Trail Maintenance And Why We Should Help

Posted on July 17, 2018 @ 1:30 PM in Mountainbiking

Trail maintenance can sound boring, but you'd be amazed how enjoyable those days can be. For the sacrifice of a few hours, a group of strangers can come together to make a real difference to our local trails. Gareth Beckett, from the MTB Tribe podcast, explains why he got involved with the local MTB trails team.

Ever wondered why your trail centres are always in great shape? Well it's because of people like John Howard (Trail Ranger for Davagh) and a team of dedicated volunteers, who take time out of their day to help maintain their local trails.

Have you ever thought of helping out yourself? Well, I have. So I got in contact with Ethan at MountainBikeNI to find out how to get registered and get involved. The process was super easy, took a few minutes and was completely free. Ethan then emailed me when the next maintenance day was happening, I said ‘Yes Please’, and went to help out.

The day was well organised and after meeting at the trail head and a brief safety chat we headed up the mountain to the area we would be working for most of the day. There are a number of different jobs you could be asked to do, anything from repairing holes, rebuilding berms, clearing fallen trees, cutting back foliage- the list go on. On this particular day we were split into two different teams, one working on the lower part of Big Wig, with the other working on the upper half. We also had the help of a quad bike to get the gravel we required up to the top end of the trail. When the quad was not available we used wheel barrows to transport the gravel and after a few of those being run up the hill it was nice to see the quad return. Our job for the day was to fill in break areas that had worn down, some corners that had been well used and a couple of small berms that needed repaired.

It was all enjoyable work and nothing too taxing. You don’t need any experience, just a willingness to do your part and have a laugh while doing it. We had a great spread laid on for lunch, with more than you could eat, a couple of coffees and a good chat with the other volunteers. After lunch we continued our repairs on Big Wig while the other team moved to another area that needed attention. The day finished around 4 pm and gave us time to have a blast down the newly repaired trails (with an uplift to the top of course!).

So why should you help out?

Most of us bikers just show up, gear up and go without stopping to think of the effort that goes in to maintaining these trails. Volunteering gives you a whole new appreciation for the work that goes into both designing and maintaining these trails. It is great to see how the whole process works and why our help is needed to keep the trails maintained the way we have grown to love. You get to find out what really goes into keeping our trails open all year round and what we as users can do to help. It doesn't take a lot of effort or a great deal of time but it means that we can all enjoy this thing called mountain biking 365 days a year. You get to be a part of what goes on behind the scenes- keeping our great trails not only open but safe, maintained and fun to ride and FREE!

But most of all, you get to give something back. It’s just a little thank you for all the hard work that people put into making mountain biking such an enjoyable past time. And to top it all off, you get to meet people with the same passions and interests as you, you build new friendships, have a good laugh and help improve something that just keeps giving back. The guys at Chain Reaction Cycles also have a rewards scheme for all trail rangers that help at two days or more in the year.

So please, get in contact, get involved and help out your local trail centre!

If you want to hear more about what goes into keeping our trails open visit: www.mtb-tribe.com and listen to podcast episode number 31 with John Howard (Davagh Trail Ranger). We chat about everything from how you can help, to funding for new phases of trail.

If you'd like to get involved with your local trails team, visit MountainBikeNI.com where you can download the two relevant forms. Then simply email them to us at info@mountainbikeni.com!

Gareth Beckett
Gareth Beckett  Producer of MTB Tribe Podcast

Gareth is a keen mountain biker and runs the popular podcast, "MTB Tribe". On here, he interviews people involved in every aspect of MTBing life; from international champions, to retired pros, to local trail builders. Download it free on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast from.

5 Tips on Introducing a Friend to the Mountain Bike Trails

Posted on June 27, 2018 @ 5:13 PM in Mountainbiking

We’re fascinated by how people get in to mountain biking. To those on the outside, it’s a sport for people who are indifferent to collarbone breaks, terrifying heights and bikes worth more than their cars.

Obviously there is some truth to that, but there’s also so much more. We’ve put together 5 tips on how to get your friends into this amazing sport. 


1. Start Small

"You mean we're going up THERE?!"

Picture it: You’ve finally convinced your friend to meet you at the trailhead. Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails are your local, so it’s obvious to meet there – right? They get out of the car, look up – and lo and behold, there is Slievemeen starting them in the face. Even the most hardcore mountain biker will be daunted by that sight, let alone a newbie.

Start small and take them to somewhere with plenty of green and blue trail. The likes of Blessingbourne Estate and even Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails are ideal for that. Leave the red trails for the next session unless they are really taking to it.

