Posted on January 16, 2015 @ 2:26 PM in
Cycling Ulster’s leisure road cycling calendar is already jam packed with events for 2015, so whether you are a serious cyclist or a novice wanting to cycle their first sportive there is plenty to choose from. These non-competitive events, otherwise known as sportives or leisure events, are normally run by cycling clubs and charities and offer a great way for cyclists to come together and enjoy a leisurely day out on the bike whilst also pushing themselves at the same time.
Having bought my first road bike at the end of 2012 I entered a few of these events myself. I remember turning up to do my first sportive, slightly nervous from not knowing what to expect but also because I’d never cycled more than 20miles at a time! However, nerves aside, I was quickly made to feel welcome by my fellow participants as we all approached the start line. Clearly bitten by the bug I started to enter more leisure events, below is a synapse of the events I have taken part in…
Dromara Cycling Club, a club well known for its friendliness and professionalism at delivering events, host the ‘Dromara Coastal’ every year which takes in the beautiful scenery along the County Down coastline and the shores of Strangford Lough. There are two routes available – 60 and 80 miles – and is a great introductory event for leisure riders.
This 55 mile ride is organised by the Kilbride Cyclists cycling club and follows roads around County Antrim. With only one route on offer you can expect a fair amount of hills at this event! After around 30miles and just after a quick descent into Glenarm you will then be welcomed with a variety of homemade sandwiches, buns and cakes and oodles of tea and coffee at their feed station. Back on the bike for another 20 odd miles to the finish line where a BBQ awaits you and a well-earned cuppa!
The Tour of the Orchard County is a sportive organised by the Armagh Tigers, a charitable trust set up six years ago and by a group of Armagh business people with a long history of fund-raising for local charities. On the day there are two routes (36miles & 68miles) around the Orchard County of Armagh passing many historical points of interest along the way. We opted for the shorter 36mile route and were joined by array of cyclists of varying abilities. Half way round there is a small feed stop where you can pick up just enough to see you through to the finish line where a very well deserved burger and chip awaits you!
The Maracycle is a well-known event where participant’s cycle between Dublin and Belfast in support of Ireland’s leading peace building charity, Cooperation Ireland. Due to lack of training, on the day we decided to take part in a section of the route from Belfast to Newry which meant we cycled around a total of 40miles (a bit of a cop out compared to what the other participants had ahead of them!). The camaraderie of the participants is what definitely stands out about this event and is probably what spurs people on to complete the longer distances. In Newry (which was the finish for us) we received a commemorative t-shirt and medal, which was a nice touch.
Many cyclists debate the hardest leisure events in Ireland and normally the Dromara Hilly will get a mention because of its notorious climbs. However, there are a variety of routes which should suit as many people as possible (105miles/77miles/52miles/37miles). On the day of the event there had been torrential downpours from the early hours of the morning so initially we were to complete the 52 mile route but then only ended up completing around 40 miles in the horrendous weather conditions. Over half way in you’ll be greeted with a fantastic feed station at Leitrim with sandwiches, buns, yoghurts plus lots more and then when all the hard work is done burgers are given out to all finishers. To help guide you along the way and to offer some kind words of encouragement you’ll see Dromara CC club members dotted along the route.
Lap the Lough is on every cyclists list of events to complete, an event that circumnavigates Lough Neagh and started in 2006. A friend and I entered to complete Lap 9 which took place in August 2014. On the day of the event there was a feed stop every 20-25 miles which was a great way to breakdown the distance of 85miles – a distance which I’d never cycled before. The route is also fairly flat so it’s not that demanding, the most important thing is making sure you feel comfortable on your bike because you could be on it for around 5-7 hours. Half way round there was a lunch stop so we could stock up on some soup and a roll and at the finish line there were yummy wraps for everyone.
The Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive is held every September with many club cyclists considering it as their end of season sportive and one to train for because of the infamous Torr Head Road on the 80mile and 115mile routes. Luckily for me there was a shorter option (35miles) that avoids the Torr Head but follows the beautiful Coast Road as well as through the magnificent Dark Hedges instead. The scenery, the friendly atmosphere and the banter between participants are definitely what make this event plus the hot spicy chicken pasta that was laid out for everyone at the finish line.
Entering these type of events is a great way to not only motivate yourself to get out on the bike but also to meet like-minded people. One event worth considering this year is the much anticipated Gran Fondo, a legacy event from last year’s Giro d’Italia which expects to attract up to 4,000 participants. There is a 36 mile route, which would be ideal for beginners or a 109 mile route, suitable for more experienced cyclists.
