Exploring Donegal 

So with a few days off last weekend and the weather looking ok myself and Andrew decided a wee trip to Malin Beg was in order to check out the climbing and coasteering. Having been there before I was a climber I knew the coastline looked good but didn’t know just how good it would be. The guide book was printed and the car loaded with more kit than we would probably use but that’s joy of car camping. 

We arrived on Saturday evening and got the camp set up above the harbour. One of the most stunning places to camp. A bit of fishing and 4 mackerel were ready for the barbie. Not a bad start!

 

climbing malin beg
Good to ourselves
 
Sunday was cloudy but dry so we hit the crags. First stop was Narrow Zawn. The climbing here was amazing. Really good holds and loads of gear. Totally different to the Mournes! Next up was hulk wall, this was just round the corner but the rock type was different. Few more routes and it was time to call it quits before the rain came. 

A bit of improvisation with the tarp yielded a nice covered area to keep the rain off! 

 

Who needs a hotel?

Monday was to be wet so we decided to go check out Slieve League and go for a bit of a spin. These cliffs are amazing and must be seen. Can’t wait to get sea kayaking under them. The afternoon cleared up nicely and the sun came out for our coasteering session. We spent a few hours exploring the local bays and rocks. Could have spent a week coasteering here and not touched the same rock twice. Amazing coastline and well worth a visit just for the coasteering. 

Tuesday was the final day and the sun was out so off we went to Neptunes Wall for a few more routes. Still tired from coasteering we took her handy and got a few routes done. The rock here was quite brittle, would that cam hold a fall? Once again the climbing was brilliant. 

All the gear no idea?

A brilliant trip and already planning the next! Can’t wait to get back! 

Rocky Bivi

Couple of weeks ago I took advantage of the fair weather and went for an overnight in the Mournes. I’ll put a wee kit list at the end for those interested.

I decided to walk from Newcastle to Longstone to tick off a few peaks I hadn’t been up yet. I set off from Donard car park around 4pm and followed the Glen River and then up the black Stairs. From here I went up Millstone mountain. The views were great of Newcastle.

View Mournes
View From Millstone
I then contoured round to Crossone and dropped down to the Quarry track alongside the Bloody Bridge river for a bite to eat. I learnt a valuable lesson here, Dolmio pasta pouches are tiny and could have done with two. Not to worry, onwards and upwards fuelled by extra Haribo!

Next stop was at Carrs face. The walk up was pretty cool following the old cart track. Would have loved to have seen this place in full flow. Amazing to think the rocks quarried here would have been used to build London and Liverpool. Some of the old pulleys and winches are still in place and look like they could still do a job. Well worth a walk up if you haven’t seen it.  This has to be one of the most impressive sights in the Mournes for me, maybe that’s the engineer in me coming out though.

Newcastle,
Old Winch, Carr’s Face
Next stop was Chimney Rock Mountain and then across Blaeberry Mountain to Spences Mountain. From here it was back down towards the Mourne wall to try to find a spot to camp. The ground here was a bit uneven so an old shelter on the side of Rocky Mountain turned out to be perfect. A wee drop of hot chocolate finished off a great day on the hill.

Bivi tarp camping
Guard Dog
The alarm sounded around 7. I would probably have slept til 10 if it hadn’t. Porridge and a cup of tea got me on the way. The handy thing with a tarp and a bivi is it takes very little time to take down.

Perfect Skeleton
Perfect Skeleton
From Rocky Mountain I made my way cross country towards Carrick Little Lane and dandered back to my brothers in Longstone for a lift back to the car. A good wee walk and could have easily done it in less time but its hard to beat an overnight when the weathers good.

Kit List

  • Tarp: Some light one from backpackinglight.co.uk
  • Bivi Bag: Outdoor Designs assault bivi. I cut the bug net out as I never used it to save some weight. Its a Gore Tex Bivi, but from some googling it appears to be rebranded Event.
  • Sleeping Bag: Mountain Hardwear Lamina 35
  • Mat: Thermarest Neo Air
  • Rucksack: Deuter Guide 35+
  • Cookware: MSR micro Rocket, Tibetan Ti 1litre pot, Alp Kit my ti cup.

This makes for quite a light setup.  Some people get hung up on weight, but I’m not too concerned as long as things work and keep me comfortable. Most of the kit was bought second hand or in sales so hasn’t cost me a fortune. I find the tarp is easily pitched with plenty of tie in points. The sleeping bag works well down to about 5c or so. Any lower I need a liner and clothes on.

