Mountain Biking, Disability and Me

Posted on January 30, 2018 @ 2:38 PM in Mountainbiking

We were fortunate enough to get speaking to Brian Lenehan. Brian has a long history of playing different sports at a high level. After an accident that changed Brian's life, his brother helped him to discover mountain biking. This is his story.

 

Hi Brian! Thanks for chatting to us. First thing is first – what are you riding at the minute?

Hi Ethan, how are you?

At the minute I’m riding what started life as a 2016 Giant Trance 3- but it’s had constant evolution/ tinkering over the past 2 years!

It's currently running Giant Contact dropper, Pike 160s up front, shimano xt m8000 brakes, xt 1x 11 drivetrain, Bontrager Rhythm wheelset- Nobby Nic rear and Magic Mary front, Nukeproof warhead bar/ stem and nukeproof pedals. I've also just finished a hardtail build- On One Parkwood frame, Pike 140s up front, Sram roam 40 wheelset, Nobby Nic rear, Hans Dampf front, Slx brakes and xt/ Zee 1x 10 drivetrain.

 

Do you want to tell us a little about your condition and how it impacts on your day to day life?

I have a condition called NMO (Neuro Mylitis Optica) which until relatively recently was bracketed as a form of MS- so it’s in the same Neurological spectrum- some similarities, some differences- in my condition, the main one being that I am registered Blind, as my central vision deteriorated massively since onset. I still have and use my peripheral vision, but without any meaningful central vision it’s basically a life without detail- so daily life, recognising people is difficult, reading, judging car speeds and distances, timetables in train station etc. I can’t manage without assistance- I’ve been on a fair few wrong trains when pride got in the way and stopped me asking the simple questions, made a decision on guesswork and ended up on the way to Larne instead of Lurgan!

Another aspect of my condition that is ever present is “tingles” or sensation issues in my lower legs, feet, arms and hands- best way I can describe this is as “constant fuzzy pins and needles”, whilst not the greatest comfort wise, I can use them as a barometer when something maybe isn’t right- if they intensify for example, my nervous system is telling me something is putting it under strain, so I am able then to back off a little and just let it calm down again.

On the bike it can become a bit of an issue where the sensation can develop, particularly on my right side, to feel like that feeling of a trapped nerve (but more extensive) from my shoulder right down to my finger tips and my trunk area. Ultimately it affects grip strength on the bars but as I said I am learning about the sensations and causation more and more and therefore managing it.

In relation to the combination of both, fatigue can be a major factor. You're constantly on alert when getting from A to B so I can get it done as safely as possible and this has an effect on fatigue levels which can be debilitating, and again, when that occurs, it’s just a matter of resting correctly. It took me a while to differentiate between fatigue as a symptom and regular day to day tiredness - two completely different things, but now that I know my condition, I am able to manage away.

 

It sounds like you've got a great handle on everything. So how did you first get into mountain biking?

My brother Eamon was integral in my entry into this current mountain biking mission, and it was his idea that has made this entire journey what it is now. We ride every week.

 

Brian and his brother tackling Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails

I have always been into bikes, just loved every aspect of them, and all disciplines, whether it was watching track cycling, doing a bit on the roads myself or tinkering away at bikes in the garage. It took a back seat though as football and hurling became more prominent in my life. I had a few seasons with Armagh County hurling from Minors through to Senior squads and that became my primary focus. Then when I moved to Liverpool, football became my primary sport. It was only after my injury, and the subsequent change in life path for want of a better term, that mountain biking became the focal point.

I was struggling badly both emotionally and psychologically coming to terms with my diagnosis. The words 'permanent' and 'visually impaired' and 'registered blind' etc- I couldn’t accept them at all. Plus sport as I knew it, and my identity that came with Gaelic games, changed over night. I was slipping further and further into depression and it came to a head. My brother basically said “Right, let’s go. We are going to Castlewellan - get your bike ready”. It turned out it was the best decision I ever made post diagnosis and within half the trail, I was hooked. I remember smiling on the bike and thinking “**** that hasn’t happened in a while!”

 

When you first approached it, did you think your condition would make it more difficult for you?

Initially yes. 1. Because I had conditioned myself to think “I can’t see properly now so I won’t be able to do this” and 2. I thought the physical sensations and fatigue would play a part and I would be stuck half way around a trail somewhere shouting “Eamon that’s me stuck now”!

But after run one in Castlewellan, which was only half a lap, the fears began to diminish and I quickly realised that every thought and notion I had going into this was based on the negative, as in "What if I can’t...” and “I can’t see properly so I might not be able to do this." So that evening, I distinctly remember making a list of the attributes and reasons as to why I CAN do this and subsequently how I will do this.

