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

Torr Hell! The Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive - Cycling Northern Ireland

Posted on April 28, 2017 @ 1:00 PM in Cycling

The summer has been busy for me with lots of work and of course tonnes of cycling. One final sportive before the end of season, I headed to Northern Ireland in September to complete the Giant's Causeway sportive.

I had been very busy all week so I arrived in Antrim with no notion of what I was cycling, where I was headed or what to expect! Usually I would read the official website, look at the route and the elevations but time just ran away for this one. Luckily I rang a friend on the way up  who has done the sportive numerous times and she warned me to only to do the 126km route. The 180km would be a big ask especially with Torr head at the end. She kept coming back to Torr head, saying it was tough, it goes up and up some more... to be honest, I have cycled up the Alps so didn't really pay attention.  How hard can it be?

It's not often I listen to anyone but I was very glad that on this occasion I did. 126km was more than enough. The route is hilly enough and then, having already cycled 103km the fun begins! Or not, I'm still not sure how I feel about it.

Have you ever been on a roller coaster? At the start it chugs up almost vertically and your mouth goes dry. Then it drops considerably along with your tummy. That was the first bit. I don't know how I had never heard of this climb until the day before. Even cycling in the Alps I don't remember any of it being this bad. This Torr hell was relentless. 17 kilometers in total. I would climb up a very steep aspect, it would get a bit level and then it would go up again. I don't know. It seemed to go on and on. Parts are 23% gradient, (that's steep!)  I honestly thought I would just fall over. My arms and abs were killing me later from pulling so hard on the bike. My front wheel kept lifting off the road in an unprovoked wheelie. The views were lovely though, looking up and up and up at a wall ahead with little tiny cyclists. Thankfully the weather was being kind to us so that was something. I had to dig deep and get up this wall. I found my inner Serena Williams, I was grunting and shouting good-oh, along with some fine sailor swearing and it seemed to help no end! Certainly made the guys around me work a bit harder, they thought I was shouting at them!

Gringing my gears on Torr Head

The part of the climb that nearly broke me was when I thought it was over. It had leveled out and seemed like a natural finale. I always look for the top tree / telegraph pole, there was nothing else higher. Then, there, pinned to a fence was "King of the Mountain starts here." I actually screamed at the top of my lungs "AGH F*** RIGHT OFF!!" It meant there was another climb and this section was timed.  No amount of obscenities was going to make this one go away.  Like the lovely demur, classy lady that I am I remembered cycling rule #5, "Man Up." I grew a proverbial pair and got stuck in there.

Not sure how long that stretch was but finally I saw the "King of the Mountain ends here" and that was it done. Some of my group were waiting for me here, others were still behind me. I actually couldn't stop and had to ask the lads to hold the bike still while I fell of it in a heap. One of the chaps was white and looking like he might vomit. My little legs were shaking and I was drenched in sweat. The good news was though we only had 6 kilometers left to the finish. Downhill. The pictures and write ups don't do the climb justice at all, if you want to experience it, get in the car and go. If you're a cyclists and you intend on cycling it,  pack a swear jar.

So the season closed for me on a very steep high. It was tough but I am very glad that I took on the challenge. Another box ticked, another new place visited!

Follow Sinead's blog here.

Sinéad Kennedy
Sinéad Kennedy  Orwell Wheelers

Sinéad Kennedy is a Physical Therapist, Yoga Siromani and Pilates Instructor, based in South County Dublin.

She treats and teaches people from all walks of life, including many athletes, especially cyclists, runners and golfers. Recently featured in the Irish Independant, FIT Magazine, her Yoga 4 Cyclists class has gained notoriety. A keen cyclist and proud member of Orwell Wheelers she has completed numerous cycling events including La Marmotte Sportive.

Sinéad has also completed three Dublin City Marathons, numerous Adventure Races, Half Marathons and the Camino de Santiago.

