Rusty SurginorMartin DunneGareth Beckett
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5 Tips for Preparing for Your First Mountain Bike Ride in Northern Ireland

Posted on March 20, 2023 @ 12:20 PM in Mountainbiking

Mountain biking is a thrilling and challenging sport that can take you to some of the most beautiful and lesser known nooks and corners of Northern Ireland. But if you're new to the sport , getting started might seem overwhelming. There's a lot to consider when preparing for your first mountain bike ride, from choosing the right gear to staying safe on the trails. In today's blog, we're going to share 5 tips for preparing for your spin on Northern Ireland's trails!

  1. Choose the Right Bike

Choosing the right bike is crucial for a fun and safe mountain biking experience. Chain Reaction Cycles is a great bike shop that offers a wide selection of mountain bikes for all skill levels. For beginners, a popular choice is the Vitus Nucleus 27 VR, which is a hardtail bike that's perfect for entry-level riders. With a lightweight aluminum frame, hydraulic disc brakes, and a 1x drivetrain, the Vitus Nucleus 27 VR is a great all-around bike that can handle a variety of terrain.

Another popular option with beginners to mountain biking at the minute is an e-bike. These can be more expensive so we recommend trying them out to see from providers like Bike Mourne at Castlewellan and Rostrevor or Campbase at Gortin Glen Forest Park MTB Trails to see if they tick your boxes.

Choosing a bike is probably the element of mountain biking that requires the most thought, factoring in things such as your height, weight, and riding ability! Again, the team at somewhere like Chain Reaction Cycles Belfast are great at making recommendations.

2. Dress for Success

Mountain biking at its best is a muddy and dusty sport, so be sure to dress appropriately. Wear clothing that's comfortable and allows for a full range of motion. Consider wearing padded shorts and a moisture-wicking shirt to stay cool and dry. A helmet is a non negotiable and gloves are a great addition to help to protect your hands in case of a tumble. We'll go into the helmet needs a little later in the blog.

3. Pack the Essentials

When heading out for a ride, be sure to pack the essentials. Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated and snacks to keep your energy up. You may also want to bring a small first aid kit in case of a minor injury or coming across another rider who might have hurt themselves. Other essentials include a pump, spare tube, and a multi-tool for any necessary repairs. If you're unsure how to use any of these, YouTube tutorials are your friend.

4. Start Slowly

If you're new to mountain biking, it's important to start slowly and work your way up to the more challenging trails only when you feel confident in doing so.

Begin with easy, well-marked trails - greens and blues - and gradually increase the difficulty as you gain confidence and skill. Don't be afraid to take breaks and rest if you need to. Mountain biking is a physically demanding sport, even if you're out with an e-bike, so don't over exert yourself unneccesarily.

5. Stay Safe on the Trails

Safety should be your top priority when mountain biking. We mentioned earlier that the helmet was a non negotiable and that is absolutely true. We recently were pretty chuffed when we saw a group of kids about to head onto the trails without helmets get called out by some older hands - you should do the same.

Always wear a helmet, it could - plain and simply - save your life. Other safety factors whould be to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Again, avoid trails that are beyond your skill level, and never ride alone when starting off. Even if you're an experienced rider, a friend or family member should know where you've gone in case of an accident. 

In conclusion, preparing for your first mountain bike ride in Northern Ireland can be intimidating, but it's also incredibly rewarding. By choosing the right bike, dressing appropriately, packing the essentials, starting slowly, and staying safe on the trails, you can have a fun and safe ride. Trial different rides from local trailhead providers and then visit Chain Reaction Cycles to find a great perfect beginner bike and hit the trails – adventure awaits!

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Top 10 Runners Up from #SendItNI Photo Comptetition

Posted on February 8, 2023 @ 2:05 PM in Mountainbiking

Some might call us biased, but Northern Ireland has some of the most stunning landscapes in which to mountain bike around. When we asked our followers to send us their own pictures from the trails, they backed us up with some incredible vistas.

You can find the winners from the competition on our Facebook page here but in the meantime, check out our top runners up below.



Ryan Shaw

Ryan is catching some serious air here at Castlewellan. As we haven't seen him in any of our follower crash videos, we'll presume he landed this one smoothly.


Russell Irvine

Russell's image looks like a little like a stamp of antiquity, capturing the wilderness of Mournes. Antiquity, except of course for the super sweet bike.


Davagh Forest

Karl Price

A popular spot for a picture but Karl's captures a few extra elements. The intensity of the sun, the blue sky and Davagh's distinctive forest all look incredible here - the perfect backdrop to an epic rock drop.


Philip Bayne

Philip's picture looks like a Bob Ross painting. Every time we see it there's an extra layer, from the colouring to the heat, to the bikes and the trail sign. Love this.


Gortin Glen Forest Park

Geoff Craig

This is a hell of a shot. Geoff captures that feeling anyone who has got airborne has felt; the elation and excitement of flying for a second, E.T. style on the bikes, before a rapid descent. 