In addition to introducing them to the trails themselves, do the fun stuff. Send them a link to learn the mountain biking lingo. Both Blessingbourne Estate and Castlewellan have pump tracks, so have a bit of fun trying to get them going as far as possible without pedalling.

 

2. Speak to your trailhead provider

All of the trailhead providers love to see mountain bikers cross their door.

There’s a wealth of information out there for beginners that most mountain bikers never have to consider. What height should the seat be? What’s the procedure if you hurt yourselves on the trails? In addition, the trailhead provider is your best bet if your friend doesn’t have a mountain bike themselves.

Trailhead providers for:

Davagh Forest Mountain Bike Trails – Outdoor Concepts

Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails – East Coast Adventure

Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails – Life Adventure Centre

Outdoor Concepts also do bike hire for Barnett Demesne along with Mobile Team Adventure, and the Lowry’s at Blessingbourne Estate do bike hire and will be more than happy to provide you with advice on their trails.

 

3. Ride ahead (at the start)

Pedals level, seat up, lean into it... You know the drill!

You’ve picked your trails, sorted a bike and all the other bits and pieces you’ll need for the day – now it’s time to actually get moving. At the start, it’s probably best for you to keep ahead of your friend on the trails. They’ll be able to see the lines you choose (presuming you choose the easier ones for their first time) and follow.

Equally, you can shout back to warn them about any particularly gnarly bits. It also has the advantage of keeping their eyes up on you and how you’re riding, rather than staring down at whatever is immediately over them.

Once their confidence is up – and maybe when you’re on a fairly level bit of trail – feel free to fall behind and help coach their technique.

 

4. Stop for a breather

Pit stops are a must when spending hours cycling the trails

The mountain bike trails around Northern Ireland provide some spectacular views, which is just as an important element of mountain biking, if not more so, than the exercise. Most people new to mountain biking will feel the burn in their legs a lot earlier than you will, and might not want to let it show.

Stop as you go around and chat to them about whatever section of trail you’re on. Chat to other riders. Lift some litter.

If your friend is struggling badly, it’s possibly a good idea to recommend they try out an e-bike – particularly for the climbs.

 

5. Fall Off

A  mountain biker crashed out in the Red Bull Foxhunt 2017.

As much as we’d like to say this never happens, if you’re on a bike – it’s going to. And that’s part of the fun. While mountain bikers certainly don’t relish coming off, a small tumble here and there adds to a great recounting of a day on the bikes and generally provides a healthy respect for the trails and your bike.

Remind your friend that they will come off, and that’s okay – just keep the helmet on, the pace steady and the GoPro rolling.

 

All in all, mountain biking’s hardcore image shouldn’t put people off an incredible sport. The rider who does XC every other day is very different from the DH fans. There are loads of different levels of interest and technique and with a friend like you, they’ll get into it in no time.

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Tir Chonnail GAP does Rostrevor

Posted on April 30, 2018 @ 5:52 PM in Mountainbiking

When a group of 11 riders from Co. Donegal visited the Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails we couldn't miss the opportunity to ask them about their MTB experience here in Northern Ireland. Cecilia Holden from Tir Chonnail GAP sent us this epic recounting of their adventure!

 

Very early Saturday morning, the Tir Chonnail GAP Cycling Club mountain bikers headed off to Rostrevor for a weekend of bikes, forests, mountains, trails, tents and craic. Our two team mums, Gerard and Antony promised us much. They and Rostrevor delivered.

We're a mixed bunch in every way: 10 lads, 1 lass, ranging in age from early 20s to the wrong side of 50; and in ability from national downhill contender to enthusiastic novice, with everything in between. We have roadies turned mountain bikers (otherwise known as cross-dressers), pure mountain bikers, enduro riders and “swapped my motorbike for something with pedals”

It was a 2 ½ hour journey, so we broke it up with a coffee stop and a 5 items for £1.99 fry, such good value that some of us had two! What goes in Rostrevor stays in Rostrevor, so I won't name Francis or John B.

 

As we drove through the gates, we'd already forgotten the long drive, and we were straight onto the trails. Our downhillers, Adam and Raymond, headed straight for the uplifts to maximise their riding time whilst the rest of us took on the Red trail.

“You'll be climbing for a while. It's a bit pedally” said Antony. Antony is from Yorkshire where understatement is a way of life. An hour later our legs were screaming, our Garmins were registering a paltry 7k and we were only part way up! But that didn't matter, we'd reached Kodak Corner, and an incredible view over Carlingford Lough and Rostrevor.

