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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

A Day at the Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive

Posted on April 25, 2019 @ 9:58 AM in Cycling

Is this your first time signing up for the Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive? Are you wondering what a typical day at Ireland’s most scenic sportive looks like? Read on as we take you through what to expect on the day when cycling the 115-mile route.

 

6:20am: Bleary-eyed, we reach for the alarm just as it goes off and hit snooze. 5 more minutes.

6:25am: Must get up, must get up. This will likely be your second most challenging task today – but you can do it! Summoning enough willpower to get out of bed, we stagger to the shower, quickly get changed into our best cycling kit before fuelling up with a big breakfast for the day ahead.

 

7am: We set off for Event HQ at Páirc Mac Uílín GAA Pitch from our accommodation for the weekend, An Caisleán (there are a number of accommodation providers which you can find here). It only takes 5 minutes from the centre of Ballycastle to reach Event HQ. By this time, there’s already marshals on hand at Event HQ to help us find a good parking space. The familiar buzz of preparing for a big event finally overtakes the desire to go back to bed. Let’s do this!

 

7:05am: In the clubhouse, there are big sheets with the 1000+ participant names laid out alphabetically, so it’s easy to find your name. We quickly sign on and scope out the new jerseys for this year’s sportive.

7:10am: At Event HQ, there’s also a big board showing all 4 routes: 30 | 60 | 85 | 115 miles, and where the famous 4 feed stations are. There’s time for a chat now with the other participants:

‘Which route are you trying?’

‘Are you doing Torr Head?’

‘What was the highlight last year?’

The atmosphere is growing and the craic is one of the best parts of the day.

 

7:35am: We have time to squeeze in a last-minute pre-ride banana and double check the bike is in perfect condition with the Decathlon mechanical support team.

 

7:45am: Marshalls call our wave together – it’s finally time to head out on the 115-mile route of Ireland’s most scenic sportive!

8:30am: Pit-stop for a selfie along the Causeway Coast road – blue as far as the eye can see.

10:00am: We arrive at the first feed station at Ballinlea Road. It’s great to be able to catch a breather and see if these feed stations are worthy of all the praise you’ve heard. They are. Optionable: eat own bodyweight in jellybeans. 3 cups of tea later it’s time to head back out.

 

11am: Flash a sweet dab in Game of Thrones territory at the Dark Hedges for one of the official event photographs. Say ‘Winter is Coming!’.  

 

2.30pm: A final stop at the 4th and final feed station of the day in Cushendun. This is right before Torr Head, and the nervous excitement is palpable – should we tackle Torr Head or opt for the bypass? We can hear our stomachs rumbling at this point so it’s good to stock up on fruit and biscuits before drinking our 76th cup of tea for the day.

 

2.40pm: Torr Head it is! Our legs are definitely feeling the burn, but the views are worth it. Also the marshalls at the junction gave us an amazing 15 second pep talk as we approached. This also means we get to take part in the KOM/QOM segment, a 1.2 mile stretch on Torr Head where the fastest man and woman wins King and Queen of the Mountain. To enter, we simply join the Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive on Strava and upload our times.  

4.30pm: With a final push, we cross the finish line. We’re back where we started at Event HQ, legs heavy with exhaustion but thrilled we finished the route. There’re loads of spectators around now, adding to the atmosphere. We collect our medal and freebie and opt for a quick rub down from one of the physios. Picture time! Then it’s off for a well-deserved hot meal inside and shower.

 

8.30pm: Time for the After-Party in O’Connor’s in Ballycastle – we’ve never looked forward to a drink so much in our lives! Highlights play on the walls as we over in intricate detail the ups and downs of one of the best days we’ve ever had out in the saddle. Cheers!

 

Dominic Lyttle
Dominic Lyttle  Assistant Marketing Officer

Dominic has recently joined the ORNI team following completion of a MSc in Marketing from Queen’s University Belfast.

In his spare time, Dominic enjoys trekking, travelling to new and exciting places, and playing basketball, alongside drinking far too much coffee!

