Welcome to our cycling Blog. Whether you are a cycling enthusiast or complete beginner, looking for ideas for the family or planning trips with friends this blog will aim to provide you with up-to-date, relevant information on cycling in Northern Ireland. CycleNI.com staff will be keeping you in touch with local events and new routes whilst industry experts will be revealing their secrets on everything from bicycle maintenance to hidden gems for cyclists of all abilities to explore.

For your definitive guide to cycling in Northern Ireland visit www.cycleni.com

Bike Lights and Daylight Visibility: Why Cyclists Should Be Seen at All Times

Posted on February 21, 2017 @ 2:07 PM in Cycling

In our newest blog, our friends at SeeSense explain why bike lights aren't just important for night riding.

What do you look for when buying a bike light? You might consider brightness and decent battery life as being important features, or you might want a light that offers good visibility in the dark. But what about being seen during the daytime? How much emphasis do you place on daylight visibility?

It is a crucial aspect of cycling safety that many people tend to ignore when making their purchase. But when you consider that 80 per cent of cycling accidents happen during the day, and with a significant increase in fatalities within a 10-year period, it’s become evident that visibility during the day is now just as important as being seen in the dark.

A greater onus has been placed on cyclists being seen during daylight hours. Companies are designing bike lights specifically for daylight visibility, and it makes sense when you look at some of the research that has been conducted into road safety in recent years.

Following a study of 184 cyclists previously involved in collisions, Australian researcher Phillipe Lacherez found motorists had “looked but didn’t see” the cyclist before it was too late. He suggested that a solution to this was both wearing reflective clothing and fitting a light which works during the daytime and also at night. Many cyclists sport high-visibility gear when on the roads, but hi-vis clothing only offers visibility during daylight hours as it reflects UV rays from the sun. Lacherez suggested the use of reflective strips on your knees and ankles that allows the lights from cars to bounce back and signal a cyclist’s movement.

In another survey conducted in Denmark, 4,000 cyclists were enrolled in an experiment that again proved the benefit of daytime visibility. In the survey, 2,000 only used their lights during the hours of darkness, while the other 2000 participants used their bike lights all day. The results showed that there was a 47 per cent decrease in accidents when lights were used throughout the day.

Also, since 2011, all new cars in Europe are required to be fitted with daytime running lights because of the proven safety benefits. If large vehicles like cars need to be seen during the hours of daylight, then surely it makes sense for a cyclist to also require high visibility?

Most accidents have been found to happen during the hours around dawn and dusk. This is partly due to rush-hour traffic, and also because of factors including changing ambient light conditions which can make it more difficult for motorists to spot cyclists. Bright, visible bike lights can help counter that problem by giving cyclists more of a presence during the day.

Almost half of fatalities occur on rural roads , making them particularly dangerous for cyclists. There are various factors which contribute to the high volume of accidents. Not only does the speed limit tend to be higher, but isolated routes can also be unlit or have poor lighting. Having a bike light that flashes brightly from both front and rear can alert drivers of a cyclist’s presence before they get too close to you, reducing the risk of a collision or near miss.

Motorists have a vital role to play in helping reduce the number of cyclist fatalities and accidents on our roads. Research has found that 60% of major collisions happen at junctions, with drivers commonly reporting that they ‘failed to look properly’. Better awareness of other road users is a crucial factor of road safety for motorists and cyclists alike.

A cyclist also has to be aware of the traffic around them, and by making themselves more visible they are taking an important step towards improving their own road safety. See.Sense ICON and ICON+ lights have been designed with twin CREE LED lights and a fresnel lens to offer unique visibility during the day. Our lights have a 15-hour run-time with optimised battery use, all which can be monitored and controlled from your smartphone and recharged by USB.

Improving cycle safety isn’t just important for reducing fatalities, it can also encourage more people to take up cycling. And the more cyclists we have on the roads, the better cycling infrastructure can be developed to improve the overall cycling experience. Cambridge University found that 85% of local cycling correlated with the provision of better cycle routes. So if we cycle, they’ll build it, and if they build it, we’ll cycle more.

 

Gareth Fullerton
Gareth Fullerton  Works at SeeSense

How to Prepare for a Sportive

Posted on August 15, 2016 @ 5:24 PM in Cycling

The guys at Chain Reaction Cycles share their top tips for preparing for a sportive. 

