Brendan Monaghan & Stephen PrenticeSarah MartinRusty Surginor
read more about the authors
Blog ethics

The Trails and Tribulations of a First Time Mountain Biker

Posted on August 29, 2019 @ 3:03 PM in CyclingMountainbiking

Disclaimer: No employees were harmed in the making of this blog. Do try the stunts (not at home) but at a trail centre near you.

As a new member to the team at MountainBikeNI, it was only a matter of time before I would have to get out and experience mountain biking for myself. Boldly claiming “I’ll give it a go! Why not?”, my colleague Ethan and I set out to test the trails, and my nerves, at Blessingbourne Estate.


What to expect when you have no clue what to expect?

Blessingbourne was the first official MTB trail centre in Northern Ireland, dating back to 2013. It is ideal for all level of riders and ages, boasting a pump track, 4km of blue trails and 8km of red trails, making it an ideal location for those starting out on the blues or challenging the more experienced riders on the harder red trails. It was an obvious choice for my first time.

I acquired a bike and a helmet to complete the look and familiarised myself with where everything was on the bike, primarily, the brakes, as I was told that stabilisers were not an option. I adjusted the bike so that I could put my foot down in the likely case that I would need to emergency stop or slow down in a speed wobble and after a quick test run around the drive I was confident enough the hit the trails – or so I told myself!

I had an image of mountain biking built up in my head, very gnarly, lots of jumps and speed demons chasing the trails in epic fashion. So how was I going to match up to that as a total novice? As it turns out, it doesn’t have to be all big airs and break neck speeds.

We started out on Blessingbourne’s pump track, which was great for getting used to the steeper mounds with drops and turns and getting generally used to being on a bike again. The main 3 things I was encouraged to remember:

  1. Head up – Eyes forward and look ahead
  2. Keep your feet neutral when not cycling
  3. Bum back when going down a steep bit or drop

Once I had these etched into my brain, I was ready to take on the trails.

If you’ve never mountain biked before, it’s best to go with someone who has, and get them to lead the way. That way you’re not hit by an unsuspecting rock garden that you’re not ready for and you won’t veer off the trail you’re on or end up on a trail that’s too difficult. I found it really helpful when Ethan would shout “narrow bit coming up” or “keep right” and that way I was at least mentally prepared for what I was about to approach.

Once you have found a buddy to join you, it’s important to think about your selection of trails. Blessingbourne has over 12km of trails with a good mix of red and blue. The loop allows riders the option of heading home or continuing with more of the trail without taking you out of your way.

Once I had gotten the hang of cycling round the trails with some turns and steeper slopes, I wanted to prove myself on some of the harder stuff – for me that meant conquering a rock drop of around 20cm. If you are like me and appreciate a good dose of adrenaline, this is a good place to start. Similarly to going around the trails, I found it helpful to watch Ethan go first so that I could see which lines to choose, how to best approach obstacles and what way to position myself on the bike. Once I had watched and learned, it was time to give it a go. I got into position, lined up the rock and gave myself a quick pep talk before peddling off towards the jump. I hit the line, grabbed a few inches of air and landed gracefully on the other side, feeling like the queen of the world. “Let’s do it again!”.

One of the best things I found about mountain biking was that the smallest jump felt like a massive leap to me, so even though looking back now it seems less impressive, at the time I was over the moon and felt pumped to try even more. You can be a first timer and feel like a pro.

Use Your Brain.

Once I had gone over the jump a couple of times, I felt confident and ready for any other obstacles I might have to tackle. It’s important to remember that it’s still unfamiliar territory and if you don’t think you’re going to be able to do something, there’s no shame in either taking the chicken run or coming off the bike and walking it across.

I was able to ride some rock gardens and a boardwalk (slowly) but when it came to approach Blessingbourne’s famous ‘Crocodile’s Back’, I knew I wasn’t ready for such a narrow task with its steep drops on either side. It’s like saving a present for yourself in the future, today’s not the day, tomorrow doesn’t look good either, but someday I will do it.

Take a Breather

It’s a rush of green and brown as you whip through the trails but it’s easy to forget to stop and take in the surroundings. Even if just for a quick breather, a photograph or video set up, it’s good to stop along the way and really appreciate the scenery around you. If we didn’t stop it would all feel like a blur and the trails would have merged into one. It can also help you get your bearings and figure out where you’re headed to next. Blessingbourne is a stunning location and when you stop along the forest it feels like you’re in a fairy-tale setting, the lush green canopy overhead and the tall trees that hug the trails make for a great contrast to every day life.