The very first building block was to begin right there and then in devising a system where I utilised my peripheral vision as primary and not the central vision. This meant re training myself not to instinctivly try and look or focus on a given area or object like I used to, but look off centre to the side of trails and use colour changes as markers. (This, Brian points out, is a conversation in itself details wise) But it basically started that very next Tuesday morning in going down to Craigavon lakes trails on my own with the bike and riding the loop on my own, trialling different head and eye positions, and then beginning the process of memorising corners, sequences and features such as trees etc as markers.

I worked away on my own at the lakes, hour after hour, day after day, just honing how I was going to ride my bike, and visually how I looked at the trail, how I memorised the trail and then how I can get faster! I still do this once or twice every week, 2 years in. This also allowed me to see how far distance wise and also time wise I could go before the nervous system decided to pack it in!

It became apparent very quickly that if I was conscious of my actual body position on the bike, that is my buffer zone if something unexpected comes up that I have missed visually.

I bring these methods with me now no matter where my brother and I ride- same rules apply whether it be Craigavon lakes on my own training on a Tuesday morning, Davagh Forest or wherever, identical thought processes are in play.  I also spend as much time using imagery techniques as I can; how I see a trail being ridden and how I see myself riding it. I spend as much time 'YouTubing' the trails we are going to ride as I do on them. That way I have an instant video in my mind’s eye for when we arrive - this eye is the bigger help!

 

What is the best part about mountain biking for you?

It’d be very easy to sound cliché here, but I love everything about it. From dissecting YouTube videos of the runs we'll ride, to actually riding them, right down to sitting down that evening and going through what worked for me and what didn’t. Thinking about what could I tweak to improve the ride and therefore the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment for the next ride. Above all though I think, I love the challenge. Beating my own constraints.

However sometimes it’s beating them by accident. My first time going over Boundary Rock on the left hand side, I thought it was just a wee grey slope down to the right hander - I was over it before I had time to re assess! So actually sometimes my sight is bliss as I'm over things before I've time to think!

Brian on the left in red and his brother Eamon on the right.


It has afforded me something that I can utilise in my every day life. Patience. Without patience I’d have given biking up at week 2 because that would have still meant I want everything now, instant results. With realising I was going to have to be extremely patient and look at the long game, it allowed me to curb frustrations, to not rush the development and in turn to do things like preparation or body position on the bike the way it is supposed to be done. Bringing that same mentality into my day to day life has allowed me to develop the strategies and coping mechanisms I need to move forward. No shortcuts!

In summary, I don’t feel at all labelled on my bike, and the further I go into this journey, I don’t feel constrained or held back by being on my bike. Theres a freedom to it, but also a focus that I had rarely encountered before.

I know I have limitation criteria, there's no getting away from that, but I am at a point now where I have realistic goals for what I want to achieve on my bike. I'm under no illusions they will be difficult to attain and may take a long time - but the key point is that they are realistic- and that in itself avoids frustration creeping in as long as I stick to my prepation routines and continue to try and improve every aspect of that.

 

The average person on the street often thinks mountain biking is a terrifying pastime. What would you say to people with disabilities who would potentially be interested in mountain biking but don’t know where to begin?

For me it was a blank canvas. I could make of it what I wanted. There are so many variables that can be manipulated to suit and turned into major positives. You are in complete control of where you ride, which trails you ride, how fast or slow you want to ride, how long for - the list goes on. Approach it at entirely your own speed and build it in any direction you want to or need to.

Personally I find being the person on the street infinitely more terrifying!! An example: A while back on University Avenue, I was crossing over and I did everything a person with a visual impairment should do to the letter- found the green man crossing, found the buzzing cone under the box to signify when green, listened for car noise when safe to cross and STILL got clipped on the wrist because someone decided not to stop. Luckily I wasn’t one step further out; my point being that mountain biking is no less terrifying than our environment, assess what you can do, assess how you want to do it, and talk to people like myself, who can maybe help out even a little bit with questions or possible solutions.

 

You posted about mountain bikers with a disability to a MTB Facebook page recently and it got a fantastic reception. Have you heard from any other MTBers in a similar position to yourself?

It was class! The mountain bike community here automatically wanted to talk about it and offered to aid in whatever comes from it. That was no surprise because all you have to do is go to any of our trails at any time of the week and you get chatting to the friendliest bunch of sports people about.

It’s early days but there are quite a few riders with a disability/ impairment in a similar situation as myself, so hopefully we will build a dialogue and a bit of a network where we can learn from each other’s experiences etc. I’ll keep you posted!