Sportive cycles – mass road rides with hundreds or even thousands of participants, sometimes on roads especially closed for the purpose – have exploded in popularity. Non-competitive in nature and generally featuring a choice of distances and/or routes, sportive riders can enjoy the peace of mind of knowing that a full support organisation, including food and drink stops plus mechanical support is always there should they need it. 

Build up your mileage

Get the miles in to suit the ride you’re taking on. Scope out the route so you know what to expect – don’t get caught out by a big climb or tough descent. Strava is a great place to research and find new routes.

Why not track your ride, compare data with friends and upload your routes with the help of a training aid? Heart rate monitors and GPS systems like this Garmin Edge 520 are perfect performance indicators, so why not log your activity throughout this year’s riding challenge?

Shop GPS Bike Computers 

Don’t let a mechanical ruin your day

You’ve prepared yourself physically and mentally, so take the same approach to your bike – make sure it’s in good working order with a kit from X-Tools.

Check that your brake pads, tyres and chainset are in good condition, and that your gears are shifting smoothly, ready for a big day in the saddle!

Shop Work Shop Tools


Bike comfort is key

Contact points, areas of your body in direct contact with the bike, are the main areas you’ll want to look after on big-mile rides.

Your handlebar, like the carbon model from Thomson, plays a key role in how comfy your ride is, offering a variety of different hand and riding positions – on the top of the bars for in-the-saddle climbing, on the hoods of the brakes for going uphill or accelerating, or on the drops for sustained high-speed effort in a lower, more aerodynamic position.

Few items of cycling equipment are more personal – or more important – than the saddle. A well-designed and well-fitting saddle, like the Astute Skyline VT Taca, will make epic days in the saddle a breeze. 

A good pair of clipless pedals, like the Shimano Ultegra SPD-SL 6800, offer a smooth pedal stroke and better energy efficiency. Don’t forget to make sure your pedals and cleats are set up properly for maximum pedal-pushing comfort.

Clothing comfort

The clothing you wear can make or break your ride, so make sure you’re wearing the right kit for the conditions.

Look for a good quality jersey, like this Endura model, that offers effective moisture management and a degree of UV protection if it’s going to be hot.

Rear pockets are perfect for carrying gels, bars or other items of clothing on long sportive rides.

Bibshorts, like these from Endura, have straps that go over the shoulders, rather than a waistband, and are regarded by many as being more comfortable as they are less prone to chafing and have no waistband to dig into the stomach. Your ass will thank you for buying a good pair after a long road ride.

It’s handy to have a pot of chamois cream at the ready – it helps reduce friction, prevent overheating and generally offers a soothing barrier which prevents chafing and pain.

Well worn in shoes, like the Shimano R171 shoes, with a comfortable fit and which offer good power transfer will make the difference. Don’t debut a fresh pair of shoes on your first long ride!

Nutrition and recovery

Hydrate yourself before, during and after your ride – whatever the distance. Eating and drinking little and often will produce the best results, so even if you don’t feel overly hungry, try to take some food on board.

Endurance: Typically loaded with high-energy complex carbohydrates, High5 Energy Source is used to maintain fuel stores prior to or during training and competition.

Hydration: Products like  High5 Zero Electrolyte tablets are aimed at efficiently replacing fluids lost during exertion as well as other key nutrients such as electrolytes (salts).

Recovery: Protein-rich recovery products like the Science In Sport REGO Rapid Recovery helps to restore tired muscles after exercise and aid in the creation of new muscle. 

Now you're prepared don't forget to enter the 2016 Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive on 10th September!

Sarah Nelson
Sarah Nelson  Marketing Officer

Sarah joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in 2011. A firm believer in giving anything a go at least once (unless it involves jumping out of a plane at 6,000ft!) she is always looking for new adventures in the outdoors and can often be found wandering the Mournes or Glens of Antrim attempting not to get lost!

First Step towards Adventure - Mountain Bike Skills with Tollymore National Outdoor Centre

Posted on July 28, 2016 @ 10:57 AM in AdventureCycling

With mountain biking becoming increasingly popular in Northern Ireland, isn't it about time you got a handle of it?! Find out how OutdoorNI’s Bev Pierson got on when she spent a day learning the basics at Tollymore National Outdoor Centre.

Tollymore National Outdoor Centre

Having bought a shiny new mountain bike last year (but not really knowing how to ride it properly) I booked myself onto Tollymore National Outdoor Centre’s First Step Mountain Bike Skills Course, which is an introductory course to the skills required to ride mountain bike trails safely.