Meet the Team Behind the Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive

Posted on March 22, 2019 @ 5:24 PM in Cycling

It can be easy to assume that cycling events such as the Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive just come together themselves. In actual fact, our small team works hard for months in advance - so we thought we'd introduce ourselves!

 

Beverely Magowan

Beverley is the Commander-in-Chief of the Sportive. A founder of the event, it has been her baby since it began in 2011. Everything from the number of toilets rolls, to the number of exclamation marks in a Facebook post right down to the mechanical expertise for bikers, you can trust her to know inside out. An avid cyclist herself, it was also Beverley who created our brand new 60 mile route for this year’s event!

 

 

Sylvia Watson

Sylvia is one of the lesser known faces of the Sportive but she plays an integral role in its success. Coordinating feed stations, volunteers and staff rotas are all part of her task, not to mention ensuring our whole team is fed, watered and sheltered during our time in Ballycastle. You can usually find her at Feed Station 3 in Glenarm.

 

 

Aideen Exley

The voice behind the phone. Aideen is another founder of the Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive and works hard behind the scenes ensuring our riders make it home safe and sound. Coordinating with the onsite paramedics and mechanical assistance crew, it’s Aideen you’ll speak to if you ever need to call the emergency number.

 

 

Jayne Woodrow

Probably the most recognisable member of our team! Jayne is often selling our jerseys, giving out medals and generally cheering participants on over the course of the weekend. She loves meeting as many people as possible at the Sportive, so if you see her at this year’s event be sure to come up and say hello!

 

 

Dominic Lyttle

Dominic is our marketing guru for the Sportive. All the Facebook posts, Instagram stories (yes, we’re on Instagram now!) and other adverts you see peppered across the interwebs in the months leading up to the event are down to him.

 

 

Diane Crookes

There are a whole squad of other helpers at our Event HQ and feed stations. Diane is one of those, and likely to be among the most familiar having helped out at the Sportive since it started. Usually to be found at Feed Station 3, she (and all our team) are there to support you as the legs start getting tired.

 

 

Robert Downes

Robert is Chairman of the Causeway Cycle Club and a long time supporter of the Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive. We work closely with Robert and the club every year to ensure all eventualities are prepared for. Causeway CC provide many of the marshals and motorcycle marshals for the sportive. Robert is happiest when at the intersection of Torr Head, driving riders to take on the epic challenge.

 

If you'd like to join us all for Ireland's most scenic sportive on Saturday 22nd June, visit the Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive website and sign up now!

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

4 Cool Ways to See Your Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive Route

Posted on March 13, 2019 @ 5:12 PM in Cycling

With 4 different routes to choose from at the 2019 Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive (35 | 60 | 85 | 115 miles), you’re spoilt for choice – and now we’ve got 4 cool ways you can see your route for the 2019 Sportive. Better still, they’re all completely free to use and adaptable for any cycling challenge you’re taking on.

 

  1. VeloViewer – This 3D map shows all of the elevation along the route, helping you plan out your training, so you can see where you need to push that extra bit harder. Check out the map here.

 

 

2. Google Earth – You can now view the new 60-mile Sportive route as a 360° virtual tour, taking in every detail of the most epic parts of the route. It works even better on mobile too – just move your phone around to see the virtual route and the spectacular scenery you’ll experience on the day. Take the tour here.

 

 3. Strava – For those competitive people, we’ve got you covered! The King of the Mountain / Queen of the Mountain segment is available on Strava. This is available for anyone taking part in the 60 / 85 / 115 mile routes. To enter the 2019 KOM / QOM join the Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive Club on Strava.

 

  4. Website – On our website you can find all the timings and information about each route, with links to both the route profiles and Garmin to see basic information like the path the routes take.  

www.giantscausewaycoastsportive.com/event-information/route-information/route-1/


 

 

Dominic Lyttle
Dominic Lyttle  Assistant Marketing Officer

Dominic has recently joined the ORNI team following completion of a MSc in Marketing from Queen’s University Belfast.

In his spare time, Dominic enjoys trekking, travelling to new and exciting places, and playing basketball, alongside drinking far too much coffee!

