5 Tips on Introducing a Friend to the Mountain Bike Trails

Posted on June 27, 2018 @ 5:13 PM in Mountainbiking

We’re fascinated by how people get in to mountain biking. To those on the outside, it’s a sport for people who are indifferent to collarbone breaks, terrifying heights and bikes worth more than their cars.

Obviously there is some truth to that, but there’s also so much more. We’ve put together 5 tips on how to get your friends into this amazing sport. 


1. Start Small

"You mean we're going up THERE?!"

Picture it: You’ve finally convinced your friend to meet you at the trailhead. Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails are your local, so it’s obvious to meet there – right? They get out of the car, look up – and lo and behold, there is Slievemeen starting them in the face. Even the most hardcore mountain biker will be daunted by that sight, let alone a newbie.

Start small and take them to somewhere with plenty of green and blue trail. The likes of Blessingbourne Estate and even Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails are ideal for that. Leave the red trails for the next session unless they are really taking to it.

In addition to introducing them to the trails themselves, do the fun stuff. Send them a link to learn the mountain biking lingo. Both Blessingbourne Estate and Castlewellan have pump tracks, so have a bit of fun trying to get them going as far as possible without pedalling.

 

2. Speak to your trailhead provider

All of the trailhead providers love to see mountain bikers cross their door.

There’s a wealth of information out there for beginners that most mountain bikers never have to consider. What height should the seat be? What’s the procedure if you hurt yourselves on the trails? In addition, the trailhead provider is your best bet if your friend doesn’t have a mountain bike themselves.

Trailhead providers for:

Davagh Forest Mountain Bike Trails – Outdoor Concepts

Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails – East Coast Adventure

Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails – Life Adventure Centre

Outdoor Concepts also do bike hire for Barnett Demesne along with Mobile Team Adventure, and the Lowry’s at Blessingbourne Estate do bike hire and will be more than happy to provide you with advice on their trails.

 

3. Ride ahead (at the start)

Pedals level, seat up, lean into it... You know the drill!

You’ve picked your trails, sorted a bike and all the other bits and pieces you’ll need for the day – now it’s time to actually get moving. At the start, it’s probably best for you to keep ahead of your friend on the trails. They’ll be able to see the lines you choose (presuming you choose the easier ones for their first time) and follow.

Equally, you can shout back to warn them about any particularly gnarly bits. It also has the advantage of keeping their eyes up on you and how you’re riding, rather than staring down at whatever is immediately over them.

Once their confidence is up – and maybe when you’re on a fairly level bit of trail – feel free to fall behind and help coach their technique.

 

4. Stop for a breather

Pit stops are a must when spending hours cycling the trails

The mountain bike trails around Northern Ireland provide some spectacular views, which is just as an important element of mountain biking, if not more so, than the exercise. Most people new to mountain biking will feel the burn in their legs a lot earlier than you will, and might not want to let it show.

Stop as you go around and chat to them about whatever section of trail you’re on. Chat to other riders. Lift some litter.

If your friend is struggling badly, it’s possibly a good idea to recommend they try out an e-bike – particularly for the climbs.

 

5. Fall Off

A  mountain biker crashed out in the Red Bull Foxhunt 2017.

As much as we’d like to say this never happens, if you’re on a bike – it’s going to. And that’s part of the fun. While mountain bikers certainly don’t relish coming off, a small tumble here and there adds to a great recounting of a day on the bikes and generally provides a healthy respect for the trails and your bike.

Remind your friend that they will come off, and that’s okay – just keep the helmet on, the pace steady and the GoPro rolling.

 

All in all, mountain biking’s hardcore image shouldn’t put people off an incredible sport. The rider who does XC every other day is very different from the DH fans. There are loads of different levels of interest and technique and with a friend like you, they’ll get into it in no time.