It is a good idea to carry out some preparation before you take part in any event in order to make it as memorable as possible! Make sure to check your bike so that it is in good working order and it is also very important to check the weather forecast so you can prepare what you will wear on the day. Some things you will need on the day are your water bottle, some snacks, cycling gloves, shoes, helmet, some money and your mobile phone.
To see what events are on throughout the year visit www.cycleni.com/events
Posted on October 29, 2014 @ 3:31 PM in
A day out on the bike really isn’t complete without a good coffee stop thrown in for good measure! So that’s why CycleNI.com have put together a list of their favourite cafes and coffee shops all across the country, perfect for relaxing in and refuelling for your onward journey. Some places mentioned below have bike parking outside and all of them are sure to give any cyclist a warm welcome!
Inevitably there will be places to add to this list so if you know of somewhere that is not included and is cycle friendly please let us know by commenting below!
- Divis Coffee Barn – the recently opened coffee barn at Divis has had many cyclists flock to it to sample the homemade baking and cooking delights and at 1,025 feet, it is Ireland’s highest coffee shop. The new Ridge Trail on Divis is open to cyclists and offers spectacular skyline views over Belfast.
- Lough Keepers Cottage – located on the Lagan and Lough Cycle Way, The Lock Keepers Inn is the perfect stop off for a coffee, breakfast, lunch or a snack. Using the best of local ingredients where the owners strive to bring you good food in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere
- 5A Lockview Road – this cafe is a tiny, quirky little place that serves up great coffee and great food. Inside and outside you’ll notice the relaxed atmosphere around the place and another benefit is that it is ideally located on the edge of the Lagan and Lough Cycle Way in Stranmillis.
- Love Coffee, Lurgan – is an ethical coffee shop specialising in artisan coffee, fair trade, homemade desserts and lunchtime treats. Cycle routes nearby include Oxford Island, Bann Montaighs Trails, Birches & Maghery Trails, Craigavon Cycle Trail, Craigavon Lakes Moutainbike Trail, Derrytrasna Loop and the Newry Canal Towpath.
- Studio Café at Wrights Soft Furnishings, Armagh – is a beautiful coffee shop full of homemade goodies, lunches and fair-trade tea and coffee. The Tassagh Cycle Route starts in Armagh or a short drive can take you to Gosford Forest Park where you can enjoy some off road riding.
Posted on October 2, 2014 @ 11:58 AM in
CycleNI.com brings you the ten most popular routes on its website. These routes are based on what routes our visitors are viewing the most. There is a mixture of short, long, on road and off road routes so there should be something to suit everyone!
1) Comber Greenway
The Comber Greenway is the most popular route on our website and is a 7 mile traffic free path of the National Cycle Network which follows the old Belfast to Comber railway line. The traffic free walking and cycling route begins at Dee Street in East Belfast close to the Harland and Wolff shipyard. From the Holywood Arches to Dundonald the Greenway provides a tranquil green corridor through East Belfast with points of interest along the way including the CS Lewis Statue, views of the Harland & Wolff Cranes, Parliament Buildings at Stormont and the Belfast Hills.
2) Lagan and Lough Cycle Way
The Lagan and Lough Cycle Way on National Cycle Network Route number 93 and 9 is a 21 mile mostly traffic-free cycle and walking route connecting Lisburn, Belfast and Jordanstown. The route is suitable for cyclists of all ages and abilities and passes along the waterside of the Lagan Towpath and Belfast Lough.
3) Newry Canal Towpath
Similar to the Lagan and Lough Cycle Way, this very popular, traffic free route runs from Portadown to Newry and totals 20 miles in length. The route follows the towpath on the western bank of the Newry Canal.
4) Belfast Lough
This traffic free flat section of the National Cycle Network along the shoreline of Belfast Lough takes in views of a truly historic shipyard. The 7 mile route runs on a path parallel to the motorway where you can observe the birds of Belfast Lough from special bird watching hides. The cycle lanes then take you through Duncrue Industrial Estate and onto Clarendon Dock where new businesses thrive alongside the old dry docks, where ships were once repaired. On arrival in Belfast, visit the Lagan Weir and learn about the history of the river Lagan and the Titanic.
5) Loughshore Trail
The Loughshore Trail is a unique 113 mile on road cycleway, not only because it circumnavigates Lough Neagh but because it uses quiet country lanes and consists of mainly flat terrain. As well as providing breathtaking views, the trail also incorporates over 30 major sites of interest including marinas, nature reserves, parks and sites of archaeological interest.
6) Giant’s Causeway to Benone
For a stunning cycle ride along the North Coast, follow National Cycle Network Route 93 between the Giants Causeway in the east and Benone in the west. This 22 mile on and off road route passes through the resort towns of Portrush, Portstewart and Castlerock. Significant stretches of the route are along traffic-free paths.
