The Legend of #BostonDon

Posted on October 26, 2017 @ 12:26 PM in Mountainbiking

The Red Bull Foxhunt is a special event for many reasons. The mass DH start. The epic views of Rostrevor. But for one rider, a several thousand mile round trip resulted in a life changing experience. Almost every rider that took part in the Foxhunt got chatting to this man from Boston, including ourselves. We caught up with the legend of #BostonDon a few weeks after the madness of the Foxhunt.

Hi Don! Thanks for chatting to us. Ah, should we call you BostonDon or just Don?

Hi Ethan, thank you for reaching out. It was a great pleasure to meet you up at the Red Bull Foxhunt at the notorious bridge. You can call me whatever is easiest to remember, so I am thinking BostonDon fits. I work as a bartender and server back home and my coworkers and regulars have started calling me BostonDon.

Great! So first question we have then is, how did you hear about the Red Bull Foxhunt?

So, I bought my first mountain bike a year ago April, and I started soaking up the scene by going to websites and following riders like Brendan Fairclough because I ride a SCOTT Genius 720 Plus. I was following the World Cup Downhill series, and started knowing more riders. Well the season was over, and the Red Bull Foxhunt took place. I happened to watch the highlight video and it was amazing. I said to myself if I can get into that race I am going to Ireland to race it. It was part of my “Live Life” mantra that I started to follow about 2 years ago.

Did you have any impression of the mountain bike scene in Northern Ireland before you came here?

I had no idea about how important mountain bike riding was to the people here. I had posted on the Red Bull Foxhunt Facebook page and people reached out with advice, suggestions and offers to show me around. That blew me away. 

What was your first impression of the trails when you arrived at Rostrevor?

I got to Rostrevor on Friday morning and parked my rental. What is funny is that I parked next to Jimmy Mac’s van. He and his buddies looked like they just got back from practice. So, being me, I started chatting to them. I mentioned I came over from the States just for the race. They were surprised. I am putting my bike together, getting pumped to check out the course. On the shuttle up I met some guys that were willing to show me the trails. I about s**t my pants. I hadn’t ridden a bike park all year and I was freaked out. I slid out and crashed two times on my first run. I was thinking what the hell did I get myself into. I came all this way and I am over my head. I met a local kid, and a guy originally from Ireland, but was home from Australia for his Dad’s birthday. His name was “Irish Stu” and I laughed as I thought that was great. His real name is Stuart Gamble. The kid showed us the ropes, and we sessioned some areas. Oh my God did it help me riding with the both of them. 

We met you on the Sunday as you made the climb to the start of the Foxhunt. Aside from chatting to everybody, what were you feeling?

I came to Ireland to be a sponge and soak up everything I could experience. I did not expect all the hiking we had to do to get to the top of the mountain. I was tired haha. I was just so excited to be there, and scared of what was ahead. I didn’t do any practice on the top half as I wanted to conserve whatever energy I had left. I didn’t do my homework. I should have watched more videos. The energy of all the riders was awesome!

You became arguably even more famous when you were photographed taking a pretty gnarly spill. What happened? 

I am not really a jumper. I used to jump when I raced BMX as a teenager, and I was out of it for a long time. I picked up BMX again at 30 years old. I was getting ready to ride some Nationals and I broke my collarbone. I then broke it again a year later in CA while getting ready to race a National. It is surgically repaired. So I have been taking it easy jumping. During my timed run on Saturday I went through that jump section pretty well. So race day I go through the first 4 jumps, kinda scrubbing my speed. That last jump I hit, and the lip just popped up my rear tire and my butt hit it, then forcing me forward and over the bars.

'Wow, I got this, just gotta lean back a little.'                    'It's okay, I can still pull it back...'

'I feel it may be too late.'                                                   Brace for impact.

Oof.                                                                                       Where's my bike going?'

Spectators reacting to the spill.                                           Everything is going everywhere.