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Tir Chonnail GAP does Rostrevor

Posted on April 30, 2018 @ 5:52 PM in Mountainbiking

When a group of 11 riders from Co. Donegal visited the Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails we couldn't miss the opportunity to ask them about their MTB experience here in Northern Ireland. Cecilia Holden from Tir Chonnail GAP sent us this epic recounting of their adventure!

 

Very early Saturday morning, the Tir Chonnail GAP Cycling Club mountain bikers headed off to Rostrevor for a weekend of bikes, forests, mountains, trails, tents and craic. Our two team mums, Gerard and Antony promised us much. They and Rostrevor delivered.

We're a mixed bunch in every way: 10 lads, 1 lass, ranging in age from early 20s to the wrong side of 50; and in ability from national downhill contender to enthusiastic novice, with everything in between. We have roadies turned mountain bikers (otherwise known as cross-dressers), pure mountain bikers, enduro riders and “swapped my motorbike for something with pedals”

It was a 2 ½ hour journey, so we broke it up with a coffee stop and a 5 items for £1.99 fry, such good value that some of us had two! What goes in Rostrevor stays in Rostrevor, so I won't name Francis or John B.

 

As we drove through the gates, we'd already forgotten the long drive, and we were straight onto the trails. Our downhillers, Adam and Raymond, headed straight for the uplifts to maximise their riding time whilst the rest of us took on the Red trail.

“You'll be climbing for a while. It's a bit pedally” said Antony. Antony is from Yorkshire where understatement is a way of life. An hour later our legs were screaming, our Garmins were registering a paltry 7k and we were only part way up! But that didn't matter, we'd reached Kodak Corner, and an incredible view over Carlingford Lough and Rostrevor.

On went the climb, getting ever narrower and the turns tighter, with rock gardens and table tops aplenty, helping us forget the effort and definitely getting us warmed up for the downhill. Once in the forest, the fun really started. There are lots of regroup points along the way, which allow everyone to ride down at their own pace and get maximum enjoyment. We had so many spills along the way, we had to count both riders and bikes at each regroup. No injuries all day – well, except for one derailleur.

The forest section is incredible, and for a relative beginner, just awesome. You approach an obstacle thinking “How the flock am I going to get over that?” but you barely have time to celebrate making it before the next one is upon you and the next one and the next one. The boardwalks are something to behold, and are as jumpy and twisty-turny as the trails themselves; the tabletops are set up so everyone can get a bit of air; and a dropper post is essential for the many drop offs. Jaws sore with grinning, we all had a ball!

John B took a corner a wee bit too fast and become an impromptu tree hugger, Cess had a comfortable landing in a bog, and Frank's ribs shared an intimate moment with his handlebars. But it was Raymond who stole the show, performing an almost flawless Olympic gymnastics routine: maximum points for speed, height and grace on the jumps, then a dismount consisting of 3 consecutive somersaults on the bike before parting company with it and adding 2 forward rolls. He stood up and announced “I got that one wrong!”

Back at the centre, we had lunch and pitched our tents. This is where Antony and Gerard came into their own, unloading umpteen holdalls from the vans and quickly erecting gazebo, tents, windbreaks and plenty of chairs, and unpacking a kitchen, tables, many cool bags of beer and the biggest pot of curry you have ever seen – thanks to Mrs Gerard, Amanda. Luckily Hugh didn't need to unpack much, so put his locksmithing skills to great use instead. What goes in Rostrevor....how did you manage to lock yourself out Gerard?

Fed, watered, unpacked and raring to go again, we headed back to the trails. John L, Frank and Francis picked up the end of the Mega Mission and loved every second of their first go. “Savage!” screamed John at the top of his voice, grinning his head off!

 

Dermott decided to take a few snaps, which of course meant riding up - and down - faster than everyone else to find vantage points. Class job!

 

And soon it was time to eat again. What better way to round off the day than a wholesome hearty curry? Food tastes so much better outdoors! And a wander down the picturesque Fairy Glen into town to sample the offerings of the local hostelries.