Catching Up With One of Northern Ireland's Best Coffee Bars for Cyclists: TRAIT Coffee

Posted on March 1, 2019 @ 12:13 PM in Cycling

Mark opened his coffee bar TRAIT Coffee in November 2017 and it has since become a hit with cyclists and walkers alike – it was even named in Cool FM’s Top 11 Coffee Bars in Northern Ireland. We caught up with Mark to have a chat about the first whirlwind year at TRAITCoffee and what his plans are for the future.

 

Hi Mark, congrats on the unbelievable success of TRAIT Coffee and thanks for speaking with us today. You opened the coffee bar in November 2017 – what was the inspiration behind TRAIT Coffee?

For the last 10 years I have craved my own business. To be in charge of my own destiny is the main appeal. Creating a strong brand and a unique space was key, alongside bringing a service that wasn't already available in Comber was vital for growth. Once I had set my heart on opening a speciality coffee shop in my hometown, the journey commenced.

I recall the nights where I doodled lists of potential business names – I would judge how the potential names looked, the meaning and most importantly a name not already in use. My research was extensive but very interesting. I also spent time studying existing coffee shops, staff interaction with customers, interior design, food offerings and social media presence.  I am a big fan of hard work and believe the more you put in the bigger the reward.

 

 

What was the process of opening the coffee bar like (hiring staff, finding the perfect venue, getting the art wall)?

Firstly, I had to identify a premises. A property small in stature but one that would financially allow me to be creative. 33 Castle Street, Comber stood out for many reasons: its proximity to The Comber Greenway and main Belfast to Ards Peninsula cycle route, a huge gable wall to mark its identity, space to the rear for future expansion and lastly my hunch, that it 'felt right’. That word 'hunch’ has been the basis of many of my decisions.

I wanted TRAIT Coffee to be seen as humble and modest from the roadside yet a unique and charming interior space. I designed all the interior space myself and felt I would achieve a greater sense of community spirit from sourcing locally handcrafted furniture and craftspersons. I also believe the design of the wall seating in a U shape is not only quirky but adds further to the feel of a social space. The definition of the word TRAIT is a unique characteristic; hence my gable wall shows a large bespoke thumbprint, as your thumbprint makes you unique. A massive credit to Dean from Visual Waste who helped with brainstorming logo ideas and bringing the thumbprint to life. It certainly was an eventful day on Castle Street when Dean climbed his ladder holding his spray paint. Business neighbours and local residents guessing what the image was going to be.

I work a few shifts in TRAIT as well as working in a full-time job elsewhere. This current arrangement is something I am hoping will change with greater traction and expansion in the future. Overall, I feel with experience I'm getting better on this front.

How has the first year been at TRAIT Coffee?

Our first year in terms of identity and presence was a success. With experience, I am hopeful we can make more friends and push on in terms of expansion. We have also evolved with time and based on the wants of our customers we are now offering freshly prepared toasties on our menu.

The Comber Greenway and Ards Peninsula are very popular with cyclists and walkers – what makes this area such an attractive place for a café like TRAIT Coffee?

I see TRAIT Coffee as a ‘pitstop’ or ‘midpoint’ where you can refuel when exploring the interesting landmarks and breath-taking scenic areas the wonderful Peninsula has to offer.

Credit: Dave Kane

Do you get out on the bike yourself around Northern Ireland?

Occasionally my family and I would cycle the Comber Greenway. My smallest is 4 so the journey is usually stop/start!

What would be the go-to treat for a cyclist at TRAIT Coffee?

Either flapjacks, pear and ginger bread or Thumbprint Cookies.

I’m getting hungry here – is it lunch time yet? Do you find more cycling clubs or individuals coming in?

We’re seeing more groups of cyclists attending since opening, half of which are not affiliated to any clubs but are out for a leisurely cycle. On Sunday past we had Manic Cycling Club from Newtownabbey, and good friends of TRAIT would be James Curry and Matthew Teggart who cycle professionally for Ireland.

What are TRAIT Coffee’s plans for 2019?

My plan for 2019 is to build a cycle shelter to the rear of the shop. This shelter will also house a few quirky bikes available to hire and is somewhere you can have your bicycle maintained whilst visiting TRAIT and nearby shops.