Pictures kindly supplied by Colin McIlhagger

Thankfully no one ran me over. I got up, gathered my bike and everyone was yelling to get off the course. The medic asked if I was ok, and I said yes. I had hit the ground with the chin guard of my full face helmet. I likely suffered a concussion, but I didn’t want to be pulled from the race. The medic told me to take some time. I see like 20-30 riders zooming by. I wanted to finish the race, and beat people haha. So after awhile I said, “I am going!” The medic replied, “Are you sure?” I looked for a spot and said “yes” and got back on the course.

Did you get riding any of the other mountain bike trails in Northern Ireland? If so, where and what did you think of them?

I was lucky enough to have a guy named Bernard McClure from Belfast reach out before the Foxhunt and said he would show me around if I wanted. In fact, he and his wife were in Massachusetts about a week or so before the race. We tried to meet up, but my work schedule didn’t mesh with their travel schedule. So after the Foxhunt I met him and his friend Martin and rode at Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails. That was such a beautiful mountain bike trail system. It was a lot of fun. Especially after the craziness of the Foxhunt.

We did about 9 miles of casual riding. I then met up with Cregar Elliot who I had met during the Foxhunt and did a night ride with him and his buddies on the Tuesday after the race. It was a fun ride, but my bike wasn’t shifting properly and it was scary as hell. I had brought my lights over, but the single track trails had black nothingness, and off camber roots and rocks that freaked me out. I cannot wait to go back and ride that place in the daylight.

What was the highlight of your trip here?

The entire trip was a life changing experience for me. I have so many new friends that have been so incredibly friendly and helpful. It was my first time in Ireland, and I didn’t do any tourist type things and I had the best time. The highlight was the Red Bull Foxhunt. What was crazy to me is that I wanted to take part in this crazy race and have fun, but I never expected to be so welcomed by all the people who were there. During my timed run people were yelling “Go BostonDon” in several sections, the same during the race. 

What was cool is that I went to Mont-Sainte-Anne in Quebec to check out the World Cup Downhill race. I saw Gee at an afterparty and I asked him if he was doing the Hunt this year. He had broken his pelvis earlier in the season and I hadn’t heard any news. He told me that he had just gotten the dates, and asked if I was going to be there. I told him that he would see me. I told him to remember #BostonDon.

I saw him on Saturday and he said “Do I know you from somewhere?” I reminded him of that story, and he laughed. At the top right before the race both he and Loic Bruni saw me and said “Hey, BostonDon” it was wild.

Gee Atherton was one of several big names that appeared to take part in the Red Bull Foxhunt, including (above) Loic Bruni and Rob Warner.

Can we expect to see the return of #BostonDon? What else have you got planned?

The entire weekend was amazing. So, I will be back at the Red Bull Foxhunt 2018. I was sitting in a hotel room on Tuesday after the race and I decided to capitalise on this surprise of what happened after I introduced myself as BostonDon. I just wanted to be remembered, and it was catchy obviously! So, I bought the domains BostonDon.com, BostonDonMTB.com, and a friend suggested yesterday thelegendofbostondon.com so I bought it haha.

I was thinking I could sell t-shirts, stickers, and someone suggested jerseys to raise money for my trip next year. I will be starting a YouTube channel that will highlight my mountain bike experiences. The last year I have been trying to figure out how to make a living mountain biking and this could be it. We will see. I want to travel the world making new friends while mountain biking. My website will be up soon. I have reached out to friends to see if we can come up with a logo.

You can follow BostonDon's adventures on any of the websites listed or via his Facebook page. If you have an idea for his logo, send it to info@MountainBikeNI

For interviews with the biggest names at the Foxhunt, including Rob Warner, Colin Ross, Loic Bruni and champion rider Kelan Grant, check out our YouTube channel and Facebook page.

