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Tir Chonnail GAP does Rostrevor

Posted on April 30, 2018 @ 5:52 PM

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.

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