On went the climb, getting ever narrower and the turns tighter, with rock gardens and table tops aplenty, helping us forget the effort and definitely getting us warmed up for the downhill. Once in the forest, the fun really started. There are lots of regroup points along the way, which allow everyone to ride down at their own pace and get maximum enjoyment. We had so many spills along the way, we had to count both riders and bikes at each regroup. No injuries all day – well, except for one derailleur.

The forest section is incredible, and for a relative beginner, just awesome. You approach an obstacle thinking “How the flock am I going to get over that?” but you barely have time to celebrate making it before the next one is upon you and the next one and the next one. The boardwalks are something to behold, and are as jumpy and twisty-turny as the trails themselves; the tabletops are set up so everyone can get a bit of air; and a dropper post is essential for the many drop offs. Jaws sore with grinning, we all had a ball!

John B took a corner a wee bit too fast and become an impromptu tree hugger, Cess had a comfortable landing in a bog, and Frank's ribs shared an intimate moment with his handlebars. But it was Raymond who stole the show, performing an almost flawless Olympic gymnastics routine: maximum points for speed, height and grace on the jumps, then a dismount consisting of 3 consecutive somersaults on the bike before parting company with it and adding 2 forward rolls. He stood up and announced “I got that one wrong!”

Back at the centre, we had lunch and pitched our tents. This is where Antony and Gerard came into their own, unloading umpteen holdalls from the vans and quickly erecting gazebo, tents, windbreaks and plenty of chairs, and unpacking a kitchen, tables, many cool bags of beer and the biggest pot of curry you have ever seen – thanks to Mrs Gerard, Amanda. Luckily Hugh didn't need to unpack much, so put his locksmithing skills to great use instead. What goes in Rostrevor....how did you manage to lock yourself out Gerard?

Fed, watered, unpacked and raring to go again, we headed back to the trails. John L, Frank and Francis picked up the end of the Mega Mission and loved every second of their first go. “Savage!” screamed John at the top of his voice, grinning his head off!

 

Dermott decided to take a few snaps, which of course meant riding up - and down - faster than everyone else to find vantage points. Class job!

 

And soon it was time to eat again. What better way to round off the day than a wholesome hearty curry? Food tastes so much better outdoors! And a wander down the picturesque Fairy Glen into town to sample the offerings of the local hostelries.

Sunday morning came way too soon, and that meant more food. How Amanda knew we would need at least 5 sausages each is beyond me, but we were happily replete when we got back on the bikes. Antony had a cunning plan to cut out some of the legwork on the climbs, but it was a Yorkshire “some” and we still had a mighty fine workout. The Guinness was well and truly sweated out of us by the time we reached Kodak Corner. The sun shone for us Sunday, and the views were magnificent across all of the trails.

The uplift service is superb at Rostrevor. (It's run by East Coast Adventure) Adam has his first competition event next weekend, so took advantage to get as many runs in as he could. He and Raymond absolutely flew down the hills. There are a few crossover points on the trails, cleverly laid out to always have a down section crossing an up with the ups giving way. Some of us novices were therefore able to watch the experts coming down. And even the experts were all doing it at their own level. Some jumped the table tops, some rolled over them, each took a different route over the rocks, and many different angles were seen round the berms. Inspired, we carried on up the hills to do our own descents. We watched a father with his 2 sons, no more than 6 or 7, competent and confidently descending the On the Pulse DH Trail, and 3 young lads, not much older, excitedly comparing stories of their runs. Hugh, Antony and Gerard described their own runs as more sedate. If sedate means poised, balanced and in control, then yes I agree, but if it means slow and gentle, sorry boys, I'll have to show you sedate next time.

Several of us did the Red Run again and were pleasantly surprised at how much better we did on many of the obstacles. And also how many new ones there seemed to be. The obstacles on the forest section and the Home Run are literally non-stop, and you barely have time to register them. We rode the berms higher, there were fewer feet down in the rock gardens and many times we took the more adventurous line. The more you ride the trails at Rostrevor the more you discover, and the more you enjoy. We may have had 11 completely different levels of ability, but all 11 of us pushed our respective limits and so the buzz was the same for everyone.

And so the weekend finished. Another healthy feed at the Synge & Byrne Cafe and we were on our way, knowing we'd still be on a high 3 days later. The set up at Rostrevor is simply the best. Ability and fitness are no barriers to enjoyment. If you don't fancy the climbs, take the uplift; the trails are graded and divided into sections so you can find a trail that suits, and just skip the sections that don't. But my advice – don't skip any of the forest sections, they are just too good. And it’s worth the leg burn for the views alone.

11 happy campers will be back very soon.

Class photos © courtesy of Dermott Sweeney.

Not so class photos courtesy of the rest of us.