Latest comment posted by Jake Terrell on November 16, 2017 @ 6:44 AM

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Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Make the Most of your Red Bull Foxhunt Experience

Posted on August 30, 2017 @ 6:26 PM in Mountainbiking

Every year thousands of people swarm to Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails around the beginning of October. What they witness is somewhere between an old fashioned Destruction Derby and a masterclass from some of the world's best mountain bikers - and they call it the Red Bull Fox Hunt.

This year will be the biggest yet. 450 hounds will compete to be the first rider down the mountain against not one, but THREE foxes. Gee Atherton, Loïc Bruni and Colin Ross. All three of these pros will be competing against the best of the Irish MTB scene, the weekend warriors and the hardcore competitors. Here are a few of our suggestions on how to make the most of the weekend.

  1. Ride the Trails Beforehand.

Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails are home to a whopping 27km of red cross country trails, 19km of exciting black trails and 2 purpose built downhill trails, which feature in the Fox Hunt. If you’re planning to take part, there are worse ways for warming up than actually trying out the trails you're going to be riding on. This also gives you a great chance to meet many of the local riders who likely have been competitors of the major event at some point in the last few years and exchange war stories about their various descents, glorious or otherwise.

You'll be amazed at the incredible scenery on offer on Rostrevor's cross country trails.

2. Stay Over and Find the Deals

Spending the weekend in Rostrevor or the surrounding area is a must to get the most out of the Red Bull Fox Hunt. The buzz is incredible and you never know who exactly you’ll run into at one of the local pubs (all the more so considering 2017’s line up!)

Stay local and make sure of the mountain biker friendly accommodation offers in the area. One great suggestion is to stay with East Coast Adventure right beside the trailhead. Their seriously cool Glamping Pods are available for £75 per night (sleeping up to 4) and you can also stay at their nearby hostel. In the evening time, local spots like The Rostrevor Inn and The Kilbroney Bar and Restaurant are well worth a visit and always happy to see muddy mountain bikers on site.

There are few things as rewarding as that Apres-ride pint

3. If You’re Taking Part – Bring Your GoPro

There’s no getting around it. We all love seeing our friend go head over bars (provided the bike is okay) when we’re out riding, and this event is no different. The epic, frantic mass start leads to some of the best footage that gets re-watched year round (“Wait to you see your man come in the side of him!”)

Not only that, but the view from the top of Kilbroney mountain is breathtaking. Tranquil and serene, and in complete contrast to the carnage that is about to unfold. That alone is well worth the footage.

It's also nice to be able to pinpoint the moment when Gee Atherton cycles over the top of you.

4. If You’re Spectating, Pick Your Spot Well

Decide what you’d like to see. There are several different spots along the route that are well worth choosing to stand, watch and shake your cowbells. The bridge at the top of the route requires a bit more time to get to, but you’ll be privy to the largest number of hounds colliding in one bright red clash of tires and carbon fibre. After that, the various twists and turns down to the Red Bull enclosure at the finish line are dotted everywhere with people. Along here you'll witness riders showcasing their skills as they seek out the quickest line through sharp turns and serious rock drops. Standing at the finish zone then will most obviously allow you to see the winner come over the ‘line’ first, usually followed by at least a couple of epic crash outs.

Those barriers are there for good reason.

  5. Send Us Your Pictures!

We’ll be Tweeting, Facebooking and 'Insta-ing' throughout the weekend. If you have a great image you’d like us to share with the wider MountainBikeNI community, send it to MountainBikeNI and we’ll post it!

'Those who are about to ride salute you.'

Registration has already sold out so we've no doubt the atmosphere is going to be just as electric as in previous years. With more hounds than ever registered and three of the world's best mountain bikers, this really is an event not to be missed.

 

For information on the Red Bull Foxhunt 2017, visit MountainBikeNI or the Red Bull Fox Hunt website. You can also find more information on the mountain bike trails in Northern Ireland on MountainBikeNI and keep up to date through our Facebook page. May the best Fox (or Hound!) win.