Homeward Bound

After 90 minutes of blue and red trails I was really feeling the session, my legs were starting to tire, and my hands were stuck in handlebar grip position; it was time to head back.  As we were cycling, I was thinking about how I had managed to go around both blue and red trails having never mountain biked before (not even being on a bike in 5 years); I had managed to figure out the basics and try some harder elements throughout and even made it around without falling off or hurting myself (minus a few scratches and bruises). If I can do that, then anyone can do it, and it’s totally worth giving it a go!

If you’re reading this and are now thinking you’d like to try mountain biking, Blessingbourne is easy to find, located on a private estate just 1 mile outside of Fivemiletown. It costs £3 to ride the trails or £5 if using the car park.

 

For more information on Blessingbourne Estate, Davagh Forest or any of Northern Ireland's official mountain bike trails, please visit MountainBikeNI.com.

Kerry Kirkpatrick
Kerry Kirkpatrick  Assistant Marketing and Events Officer

A true North Coast water baby, happiest when on the beach.

Dan Wolfe at Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails

Posted on June 28, 2019 @ 11:51 AM in CyclingMountainbiking

In our new #TipsFromAPro series, Dan Wolfe takes us through the fundamentals of mountain biking we can all improve on.

In our second #TipsFromAPro video, Dan Wolfe takes us through tips we can follow to improve our results when riding at an Enduro level, be it local or on the biggest mountain bike series in the world.


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!

Show Off Your Trails - WINNERS

Posted on June 11, 2019 @ 5:26 PM in Mountainbiking

Over the last few weeks, we've asked MountainBikeNI followers to send us their pictures from the official mountain bike trails. You've responded in your hundreds and some of the photographs we've seen have been incredible. Others have been terrifying. And then there are a few odd ones out there - but we love them all.

Our favourite pictures will win £400 and £100 respectively in online voucher for Chain Reaction Cycles. But first - some of our highly commended pictures!

Ryan Butler's triumphant picture over a turbulent Kodak Corner is all kinds of cool.

One of a few from the seriously impressive photo reel of Warren McConnaughie at Rostrevor.

Colin Smith at Kodak Corner with a mini MTBer is as heart warming as it is impressive. How did he get up there?!

Old faithful style picture from Andy Gilmore, but we love it.

Somehow the view is still amazing, even though it's completely obscured. Cheers Jason Hill for sending this one in!

Another from Warren and this is a pretty idylic shot at Davagh Forest.

We love this view from Boundary Rock. Evan McIlmoyle's shot really brings home how wonderfully remote you are.

Sunset over Run Ragley Run in this shot from Bradley Grahame. How could you not want to get on the bike seeing this?

Brian Lenehan's picture feels like it's literally moving with him here. 

Trails? What trails? Thomas Marks reminds us what mountain bikinig at Davagh Forest can be like in the other part of the year. 

We're at Castlewellan for this great shot from Carlos Russell.

Dark, moody and atmosphere. Quality show of the Castlewellan Lake from Mickey Clarke.

 

But the winners are...

 

In 2nd place we have a tie!

Warren McConnaughie's black and white shot at On The Pulse at Rostrevor MTB Trails is pretty special. The camaraderie, variety in the trails and skill of local riders all hits you straight off.

 

Jonny Clyde has won a special additional prize for his hilarious breakdown on a trip to Rostrevor MTB Trails. Check it out below.

 

And our 1st place winner is...

The vote from our team was unanimous. This one was picked out by every one of us as being in their favourites and we can see why. The atmosphere, the air, the rugged and incredibly familiar look of our local trails. Congratulations Tommy Magnenat - you've won the £400 voucher!

 

Thanks to everyone for sending in your pictures! Stay tuned to MountainBikeNI's FacebookTwitter and Instagram pages as we've something exciting dropping in the next few days...

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Mountain Biking and Mental Health

Posted on March 27, 2019 @ 12:51 PM in Mountainbiking

Following the publication of an article on the BBC which spoke of the huge benefits mountain biking can have for your mental health, MountainBikeNI wanted to delve a little deeper into the many potential benefits of the sport we love.

 

The stats on mental health can be quite scary. One in four people will experience a mental health condition at some stage in their life, and if anything, those figures are slightly higher in Northern Ireland than elsewhere in the UK.

Mountain biking should be fun above all else

A specialist in mental health (and avid mountain biker), Eamonn Duffy spoke to MountainBikeNI about some of the many benefits mountain bikers experience:

In recent years, the positive impact regular exercise (like mountain biking) can have on our mental health is an increasingly researched topic. It is well documented that regular exercise can promote good mental health via reducing social isolation, promoting the release of endorphins (or your ‘feel good’ hormones) and promoting a healthy weight which in turn improves self-esteem and confidence, alongside much more.”