Van Dan O'Brien





Michal Owsianik

What's not to love about this picture? A father and two sons taking a break to enjoy the epic landscape of the Sperrins that pave the backdrop of Gortin Glen Forest Park.



Alan Gilkinson

Anyone not familiar with the trails at Rostrevor would be forgiven for assuming this picture was taken in the middle of the Alps.


Paddy J Serridge

This is what it's all about isn't it? Friends, bikes and views.


Scott Henderson

A perfect picture to end on from Scott. A dramatic sun low in the sky, a long trail ahead and a rider enjoying themselves.






























Thanks to everyone for submitting your pictures! You can send us more by using the #MountainBikeNI or #SendItNI, or just email

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

6 Christmas Present Ideas for the Mountain Bikers in Your Life – Newbies and Experienced Riders

Posted on December 6, 2022 @ 2:28 PM in Mountainbiking

It's that time of year again – Christmas is upon us and it's time to start thinking about gift ideas for the mountain bikers in your life. Or possibly just time to treat yourself to something nice! If you're stumped for ideas, here are six suggestions to get you started:

  1. A new mountain bike: This is an obvious suggestion but comes with a large caveat, which we’ll get to. The reality is that for the serious mountain biker, there's nothing quite like the thrill of a new bike. Whether you're looking to upgrade to the new e-bike generation or just replace a well battered full suspension, a new mountain bike is sure to be a hit. Our caveat is that if you’re buying this for somebody else; you need to be pretty damned sure that you’re not getting a bike that would be considered a downgrade or doesn’t suit their preferred riding style. Have a conversation with them and at the very least ask for a brand or two and some suggested styles. Or, if you’d prefer to play it safe, get them a large Chain Reaction voucher so they can do it themselves!
  2. Bike accessories: If a new bike isn't in the budget (the cost-of-living crisis means there’s likely to be a slowdown in bike sales this Christmas), there are plenty of other bike-specific gifts that will no doubt go down a storm. Consider a new suspension fork, dropper seat post, or set of custom wheels to give your loved one's ride a boost. Again, make sure you know the specific make you’ll need; check with a mountain biking friend or your loved one if it’s a gift.
  3. Guided mountain bike tours or rentals: This one is a little different and definitely for the newer mountain bikers that are out there. Companies like BikeMourne offer the ability to hire an e-bike and explore further afield; or you could hire a MTB guide for the trails and get some lessons. In either case, there’ll be an added sense of adventure of doing something different.
  4. Protective gear: No matter how skilled a rider is, accidents can happen. There’s a reason Davagh Forest’s slogan is “Davagh Rocks”. For parents of newer mountain bikers, it should be obvious that helmets are an absolute essential. Thankfully experienced mountain bikers here are acutely aware of this as well and young people riding without any protective gear are frequently called out on the trails before they event get started. Help your loved one stay safe on the trails with a new helmet or some protective gear, such as elbow or knee pads; there are a huge number available from Chain Reaction.
  5. Clothing and outdoor gear: From gloves and jerseys to waterproof jackets and bike-specific backpacks, there are plenty of options for mountain biker-specific clothing and gear. Look for items that are designed specifically for mountain biking and that will help your loved one stay comfortable on the trails, rather than generic outdoor gear. We’ll have a new blog all about this in the New Year.
  6. Maintenance tools: Help your loved one keep their bike in top shape with a bike maintenance tool kit or multi-tool. These gifts will not only be appreciated, but they'll also help extend the life of your loved one's mountain bike.

No matter what gift you choose, the most important thing is to show your loved one that you support their passion for mountain biking and if the budget is a little tight this year – the gift of a guilt free session on the trails with pals is arguably the best any of us can get.

We hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and we’ll see you back in the New Year!



Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Trying an E-Bike from Bike Mourne at Castlewellan MTB Trails

Posted on November 3, 2022 @ 4:06 PM in Mountainbiking

Last Friday I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to spend the afternoon riding around Castlewellan mountain bike trails on a full suspension rental e-bike provided by Bike Mourne.


Who are Bike Mourne? 

Bike Mourne provide bike and e-bike hire in three different locations: Castlewellan trail centre, Rostrevor Trail Centre and from their new Newcastle hub. Hire can be for 3, 4 or 6 hours with both e-bike and mechanical options for hardtails and full suspension. Their rental hubs are open year-round, with opening hours transitioning to 09.30– 16.30 over the winter months.


Bike Mourne also offer uplift services and downhill bikes at their hub in Rostrevor for the weekend downhill warriors.  


Bike Mourne’s Castlewellan HQ is known as Life Adventure Centre, here in the Grange Courtyard 


My Day on the Bike 

The session began with a coffee and chat with Thom at the Castlewellan rental hub who talked me through the bikes they offered and benefits of each choice. For me it was a no brainer – I wanted a full suspension e-bike. Although the most expensive option, I knew that the additional battery power on the climbs and rear suspension through the technical rock gardens at Castlewellan would offer me value for money.  


The start of the MTB journey at Castlewellan


It was to be my first experience on an E-bike, and boy was I excited! I picked out one of the many full sus e-bikes that make up the Cube fleet at Bike Mourne, hoping they were as impressive to handle as they were to look at. I wasn’t disappointed.   