Sunday morning came way too soon, and that meant more food. How Amanda knew we would need at least 5 sausages each is beyond me, but we were happily replete when we got back on the bikes. Antony had a cunning plan to cut out some of the legwork on the climbs, but it was a Yorkshire “some” and we still had a mighty fine workout. The Guinness was well and truly sweated out of us by the time we reached Kodak Corner. The sun shone for us Sunday, and the views were magnificent across all of the trails.

The uplift service is superb at Rostrevor. (It's run by East Coast Adventure) Adam has his first competition event next weekend, so took advantage to get as many runs in as he could. He and Raymond absolutely flew down the hills. There are a few crossover points on the trails, cleverly laid out to always have a down section crossing an up with the ups giving way. Some of us novices were therefore able to watch the experts coming down. And even the experts were all doing it at their own level. Some jumped the table tops, some rolled over them, each took a different route over the rocks, and many different angles were seen round the berms. Inspired, we carried on up the hills to do our own descents. We watched a father with his 2 sons, no more than 6 or 7, competent and confidently descending the On the Pulse DH Trail, and 3 young lads, not much older, excitedly comparing stories of their runs. Hugh, Antony and Gerard described their own runs as more sedate. If sedate means poised, balanced and in control, then yes I agree, but if it means slow and gentle, sorry boys, I'll have to show you sedate next time.

Several of us did the Red Run again and were pleasantly surprised at how much better we did on many of the obstacles. And also how many new ones there seemed to be. The obstacles on the forest section and the Home Run are literally non-stop, and you barely have time to register them. We rode the berms higher, there were fewer feet down in the rock gardens and many times we took the more adventurous line. The more you ride the trails at Rostrevor the more you discover, and the more you enjoy. We may have had 11 completely different levels of ability, but all 11 of us pushed our respective limits and so the buzz was the same for everyone.

And so the weekend finished. Another healthy feed at the Synge & Byrne Cafe and we were on our way, knowing we'd still be on a high 3 days later. The set up at Rostrevor is simply the best. Ability and fitness are no barriers to enjoyment. If you don't fancy the climbs, take the uplift; the trails are graded and divided into sections so you can find a trail that suits, and just skip the sections that don't. But my advice – don't skip any of the forest sections, they are just too good. And it’s worth the leg burn for the views alone.

11 happy campers will be back very soon.

Class photos © courtesy of Dermott Sweeney.

Not so class photos courtesy of the rest of us.

 

For more information on planning a MTB Trip to Northern Ireland, visit MountainBikeNI.com. You can also find information there on joining a local MTB Club!

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Welcoming Synge and Byrne Café to Rostrevor MTB Trails

Posted on April 10, 2018 @ 10:53 AM in Mountainbiking

Rostrevor MTB Trails recently saw the opening of a new café at it's trailhead. Synge and Byrne is a well established chain across Northern Ireland, and their promise of awesome food, great coffee and outstanding customer service is already being well received by the MTB community. We spoke to Damien Garvey, Director / Pot Washer in Chief of Synge and Byrne about the nitty gritty of opening a cafe at a MTB Trailhead.  

 

Hi Damien, congrats on the new move and thanks for speaking to us! What do you think makes Kilbroney such an attractive place for a café like Synge and Byrne?

As a brand we are committed to Northern Ireland and the best it has to offer, providing healthy choices and engaging in a better working life - so Kilbroney and its world class MTB trails, amazing environment and what it gives to the community and visitors couldn’t sit better with the values of our brand. That and the numbers of thirsty and hungry visitors that arrive every day!

How aware were you of the MTB trails before the move?

Being a local business and the fact that one of the owners is a World Champion Level Iron Man competitor, biking and the local biking scene is quite high on our agenda, so we have been regular visitors to the trails in the winter months since (the café) opened….roadies during the dryer brighter months.

 

Mountain bikers have been known to enter a café with mud and rain dripping from them. Is that a pain or something to be embraced?