7) Ballyshannon to Larne
Often listed in the world's top 10 road trips, the Antrim Coast is unrivalled in terms of attractions and scenery. Throw in the Sperrins, an Ancient Walled City and Atlantic beaches and you've got an unbeatable cycling holiday. The complete route is 281 miles in length along mostly minor country roads with varying degrees of cycling difficulty. Whether completed in its entirety or in smaller sections every cyclist will enjoy a truly spectacular experience.
8) Kingfisher Trail
The Kingfisher Trail has been named after the kingfisher, a bird long associated with the lakes, fishing and the tranquillity of the rural setting. This is a beautiful rural area of quiet country roads well suited to cycling as there is very little traffic. This 230 mile trail was the first mapped and signed long distance cycle route in Ireland and is still regarded as one of the most enjoyable.
9) Strangford Lough Cycle Trail
Cycle through St. Patrick’s country and explore one of Europe’s richest wildlife habitats, Strangford Lough, on this 82 mile on road route. It is managed by the National Trust and is a haven for marine life, butterflies and wild flowers. The route which is linked from Belfast by the traffic-free Comber Greenway meanders along the shores of the Ards Peninsula and Strangford Lough along minor roads with all the scenery and wildlife right at your wheels.
10) Craigavon Lakes Mountain Bike Trail
This 6.5mile family mountain bike trail meanders through broadleaf woodlands, wildflower meadows and along the lake shoreline. The majority of the trail is purpose built singletrack linked with some wider tarmac sections meaning it is both challenging and scenic. The trail is suitable for all cyclists with basic off-road riding skills.
Why not experience some of these routes for yourself? Even if you don’t have a bike there is further information on each route page about bike hire and don’t forget to check out the facilities section for the nearest coffee shops too!
Posted on July 8, 2014 @ 12:52 PM in
No more teachers and no more books can only mean one thing...school is out for summer! If you are trying to plan a few day trips away with the kids, the team at CycleNI.com has selected a few of their favorite off road routes perfect for a great family day out.
So if your little ones have been watching any of the Tour de France Grand Depart on the tv over the past few days and want to become the next Chris Froome then pack the bikes into the car, choose a destination from one of the family friendly routes below and off you go!
1) Comber Greenway
The Comber Greenway is one of the most popular traffic free cycling routes in Northern Ireland. Starting in Comber, join the greenway just off the A22 and cycle to Dundonald which is approximately 3-4miles in length. At Dundonald, leave the Comber Greenway at access point 15 and continue up the Comber Road (please note this road can be busy) towards Belfast where you will find an award winning café called Nosh that serves up many delights.
2) Lagan and Lough Cycle Way
Another favorite with many cyclists is the Lagan and Lough Cycle Way. Starting at Stranmillis (just beside Cutters Wharf) the towpath follows a flat wide path and if you cycle towards Shaw’s Bridge, which is approximately 3 miles away, you will come across the Lock Keepers Cottage where you can stop for a bite to eat. If you’d prefer to stop in Stranmillis after your return journey, a new bicycle themed coffee shop called ‘5A Lockview Road’ has just opened on Lockview Road which has some amazing reviews!
3) Newry Canal
Similar to the Lagan and Lough Cycle Way, this very popular, traffic free towpath runs from Portadown to Newry and totals 20 miles in length. Start at Scarva and follow the towpath in the direction of Newry, enjoying the stunning views over Acton Lake before reaching Poyntzpass, this section is approximately 3 miles long. Refreshments are available in Poyntzpass but if you return to Scarva, a fine favorite with many cyclists is the highly acclaimed Tea Rooms in Scarva Visitor Centre.
4) Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails
One of Northern Ireland's most famous lakes, a stunning Victorian Castle, incredible panoramic views and lots of different cycling trails is what is to be expected at Castlewellan. Castlewellan Forest Park’s green and blue mountain bike trails are suitable for families with the green trail being the easier of the two and are both around 2.5 miles in length. Urban Coffee, located on Castlewellan’s main street offers friendly service, excellent food at reasonable prices and amazing coffee!
5) Castle Ward Farm Trail
This 2.5mile cycle route will take you through stunning woodland and farmland as well as past the 15th century Audley's Castle. After your bike ride relax with a cup of coffee or refuel with a bite to eat in the onsite café which serves light lunches, delicious homemade cakes and excellent coffee.
6) Blessingbourne Mountain Bike Trails
Located on a private estate in the picturesque Clogher Valley, this unique trail centre caters for cyclists of all ages and abilities with a range of wide flowing blue trails (2.5miles) perfect for families and a pump track where the kids can really test their bike skills. At weekends, a pop-up Pedal Stop Coffee Cabin opens serving coffee and divine homemade cakes. A great place to refuel, warm-up or just relax and enjoy the views.