Tollymore National Outdoor Centre is located on the edge of Tollymore Forest Park with a beautiful backdrop of the Mourne Mountains. Making the setting even more spectacular was the fact that on the day of my course there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun shined all day!

After arriving at the centre and waiting for the others to arrive, I was able to have a quick chat and a coffee with others who had arrived before me as I was curious to see why they had booked onto the course. Some of them had heard about the new mountain bike trails and wanted to give them a go and thought this course would give them the confidence, one lady had been bought the course for mother’s day and some of the women just wanted to get out and try something new. Our two instructors for the day were Emma and Amy, who were both excellent at delivering and tailoring the course to the group but were also very approachable making the day really relaxed and comfortable.

But before we were able to do any mountain biking it was off to the stores to get sized up for some essentials…a bike, a helmet and some gloves.  

We started the day off in the centre’s car park practising the position of the pedals on a bike (which should be in the same position of the arms on a clock if they were placed at 9am and 3pm) and shifting our weight back and forward on the bike to improve our balance. To put our skills into action we were given a limbo kind of exercise to try, instead of having to explain it I made sure I took a photo of one of the ladies doing it…

Mountain Biking Northern Ireland

Next up was to give the weight shifting a go on the centre’s skills course, which has been designed for this exact reason. I found it’s really only once you get onto this type of terrain that you really feel the difference when you apply the skills you’ve just learnt. Before our mid-morning coffee break we spent some time learning to ‘pop up’ onto kerbs in order to gain the skills to help get over rocks and obstacles whilst out mountain biking. The next item on the agenda was to master the art of braking and cornering as these are very important skills to have when out on the trails and again we practised them in the car park before using our new found skills out on the skills course. This took us all the way up to lunch where we rewarded with a delicious bowl of homemade soup and sandwiches. Though what I was really looking forward to was the famous chocolate brownies that the instructors had been talking about all morning which we enjoyed on the terrace of the centre with a cup of coffee whilst the sun beamed down on us.

After lunch it was time to pull everything together that we had just learnt and put it all into practise on the trails around the centre. This was definitely the highlight of the day for me as we got to mountain bike through the dense and dark forest with the sun glimmering down through the trees and at one point even encountered some buzzards circling above us. The trails we were riding really tested us on all the skills we had learnt that day especially when having to shift our weight backwards so we could tackle a steep downhill section - which we all tried and succeeded in not falling off! 

Mountain Biking Northern Ireland

Once back at the centre everyone was raving about their day and were even enquiring about the next course they could do. I think everyone on the course will agree with me when I say that I learnt far more than what I expected to from the day and tackled obstacles and drops off that I never thought I would have been able to! All thanks to Emma and Amy!  

Beginner, intermediate and advanced courses are available at Tollymore National Outdoor Centre whether you are coming alone or looking to book in a group for a session.  As well as mountain biking the centre deliver a range of courses including, canoeing, navigation and climbing. So don't miss out and contact the centre directly to find out more.

Click here to read part 2 of this blog series and find out how OutdoorNI's Sarah Nelson got on when she attended one of Tollymore's First Steps Canoeing Skills courses- 'First steps towards Adventure- Canoeing Skills with Tollymore National Outdoor Centre'

Beverley Pierson
Beverley Pierson  Senior Marketing Officer

Beverley used to be a keen horse rider but since joining a local cycle club in 2013 she has developed a passion for 2 wheels instead of 4 hoofs! Meaning she can often be found on a bike exploring the roads and mountain bike trails across the country!

Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive – Which Route This Year?

Posted on September 2, 2015 @ 12:50 PM in Cycling

A Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive veteran having completed the challenge for the past 2 years Andrea Harrower can’t wait to get back to Ballycastle for more this September! The question is which route should she choose?  Route 1: The Causeway Coaster (57km), Route 2: The Glens and Coast Route (126km) or Route 3: The Giant Killer (182km)?  A seasoned athlete Andrea is no stranger to a gruelling challenge however equally enjoys the stunning scenery and enjoyment of the shorter route.  So which route will she (and more importantly which one should you) tackle this year, read our latest blog to find out…

So 2013 and its stormy, ridiculous weather I completed the long 182km route, while the gloriously sunny 2014 so me tackle the short 57km route (where’s the logic eh??) ….the question is, does that mean I ride the 126km route in 2015? The Giant’s Causeway Sportive is a firm favourite in the calendar, a fabulous way to see the north coast – even in inclement weather! The world famous (thanks to the Game of Thrones) Dark Hedges are all the more atmospheric in bad conditions - honest!