Some may read this and think what the hells he doing with a dog in the mountains, but don’t worry he isn’t even bothered by animals as his backyard is full of sheep. Had him on the lead anyway!

Short Rope Practice
Short Rope Practice

Digging

I’ve just finished a wee trail I’ve called “Jump Street”. It’s not the most fun trail I’ve built but it has the most jumps. Something I’ve never really built before or really ridden, so I wanted a wee short trail with lots of jumps to play about on. It has a great variety, senders, kickers and jumps to berms.  With my coaching head on its great. Such variety means you can teach different techniques and you can build up to the bigger ones. 

    

  

This got me thinking about digging in general. So it seems to me there are two main types of Mountainbikers, those who like to build and maintain trails & those who have no notion of it. I fall into the first category. I get as much fun out of building a new trail as riding a new trail.  From near enough the day I started taking biking seriously me and mates starting digging. The beginning was just fixing up existing trails, we weren’t experienced enough to pick our own lines. A mention for myself and my good friend Richy in Dirt mag for helping fix up the trail for the national champs in Rostrevor in 07 made us feel like heroes.

Then we started digging our own stuff. To begin with it wasn’t great, some brilliant sections but there just wasn’t that flow in between. Many years later and we finished a wee beaut in Rostrevor, originally named Supernatural it was soon nicknamed dh3. To see your own trail feature in promotional videos and loads of headcams just makes me want to Build more. 

To me trail building lets you give something back to the sport. Many people won’t appreciate that and I totally accept that. But mtb is growing and the way it is now isn’t sustainable in my opinion. Trails are seeing far more traffic than ever. Maybe we should set up a local trail building crew where we can get the local mtbers together to give a few hours back to help fix up the trails. 

A few top tips if you fancy some digging: 

  • A mattock is your friend 
  • Pick a start point or end point and work from there. Don’t try and join a start and finish point.
  • 90° bends add to the flow
  • Don’t make the entrance or exit obvious 
  • Take a mental note of what works well on trails you like and how it’s been built 
  • Get your mates involved. Saves a lot of time and effort and adds in different ideas. 

Just got out there and give it a go!

Strava Warriors

I’m as guilty as the next person for going out for a bit of strava bashing, but lately I’ve got sick of the whole idea of going for a ride just to beat some random guy I don’t even know! Back in the day me and the lads used to go up the trails and time each other, like a mini race series. The times were recorded and even compared times for different ground conditions. There was no doubt this was making us better riders and helping our race speed. Strava however isn’t always being used like that. People just want to be at the top no matter what. Corners are getting straight lined more and more and sometimes new lines are being cleared just for getting a better time.

But how accurate is it? I doubt it’s bang on the money so the times are more of an estimate than an accurate representation, especially over the shorter segments. It also removes some of the social aspect of a day on the trails. It used to be at every fire road crossing you’d stop for a chat about the last section, get your breath back and maybe even push back up ’cause you messed up a section. Now were just hurtling to the bottom with not much craic in between and very little sessioning to help our riding progress!

Ultimately it could result in a bad name for bikers. A lot of our access and trails is in areas that there are a lot of walkers and horse riders. Many of our trails cross fire roads frequented by these users. If you know you’re on for a good strava time, you aren’t going to take that split second glance to see who’s coming along the road, I’m guilty myself. With no end in sight to the whole strava debate maybe we need to start to alter our building habits and change how we meet fire roads, instead of the straight drop in line we should have a corner before it to slow users and open up riders field of vision to the road. It’s just a thought.

So what does the future hold? In my opinion, if used correctly strava can be a great training aid, but I think it’s going to end up causing issues between users. Bring back the stopwatch and walkie talkies!

So theres my short and probably pointless opininon on the matter.

Urge All M Helmet Review

They say a helmet should be replaced after five years, a few dents didn’t help matters and maybe it should have seen the skip sooner. The old Urge all m had been my go to helmet for a few years now. The full face and piss pot took a back seat now I wasn’t doing as much push up, nail it back down stuff and doing more pedalling to the top. 

With so many trail style helmets on the market, a wee trip to Chain Reaction was called for to see what was out there. It didn’t take long to confirm that urge helmets just seem to fit my head. I felt slightly guilty just using CRC to try stuff on, but I’ve probably spent thousands on the site over the years so they’re just returning favour. 

So I managed to sort myself out with a new Urge All m in matte red. The new colour schemes are a huge improvement. Just make them look a bit more slimline. 

red urge all m
Out with the old, in with the new

So as I’ve said before this helmet just fits. There is no real adjustment other than padding so if it’s a good fit you’re onto a winner. The ventilation is great, such a nice open helmet. Some kids even thought the helmet had inbuilt speakers due to the not so normal vent design. 