Bike Lights and Daylight Visibility: Why Cyclists Should Be Seen at All Times

Posted on February 21, 2017 @ 2:07 PM in Cycling

In our newest blog, our friends at SeeSense explain why bike lights aren't just important for night riding.

What do you look for when buying a bike light? You might consider brightness and decent battery life as being important features, or you might want a light that offers good visibility in the dark. But what about being seen during the daytime? How much emphasis do you place on daylight visibility?

It is a crucial aspect of cycling safety that many people tend to ignore when making their purchase. But when you consider that 80 per cent of cycling accidents happen during the day, and with a significant increase in fatalities within a 10-year period, it’s become evident that visibility during the day is now just as important as being seen in the dark.

A greater onus has been placed on cyclists being seen during daylight hours. Companies are designing bike lights specifically for daylight visibility, and it makes sense when you look at some of the research that has been conducted into road safety in recent years.

Following a study of 184 cyclists previously involved in collisions, Australian researcher Phillipe Lacherez found motorists had “looked but didn’t see” the cyclist before it was too late. He suggested that a solution to this was both wearing reflective clothing and fitting a light which works during the daytime and also at night. Many cyclists sport high-visibility gear when on the roads, but hi-vis clothing only offers visibility during daylight hours as it reflects UV rays from the sun. Lacherez suggested the use of reflective strips on your knees and ankles that allows the lights from cars to bounce back and signal a cyclist’s movement.

In another survey conducted in Denmark, 4,000 cyclists were enrolled in an experiment that again proved the benefit of daytime visibility. In the survey, 2,000 only used their lights during the hours of darkness, while the other 2000 participants used their bike lights all day. The results showed that there was a 47 per cent decrease in accidents when lights were used throughout the day.

Also, since 2011, all new cars in Europe are required to be fitted with daytime running lights because of the proven safety benefits. If large vehicles like cars need to be seen during the hours of daylight, then surely it makes sense for a cyclist to also require high visibility?

Most accidents have been found to happen during the hours around dawn and dusk. This is partly due to rush-hour traffic, and also because of factors including changing ambient light conditions which can make it more difficult for motorists to spot cyclists. Bright, visible bike lights can help counter that problem by giving cyclists more of a presence during the day.

Almost half of fatalities occur on rural roads , making them particularly dangerous for cyclists. There are various factors which contribute to the high volume of accidents. Not only does the speed limit tend to be higher, but isolated routes can also be unlit or have poor lighting. Having a bike light that flashes brightly from both front and rear can alert drivers of a cyclist’s presence before they get too close to you, reducing the risk of a collision or near miss.

Motorists have a vital role to play in helping reduce the number of cyclist fatalities and accidents on our roads. Research has found that 60% of major collisions happen at junctions, with drivers commonly reporting that they ‘failed to look properly’. Better awareness of other road users is a crucial factor of road safety for motorists and cyclists alike.

A cyclist also has to be aware of the traffic around them, and by making themselves more visible they are taking an important step towards improving their own road safety. See.Sense ICON and ICON+ lights have been designed with twin CREE LED lights and a fresnel lens to offer unique visibility during the day. Our lights have a 15-hour run-time with optimised battery use, all which can be monitored and controlled from your smartphone and recharged by USB.

Improving cycle safety isn’t just important for reducing fatalities, it can also encourage more people to take up cycling. And the more cyclists we have on the roads, the better cycling infrastructure can be developed to improve the overall cycling experience. Cambridge University found that 85% of local cycling correlated with the provision of better cycle routes. So if we cycle, they’ll build it, and if they build it, we’ll cycle more.

 

Gareth Fullerton
Gareth Fullerton  Works at SeeSense

How to Prepare for a Sportive

Posted on August 15, 2016 @ 5:24 PM in Cycling

The guys at Chain Reaction Cycles share their top tips for preparing for a sportive. 