That was a frightening prospect at the beginning and we did worry about having some softer seating, but we have used fabrics that can deal with quite a high level of abuse. Besides, they might be a dirty bunch but they have great manners normally and so sit on the hard chairs when they are filthy... usually! So no issue really, every site has its particular challenges and a bit of dirt is fine as the dirty guys are usually the ones that are really hungry.

Have you or any of your staff been out on the MTB trails yet? If so, what did you / they think?

As we said we have been out on the trails a number of times and we have a semi-pro turning pro on our payroll, Jack Devlin and he thinks the trails are the best. If he isn't charming the customers in our Boucher Road branch he is shedding the trails in Rostrevor…. a man with his head screwed on!

 

What would you say is the perfect feed for a MTBer having just come in from taking on the 27km loop?

Definitely one of our Roast sandwich specials. Slow Honey Roast Ham, mustard mayo, rocket on a Corn Dolly award winning bap served up with Sweet potato fries, Zingy Slaw and Pesto Mayo Dipping Sauce... probably followed by a Serious coffee and some chocolate, homemade Caramel Square maybe. The best in the country, Fact!

 

What’s a healthy treat you’d suggest for mountain bikers?

I didn’t know mountain bikers did healthy I thought that was for the runners & roadies! On the occasion they are out with their other half and trying to impress I would say one of our “Bliss Balls” – vegan, Gluten Free, additive free, made locally buy the lovely Lisa and simply delicious washed down with one of our range of Green teas……and back the next day for the S&B Breakfast!!

 

Quick fire round:

Favourite film?

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

 

TV show you’re currently into?

G.O.T……the only one and we get to watch them filming in the beautiful Mournes.

 

Favourite food?

Our own Caramel Squares…..that’s why we bike!

 

Favourite song at the minute?

BB King “Better not Look Down” (not current I know but on repeat in the store at the minute)

 

Worst injury you’ve picked up?

Thankfully just the nasty pussy scrapes and cuts that come with using your ass for brakes on tarmac while clad in Lycra only! One of the team has had the whole Airlift job for a broken leg while competing in the Cooley Thriller a couple of years ago….nasty!

 

Anything else you’d like to share with the MTB community?

Just that we have a café in Slieve Gullion Forest Park and although you have to get yourself to the top it is a real undiscovered gem that should not be missed. Although there are no structured MTB trails ther...yet!

 

Thanks for chatting to us Damien!

Synge and Byrne at Kilbroney are open 9am - 5pm daily. They also currently have cafés in Dungannon, Newtownabbey, Newry, Derry/Londonderry, Belfast and Slieve Gullion. Rigorous food sampling took place prior to this interview. It was delicious.

 

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

An Interview with Greg Callaghan

Posted on February 28, 2018 @ 11:48 AM in Mountainbiking

The 2018 Enduro World Series is rapidly approaching, and some of the big names have recently been showcasing their newest teams and gear. Greg Callaghan, one of Ireland's best known mountain bikers and rider for Cube Action Team has been in training for months now to put himself in a strong position ahead of the series. We got chatting to Greg about his gym routines, hopes for this year's event and also put to him a few questions from MountainBikeNI.com followers.


Hi Greg! Thanks for chatting with us. We know you started mountain biking at 15 - what was it that got you into it?

I was initially into motor bike trials, which my dad and uncle were big into. I could only get out with dad at the weekends though, and I eventually met some mountain bikers doing some jumps. I went up the mountains with them and pretty much loved it straight away. It was something I could do myself and there was a great crowd of ones who would go along.

 

You’ve mentioned Joey Dunlop was a big inspiration which is really interesting. What was it about him that drew your interest?

As I say, my family were big into motorbikes and that’s I knew of Joey. I just think he had a great mentality, you know, he did things his own way and never got a big head. Even when he was working with some of the really big guys, he still slept in his own van and worked away himself. He knew what way he liked to work, and he knew it worked for him.

 

How different is your mindset going into big competitions now with the support of major companies like Cube and Red Bull Ireland, compared with when you first started out with Dirt/Norco?

