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How to Prepare for an Accident on the Trails

Posted on February 5, 2021 @ 1:05 PM in Mountainbiking

Accidents, as they say, happen. It’s a risk we all accept when we go out on the bike. That risk can even add to the enjoyment of mountain biking for some people. But when things go wrong it’s important to be prepared. Changing gears mentally from ‘having fun’ to ‘somebody needs help urgently’ can be jarring if you haven’t thought about it before.

This week MountainBikeNI spoke to Martin McMullan from Mourne Mountain Rescue (and Life Adventure Centre). Most mountain bikers will know that the Mourne Mountain Rescue team are the elite emergency service called upon if someone should get into difficulty in the Mourne mountains. Since lockdown, theirs callouts have grown significantly so Martin was happy to share some advice, using his "ASSIST" model and which mountain bikers should consider before heading out.

A – Access - Do you have a route map? Are you familiar with your intended route? Can you accurately pin point your location at any given time? If necessary do you have an emergency escape route(s) and should the need arise, how will Emergency Services reach you?

S – Signal – Do you have a phone? Do you have the necessary contact numbers ? Will there be network coverage, and if not, what is your back up plan? Do you carry a whistle, torch, PLB (Personal Locating Beacon) or strobe? Have you left an ‘ALERT’ plan with a friend? (Actions / Liaisons / Emergency / Route / Time)

S – Story – What to say when you need to call for help – Who are you? Who are you with? Where are you? What have you been doing? What has happened? What resources do you have? What actions have you taken? If not obvious, why exactly are you calling for help / exactly what assistance do you require? All key pieces of information necessary for an appropriate Emergency Services response.

I – Injuries – Is someone injured? Who is injured? How did they injure themselves? What are their signs and symptoms? What first aid do you carry? What treatment can you provide? Don't forget, 'I' can equally apply to 'Illness'. Even if you do decide to call teh Emergency Services, remote responses take time and so your immediate input and/or hat of others could well prove critical.

S – Shelter – Do you carry sufficient clothing / shelter to protect all those involved? Exposure is a real risk, particularly for but not limited to an injured party. Even in our summer months, weather can be challenging and particularly for someone who has suffered an injury or taken ill. In particular, see 'T' below. 

T – Time – Dealing with incidents on trails takes time, whether self-assisting or receiving assistance from others or the Emergency Services, even if you’ve done everything correct and provided all the essential information. Are you prepared for a delay / wait of not just minutes but hours? See 'S' above.


One of the most important things Martin wanted people to take away was the need to be as self-sufficient as possiblel and to understand the benefit of community reliance, which can often be a more efficient response for minor incidents or that critical stop gap while awaiting the Emergency Services. That said, if in doubt for any level of incident, don't delay calling, even if it's for initial advice - all the Emergency Services would rather have an early call and subsequently not be needed as opposed to the alternative. Finally, mobile phones can prove invaluable when on the trails, particularly in emergency situations, however they're in no way a substitute for careful planning, being prepared and ultimately staying safe.


The MountainBikeNI Community also contributed their thoughts and experiences on how to prepare for an accident on the trails. You can check out what they had to say by clicking the link above, but we've chosen two of our favourites below:


1)    Ride to your ability (Kenny Halliday)

This should be obvious but it can be easy to caught up in the moment. If you’re used to only riding blue trails and you sign a waymarker for a black trail – please don’t take it. Likewise, it’s important when taking friends mountain biking in their early days to give them plenty of warning about features and advise them which ones they should avoid. Eagle’s Rock at Davagh Forest for example is one that you probably don’t want to attempt unless you’ve been riding for years and have tackled similar rock drops.


2)    Download the ‘what3words’ app and register for Emergency SMS (Michael Magee and Andrew Simpson /  Simon Gardiner)

Again this should come with the caveat that you can't depend entirely on your phone to save your life in an emregency. That said, one of the biggest challenges with calling the emergency services after an MTB accident is directing them to your location. If a rider has fallen on his neck or head, it is generally advisable not to remove their helmet or move them from their location – which means the ambulance has to come to you. This can be difficult, particularly if you’re riding along the 27km expanse of Rostrevor MTB Trails.

what3words’ is a free app for Android and iOs that, using your location data will help pinpoint where you are to within 3 metres. The way it does this is great; by breaking down the entire world into 3 metre square boxes and labelling each of these boxes with a unique three world combination. You then simply relay this to the emergency services.