Trialling different head and eye positions, memorising the trails and playing YouTube clips on repeat are just some of his techniques that allow him to shred.

How would you like mountain biking in Northern Ireland to evolve in terms of inclusion for mountain bikers with various disabilities?

I mentioned earlier how I feel that when I'm riding my bike, I am not labelled and that is the very nature of our scene here; so I would be very conscious of the fact that by trying to raise an awareness and increasing the knowledge base of the issues of riding with a disability- that could inadvertently begin to stick labels on people.

But if we approach it in the way that we are riders first and foremost. We were riding our bikes before this, and regardless of the posts to get dialogue going, we'll still be riding our bikes, shows me that the way forward is not really to highlight “Oh that rider has sight loss” “That rider is an amputee” “That rider has hearing loss” – but rather to develop a network or a system whereby people can learn from each other’s experiences and use them to develop their own riding. We talk and listen to how we ride a race or train for a race etc., so same rules apply. If we can then convert that into a monthly run for example, that would be sweet!

Obviously not every sport is for every person- we would be naïve to think that - but our sport is as accessible as any other and broad enough by it's very nature that, if it is something that interested people with a disability, then a little bit of discussion and planning, coupled with an infrastructure of riders who already joined its ranks, theres no reason why 1. It cant be explored and 2. It can be moulded to suit. Even by discussing this, boundaries are already being broken.

  

Any shout outs you’d like to make?

I suppose to my brother Eamon Lenehan who began this whole thing. Michael Regan and Glyn O Brien who love biking that much they were more than happy to get involved with the aforementioned posts and have been fantastic in offering belp and advice. And to Disability Sport Northern Ireland (DSNI) who afford me the time to train away and practice staying upright!!

 

Finally, hit us with some of your results and tell us what you're planning next.

Previous results include:

2016 Davagh Enduro. 97th

2017 Davagh Enduro. 41st

2017 Davagh Nightrider. 31st.

2018. Davagh Enduro and Nightrider. Top 30 is my goal. Also to enter and complete at east one round of VFT Enduro.

 

Thanks for chatting to us Brian. If you have any questions, messages or comments you'd like to pass on to Brian just drop an email to info@mountainbikeni.com.

Latest comment posted by MTB TRIBE PODCAST on February 3, 2018 @ 11:55 AM

Awesome. Brian is such an inspiration to us all. We could all learn a lot from Brian. I am glad to say Brian will be coming on the podcast over the next few weeks! I can’t wait to get him on and ... Read more >

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

The MountainBikeNI Award Winners

Posted on January 11, 2018 @ 4:24 PM in Mountainbiking

The MountainBikeNI Awards, powered by Chain Reaction Cycles, are consistently one of our favourite times of the year, but we equally can’t wait until they’re over to see who has won! Wait no longer, as we introduce your 2017 Champions:

 

Favourite Trail Centre: Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails

 

For the first time, we've got a new champion in this category - congratulations Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails! After five consecutive years of wins by Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails, it's great to see the obvious popularity of other trails coming through. Castlewellan MTB Trails are actually the most visited trails of any in Northern Ireland.

 

Favourite Trail Section: The Great Escarpe, Castlewellan

A fantastic black section of trail in Castlewellan, The Great Escarpe lets you build up some serious pace on the flowing sections. It's a favourite for some of its wide berms that look incredible with a fisheye lens on your camera. Another first-time winner for Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails.

 

Favourite MTB View: Roll Up Your Slievies, Rostrevor

We're off to Rostrevor with this winner, and it's easy to see why. The view from 'Roll Up Your Slievies' takes in the Mourne Mountains, Carlingford Bay and the towns of Rostrevor and Warrenpoint. A fourth consecutive win for the stunning views in Rostrevor, taking 54.6% of the votes.? Every time we're up there it's hard not to be blown away.

 

Favourite Trailhead Provider: Life Adventure Centre, Castlewellan

With another successful Christmas Trail Quest under their belts, as well as Ireland's first ever 24 hour enduro, 2017 was a great year for Life Adventure Centre at Castlewellan. Taking first place in the Favourite Trailhead Provider will hopefully have been the icing on the cake!

 

Favourite MTB-Friendly Café – Urban Coffee Café, Castlewellan

Urban Coffee Café is almost as synonymous with Castlewellan as the mountain bike trails are. Another new winner in the MountainBikeNI Awards, it's great to see the support that mountain bikers provide to local businesses. Next time you're stopping in, congratulate them on their win!

 

Favourite Spot for an Aprés Ride Pint: Maginns, Castlewellan

A wise man once said, "The only thing better than the first sip, is the thought of the first sip." Our Facebook feed was alive with mountain bikers reminiscing over good times spent in Maginns after a day on the trails. Yet another first-time winner in Castlewellan!