For a full list of off road cycling routes in Northern Ireland please visit CycleNI.com
Posted on May 20, 2014 @ 4:49 PM in
The people of Northern Ireland, cycling fans and non cycling fans, really stepped up to the mark in supporting the Giro d’Italia when it came to visit our shores at the start of this month. Hopefully this race, the second largest cycle race in the world, will have rubbed off on a few folk encouraging them to either dust down their bikes or make a trip to a local bike shop.
If you are one of them, below are some routes along the Causeway Coast, an area used for the second day of the race, plus suggested pit stops along the way to truly whet your appetite!
One Day Cycling Routes
If you want to experience the scenery and soak up the atmosphere of the Causeway Coast with your family by bike this short cycle route is ideal. The route connects Castlerock village with Downhill Forest and predominantly follows traffic-free sections of National Cycle Network. Enjoy stunning coastal scenery and magnificent views towards Donegal, as well as viewing two of the tallest Sitka Spruce trees in Ireland, known by some locals as ‘Laurel & Hardy’. Once arriving back in Castlerock via the same route, Crusoes Coffee Shop offer great coffee and freshly prepared food. They also have a children’s area, complete with jigsaws books and drawing paper to keep the kids entertained.
For those that really want to experience the freedom of cycling on the road and clock up some miles here are some fantastic routes well worth giving a go!
This circular route links the coastal resort town of Ballycastle to the Giant's Causeway using the spectacular Causeway Coastal Route returning via Bushmills and the country roads of North Antrim, which are signed as part of the National Cycle Network 93. If you’re feeling the need to reenergise, a great coffee stop at around the half way point is in Bushmills at the Copper Kettle where you will always be welcomed with a friendly smile.
For a stunning cycle ride along the North Coast, follow NCN Route 93 between the Giant’s Causeway in the east and Benone in the west, passing through the resort towns of Portrush, Portstewart and Castlerock. Significant stretches of the route are along traffic-free paths. At Downhill follow the main Coast Road to Ballymaclary House Tea Rooms, a family run tea room offering light lunches, snacks, and afternoon tea with a range of home baked delights and with a total of 42 miles in the legs once you’ve returned to the Giant’s Causeway via the same route there’ll be no need to feel guilty about indulging in a bun or two.
- Bushmills to Cushendall to Bushmills – 60miles
From Bushmills, follow the spectacular Causeway Coastal Route, passing the Giant’s Causeway to the coastal resort town of Ballycastle. From Ballycastle follow Section 9 of the ‘Ballyshannon to Larne’ cycle route to Cushendall, where a well earned bite to eat can be enjoyed at Upstairs at Joe’s Restaurant and Bar. On the return leg of the journey from Cushendall head back towards Ballycastle via the A2 for a taste of different scenery amongst the Glens of Antrim. Once in Ballycastle follow the Staid Road back to Bushmills.
Two Day Cycling Routes
This circular route follows one of the official routes of the Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive, a road cycling non competitive event held every September. If you want to be amazed with the breathtaking rugged coastline and the romantic landscape of the glens then this is the cycle for you. This route can be broken up in a number of different ways but we have suggested on Day 1 you start in Glenarm, cycle the Coast Road to Ballycastle (30miles) and stay in the Marine Hotel, situated on the sea front in Ballycastle, that evening. Day 2 is a longer journey as you make your way through the Glens of Antrim, finishing in Glenarm (49 miles).
To celebrate the Giro d'Italia coming to Northern Ireland, a local Bike Tour Company Belfast City Bike Tours, have put together a 2 day self guided tour of Stage 2 of the Giro d’Italia race route with an overnight bed and breakfast stop at Cushendall. On the morning of the cycle you pick up your bikes in Belfast and travel by train to join the official Giro Stage 2 Race Route at Ballymoney. You then cycle to the spectacular Causeway Coast passing close to Dunluce Castle, the World Heritage site at the Giant’s Causeway, the Game of Thrones film setting at Ballintoy Harbour, the daring Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and the majestic Fair Head before returning to Belfast through the stunning Glens of Antrim and past the historic castle at Carrickfergus. The tour involves around 45 miles of cycling on both days which can be shortened or extended to suit you. The tour costs £95pp which includes bike rental, mechanical back-up, route maps and bed and breakfast accommodation. The tour providers can also provide panniers or transport your luggage for an additional cost.
For more information on cycling routes in Northern Ireland, both on and off road, as well as a list of cycling events please visit CycleNI.com