The other tip for your phone comes from Simon Gardiner, who pointed out you can register your phone to be eligible for SMSing the emergency services. This is a last resort, for when your phone doesn’t have signal to sustain a call with 999, you can text the information. You have to be registered to do this however and it’s easy to do; simply text ‘register’ to 999. You’ll receive a reply asking you to confirm and just then reply ‘YES’ to that. For more information, visit their website.


Keep up to date with all things mountain biking in Northern Ireland by following us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Latest comment posted by Joe on February 10, 2021 @ 1:54 PM

(do not publish this comment) Typos in post: I – Injuries – Is someone injured? Who is injured? How did they injure themselves? What are their signs and symptoms? What first aid do you carry? ... Read more >

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

What Does Gortin Glen Forest Park MTB Trails Look Like?

Posted on February 1, 2021 @ 11:21 AM in Mountainbiking

Covid-19 Restrictions have meant that not everyone has got to travel to Northern Ireland's newest mountain bike trail centre in Gortin Glen Forest Park. So we've asked a few of our followers who have been for their photos so you can see what to look forward to!


The majesty of the Sperrins is hard to deny in Leigh Moore's epic snap from Gortin.

David Doherty's panormaic has a hint of the Misty Mountains from Lord of the Rings.

This picture is partly to show off the epic landscape you can expect and part because we want Karl Price's bike

Actually we'd like Darreen Harpur's bike here too please.

The recent snow and frost in Gortin only added to the epic scenery, as shown by another picture of Darreen's (please don't call in those royalties too soon Darreen!)


We love this shot from Paul Hyndman that hints at the scale of the trails in Gortin Glen Forest Park.


This is just a genuinely beautiful shot full stop, courtesy of the guys and girls at Gortin MTB Club. It shows you'll find beauty in more than just the top of mountains.


A slightly eerie shot from Stephen McCay. Dig this.

Flow all day long - picture from Donal Martin.

We're grateful to everyone who shared their pictures. Want to know more about Gortin MTB Trails? Visit their trail page on now and feel free to use the #GortinMTB

Latest comment posted by avgbiker on March 12, 2021 @ 5:28 PM

looks like there could be a proper up-lift service there soon! that could be a hint to some more trails being built also! props to the guys at architrail! Read more >

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Mountain Biking Memories

Posted on December 2, 2020 @ 11:24 AM in Mountainbiking

Memories have a funny way of slipping away from us unless we think about them from time to time. With Christmas approaching rapidly (and in the backdrop of that thing we'll not mention), we thought it was a good time to look back at some of your favourite memories on the bikes. Get the mulled wine out and enjoy some notalgia as told by you guys!


Oh the stories I could tell about how mountain biking has changed my life and is now keeping my four year old son fit and entertained during C19. I lived in Tenerife for 8 years which is where I got into mountain biking.

I went on a tour from the top of Mount Teide (the Volcano) down to the sea. Weirdly I ended up doing it as a job with tourists part time and fell in love with mountain biking. Through a chain of events I ended up back in Belfast and began work as a youth worker and again, oddly, I completed a course to become a CTC MB trail leader and would regularly bring young offenders out on all the trails in NI day and night trail riding. As well as doing it for my own sanity and the pure joy and thrill of it.

My favourite memory has to be bringing my son AlfieBear down to the Castlewellan trails for his first ever session to see how he would get on. We started at the pump track and his interest began...

Not going to lie, Alife already looks more confident here than I was my first time round a pump track

We never left the pump track for over an hour and then toured around the lower level trails. He absolutely loved it and has really taken to it. I was super chuffed and so proud. He has now been mountain biking in Castlewellan, Barnett Demesne and Tollymore to name a few. I wonder is he to young to do the 27k red trail in Rostrevor?

