ our front wheel. Next it was time for the fun part, wheelie time! A crucial element to master before hitting any trails. Having never successfully pulled off one in my childhood I was excited at the prospect. It’s a shame it doesn’t carry as much kudos when your 23 year olds as opposed to 7 but better late than never! After amusing Ian with our feeble attempts he soon relented and showed us how it’s supposed to be done giving us tips and encouragement as we rode round - I’ve never seen somebody be so enthusiastic about a half an inch high wheelie! We then tackled manuals (a type of wheelie that can be done at speed and relies on weight shifting). As we perfected our technique, working on an individual basis Ian helped us develop our skills whether this be pushing the more experienced to go that little bit further or getting me to do a manual without bursting a blood vessel from concentration! Putting what we had learned into practice we then tested our skills on our first obstacle – the curb, proving you don’t need a purpose built trail system in your back garden to practice technique. Manuals sorted it was then time to attempt the trickier rear wheel lift. Explained and executed effortlessly by Ian lets just say it didn’t come as easy to some of us! However we were reassured that this was pretty hard to tackle so practice was needed.
Now we had learned the basics properly Ian assured us we were equipped to deal with anything that came our way on the Tollymore skills course - a purpose built 1.5km course packed with technical features. Although slightly tentative on my first time around the course, the time spent at the start of the session had given me new found confidence to have a go at things I never thought I could have handled on a bike previously. After winding round the trail it wasn’t long until we all stopped to tackle the first main obstacle of our route – a narrow log ride. One by one everyone attempted to keep their balance, at this point I was more than happy to volunteer as official photographer but after watching everyone else I decided to man up and give it a go. Somehow I managed to not even make it onto the log, falling off on the run up instead – a new record I’m sure. However with nothing hurt but my pride it wasn’t long until I was taking inspiration from that 90s chumbawamba classic ‘I get knocked down but I get up again’! Whilst I opted to keep trying this others in the group tackled the boardwalk berm successfully showing what some expert knowledge and the right instruction can achieve. Second time round I knew what to expect and took on the trail with a lot more confidence. I may not have broken any speed records but the adrenaline was most definitely still there!
Speaking from a complete beginners point of view I learnt a lot from the session and feel one hundred percent more equipped to ride on off-road trails than I did before. However I can also safely say that the more experienced participants in the group found it just as beneficial if not more so with the expert instruction allowing them to take their skills to the next level. The topic of conversation in the office the following morning, it didn’t take us long to come to the unanimous decision that mountain biking with Rock and Ride Outdoors is a must!
Rock and Ride Outdoors
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Our session was just a taster of what is covered on the Rock and Ride core skills session (which includes a few very handy maintenance tips) so whether you want to start from scratch or are a novice mountain biker who wants to up your game this is the perfect course for you!
Posted on October 23, 2012 @ 12:33 PM in
A measly one in ten women cycle more than once a month, according to Sustrans. However, with cycling more popular than ever, it’s great to see more girls getting into gear and ladies layering up on the roads, cycle paths, mountains and wherever else! Our ten helpful tips will show you how to get the most out of your trusty two-wheeled friend, what to wear and where to go.
Over the last few months, we’ve seen Sarah Storey win three Paralympic gold medals, Laura Trott win two Olympic golds and Victoria Pendleton bow out gracefully from her professional cycling career (and not so gracefully onto the dance floor of Strictly but that’s another story). Laura Trott took up cycling alongside her mother, who went on to lose 5 stone, which is inspiration in itself! It just goes to show that women are every bit as competitive and successful as men when it comes to cycling, and not just at road and track events – Shanaze Reade and Annie Last are flying the flag for BMX and mountain biking respectively.
Let’s face it, who doesn’t like a bit of shopping here and there? The ability to research, negotiate and grab a bargain can all come into play when you’re shopping for bikes and cycling equipment. If you’re a bit cautious about visiting a bike shop, going armed with a bit of background knowledge and lots of questions is a good approach. Also, there’s a wealth of accessories and clothing to choose from out there – heaven.
The list of cycling benefits is endless. You’ll get fresh air, exposure to sunlight and lots of exercise, resulting in a better mood, improved sleep and a more toned physique. As a guide, even a gentle cycle for an hour will burn around 500 calories and is much cheaper and easier than a visit to the gym!