Giants Causeway Coast Sportive

Some snaps and cycling selfies of Andrea taking on the Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive 

“Why are they called the Dark Hedges when they’re trees?” asked my cycling companion last year. “That’s so Irish”, he added. Needless to say he was an Englishman! Anyway, he had chosen Giant’s Casueway Coast Sportive as his first ever Sportive and had flown over from southern England for it. What a fabulous way to make a foray into the world of sportives, and it was the impressive organisation and sociable atmosphere and stunning countryside that encouraged him to enter further events back home, upping the distances big time in the past year.

As a result, he is eager to come back to do the ‘The Giant Killer in the Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive in the next couple of years – clearly I’ll be telling him to go train on Box Hill before coming to tackle Torr Head Road.

Speaking of which, I did a fab triple whammy of Torr Head on the way back from a girls weekend at the end of July on the North Coast – a weekend so full of eating, drinking and lazing that lastminute.com (as is my want!) on the drive home I decided to make a slight detour and throw my bike out of the car at Torr Head car park and do a wee hill rep session. How beautiful is that place? Spectacular. And that was on a very wet, windy and wild afternoon.

Torr Head Road isn’t the only climb on the biggie 182 km route at the Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive however, a route that is extremely testing for even the fittest of riders – but which promises unsurpassed scenery and satisfaction.

GCCSLeft - Torr Head featured in the 126km and 182km routes; Right - The Dark Hedges which riders on the 57km and 182km routes will pass through 

The same applies however to the short 57route, which is a perfect introduction to sportives for novices, as well as being a perfect ride for experienced cyclists wanting to work intensely over a shorter route, or for long distance triathletes wanting to have a different location for a spin before heading out for a run from the finish area in Ballycastle.

Indeed, all 3 routes appear to be perfect for anybody. Combine this with the efficiency and enthusiasm of the organisers, not to mention the delectable food on offer at designated stops and also at the post-event finish area, and you’re guaranteed a great day out no matter what the weather (or route!)

Book online today to take part in the 2015 Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive on 12th September.  Online entries close 12noon on 10th September. Click here for more details on each of the routes including maps. 

Latest comment posted by linda on March 30, 2016 @ 11:16 PM

My dad use to cycle with the North Belfast cycle club in the 1950s. He remembers a few people from the club. One of the names was Jack Hull. Dad is 89 now but has fond memories of the club and ... Read more >

Andrea Harrower
Andrea Harrower  The Belles

Eternal adventure seeker.... A sports enthusiast, who competes at a high level but who has as much passion for encouraging other females and kids into the great outdoors. Along with 3 other like-minded girls she founded The Belles in 2009!

A Day on the Cycle Sperrins Tour with Far and Wild

Posted on June 9, 2015 @ 4:00 PM in Cycling

On a recent, glorious Spring day I enjoyed a flavour of the new Cycle Sperrins touring route.  Developed by adventure company Far and Wild, these guided or self-guided tours last from one to four days and explore the highlights of this perfect cycling destination, known for its quiet roads and abundance of archaeological sites.


As well as enjoying the beautiful scenery, I got to visit several members of the Sperrins Cycle Consortium, local businesses which cyclists can stop off at en route and get a taste of the local culture and cuisine.

I met the team from Far and Wild, picked up my hire bike and we started our tour from the pretty, Ulster Plantation village of Eglinton.  Close to the shores of Lough Foyle, it’s right beside City of Derry Airport, meaning cyclists can set off on their tour as soon as they land.

Our first stop was Rachel’s Kitchen in the middle of the village, a relaxed café where our choices varied from hearty fries to fresh scones and pastries – an ideal place to fuel up for the day’s journey.

We set off and immediately began to ascend into the Sperrin foothills to the south.  The going was challenging but manageable, helped by occasional stops and the beautiful views which quickly began to open up: over the main summits of the range and back over Lough Foyle.

Our next stop, the busy village of Claudy just off the main road from Derry~Londonderry to Belfast, was reached in time for lunch.  We called into 54 Main Street, a recently refurbished restaurant, café and bar where owner Stephen ensured we were well fed for the next leg of our trip.

Specialties include Sicilian coffee, a range of high quality teas, home baked cakes and pastries and artisan sandwiches.  Their plan is to become a hub for visitors to the Sperrins, by providing packed lunches, changing facilities, secure lock-ups for bikes, a range of meal options including speciality sports nutrition, and transport if needed.