I love what MTBing has done and continues to do for me and my family - the wife also loves it as she gets to stay at home and watch the Housewives of Harlem or something!

Happy Trails Peeps.



I haven’t been into MTBing for that long but this day up at Davagh Forest has been the best so far. Can’t wait to return.

Sometimes it's the simple days out that can mean the most.


My favourite memory was definitely riding the downhill tracks in Andorra with my 7 year old son!



Any day I'm out with my son and the old boys - but this one beats them all. It was my son's birthday, we took a lads trip to Rostrevor, taking my sons birthday cake up to Kodak Corner.

(We wouldn't have believed it if we hadn't seen the evidence - amazing that it stayed in one piece!)

This picture just makes us happy.


We had a super day out on hired e-bikes from Life Adventure Centre at Castlewellan early in October. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to zip up the hills and trails round Castlewellan lakes.

E-bikes have become a game changer for getting more people onto the MTB Trails

Certainly something I couldn’t usually do if I relied on my own puff!  



Besides my KOM at Yellow Water last week it has to be Redbull Rampage in 2003! Still buzzing!

Anyone else feel their palms get sweaty if they stare at this too long?

Glyn is still rocking the MTB world - check out his Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup.



Just that one time in band camp, when I did 4 days in the Alps. Haven’t got on a bike since, scarred for life!

Despite the fear in Liam's face here, he's still following MountainBikeNI on Facebook, so we reckon he secretly enjoyed it!

You can follow us too! Tell us about any of your future memories - find MountainBikeNI on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Mountain Biking and Mental Health

Posted on November 23, 2020 @ 9:57 AM in Mountainbiking

With everything going on in the world at the minute, we thought we'd reshare our blog on the positive impact mountain biking can have on your mental health. Keep on riding!


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.

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Is This Trail for You?

Posted on September 29, 2020 @ 1:24 PM in Mountainbiking

In last month’s blog, we listed some important advice for new mountain bikers. This month, we’re doing a run down of all Northern Ireland’s official MTB Trail Centres, so the new riders amongst you will get an idea of where you can plan your next trip – and, maybe where you should give a miss for now.

It should be noted that as a general rule of thumb, blue MTB trails should only be tackled my riders with moderate experience and red trails by those who have a lot of experience. Black trails should only be ridden by riders who have years of experience.



Barnett Demesne MTB Trails

Barnett is located at the centre of Belfast and ideally situated for new mountain bikers. With the shortest trail length of any of the other trail centres, one could mistakenly assume that short equals easy.

The trails at Barnett Demesne are incredibly impressive as they manage to pack in a huge amount of riding into a relatively small area. They’re also ideal for all abilities, with 3.4km of green trails, 3.9km of blue trails and 1.5km of gnarly red trail. If you’re in two minds about whether to step up for the red trails, you can expect a few more heavy-duty rock drops, a boardwalk and a short log ride.

It should go without saying that the jump park at Barnett is also only for extremely experienced riders.

Blessingbourne Estate MTB Trails

Located amongst the stately ground of Blessingbourne Estate, the trails here are a fantastic opportunity for riders to get their first taste of a red trail. With 8km of red and 4km of blue, it is super popular with local cyclists as a spot to shred a few laps quickly and has enough variety to make things interesting.

There is almost no climbing at Blessingbourne which means fitness levels aren’t inhibiting to new riders and – as with all of the trail centres – there are plenty of chicken runs if you find that you aren’t ready for some of the features you’ll encounter on the red trails. Don’t be surprised to find you have to do this a few times as the red trails also have a number of more severe optional black features!

Blessingbourne also has a pump track on site, as well as multi use green trails around the Estate, so it’s perfect for all the family.

Castlewellan MTB Trails

Northern Ireland’s most popular trail centre, in terms of visits per year. Castlewellan is another trail centre with a range of trails that will be suitable for anyone. The 4km of green trail will suit children and anyone unfamiliar with a bike, as it hugs the trail around the lake. With only one slight climb on the north side of the lake, this is one for the whole family. It’s also worth pointing out that Castlewellan Forest Park has one of the world’s largest hedge mazes, the Peace Maze. After you’ve had a spin, why not check it out?