I guess it’s still similar in a lot of ways, the only big difference is that now I know what I’m doing. Back when I started, I just rode my bike loads and when I was there I’d aim to ride faster than everyone else. Now I’ve got a different approach, but the mentality of wanting to go out and win is the same.

We’ve seen your training video which is beast – has that evolved much since you first started?

I work really closely with my coach, Chris (Kilmurray from Point1Athletic). He works out a programme around my strengths and weaknesses and we go from there. Every year it evolves and it’s totally tailored to me. So my cousin Killian for example, who has Chris as his coach as well, could go into the gym with me and do a totally different workout.

 

I imagine the EWS squad is one big family anyway, but it must be nice to have Killian there with you when you’re on the other side of the world?

It is definitely yeah, him and Kelan and all the guys. To be honest, it’s just great to have Irish people around, I think our humour is pretty unique.

 

Last year was your fifth year in the EWS. Does it get a little bit harder or a little bit easier every year?

Definitely harder. It’s a young sport that everyone is learning super fast how to perfect their skills, meaning the level gets higher every year. I mean, every year you’ll go in knowing of 10 guys that could win and suddenly there are 5 new ones. And the year after there are maybe 20 who could win it. It’s definitely a good thing though, I think it makes the sport more exciting every year and pushes us all to up our game.

 

We’re only a few weeks away from the start of the EWS 2018. How are you feeling for it?

I’ve had a really good off season, probably the best off season I’ve had competitively. I’ve been training well and the body is in quite good shape physically. I’ve got a new bike too which I’m really excited about, but can’t tell you more about that just yet…

 

Which of the trails have you been to in Northern Ireland? Any favourites?

I actually think they’re all great, but I get a real enjoyment out of DH2 (On the Pulse) at Rostrevor.

How important do you feel purpose built trails are for growing mountain biking?

I’d say they’re incredibly important, you just have to look at the likes of Jacob Dickson’s success. He learnt his craft at Rostrevor and he’s doing incredibly well. They also make the sport so much more accessible and gives somewhere for riders wanting to try it for the first time exactly what they need. In winter it also means all riders have somewhere that’s going to be well looked after and improves the safety aspect.

 

How would you rate the quality of riders coming out of Ireland as a whole, and maybe particularly, Northern Ireland at the minute?

I’d say it’s really strong, like I said Jacob is doing really well and Kelan Grant is down training at the minute as well, it’s great to see. 

 

Some quick fire questions now from our followers! What's the best piece of MTB advice you've ever received?

Look up. From the trials years ago, I was always used to looking down, but keep your head up, see what’s coming and you’ve more time to react.

 

Best cardio exercise for endurance riding?

You could get bogged down into it, but honestly riding your bike is the best thing you can do, simple as that.

 

From flisjan: "Hi @greg_callaghan, just one question, is it too late for me to become a pro enduro rider? I started riding 1 year ago and I'm 19 years old. Thanks and keep on shredding."

Definitely not, you just need to look at Steve Peat, who took up mountain biking when he was about 17 and he did pretty well for himself. It’s never too late.

From liam_macgearailt: “Will you ever see yourself leaving Cube and going to another team in the near future?”

No, I’m genuinely really happy where I am and am loving what I’m doing.

 

How many proteins do you eat a day?

So many proteins. (Greg instructs me to bash the numbers key) 648,249,159 or so.

 

From samgeddes123: "Can I have free stuff??"

(With philosophical gravitas) Nothing in this life is free.

 

Check out Greg's visit to Davagh Forest Mountain Bike Trails here, and keep up to date with how Greg - and everyone else - is getting on at the Enduro World Series on MountainBikeNI.com. Thanks to Greg and Red Bull Ireland for arranging our chat! 

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

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 Gerard on February 27, 2018 @ 12:39 PM

OMG, it´s such an amazing post. Please keep on pushing and try to spread your story. We have a blog where we talk about eye health. Maybe you could check this ... Read more >

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

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