After a pedal around the car park and Castlewellan’s pump track I quickly became familiar with the added push the e-bike provides. Soon enough I felt comfortable enough with the bike to hit the trails! Castlewellan’s trails all start with a Blue trail that then leads on to red or black options, so it’s a good opportunity to warm up as you take in the area’s beauty.


The bike felt natural from the word go, with the flowy first section of singletrack at Castlewellan offering a perfect opportunity to break in the new steed. The sharp climbs that usually fill your legs with lactic acid on the next section beyond the castle proved no match for the e-bike as I reached maximum elevation in record time, as fresh as a daisy!   



A quick break to take in the views of the Mournes 


Then the real test – my first electric powered black trail. The Great Escarpe was the trail of choice and the E-bike was the perfect companion on this technical challenge, with the high-end components being more than a match for the tricky rock gardens and fast sections Castlewellan’s toughest test presents.  


After wiping the sweat from my brow, I followed the red trail back towards the trail head, making the most of each second of the ride home, knowing I may not get the chance to ride a bike like this again for a while.  


As I pedalled back into the Grange Courtyard, I was smiling from ear to ear; the guys described it as the classic “e-bike first timer” face. A quick coffee and a chat with the guys rounded my day off – no better way to kick off the weekend.   


To anyone eager to take an e-bike for a spin around two of Northern Ireland’s premium trail centres, stopping in at Bike Mourne is a must-do. Be sure to check out their website to stay in the loop with upcoming events, such as night rides, e-bike tours and much more!  


For more information on Bike Mourne, be sure to visit their website and follow their socials @bikemourne.    

Harry Reid
Harry Reid  Junior Executive

What to Love About Riding In the Wet Seasons

Posted on September 8, 2022 @ 12:44 PM in Mountainbiking

As the long summer nights start to ebb away, it's easy to become disheartened as autumn (and even winter) make their presence known. looks at the positives of riding out of the warm seasons.


1) Nature is nature all year round

Yew and Holm Oak Trees are distinctive around Blessingbourne Estate


In survey after survey, mountain bikers repeatedly highlight getting into nature as one of the biggest reasons for why they mountain bike. It's easy to see why - problems seem to be smaller, if not forgotten altogether when you're pushing down your favourite trails.

The good news is that the absence of long days or hotter weather doesn't change that. It's a different costume on the same old friend. If you're at at Blessingbourne Estate MTB Trails, you'll still be surrounded with it's ruggedly epic forest - it just may not be as sunny (although we're told the sun is always shining in Fivemiletown...)  All the benefits humans derive from being outdoors are still there - we might just be a little wetter than before. Speaking of which...


2) Splashing in puddles is fun

'Yeo'ing is not compulsary but is advised

This probably sounds a little simplistic but almost every rider has that inner child who loves the thrill of flying through a mucky puddle and feeling it skite up around the bike as we take the next corner. The autumn and winter months provide this in abundance and it makes the hot shower at the end of your ride all the more rewarding. Davagh Forest is a personal favourite of ours for going in dry and coming out like a swamp monster. We love it.


3) Step up the challenge

The burning legs can keep you warm when the weather is against you

Mountain biking in poor conditions is a real game changer. Strong winds and rain coming in sideways all create a different challenge for riders who are inclined to give it a try. Berm dismounts can feel that bit slicker, rock drops become a bit more gnarly and even just the mental push to get through some of Northern Ireland's longer trails (that 27km in Rostrevor can burn the legs out quicker when the weather is against you) mean you feel better than ever when you've finished.

For those who enjoy playing around with their set up, the darker months also allow you to tryout more aggressive tire thread patterns, finding the perfect level of grip etc. It also gives you an excuse to visit Chain Reaction and treat yourself to some new bike tools.


4) Night riding is back on the menu

Davagh Forest and Barnett Demesne trail centres have both become popular night riding spots

As we've mentioned in previous blogs, night riding is a great opportunity to see a trail centre from a totally different perpective. Corners that were before unnoticable can now jump out at you at the last minute. Barnett Demesne MTB Trails has a huge subculture of night riders during these months, many of whom have their most enjoyable shredding sessions at night time (feel free to check out any of the MTB clubs around Northern Ireland) and with the passing of summer, you no longer need to wait until 11pm to get started. 


5) You'll be healthier

Proof that mountain biking keeps you healthy!

Humans tend to get sick more in winter - that's an unfortunate fact and part of the reason our parents hated it when we were kids. Keeping yourself active during this time is incredibly important and there's no better way to do it than mountain biking. If you have kids, somewhere like Castlewellan is ideal as you can all stick to the blue trail, or if they're a bit older, hit the red.

The cold means you'll actually burn more calories than you would if riding during spring or summer; you'll be increasing your Vitamin D if you head out during the daylight and it gives you a reason to get out when a walk in the rain may not seem as appealing.


We hope you enjoyed reading our latest blog. We'd love to hear what you enjoy about riding in autumn and winter - let us know on our Facebook post here.

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

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