Suitably rested and stocked up, we hit the roads again.  We followed a short but lovely stretch of traffic-free path along the River Faughan through Claudy Country Park before navigating another series of hilly back roads to our next rest stop, the picturesquely located village of Park.  This section, while again tough in parts, was one of the most scenic as we were now in the heart of the Sperrin Mountains.

Our next stop was just a short (uphill) jaunt from the village, and was one of the most unique and memorable of the trip.  Tamnagh Foods, nestled in idyllic scenery in the grounds of a 19th century hunting lodge, is an award-winning artisan producer of cheeses as well as granola, relishes and chutneys.

Co-owner Kevin showed us around the cheese production area and explained the different stages of the process.  Afterwards we got to try Tirkeeran, a delicious new cheese currently being developed.  Visitors are welcome by prior arrangement to see the production area and purchase any of the products.

We said goodbye to Kevin and set off on one of the most anticipated/dreaded parts of the day’s journey.  All day my cycling companions had built up the suspense and challenge of Dart Pass – a minor road ascending the side of Dart Mountain to a high point of about 440m.
The climb was indeed long and exhausting, made bearable only by a chocolate bar break and captivating views of Sawel and Dart, the highest and fifth highest peaks in the range respectively.  My pride was relieved to find I wasn’t the only one who had no choice but to get off the bike and push, on two occasions.  Fortunately cyclists can take an alternative, less tiring route if they wish, marked on the trail map.

It was all more than worth it when we reached the top, however.  After a quick stop to catch our breath, we began the long descent into the lush, green Glenelly Valley and County Tyrone.  This was easily the highlight of the day for me and one of my most exhilarating cycling experiences, helped by the complete lack of cars on this lonely mountain road.

We then followed the main road as it undulated west through the valley, with views of the Glenelly River below and across to the distinctive glacial cut in the Sperrins known as Barnes Gap.

I was glad for a chance to sit down at our next stop, Bradkeel Social Farm.  Our hosts, Mabel and John, treated us to coffee and home-made scones with jam and cream as they told us about their working family farm.  Outside we visited the polytunnels (extra hot in the strong afternoon sunshine), got some tips on growing our own fruit and vegetables (some of which I didn’t realise were suitable for our temperate climate) and watched the animals graze on land which clung to the slopes of the valley. Once again, visitors are welcome by prior arrangement and can stay for lunch to sample home cooking using the farm’s produce.

My day’s cycling ended just a short distance further in the idyllic, crossroads village of Plumbridge.  We called into Watt’s (The Glenelly Bar), a friendly and homely pub which is a great place to relax after a strenous day on the bike.  While I didn’t stay over, there are various accommodation properties in the local area including Sperrins Cycle Consortium members Ballynsollus Cottage (self-catering) and Gortin Accomodation Suite and Activity Centre (hostel and self-catering).

While I was exhausted, it had been a thoroughly enjoyable day and an experience I’ll remember fondly.  It was great to meet the various people living and working in the Sperrins, and a nice sense of achievement knowing we’d started almost at sea level and had cycled up through the foothills and over the main chain of the range – a distance of about 56 Kms / 35 miles (though it felt a lot longer with the challenging terrain).

The suggested Days 2, 3 and 4 of the Cycle Sperrins itinerary take in many more of the region’s highlights (with an option of returning to Ebrington via the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal).  These include the impressive Beaghmore Stone Circles and nearby Davagh Forest Mountain Bike TrailsSt. Aidan’s Church and Holy Well and Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil économusée.  Accommodation options include Consortium members An Teach Glas (self-catering) near Maghera and the glamping lodges at Benone Tourist Complex at beautiful Benone Strand.

As part of the service, Far and Wild provides bike hire and full kit, a map guide, support including pre-arranged end-point pick-up and luggage transfer, emergency call-out, and guiding if required.

To find out more or to book your Cycle Sperrins tour, visit www.farandwild.co.uk/activity/cycle-sperrins/ or www.facebook.com/cyclesperrins

Latest comment posted by Robert Parker on December 9, 2016 @ 1:49 PM

Great post, thank you! My wife and I will be visiting Read more >

Martin McAlinden
Martin McAlinden  TNI's Visitor Information Administration Officer

I currently work in Tourism Northern Ireland's Visitor Information team. Working in this team constantly gives me great ideas of places to explore outside of work which i try to take full opportunity of when i can, whether its to take some photos, do a bit of hill walking or cycling or just see a new area.

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