Tired of sitting in traffic for a good portion of your morning? Why not cycle to work instead? It’s a great way to multitask and you’ll save money on petrol and parking too. Of course, it’s fine to hop in the car if the skies are looking a bit treacherous, but even a jaunt to work on your bike once a week will make a difference. No showers at work? The festival favourite of baby wipes is an easy solution to freshening up, as is a change of clothes kept in a locker/drawer. However, if you allow a little more time for a slower amble in for the morning, you won’t get too sweaty and you can then go faster on the way home.
If you’re new to cycling, a good way to keep up your motivation is to train for a local race, or if you’ve got a bit more experience, why not see how your hard work will pay off putting your skills to the test? Check out the CycleNi events page for future rides, or why not organise your own to raise money for charity?
If you’re buying a new bike, any good bike shop will help you ensure that the bike is a good fit for you. Even a small tweak here and there like altering your seatpost or handlebars might make a world of difference. Some other things to try are a different saddle (gel ones are good) for a comfortable ride, or try a pair of padded cycling shorts to be kind to your behind.
Not in a flowery, pastel fashion – bikes and accessories for women have come a long way since the ‘pink it and shrink it’ mentality of the last few decades. Bike companies are now producing stylish bikes with all the performance features of men’s bikes but with women-specific geometry. Likewise, cycle clothing designers are shying away from more feminine colour schemes and are producing some really nice looking items, especially Altura and Endura.
Not in terms of a trip to the hairdressers for some extra volume, the key to a good cycling expedition is a good layering system. It’s much easier to finely tune a variety of layers than a couple which make you too hot or cold. A baselayer goes first, followed by a midlayer and then an outer shell (jacket). Gloves are always handy (no pun intended) for extra warmth.
If you have children, it’s great to involve them in cycling too. For tinier offspring, childseats and trailers are fantastic options, or tag-alongs for slightly older children. Then there’s a wide range of children’s bikes which are guaranteed to keep them occupied for hours on end. Also, there’s nothing better than passing on the skill of cycling to someone, especially when it’s a member of your family.
The world is your oyster when it comes to cycling (motorways and ‘no cycling’ signs permitted!) and cycle apps are great for discovering cycle route options. There are plenty of traffic free paths in Northern Ireland to start cycling on to build up your confidence before you venture either out onto the road or onto more technical off road trails. A few recommendations are the Lagan and Lough Towpath and the Newry Canal Towpath, as well as the various purpose built family cycling trails at Castle Archdale, Gosford Forest Park, Castlewellan Forest Park, Castle Ward Demesne, Craigavon Lakes and Blessingbourne Estate.
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Posted on June 27, 2012 @ 5:00 PM in
Today at Forme Coaching central we reflected on the initial few months of the business. What a rollercoaster ride it has been so far. Many have signed up to coaching packages, already changing how they eat after nutrition consultations with Barry whilst others are riding their bikes that bit more comfortably with Chris sorting out their bike set up. But whilst going through the business today we reflected and discussed riders who simply ride their bikes. What are we doing for them?
When I say simply...that is not to belittle or make those who don’t compete or have non competitive goals any less important. They aren’t. Everyone who chooses to ride a bike at whatever level is what Forme Coaching is about. Established to always be about the bike and helping those who have a desire to improve, is our goal. This can be a lifestyle choice of incorporating the bike into their day or weekly fitness, weight loss, a club rider who wants to improve right up to the professional rider competing in Europe.
The only two requirements we ask of you...that you ride a bike and you want to improve...the rest is up to us. Yes we have professionals in every nook and cranny of the business but this is to ensure any support we provide comes from experienced individuals who know what they are talking about and can help you get what you want.
We don’t want to get this wrong. We don’t want the message to not reach everyone. Life is hectic for us all. Being a mum of two very active young boys (5 and 7), a wife, involved in running a couple of businesses, training each week...oh! and a very important social life with cherished family and fabulous friends. So what am I saying?!? Without the coaching support I receive from the team I work with at Forme Coaching, how it fits in with my life, the hours I can exercise, the nutrition advice...it all helps me improve on the bike to reach personal goals. Otherwise I would probably be still riding a bike that was too big for me and be seriously injured by now, eating and drinking the wrong things both on and off the bike and not understanding how to gradually progress in my weekly training to improve on the bike.
So please don’t rule us out that we are only about the competitive side. We’re not. If you have a desire to want to know more about how you can improve riding your bike to maintain a healthy quality of life, enjoy the beauty of riding a bike, the scenery and gorgeous places you can travel on your bike, the potential health benefits associated with improved fitness, weight loss...the list can go on. We can help. Look out for the Forme Lifestyle Package coming soon.