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Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Former Irish Downhill Champion Visits Davagh and Blessingbourne

Posted on July 17, 2017 @ 6:41 PM in Mountainbiking

Newry-based mountain biking legend Glyn O'Brien and fellow adventurer wife Catherine took a trip west to Blessingbourne Estate and Davagh Forest recently to visit the mountain bike trails on offer there.

Blessingbourne Estate

On a typically damp summer evening we made our way to the beautiful Blessingbourne Estate, in Fivemiletown, Co.Tyrone.

 

The trailhead at Blessingbourne Estate MTB Trails.

 

The rain certainly hadn't dampened anyone's spirits as the estate was buzzing with families arriving to stay in the fabulous 5 star self-catering accommodation. After a warm welcome from Colleen & Nick, we ventured out on the trails, neither of us having been to Blessingbourne since the recent extension.

 

OB2!

 

We both had forgotten how much fun could be had on some of the original features such as the Crocodiles back and Snakes trail. From winding boardwalks, flowing berms and skinny log rides to challenging rock drop-off options alongside the main trail, Blessingbourne really has something for everyone.

 

A different view of the Blessingbourne trails with my big head stuck in the middle of it! 


Cato keeping focused on the Crocodile's Back


We were reminded what a fun, family-friendly venue it really is - and so much craic for grown ups too! We even enjoyed a game of table tennis and swing ball after our ride!

 

Davagh Forest

Next day we arrived at Davagh Forest, situated in Co Tyrone. We noticed that a fabulous new play park had been added since our last visit. Despite the poor weather the trails were busy with riders of all ages.

There's something pretty magical about Davagh Forest.

 

The notorious "Widow Maker" climb never seems to get any easier but the laborious climb is well-rewarded with the sweepy descents of 'Big Wig Jig' and 'Run Ragley Run'.

 

Encouragement for the Widowmaker!

 

Every time we go to Davagh we always find a new treasure on the trails - with many variations for riders of all abilities. This time was no exception. Although we love the notorious features such as Boundary rock and Wolfs Hill there are many other rocky outcrops to play on along the way.

 

Tearing down one of Davagh's finest trails on a slightly damp summers day. I reckon its better when its wet anyway! 

 

The newer 'Stream trail' is riding like a dream - always a fast few minutes of whoopy fun!

Of course we couldn't leave Davagh without calling into The Sheperds Rest, a family-run bar located just 10minutes from the trail head. We were welcomed in our muddy gear and sat beside a warm fire with a pint of Guinness and a hearty post-ride meal. The pub has been in the family since the 1930s and we enjoyed a bit of a history lesson from Colin the owner.

 

We definitely earned these pints.

 

All in all we had a super weekend re-discovering some of the fun to be had in our local trail centres, and we hope to visit again very soon! Returning home from 3 weeks racing and riding in Europe it was refreshing to be reminded of the fantastic trail centres and facilities we have on our own doorstep!

 

For information on the MTB Trails at Blessingbourne Estate or Davagh Forest visit MountainBikeNI.com. Glyn is the founder of FirstTracksMTB.com - who offer coaching in mountain biking and run the much loved Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup.

Latest comment posted by Peterson on September 16, 2017 @ 4:36 PM

This is a post which is presented a visits of former Irish Downhill Champion Glyn O'Brien & fellow adventurer wife Catherine. They visited a trip west to Blessingbourne Estate & Davagh Forest. I ... Read more >

Glyn O'Brien
Glyn O'Brien  Professional Mountain Biker

Glyn has a career spanning over 30 years on 2 wheels – from BMX, Moto X and DH. Some of his career highlights include 3rd Redbull Rampage, 2nd Masters Worlds Champs and Irish DH Champion. Glyn’s passion for riding remains as strong as ever and he wants to instill his experience and enthusiasm into the rest of the team he races with.