 

An Outlet for Stress

One of the most commonly identified ways in which mountain biking improves mental health is by providing an outlet for stress. This was a recurring theme amongst MountainBikeNI followers, who contacted us in their dozens to agree with the findings.

One rider wrote about how mountain biking was a healing factor for him as he and his partner go through their first round of IVF.

I’ve been welcomed into a few groups and have ‘cycling mates’ who support each other in WhatsApp groups, and who I’ve been able to vent while huffing and puffing my way up fire roads. As a man in my 30’s, that outlet is invaluable, and getting into the habit of talking over where my head’s at is something I know can help in all aspects of life.”

Exercise, being with nature and the satisfaction of a good spin are all beneficial to mental health

Another explained how it gave him ‘smiles per miles’ after having suffered with depression for years. “For me it was a way of relaxing…and leaving everything behind. It gave me something to focus on. Now this year I’m racing in a XC fat bike race for 6 hours. Life’s good, I’m on the up. Everyone who is trying hard to get back to themselves… you can do it. It’s hard yes, but it can be done.”

Work too can play a big factor. Desk jobs can result in a sedentary lifestyle that’s hard to combat. As one mountain biker put it, “I try not to let my work overpower me nor take it home, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen… For me MTBing is my release.”

 

Making Friends

The social side of mountain biking can be just as important as the physical benefits. Making friends can be difficult as an adult as most people don’t even know where to begin. In the world of mountain biking it is relatively straightforward.

There's something about mountain biking that makes it easy to speak to complete strangers

Meet someone once or twice on your local trails and the next thing you know you’ve been added into a message group of 40 likeminded people probably in a similar situation – just looking for someone to ride with. Don’t be under the assumption that everyone in that group is a high flying, super shredding DH or EWS champion. In reality, they’re likely in the same boat as you.

You can also begin to meet other mountain bikers by joining the MountainBikeNI Trails Team, sponsored by Chain Reaction Cycles. This group meets up a few times a year to help with trail maintenance and litter picking.

As another MountainBikeNI commenter put it, “The social side to mountain biking is fantastic. A big problem in your head going out for a ride, shared with a mate might turn out to be a small problem. A different outlook on a solution to problems, maybe some ideas you hadn’t thought of. The biggest thing is chatting – it doesn’t even need to be about problems or issues, just talk.”

 

Finding Help

If you need help making that first step into mountain biking, one great resource can be found in the organisation Mind Your Mate and Yourself, formally known as PIPS. They organise a men’s group to ride the Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails every Wednesday. If you'd like to join, simply turn up at Life Adventure Centre in Castlewellan at 9:30am any week. A Ladies group will also be starting at the end of May. For more information on this, follow their Facebook Page.

Some of those who attend the group told MountainBikeNI how beneficial it was. "It gives structure to my week... gets me out, breathing fresh air, burning fat and gaining muscle." "Keeps me from becoming isolated".

 

Some of the Men's Group from Mind Your Mate and Yourself

Other resources available include:

Aware (another excellent national organisation which provides help for people with depression)

Stop, Breath and Think (a mindfulness based app to help with anxiety and depression)

Lifeline (excellent for a listening ear and advice. They can signpost you to appropriate agencies and / or provide free counselling sessions).

Samaritans (also great for a listening ear / advice and signposting)

 

We would like to thank Eamonn Duffy for his invaluable input, Jill and all the team at Mind Your Mate and Yourself, as well all the mountain bikers who wrote to us to tell us their stories. Also to the team at Arc Fitness, dedicated to addiction recovery through fitness coaching.

If you would like to create a MTB group or find one in your area, you can visit MountainBikeNI or contact us and we’ll assist you with connecting with others.

Latest comment posted by Shobha Tour on May 3, 2019 @ 1:12 PM

The Hardest To Mount Biking Definitely Depend To Way Too Hard To Mount Biking Read more >

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

2018 MountainBikeNI Awards

Posted on January 30, 2019 @ 6:23 PM in Mountainbiking

The MountainBikeNI Awards, sponsored by Chain Reaction Cycles, are a great time of year where we can celebrate the very best of mountain-biking in Northern Ireland. Drum-roll please…here’s your 2018 Winners! 