 

Quickfire Round:

What’s the best tasty-treat you’ve made? Banana Bread

Favourite coffee? Cappuccino

Favourite film? The Founder

Favourite outdoor place in Northern Ireland? Delmont Country Park, the views over the Peninsula are incredible.

Thanks for chatting to us Mark!

TRAIT Coffee is open Tuesday to Friday 10am-4pm | Saturday 9am-4pm and Sunday 10am-4pm, and is located at 33 Castle Street, Comber – follow them on Facebook and Instagram. Call in on your next cycle!

 

Dominic Lyttle
Dominic Lyttle  Assistant Marketing Officer

Dominic has recently joined the ORNI team following completion of a MSc in Marketing from Queen’s University Belfast.

In his spare time, Dominic enjoys trekking, travelling to new and exciting places, and playing basketball, alongside drinking far too much coffee!

Meet the Sponsor: Decathlon, Belfast

Posted on December 18, 2018 @ 11:34 AM in CyclingLocal Outdoors

In the first of a series of upcoming interviews with our event sponsors, we sit down with the main event sponsor of the Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive – Decathlon Belfast. These interviews are intended to help put a ‘face’ to the often-corporate branding, so that our participants know about the strong connection our sponsors have to cycling and the Sportive World.

For Week 1, we sat down with Lee Aston, Belfast Cycles Department Manager from the store.

 

Hi Lee, thanks for speaking to us! Would you mind telling us a bit about your role at Decathlon?

Hi Ethan. So, my role in Decathlon Belfast is that of the Cycles Department Manager. I've been working in the Belfast store for over 2 years now and have a keen interest in most forms of cycling, mostly road and MTB. My role varies from day to day - one day I could be building the countless number of bikes we get into store on a daily basis (especially now at Christmas time when building and selling never stops) or it could be dealing with customers wanting a cycle scheme which is run through their work place and helping them find the perfect bike. I also help out with the different store events we have and sometimes get to take part in them myself. So yeah, my day to day is never really the same if I'm honest.

Some of Decathlon Belfast's impressive cycling stock

 

Sounds ideal for knowing about all things to do with a Sportive! What impressed yourselves about the Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive / prompted you to get involved with it?

What doesn't impress me is the better question! After taking part in the event last year, all be it a bit wet at the start, it was easy to see why it is so popular. The location, the people, how it's set up and the excellent food stops and service stations along the way make it extremely appealing to us as a store. In store we have a large range of road bikes which suit a lot of those who take part in sportives and there is no better way to let people know we have these bikes than sponsor this massive event and spread the brand to all those who take part.

 

Decathlon Belfast are offering an Early Bird Offer – could you tell us a bit about it?

The Early Bird Offer consists of a brake and gear adjustment and a tyre and bolt check. Perfect to get the competitors bikes in tip top shape for whichever of the 4 routes they decide to take on. 

 

What else might people be interested in picking up when they call in store?

Within Decathlon Belfast we have over 70 different sports under one roof, from cycling to hiking to horse riding; we cover all areas. While customers are in buying their cycling essentials for the event like energy gels, co2 canisters and tool kits they may be able to try out a new sport they have never thought about previously. As our moto goes, ‘Decathlon makes sport accessible for the many.’ 

If you're stocking up on your gels, co2 cannisters or multi-tools, Decathlon is the place to go.

 

Have you taken part in the event yourself? If so, what was your favourite part?

Yes I took part in the event last year for the first time. I did the 35mile route and it was outstanding. My favourite part of it was the coast road going towards Bushmills as the views were just excellent (especially once the rain stopped!)

 

One of our photographer's snapped Lee during his route! 

 

Finally, Decathlon Belfast are also providing mechanical support at next year’s event. What does this involve for yourselves?

This will involve myself and the team helping fix punctures, provide gear tune ups and bolt checks along with any other quick fixes we can do there and then to help competitors. We will be on the road in 3 different vehicles along with our support at the event HQ, so nobody has to worry if you get stuck half way round!

 

     

You'll see plenty of Decathlon vans on the day as they respond to any problems riders may have on the course.

 

Thanks for speaking to us Lee! People can find the Decathlon Belfast store on Facebook.

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

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