Photo Blog of Davagh Forest and Blessingbourne Estate

Posted on June 27, 2017 @ 5:01 PM in Mountainbiking

Can't keep up #bluetrail #6yearold #blessingbournemountainbikingtrails #blessingbourne #merida #bigtrail800

A post shared by Trigger (@run_trigger_run) on Dec 31, 2016 at 8:42am PST

 

We love seeing you all hitting the trails around Northern Ireland. Be sure and tag us @MountainBikeNI, #davaghrocks and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Size Isn't Everything

Posted on May 31, 2017 @ 6:30 PM in Mountainbiking

When thinking about where you’re going to spend those precious few hours on your bike during the week, there can be a temptation to go exclusively for the big names. Davagh Forest. Castlewellan MTB Trails. Rostrevor MTB Trails.

They are of course all outstanding trails and well worth a visit, but to keep to these three exclusively is to miss out on some of the other fantastic mountain bike experiences right at your doorstep in Northern Ireland.


Barnett Demesne

The idea that Barnett Demesne might not even be considered by some would be anathema to its many loyal riders. Located only four miles from the centre of Belfast, Barnett Demesne is located beside the Mary Peters track and boasts Ireland’s first official purpose-built jumps park! 

The trails

The trails themselves consist of 8.8km of green, blue and red lines, worked into a remarkably compact area. This lends to a quick course with sharp technical corners, some great boardwalks and rock sections, and a surprising number of climbs. All this is that bit more impressive when you consider that Barnett is tucked away in a relatively small bit of woodland, with walking trails on one side, sports pitches on the other and the river Lagan running through it.

 

What else is there to do?

Given the proximity to Belfast city centre, there’s no shortage of things to do in the area. In the immediate vicinity, that could mean taking the bike onto the towpath and cycling to a nearby cafes. Or you could head into town and visit any of the multitude of great restaurants, bars and music venues. 

 

Blessingbourne Estate

Blessingbourne is ideal for everyone, whether you’re a lone MTBer, going with the family or heading with a group of friends. In addition to the outstanding trails there, it has top class accommodation and plenty of resources on site to keep you entertained. In the last few months, it has won a multitude of awards including MountainBIkeNI’s “Best MTB Friendly Accommodation”, a “9.9” rating badge from Booking.com, and most recently, won the much coveted Accommodation of the Year award in the self catering section of the Tourism NI awards.

The Trails

Mountain bikers that ride Blessingbourne for the first time are usually surprised. In addition to the 12km of blue and red trails, it also packs a few orange features. Berms, log rides and rock drops abide and it makes for an incredibly pleasant mountain bike experience. In particular, Blessingbourne Mountain Bike Trails are ideal for the beginner. With bike hire available on site, the 12km gives a good test of endurance for the newer MTBer, with zero hill climbs. There is also a pump track on site.

What else is there to do?

We recommend renting one of the self catering cottages at Blessingbourne and making a trip out of it. Colleen and Nick who own the Estate are outstanding hosts and only too happy to help with anything during your stay. Enjoy the walking trails around the historic estate, bring the little ones to the play area, or head out and visit the nearby town of Fivemiletown.

Tollymore Skills Course

There have been loads of blogs about Tollymore Skills Course, but we thought it would be remiss to leave out here, largely because it’s so much fun! The guys at Tollymore accommodate for all levels, whether you're getting on your mountain bike for the first time - or a seasoned pro. Book a session with them on their website.

 

The Trails

The skills course at Tollymore has around 1.5km of singletrack trails, ideal for both complete beginners and those looking to brush up on their skills. With everything you could want to hone up on (rollers, table tops, rock sections, northshore etc), you can rest assured you’ll come away as a better mountain biker.

What else is there to do?

With both Castlewellan and Newcastle just a stone’s throw away, both towns are filled with loads of great activities and restaurants for visitors. Tollymore also runs courses on mountaineering, rock climbing and canoeing!

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

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