 

For more information on planning a MTB Trip to Northern Ireland, visit MountainBikeNI.com. You can also find information there on joining a local MTB Club!

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Welcoming Synge and Byrne Café to Rostrevor MTB Trails

Posted on April 10, 2018 @ 10:53 AM in Mountainbiking

Rostrevor MTB Trails recently saw the opening of a new café at it's trailhead. Synge and Byrne is a well established chain across Northern Ireland, and their promise of awesome food, great coffee and outstanding customer service is already being well received by the MTB community. We spoke to Damien Garvey, Director / Pot Washer in Chief of Synge and Byrne about the nitty gritty of opening a cafe at a MTB Trailhead.  

 

Hi Damien, congrats on the new move and thanks for speaking to us! What do you think makes Kilbroney such an attractive place for a café like Synge and Byrne?

As a brand we are committed to Northern Ireland and the best it has to offer, providing healthy choices and engaging in a better working life - so Kilbroney and its world class MTB trails, amazing environment and what it gives to the community and visitors couldn’t sit better with the values of our brand. That and the numbers of thirsty and hungry visitors that arrive every day!

How aware were you of the MTB trails before the move?

Being a local business and the fact that one of the owners is a World Champion Level Iron Man competitor, biking and the local biking scene is quite high on our agenda, so we have been regular visitors to the trails in the winter months since (the café) opened….roadies during the dryer brighter months.

 

Mountain bikers have been known to enter a café with mud and rain dripping from them. Is that a pain or something to be embraced?

That was a frightening prospect at the beginning and we did worry about having some softer seating, but we have used fabrics that can deal with quite a high level of abuse. Besides, they might be a dirty bunch but they have great manners normally and so sit on the hard chairs when they are filthy... usually! So no issue really, every site has its particular challenges and a bit of dirt is fine as the dirty guys are usually the ones that are really hungry.

Have you or any of your staff been out on the MTB trails yet? If so, what did you / they think?

As we said we have been out on the trails a number of times and we have a semi-pro turning pro on our payroll, Jack Devlin and he thinks the trails are the best. If he isn't charming the customers in our Boucher Road branch he is shedding the trails in Rostrevor…. a man with his head screwed on!

 

What would you say is the perfect feed for a MTBer having just come in from taking on the 27km loop?

Definitely one of our Roast sandwich specials. Slow Honey Roast Ham, mustard mayo, rocket on a Corn Dolly award winning bap served up with Sweet potato fries, Zingy Slaw and Pesto Mayo Dipping Sauce... probably followed by a Serious coffee and some chocolate, homemade Caramel Square maybe. The best in the country, Fact!

 

What’s a healthy treat you’d suggest for mountain bikers?

I didn’t know mountain bikers did healthy I thought that was for the runners & roadies! On the occasion they are out with their other half and trying to impress I would say one of our “Bliss Balls” – vegan, Gluten Free, additive free, made locally buy the lovely Lisa and simply delicious washed down with one of our range of Green teas……and back the next day for the S&B Breakfast!!

 

Quick fire round:

Favourite film?

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

 

TV show you’re currently into?

G.O.T……the only one and we get to watch them filming in the beautiful Mournes.

 

Favourite food?

Our own Caramel Squares…..that’s why we bike!

 

Favourite song at the minute?

BB King “Better not Look Down” (not current I know but on repeat in the store at the minute)

 

Worst injury you’ve picked up?

Thankfully just the nasty pussy scrapes and cuts that come with using your ass for brakes on tarmac while clad in Lycra only! One of the team has had the whole Airlift job for a broken leg while competing in the Cooley Thriller a couple of years ago….nasty!

 

Anything else you’d like to share with the MTB community?

Just that we have a café in Slieve Gullion Forest Park and although you have to get yourself to the top it is a real undiscovered gem that should not be missed. Although there are no structured MTB trails ther...yet!

 

Thanks for chatting to us Damien!

Synge and Byrne at Kilbroney are open 9am - 5pm daily. They also currently have cafés in Dungannon, Newtownabbey, Newry, Derry/Londonderry, Belfast and Slieve Gullion. Rigorous food sampling took place prior to this interview. It was delicious.

 

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

An Interview with Greg Callaghan

Posted on February 28, 2018 @ 11:48 AM in Mountainbiking

The 2018 Enduro World Series is rapidly approaching, and some of the big names have recently been showcasing their newest teams and gear. Greg Callaghan, one of Ireland's best known mountain bikers and rider for Cube Action Team has been in training for months now to put himself in a strong position ahead of the series. We got chatting to Greg about his gym routines, hopes for this year's event and also put to him a few questions from MountainBikeNI.com followers.