 

Upcoming Trail Centre Winner: Gortin Forest Mountain Bike Trail Centre

Runner-up: Garvagh Forest Mountain Bike Trails

We’re as excited as everyone else at the prospect of the construction of new MTB Trails in Northern Ireland, so both these nominees are winners in our book. The people’s vote however landed behind the upcoming mountain bike trails in Gortin, Co. Tyrone. We’ll hopefully have plenty more news on both these trail centres soon! In the meantime, check out the other MTB trails across Northern Ireland: www.mountainbikeni.com/

 

 

Favourite Mountain Bike Trail Centre: Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails

Taking in 42% of the vote, Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails came out clear favourite here. Just look at that view – it’s not named Kodak Corner for nothing! 27km of red trail and 19km of black plus purpose-built two downhill trails make this consistently one of the top mountain bike centres in Ireland.

 


Favourite Mountain Bike Trail Section: Stream Trail, Davagh Forest  

A fast, flowy, and extremely fun section of trail, with plenty of berms and a few rock gardens thrown in, it’s not hard to see why the Stream Trail picked up its first ever MountainBikeNI Award – this trail section is definitely worth checking out. Big props to Davagh Forest!

Two sections of Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails fought it out for second-place, with Home Run receiving 127 votes and Batt out of Hell 126 votes. Trail sections at Castlewellan, Davagh and Rostrevor all received more than 25% of the vote each, showing just how much variety there is for mountain-biking in Northern Ireland.

 


Squad Leader of the Year: Andy Coburn   

 

Andy is a familiar face to mountain bikers all over Northern Ireland. A personal trainer at Positive-Attitude by Andy Coburn, he is a firm believer in the mental health benefits of mountain biking as well as the physical ones. Andy wanted to thank everyone that voted for him, earning him a nice little £50 voucher from sponsors Chain Reaction Cycles. He also asked us to remind everyone that he’s 40, so it’s not just a sport for the young ones!

 


Favourite Trailhead Provider: East Coast Adventure, Rostrevor

Taking first place in the ‘Favourite Trailhead Provider’ category is East Coast Adventure Centre, the official trailhead providers at Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails. They provide an uplift service (with free banter on the road up!)  as well as providing mountain bike lessons to people of all ages; it’s great to see them receive the recognition they deserve! Shoutout to Life Adventure Centre, Castlewellan and Outdoor Concepts, Davagh Forest who received 35% and 21% of the vote respectively.

 

 

Favourite MTB-Friendly Café Winner: Urban Café, Castlewellan

Runner-up: Synge & Byrne, Rostrevor

Only two votes separated the top two spots here: in second-place we have Synge and Byrne at Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails , and our winner for ‘Favourite MTB-Friendly Café’ is…Urban Café in Castlewellan. No wonder Urban Café kept on to its top spot – this spot is a haven for mountain-bikers visiting Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails to rest up and grab a cuppa after a manic day out on the trails. I think we can agree on something – these are two top-class cafes for mountain-bikers in Northern Ireland.

 


Favourite Spot for an Apres-Ride Pint: Kilbroney Bar and Restaurant

Some call this the most important category in the MountainBikeNI Awards – while we don’t know about that, we do know Kilbroney Bar and Restaurant truly deserve this award. Well done to all the team there (congratulate them next time you’re in)!

 


Best MTB Event of 2018: Red Bull Foxhunt, Rostrevor

The chaos and craziness of the Red Bull Foxhunt, held at Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails, ensured it took top spot again as the ‘Best MTB Event of the year’. The Foxhunt was among a number of top-class mountain biking events held in Northern Ireland in 2018, with other events like the Davagh Enduro and the Psycle 24 Hour Endurance Event, Castlewellan also having massive turnouts. It’s fantastic that Northern Ireland is able to host such a great range of events for every level of mountain biker and that they continue to be so popular.

 


Favourite MTB-Friendly Accommodation: Kilbroney Caravan Park, Rostrevor

Coming in at top spot in the ‘Favourite MTB-Friendly Accommodation’, we have a new winner this year: Kilbroney Caravan Park, Rostrevor. The Park is situated in a stunning location, where mountain, sea and valley meet to create some scenic wonderland. Overlooking Carlingford Lough, the Park boasts 97 acres of beautiful parkland nestled within the shadow of Slieve Martin and the Mourne Mountains.

 

A special shout out also to the winner of the Garmin VivoSmart Heart Rate and GPS Monitor from Chain Reaction Cycles, Siobhan McGrath and thanks again to everyone that voted in the 2018 MountainBikeNI Awards.

Latest comment posted by Steven Kyle on February 15, 2019 @ 10:29 AM

Excited about the two new upcoming trails at Gortin & Garvagh, anyone know when these will be open? Read more >

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!

older articles >
Northern Ireland's Outdoor Adventure Blog outdoorni.com walkni.com cycleni.com canoeni.com