Sportive cycles – mass road rides with hundreds or even thousands of participants, sometimes on roads especially closed for the purpose – have exploded in popularity. Non-competitive in nature and generally featuring a choice of distances and/or routes, sportive riders can enjoy the peace of mind of knowing that a full support organisation, including food and drink stops plus mechanical support is always there should they need it. 

Build up your mileage

Get the miles in to suit the ride you’re taking on. Scope out the route so you know what to expect – don’t get caught out by a big climb or tough descent. Strava is a great place to research and find new routes.

Why not track your ride, compare data with friends and upload your routes with the help of a training aid? Heart rate monitors and GPS systems like this Garmin Edge 520 are perfect performance indicators, so why not log your activity throughout this year’s riding challenge?

Shop GPS Bike Computers 

Don’t let a mechanical ruin your day

You’ve prepared yourself physically and mentally, so take the same approach to your bike – make sure it’s in good working order with a kit from X-Tools.

Check that your brake pads, tyres and chainset are in good condition, and that your gears are shifting smoothly, ready for a big day in the saddle!

Shop Work Shop Tools


Bike comfort is key

Contact points, areas of your body in direct contact with the bike, are the main areas you’ll want to look after on big-mile rides.

Your handlebar, like the carbon model from Thomson, plays a key role in how comfy your ride is, offering a variety of different hand and riding positions – on the top of the bars for in-the-saddle climbing, on the hoods of the brakes for going uphill or accelerating, or on the drops for sustained high-speed effort in a lower, more aerodynamic position.

Few items of cycling equipment are more personal – or more important – than the saddle. A well-designed and well-fitting saddle, like the Astute Skyline VT Taca, will make epic days in the saddle a breeze. 

A good pair of clipless pedals, like the Shimano Ultegra SPD-SL 6800, offer a smooth pedal stroke and better energy efficiency. Don’t forget to make sure your pedals and cleats are set up properly for maximum pedal-pushing comfort.

Clothing comfort

The clothing you wear can make or break your ride, so make sure you’re wearing the right kit for the conditions.

Look for a good quality jersey, like this Endura model, that offers effective moisture management and a degree of UV protection if it’s going to be hot.

Rear pockets are perfect for carrying gels, bars or other items of clothing on long sportive rides.

Bibshorts, like these from Endura, have straps that go over the shoulders, rather than a waistband, and are regarded by many as being more comfortable as they are less prone to chafing and have no waistband to dig into the stomach. Your ass will thank you for buying a good pair after a long road ride.

It’s handy to have a pot of chamois cream at the ready – it helps reduce friction, prevent overheating and generally offers a soothing barrier which prevents chafing and pain.

Well worn in shoes, like the Shimano R171 shoes, with a comfortable fit and which offer good power transfer will make the difference. Don’t debut a fresh pair of shoes on your first long ride!

Nutrition and recovery

Hydrate yourself before, during and after your ride – whatever the distance. Eating and drinking little and often will produce the best results, so even if you don’t feel overly hungry, try to take some food on board.

Endurance: Typically loaded with high-energy complex carbohydrates, High5 Energy Source is used to maintain fuel stores prior to or during training and competition.

Hydration: Products like  High5 Zero Electrolyte tablets are aimed at efficiently replacing fluids lost during exertion as well as other key nutrients such as electrolytes (salts).

Recovery: Protein-rich recovery products like the Science In Sport REGO Rapid Recovery helps to restore tired muscles after exercise and aid in the creation of new muscle. 

Now you're prepared don't forget to enter the 2016 Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive on 10th September!

Sarah Nelson
Sarah Nelson  Marketing Officer

Sarah joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in 2011. A firm believer in giving anything a go at least once (unless it involves jumping out of a plane at 6,000ft!) she is always looking for new adventures in the outdoors and can often be found wandering the Mournes or Glens of Antrim attempting not to get lost!

