Ethan Loughrey Mountain Bike Officer
Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.
February 21, 2017
February 10, 2017
February 8, 2017
January 30, 2017
January 17, 2017
After almost two months of voting, we’re delighted to now be able to announce the winners of the MountainBikeNI Awards 2016! Find out how your favourite trail centre did in one of the closest years yet!
Favourite Trail Centre: Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails
Our reigning champion, Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails have done it again! Gathering their fifth consecutive title, there can be no denying Rostrevor’s power house status in the world of mountain biking. It could be their two incredibly fun downhill courses; or possibly the challenge of a seriously steep climb followed by some incredible views. Whatever the reasons, Rostrevor continues to draw mountain bikers from every part of the UK and Ireland.
Favourite Trail Section: Home Run, Rostrevor
This proved to be our closest category with only a singular vote pipping it for Home Run at Rostrevor. Even our second and third places only had a handful of votes between them, which we take to be a pretty good sign that so many of the trail sections across Northern Ireland have their respective fan bases. As it is, Home Run proved victorious! It may be helped that many riders are glad for their legs’ sake to be almost at the end of the marathon trail.
Favourite MTB View: Kodak Corner
Taking 58% of the vote in this category, it’s no surprise that Kodak Corner reigns supreme again for mountain bikers favourite view in Northern Ireland. On a quiet day in the office, it’s one of our favourite past times to search #KodakCorner on Instagram, and bask in the stunning pictures you all send us from there. Be sure to keep them coming!
Favourite Trailhead Provider: East Coast Adventure
Another close category with a difference of only around 3%, East Coast Adventure have retained their title as the favourite trailhead provider. Home to mountain bike hire, Mark, Peter and the team are also continuing to grow a range of other activities that mountain bikers are taking advantage of, including their highly successful East Coast Glamping.
Favourite MTB-Friendly Café: Kilbroney Park Café
With almost double the percentage of votes, Kilbroney Park Café strongly won the MTB-Friendly Café vote. Based right beside the trail head, and with plenty of cake and sugar to pick you up after a hard day’s riding we completely understand the café’s popularity. The view of one of most stunning mountain ranges in Northern Ireland doesn’t hurt either!
Favourite Apres Ride Pint: Kilbroney Bar & Restaurant
Rostrevor’s winning streak continues, as the Kilbroney Bar and Restaurant wins in the after ride pint category. This has proved to be one of the most closely contested categories, with a different winner in each of the past three years. Busy year round, the Kilbroney Bar & Restaurant is in it’s prime during the increasingly popular Fiddler’s Green Festival.
Best MTB Event of 2016: Red Bull Foxhunt, Rostrevor
One of the biggest mountain bike events in the UK or Ireland, the Red Bull Foxhunt is a renowned favourite of weekend warriors and seasoned folk alike. This year seen Colin Ross retain his title, despite the best efforts of Gee Atherton. The Red Bull team have already promised some exciting changes for 2017, so we can’t wait to see the carnage returning to Rostrevor! In the meantime, check out some of our pictures from the event on the MountainBikeNI Facebook page.
Favourite MTB-Friendly Accommodation: Blessingbourne Estate
And at the very end, we have a non Rostrevor victor! Blessingbourne Estate, home to centuries of history and Northern Ireland’s first purpose built MTB track, proves to be incredibly popular with mountain bikers, families and couples alike. Check out their recent promotional video showing off their trails and accommodation alike.
Top tips for your winter mountain biking
Mountain biking is hard enough on bike parts and your wallet at the best of times. If riding year round, in our usually damp winter, then there are a few parts that usually get it a bit tougher and some preventative maintenance can definitely help get you out the other side.
Most mountain bikes now have disc brakes. These allow much better braking in all conditions but there are a few changes you can make to tailor them to winter. Most brakes come with an organic brake pad, which tend to be a bit softer and offer more instantaneous bite which can help ward off pad glazing in dry conditions. They do however wear quicker and this is especially noticeable in muddy conditions. The answer is a sintered pad, which contain small particles of metal that offer a much longer pad life as well as offering more consistent braking in wet and muddy conditions.
Chains being worn past the point where they should be changed account for more expensive repair bills than anything else here at Mech Monkey. A chain will wear and stretch, and this is measured over a percentage of the chains length and with a chain checker that many bicycle tool companies offer for sale. The problem with continuing to run a worn chain is that the cassette, chainrings and even the jockey wheels on the rear derailleur all wear to the profile of the excessively stretched chain. This means when you eventually fit a new chain the old worn cogs don't want to mesh causing the chain to skip under power.
Keeping a chain free from dirt and excess oil will help prolong your chains life.
Checking your chain wear regularly and replacing at the recommended point (0.75%) will definitely save you money in the long run, getting perhaps 4 or 5 chains on one cassette rather than getting slightly longer out of a chain only to have to replace most of the drivetrain.
Bikes have a lot of bearings in them and even though these days they are mostly sealed cartridge bearings you can still go some way to help them last a bit longer. A good waterproof grease used on the surfaces that are facing the elements will act as a sacrificial layer when riding in harsh conditions or when being washed.
Although pressure washing is handy and quick and now available at most of the trail centres it is the main cause of bearing failure on bikes. The rubber seals can only keep out so much and the high pressure water will usually pass the seal, washing out any grease inside and allowing corrosion to start. If using a pressure washer try not to get up close to anywhere that has a bearing.