 

Best MTB Event of the Year: Red Bull Foxhunt

The Red Bull Foxhunt wins Best MTB Event of 2017. The variety in this category is a great indication of the vibrancy of mountain biking in Northern Ireland, with well organised events such as the Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup taking third with 18.9% of the vote. Life Adventure Centre's Psycle 24 Hour Endurance received 12.5% of the vote and the Ulster XC 2017 events took 8.3%.

 

Favourite MTB-Friendly Accommodation: Blessingbourne Estate

A closely fought category, Blessingbourne Estate came out on top with 24.5% of the vote. It's reputation as a favourite accommodation spot for mountain bikers has officially been sealed with this being it's second win in a row. Blessingbourne is home to 12km of fantastic trails and award winning luxury accommodation.

 

MountainBikeNI Volunteer of the Year: Sam Thompson and Donal McKendry

We couldn't quite believe this. After almost 700 votes across two months of voting, we have a tie!

Donal McKendry from Magherafelt, and Sam Thompson from Rathfriland both ended up with 20.5% of the votes in this new category - congratulations to both of you! A big shout out to Niall Convery from Cookstown, who very narrowly missed out on a triple place for first, with 18.4% of the vote and to the other nominees and all of our volunteers.

We added this category as a small recognition of our incredible volunteers and everything they do for the trails in Northern Ireland. We're sincerely grateful to you all.

 

A special shout out also to the winner of the Garmin VivoSmart Heart Rate and GPS Monitor from Chain Reaction Cycles, Diane Burgess.

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

MountainBikeNI's Top Videos of 2017

Posted on December 18, 2017 @ 1:31 PM in Mountainbiking

If a picture tells a thousand words, we're pretty sure a video must tell... a lot more words?


Below you'll find a list of our favourite mountain bike videos from 2017. Maybe you missed it when it was first posted it. Maybe you just want to watch it for the twentieth time. Either way, we hope you enjoy and we'll see you back again in 2018!


1. Kelan Grant and Killian Callaghan RideNorth

We don't like to brag, but we're pretty sure our two models for this video couldn't have been better picked. Kelan, who rides for Team WideOpen Mag, just happened to beat some of the best in the world by winning the Red Bull Foxhunt in October, and Killian picked up the title of U.21 Men's Enduro World Champion earlier this year also. Not bad! Watch the lads tear around Castlewellan, Davagh Forest and Rostrevor MTB Trails.

 

2. Rob Warner Interviews Loic Bruni for MountainBikeNI

Speaking of the Red Bull Foxhunt, we got chatting to two of the biggest names in the business when it was taking place down at Rostrevor MTB Trails. Current DH World Champion Loïc Bruni and all round MTB legend Rob Warner joined us, with Rob kindly agreeing to interview Loïc. There's some name calling and accusations of cheating, but all in good fun of course.

 

3. Greg Callaghan Rides Davagh Forest

Greg Callaghan has arguably done more for the sport of mountain biking on the island of Ireland in the past few years than anybody. His performance at this year's Enduro World Series was phenomenal. Despite holding the overall lead on a number of occasions, he was pipped in the final rounds and finished an extremely respectable third.

We were delighted then that when he got back, he'd head to try the trails on Davagh Forest for some R&R!

 

4. Colin Ross Talks to MountainBikeNI at the Red Bull Foxhunt

As if more big names were needed in this list, we've also got a clip of Colin chatting to us just after his run at the Red Bull Foxhunt. An incredible biker and currently riding with our friends at Chain Reaction Cycles, Colin is possibly the most beloved mountain biker in Northern Ireland. His description of his first time riding as a Fox is well worth a watch.

 

5. Welcome to Davagh Forest

We're back to Davagh Forest again for a pretty epic montage video if we do say so ourselves. Totalling only around 40 seconds, this video highlights the incredible scenery and riding on offer in Davagh Forest, in the heart of the Sperrins. If you haven't been, this will get you in the mood.

 

You can find plenty more great content like this on the MountainBikeNI YouTube page.

We'd also love to see some of your clips from the trails in Northern Ireland! Drop an email to info@mountainbikeni.com and show us what you can do.

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Meet the Nominees for MountainBikeNI Volunteer of the Year Award

Posted on December 7, 2017 @ 11:37 AM in Mountainbiking

The MountainBikeNI Awards, powered by Chain Reaction Cycles, exist to highlight and recognise the best and brightest in the world of mountain biking in Northern Ireland. This year, we've introduced a new category that acknowledges the volunteering efforts of some of the MTBNI Trails Team who selflessly give up their time to help with the upkeep of our mountain bike trails.