The fit with goggles and glasses on is spot on. I run Oakley o frame goggles and flak jacket glasses and they fit perfect. No issues with the goggles pushing the helmet up. 

Some people don’t like the look of urge helmets but I like the unique look about them. The only down side I can think of is its often difficult to get my goggles sitting nicely when they aren’t on my face, but let’s be honest they’re just as well hanging round your neck!

Wicklow Weekend 

So over the Easter weekend we decided to take a trip to Wicklow with the bikes to see what all the fuss was about for the Emerald Enduro! The plan was loosely to go to Ballinastoe, Djouce, Carrick and possibly Ticknock. We packed the wee fabia to the rafters and off we set!

bikes
Riding low

It took a bit longer than anticipated with the car sitting so low but we got to Ballinastoe not long after lunch. A quick chat with the guys at Biking.ie and a “savage” day was promised. Off we went round the trail centre loop. I have to say I pleasently surprised. The centre has lots of flow. Something I feel our local centres lack. A great spin was had although it was a tad moist! A wee bit of tlc wouldn’t go amiss to fill some of the holes that have formed.

On the way back to the car we planned to just cycle up the road to Djouce for a spin round it too. However, the car beside us had been broken into so we decided to get the flock out of there.

Enough kit?

Off we went to Glendalough for a nosey. Would have been rude not to call in. Such a nice spot. Some dinner was made in the car park and we managed to get all our kit dried on a makeshift line. Happy days!

Chef Lynas

Day two we decided to check out Carrick. The home of the EWS when it comes to town in June! There was a lot of hype about the place and we weren’t disappointed. We parked up at the GAA club in Glenealy and pedalled the kilometre or so up to the forest. It was the strangest forest I’ve been in. Full of eucalyptus and the stickiest mud I’ve experienced. The previous weeks rain didn’t help matters! We had a map that the hawk had drawn up for us and this was bang on the money! We started out with a run down the dh run and quickly fell in love with the place! The trails are just so much fun!  we spent the day cruising about the trails and having a blast!
Day 3 and we decided to just spend the day in Carrick again. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it! We decided to find one of the new trails for the EWS. A local described it as “amaze balls, some of the gnarliest stuff I’ve ridden” so we had high expectations! He wasn’t far wrong. The top section was extremely steep, rocky and technical. The fresh nature of the track meant it was hugely slippy. This was the hardest bit of trail I think I’ve ridden, but so much fun. The bottom sections followed a gully. This gully  was about ten metres wide and had berms, drops and jumps in and out. Such good flowy fun! A final run down the dh trail ended our trip. Andy hit the drop off on his hardtail. Fair play to the wee man considering he only started mountain biking in September! Time for home and the clean up operation. Took and age to get that mud off the bikes!

Fair play to Niall Davis and the guys at biking.ie. They’ve sorted out some amazing trails for the worlds best to check out. If there is any hint of rain, its gonna be manic! Get the spikes at the ready.

So is Wicklow worth a trip? 100%. Get down there and ride it. You won’t be disappointed. Just don’t leave any valuables on show in your car and you’ll be sweet!

Five Ten Impacts VXI, First Impressions

After five years of punishment it was time to replace my beloved Impacts. I had always read and heard that once you wear a pair of Five Tens you’ll never look back, but you don’t realise this until you wear them.

  
The old impacts held up well. In the end, a hole in the left sole was the turning point. An amazing pair of shoes but they had their issues. The inner sole was basically just dense cardboard so not the best for an outdoor shoe. They were also quite clumpy and heavy, yes this gave added protection and cushioning but I felt it was a bit too much. The biggest issue was the sponge effect. At even the smallest hint of water they would be saturated.

  
So out with the old and in with the new. I opted for the new Impact VXI in plain black and red. A bit of shopping around an I managed to get them for about £90.  

So first impressions are pretty darn good. They feel about half the weight of the old ones. The upper material seems to be almost rubber like so shed the mud and wet well. Alongside this is a gusseted tongue to help keep the worst out. However this has led to have a slightly sweatier shoe, but in Ireland I don’t think we’ll have many days when that’s a huge issue! The sole is apparently a new version of their stealth rubber, but to be honest I’ve yet to notice any difference to the old stuff. Unless you were to try them side by side I doubt anyone could tell.

  
So far so good then. The only issue is the price point, but if I get 5 years from them like the last I’ll be happy.