Your suspension fork and rear shock are probably two of the most costly components of the bike and also work non stop during a ride. They are sealed but like the bearings they can’t possibly keep everything out. Regular suspension servicing will definitely prolong the life of the part and also being careful if washing with high pressure water around the seals so as to not wash out any grease.
Dirt left in the seals can wear at your fork stanchions over time making a costly replacement the only solution.
Some fork lubes are available such as Brunox Deo and Juice Lubes Fork Juice that can be applied to the stanchion of the fork to help keep the seals lubricated and stop them drying out and cracking between services.
Top Winter Product Picks
Brunox Deo fork lube - keep your forks working at their best between services - £5
Exposure Diablo Light - Don't let darkness keep you on the sofa! Ride the trails like its daytime with this top quality light £199.95
Park Tool CC-2 Chain Checker
Mech Monkey Bicycle Maintenance Course
Suspension Servicing from as little as £45
All and more available at Mech Monkey, Lisburn Road Belfast.
Mountain biking and volunteering are not necessarily something that you might immediately think go hand in hand. Yet in the last month alone we've had several stories of the positive impact that it has had in the mountain bike world.
What some may consider to be a fairly simple act of volunteering makes a real difference. John Howard, the trail ranger for Davagh Forest recently explained the importance that trail volunteers make.
"There is a great trail network in Davagh, with a lot of kilometres of riding... so to maintain trails, it's very important to get volunteers on board, especially on the red trails where it’s more remote and harder to get the materials in.
John went on to say that because of the volunteers that helped on Davagh Dig Day, they were able to shift "Up to 13 tonne" of dust and stones onto trails, to help repair them. There's no doubt that it's hard work, but the payoff that all mountain bikers get is enormous.
The pictures below from the recent Castlewellan Maintainence Day show our most recent batch of volunteers. You’ll notice two of them look a little younger than usual; Jack and Oliver had a great time and – despite falling foul of a wasp nest – are eager to come back to help out at the next session.
Another significant story comes from something which you might have seen on our social media.
Cross Country for Cavan was an event set up initially by Michael Crone, to help raise money for a potentially life changing operation for Cavan O'Neill; the three-year-old son of a friend of his, who was born with a type of cerebral palsy.
Michael set about riding every trail in Ireland, north and south, and asked other riders to do the same while raising funds for Cavan. With the help of Michael, and everyone who joined him, Cavan met his target and is now awaiting his operation.
You can follow his journey here.
Mountain biking in Northern Ireland has come a long way in the past few years. In part because there was already a strong network of people working together early on. Our volunteers help to keep our trails well maintained and the presence on them strong. They support good causes and help each other out.
To join the team, visit the MountainBikeNI website.
It's important to get to know the people who are looking after our trails. To help, we caught up with Steve Brook, the new trails ranger for Castlewellan and Rostrevor.
Hi Steve! Our first question - what did you do before you became a trail ranger?
I’ve had a varied working life, but a common thread has been working in the countryside. I studied countryside management as a teenager at agricultural college, which led on to me working as an assistant scientific officer with the Department of Agriculture, before re-training as a tree surgeon.
In the last year I have worked with Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute surveying river systems across Northern Ireland to understand the breeding success of our native Trout and Salmon populations, and also with the Environmental Health department within Newry, Mourne and Down Council.
What do you like most about job?
I love the varied nature of the job. I could be in a meeting with an event organiser in the morning, inspecting a trail for wear and tear in the afternoon and cutting windblown trees off the trail in the evening. No two days are the same.
Are you a mountain biker yourself? If so, how long have you been riding?
I’m relatively new to mountain biking, but have been blown away by the sheer skill of some of the riders I’ve met since starting as Trail Ranger, and I’ve had more offers to go riding than I can keep up with.
Any favourite bit to do on the trails?
Having worked as a tree surgeon I always love to work with trees and this is a key part of the job. However, at the moment a huge part of the Trail Team’s time has been spent clearing vegetation so as to keep the trails open and enjoyable. We have a programme of improvement works for the trails planned for the autumn and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into that.
Okay, quick fire round.
TV show you're currently into?
Worst injury you've picked up?
Let it Go, from Frozen.
Awesome. Anything else you’d like to share with the mountain bike community?
Yeah, myself and the trails team are here to make sure the trails are enjoyable to ride and safe. If any riders notice anything on the trails that they feel needs attention they can contact me anytime at email@example.com, or stop and speak to the Trails Team if you meet them on the trails. Feedback is always welcome.
Thanks for chatting to us Steve and best of luck with the new job!
As part of our theme this month of making a Mountain Biking Bucket List, we’re asking people’s opinions on what are the 'Must Do' features, trails or activities when you're out on the bike. We'll be adding more to the list regularly, so be sure to check back!
One of the first people we got to asking is Newry based, Mountain Bike legend Glyn O'Brien.
“There are so many hidden gems in Rostrevor, I have a new favourite depending on the season and the mood. Recently I have been enjoying the last section of trail before Yellow Water.
I think its because I know all the climbing is behind me, the views of the valley to your left is spectacular and its all downhill from here!
We'll have more Bucket List suggestions from Glyn, amongst others, in the coming weeks.
In the meantime - we'd love to hear your own ones! Email your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org (Bonus points if you attach a picture!)