First Step towards Adventure - Mountain Bike Skills with Tollymore National Outdoor Centre

Posted on July 28, 2016 @ 10:57 AM in AdventureCycling

With mountain biking becoming increasingly popular in Northern Ireland, isn't it about time you got a handle of it?! Find out how OutdoorNI’s Bev Pierson got on when she spent a day learning the basics at Tollymore National Outdoor Centre.

Tollymore National Outdoor Centre

Having bought a shiny new mountain bike last year (but not really knowing how to ride it properly) I booked myself onto Tollymore National Outdoor Centre’s First Step Mountain Bike Skills Course, which is an introductory course to the skills required to ride mountain bike trails safely.

Tollymore National Outdoor Centre is located on the edge of Tollymore Forest Park with a beautiful backdrop of the Mourne Mountains. Making the setting even more spectacular was the fact that on the day of my course there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun shined all day!

After arriving at the centre and waiting for the others to arrive, I was able to have a quick chat and a coffee with others who had arrived before me as I was curious to see why they had booked onto the course. Some of them had heard about the new mountain bike trails and wanted to give them a go and thought this course would give them the confidence, one lady had been bought the course for mother’s day and some of the women just wanted to get out and try something new. Our two instructors for the day were Emma and Amy, who were both excellent at delivering and tailoring the course to the group but were also very approachable making the day really relaxed and comfortable.

But before we were able to do any mountain biking it was off to the stores to get sized up for some essentials…a bike, a helmet and some gloves.  

We started the day off in the centre’s car park practising the position of the pedals on a bike (which should be in the same position of the arms on a clock if they were placed at 9am and 3pm) and shifting our weight back and forward on the bike to improve our balance. To put our skills into action we were given a limbo kind of exercise to try, instead of having to explain it I made sure I took a photo of one of the ladies doing it…

Mountain Biking Northern Ireland

Next up was to give the weight shifting a go on the centre’s skills course, which has been designed for this exact reason. I found it’s really only once you get onto this type of terrain that you really feel the difference when you apply the skills you’ve just learnt. Before our mid-morning coffee break we spent some time learning to ‘pop up’ onto kerbs in order to gain the skills to help get over rocks and obstacles whilst out mountain biking. The next item on the agenda was to master the art of braking and cornering as these are very important skills to have when out on the trails and again we practised them in the car park before using our new found skills out on the skills course. This took us all the way up to lunch where we rewarded with a delicious bowl of homemade soup and sandwiches. Though what I was really looking forward to was the famous chocolate brownies that the instructors had been talking about all morning which we enjoyed on the terrace of the centre with a cup of coffee whilst the sun beamed down on us.

After lunch it was time to pull everything together that we had just learnt and put it all into practise on the trails around the centre. This was definitely the highlight of the day for me as we got to mountain bike through the dense and dark forest with the sun glimmering down through the trees and at one point even encountered some buzzards circling above us. The trails we were riding really tested us on all the skills we had learnt that day especially when having to shift our weight backwards so we could tackle a steep downhill section - which we all tried and succeeded in not falling off! 

Mountain Biking Northern Ireland

Once back at the centre everyone was raving about their day and were even enquiring about the next course they could do. I think everyone on the course will agree with me when I say that I learnt far more than what I expected to from the day and tackled obstacles and drops off that I never thought I would have been able to! All thanks to Emma and Amy!  

Beginner, intermediate and advanced courses are available at Tollymore National Outdoor Centre whether you are coming alone or looking to book in a group for a session.  As well as mountain biking the centre deliver a range of courses including, canoeing, navigation and climbing. So don't miss out and contact the centre directly to find out more.

Click here to read part 2 of this blog series and find out how OutdoorNI's Sarah Nelson got on when she attended one of Tollymore's First Steps Canoeing Skills courses- 'First steps towards Adventure- Canoeing Skills with Tollymore National Outdoor Centre'

Beverley Pierson
Beverley Pierson  Senior Marketing Officer

Beverley used to be a keen horse rider but since joining a local cycle club in 2013 she has developed a passion for 2 wheels instead of 4 hoofs! Meaning she can often be found on a bike exploring the roads and mountain bike trails across the country!

Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive – Which Route This Year?

Posted on September 2, 2015 @ 12:50 PM in Cycling

A Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive veteran having completed the challenge for the past 2 years Andrea Harrower can’t wait to get back to Ballycastle for more this September! The question is which route should she choose?  Route 1: The Causeway Coaster (57km), Route 2: The Glens and Coast Route (126km) or Route 3: The Giant Killer (182km)?  A seasoned athlete Andrea is no stranger to a gruelling challenge however equally enjoys the stunning scenery and enjoyment of the shorter route.  So which route will she (and more importantly which one should you) tackle this year, read our latest blog to find out…

So 2013 and its stormy, ridiculous weather I completed the long 182km route, while the gloriously sunny 2014 so me tackle the short 57km route (where’s the logic eh??) ….the question is, does that mean I ride the 126km route in 2015? The Giant’s Causeway Sportive is a firm favourite in the calendar, a fabulous way to see the north coast – even in inclement weather! The world famous (thanks to the Game of Thrones) Dark Hedges are all the more atmospheric in bad conditions - honest!

Giants Causeway Coast Sportive

Some snaps and cycling selfies of Andrea taking on the Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive 

“Why are they called the Dark Hedges when they’re trees?” asked my cycling companion last year. “That’s so Irish”, he added. Needless to say he was an Englishman! Anyway, he had chosen Giant’s Casueway Coast Sportive as his first ever Sportive and had flown over from southern England for it. What a fabulous way to make a foray into the world of sportives, and it was the impressive organisation and sociable atmosphere and stunning countryside that encouraged him to enter further events back home, upping the distances big time in the past year.

As a result, he is eager to come back to do the ‘The Giant Killer in the Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive in the next couple of years – clearly I’ll be telling him to go train on Box Hill before coming to tackle Torr Head Road.

Speaking of which, I did a fab triple whammy of Torr Head on the way back from a girls weekend at the end of July on the North Coast – a weekend so full of eating, drinking and lazing that lastminute.com (as is my want!) on the drive home I decided to make a slight detour and throw my bike out of the car at Torr Head car park and do a wee hill rep session. How beautiful is that place? Spectacular. And that was on a very wet, windy and wild afternoon.

Torr Head Road isn’t the only climb on the biggie 182 km route at the Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive however, a route that is extremely testing for even the fittest of riders – but which promises unsurpassed scenery and satisfaction.

GCCSLeft - Torr Head featured in the 126km and 182km routes; Right - The Dark Hedges which riders on the 57km and 182km routes will pass through 

The same applies however to the short 57route, which is a perfect introduction to sportives for novices, as well as being a perfect ride for experienced cyclists wanting to work intensely over a shorter route, or for long distance triathletes wanting to have a different location for a spin before heading out for a run from the finish area in Ballycastle.

Indeed, all 3 routes appear to be perfect for anybody. Combine this with the efficiency and enthusiasm of the organisers, not to mention the delectable food on offer at designated stops and also at the post-event finish area, and you’re guaranteed a great day out no matter what the weather (or route!)

Book online today to take part in the 2015 Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive on 12th September.  Online entries close 12noon on 10th September. Click here for more details on each of the routes including maps. 

Latest comment posted by linda on March 30, 2016 @ 11:16 PM

My dad use to cycle with the North Belfast cycle club in the 1950s. He remembers a few people from the club. One of the names was Jack Hull. Dad is 89 now but has fond memories of the club and ... Read more >

Andrea Harrower
Andrea Harrower  The Belles

Eternal adventure seeker.... A sports enthusiast, who competes at a high level but who has as much passion for encouraging other females and kids into the great outdoors. Along with 3 other like-minded girls she founded The Belles in 2009!

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