Below, we've given you a very brief introduction to all of those nominated!

 

Donal McKendry


Why do you help out at the maintenance days?

"It is a simple case that I help out on maintenance days or separate site days to give a little back to a venue provided to us all as free to use at any time. The facilities & trials are excellent and it is in our interest to do what we can to ensure the trails stay that way. 

We all want a good days mountain biking, getting speed up and negotiating our way down the trails, and don’t want to have to deal with pot holes or loose stones or debris that could injury or harm to us (and the bike).

Plus it is always a good days craic, a bit of graft and everyone is there for the genuine reason of giving back – it’s only a few hours."

 

Where is your local track?

I choose to use Davagh Forest Mountain Bike Trails as they are 20 min drive for me and provides me with a good mix of blue red & black trails, fresh air and the chance to chat to someone. 

I currently mountain bike instead of the road bike now as it provides me flexibility of when I go out on the bike, how long I ride for, I can decide my pace depending on fitness on the day. And you ride cooler bikes."

 

Jonathan Martin


Why do you help out at the maintenance days?

"I enjoy helping at maintenance days as it’s a good way to keep the trails in peak riding condition.  Entry to the trails are free so spending a day digging is a small price for such a variety of trails and trail centres. 

I enjoy hearing from the trail builders about what sections could be improved or suited better to the flow of the trails, learning what makes trails sustainable and as always there’s plenty of craic and slagging.  The post digging lunch is always a big bonus. "

 

Where is your local track?

"My local track is either the Rostrevor trail centre or Tollymore Forest.  I love the rush MTBing brings, the physical exertion riding up the hill followed by ripping down trails, down drops and sometimes clearing jumps.  It’s a great way to get the heart pumping and the head cleared.

It has a fantastic community side too, everyone helps each other and are happy to donate inner tubes or spend a day digging trails."

 

Stuart Hamilton


Why do you help out at the maintenance days?

"I help out at the trails days at Davagh as it's a way I can return some time and energy into such good trails that have been provided for me to enjoy. The trails are fun and flowing and I enjoy giving my energy so the trails are kept in good condition for when I return to them."

 

Where is your local track?

"My local trail is Davagh Forest, as it is the closest trail to me, it takes me an hour to travel to and from, but Davagh enables me to improve my fitness and skills on my bicycle. I also regularly visit Ballykelly forest, and Banagher reservoir for closer circuits."

 

Wayne Brownlee

Why do you help out at the maintenance days?

"I guess the main reason for attending the maintenance days are that i really enjoy giving a wee bit back i suppose. As every rider knows there is nothing worse than riding a trail to be constantly wacked in the face by an overhanging tree branch and if i can spend a bit off my spare time helping with the maintenance then i am only happy to.

You also get to meet your fellow trail users and even a ride out when finished for the day. (oh and the lunch provided is pretty awesome too lol)"

 

Where is your local track?

"I live ten minutes away from Barnetts Demesne which is handy for a quick few laps but when i have more time to ride then its off to Castlewellan MTB trails which i love. 

I enjoy biking as being a type 1 diabetic of 27 years it helps me to keep active and doing something that you enjoy doesn't make it feel like a workout."

 

Niall Convery


(Image courtesy of Martin Kennedy Photography)

Why do you help out at the maintenance days?

"I do the volunteering as the trails are brilliant facilities which provide me and my friends with safe and fun places to mtb and they are free of charge so it is very easy to do and it is nice to give something back. Also the days are good craic, camaraderie and the volunteers are friendly, outgoing sort who are easy to get on with.

The work itself is physical which I enjoy and you see the improvements to the trails at the time which is again a boon. I also enjoy taking the journalists out as I am proud of the trails and its nice to show them around."

 

Where is your local track?

"Main track is mainly Davagh Forest and Barnett Demesne though love them all."

 

Sam Thompson

Sam has been helping out at Castlewellan maintenance days for years. Despite regularly travelling hundreds of miles in a week for his job, he will always make time to come down to the trails at Castlewellan for either a session on the bike or to help keep them in shape. 

 

Where is your local track?

"I ride Castlewellan regularly just for fun and my own sanity. "

 

We're incredibly grateful to the entire MTBNI Trails Team for everything they do to help keep our trails in top shape. If you'd like to join the team, visit MountainBikeNI.com to learn more. 

Voting for the MountainBikeNI Awards closes on Friday 5th January at 12:00 - Vote now here!

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

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

Woahh! Nice article, I would love if you send me email whenever you have new articles . Jake Terrell | activitylife.info Read more >

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

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