A step up from this is Castlewellan’s 4.5km of blue trail which will introduce you to rollers and a few small rock drops before merging back onto the green trail and bringing you back to the trailhead. This is very manageable for anyone with limited to moderate experience on a mountain bike.

The red trail is a different story to that at Blessingbourne. At 19km it has a substantial fitness requirement before you even begin to look at the features. With incredible panoramic views that make those short (but gassy) climbs worth it, the red also shows off the full spectrum of features one could want at a trail centre. There are plenty of rock gardens, drop offs, tabletops and more to keep the adrenaline up so it’s advisable to wait until you’re finding blue trails fairly easy before tackling Castlewellan.

For the hardcore mountain bikers, Castlewellan MTB Trails also has two black trail options – 'Dolly’s Chute' and the always popular 'The Great Escarpe'. Obviously only tackle these if you’re an experienced mountain biker. And even then, caution is advised!

Davagh Forest MTB Trails

Davagh Forest is often referred to as Northern Ireland’s hidden jewel in the MTB scene. Located outside Cookstown, visitors may be surprised when they arrive to find a trail centre with over 20km, a skills park and pump track, some great accommodation and the incredible Dark Sky Observatory (opening on 16th October!)

For those just starting out mountain biking, there is a gentle 3km green trail near to the trail head that takes you along some wide off road trails. Adult beginners may find this too easy, but they’ll be compensated with the stunning beauty of Davagh Forest.

The blue trail (measuring 7.5km) is one of the more challenging blue trails in our list, but all the more enjoyable for it. You’ll climb as you leave the car park and continue to do so, navigating some great rock features, and will have your handling skills tested on some mini switch backs. The back half of the blue trail is a bit more flowy and gives you a nice opportunity to build speed. If you’re tackling this, don’t forget that we’ve all got off our bikes when we hit something that looks a bit too tricky. There’s nothing wrong with that!

Davagh’s red trail is a tour de force of how to build great trails in epic environments. After a challenging climb up the ominously named ‘Widowmaker’, you get to explore some heart-pounding single track offering plenty of berms, sharp descents, rock drops and more. Whilst challenging, the red is certainly manageable for non pro riders, provided you have some experience on red trails before. Just make sure to bring a friend with you for this one, as there are a few rock slab features (Eagle’s Rock anyone?) that are worth giving a miss until your skills have grown appropriately.

Don’t forget to give the Stream Trail a visit while you’re there – and check out the fastest times on Strava if you fancy a challenge!

Rostrevor MTB Trails

Northern Ireland’s most famous trail centre. Rostrevor MTB Trails rightfully deserves its reputation as the jewel in the crown amongst the official trail centres, packing a hefty 27km of red trails along some of the most beautiful scenery on the island.

With no green or blue trails, Rostrevor is probably worth giving a miss if you are new to mountain biking, or even if you’ve only attempted blue trails before.

For those who have ridden a red trail before and are up for a challenge – expect everything you’ve read about in our previous trails and more. Rostrevor starts with a leg burning climb of about 5km, first on fire road and then on switch backs. While you can stop to catch you breath as often as you want, this is also a good reason to have either an e-bike on your ride or a moderate level of fitness.


When you reach the breath taking (literally!) #KodakCorner, allow yourself some time to enjoy the epic views of Carlingford Lough and the Mournes, before moving on to a variety of ascents and descents that will skirt along Slievemeen, Slievemartin and beyond. The features you encounter may not be as sizable as those you’ve met elsewhere, but as you feel the burn of 20km+ of climbing, you’ll need experience and concentration to maintain your flow.

Rostrevor, similar to Castlewellan, is also home to a black trail route – this one a more substantial 19km. This trail navigates a heart-racing section of technical singletrack to meet the return route along Kilbroney Valley back to the trailhead and is a much more challenging route only suitable for experienced mountain bikers.

We can’t forget the two purpose built downhill trails; Mega Mission and On the Pulse also require a high level of technical ability to manage the compilation of jumps and boulder fields you’ll find here.

Looking for more information on trail grade specification? Check out our descriptions on MountainBikeNI!

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

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