Hi Greg! Thanks for chatting with us. We know you started mountain biking at 15 - what was it that got you into it?

I was initially into motor bike trials, which my dad and uncle were big into. I could only get out with dad at the weekends though, and I eventually met some mountain bikers doing some jumps. I went up the mountains with them and pretty much loved it straight away. It was something I could do myself and there was a great crowd of ones who would go along.

 

You’ve mentioned Joey Dunlop was a big inspiration which is really interesting. What was it about him that drew your interest?

As I say, my family were big into motorbikes and that’s I knew of Joey. I just think he had a great mentality, you know, he did things his own way and never got a big head. Even when he was working with some of the really big guys, he still slept in his own van and worked away himself. He knew what way he liked to work, and he knew it worked for him.

 

How different is your mindset going into big competitions now with the support of major companies like Cube and Red Bull Ireland, compared with when you first started out with Dirt/Norco?

I guess it’s still similar in a lot of ways, the only big difference is that now I know what I’m doing. Back when I started, I just rode my bike loads and when I was there I’d aim to ride faster than everyone else. Now I’ve got a different approach, but the mentality of wanting to go out and win is the same.

We’ve seen your training video which is beast – has that evolved much since you first started?

I work really closely with my coach, Chris (Kilmurray from Point1Athletic). He works out a programme around my strengths and weaknesses and we go from there. Every year it evolves and it’s totally tailored to me. So my cousin Killian for example, who has Chris as his coach as well, could go into the gym with me and do a totally different workout.

 

I imagine the EWS squad is one big family anyway, but it must be nice to have Killian there with you when you’re on the other side of the world?

It is definitely yeah, him and Kelan and all the guys. To be honest, it’s just great to have Irish people around, I think our humour is pretty unique.

 

Last year was your fifth year in the EWS. Does it get a little bit harder or a little bit easier every year?

Definitely harder. It’s a young sport that everyone is learning super fast how to perfect their skills, meaning the level gets higher every year. I mean, every year you’ll go in knowing of 10 guys that could win and suddenly there are 5 new ones. And the year after there are maybe 20 who could win it. It’s definitely a good thing though, I think it makes the sport more exciting every year and pushes us all to up our game.

 

We’re only a few weeks away from the start of the EWS 2018. How are you feeling for it?

I’ve had a really good off season, probably the best off season I’ve had competitively. I’ve been training well and the body is in quite good shape physically. I’ve got a new bike too which I’m really excited about, but can’t tell you more about that just yet…

 

Which of the trails have you been to in Northern Ireland? Any favourites?

I actually think they’re all great, but I get a real enjoyment out of DH2 (On the Pulse) at Rostrevor.

How important do you feel purpose built trails are for growing mountain biking?

I’d say they’re incredibly important, you just have to look at the likes of Jacob Dickson’s success. He learnt his craft at Rostrevor and he’s doing incredibly well. They also make the sport so much more accessible and gives somewhere for riders wanting to try it for the first time exactly what they need. In winter it also means all riders have somewhere that’s going to be well looked after and improves the safety aspect.

 

How would you rate the quality of riders coming out of Ireland as a whole, and maybe particularly, Northern Ireland at the minute?

I’d say it’s really strong, like I said Jacob is doing really well and Kelan Grant is down training at the minute as well, it’s great to see. 

 

Some quick fire questions now from our followers! What's the best piece of MTB advice you've ever received?

Look up. From the trials years ago, I was always used to looking down, but keep your head up, see what’s coming and you’ve more time to react.

 

Best cardio exercise for endurance riding?

You could get bogged down into it, but honestly riding your bike is the best thing you can do, simple as that.

 

From flisjan: "Hi @greg_callaghan, just one question, is it too late for me to become a pro enduro rider? I started riding 1 year ago and I'm 19 years old. Thanks and keep on shredding."

Definitely not, you just need to look at Steve Peat, who took up mountain biking when he was about 17 and he did pretty well for himself. It’s never too late.

From liam_macgearailt: “Will you ever see yourself leaving Cube and going to another team in the near future?”

No, I’m genuinely really happy where I am and am loving what I’m doing.

 

How many proteins do you eat a day?

So many proteins. (Greg instructs me to bash the numbers key) 648,249,159 or so.

 

From samgeddes123: "Can I have free stuff??"

(With philosophical gravitas) Nothing in this life is free.

 

Check out Greg's visit to Davagh Forest Mountain Bike Trails here, and keep up to date with how Greg - and everyone else - is getting on at the Enduro World Series on MountainBikeNI.com. Thanks to Greg and Red Bull Ireland for arranging our chat! 

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

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