Bikes, Pizza and lots of Gelato

Five grown men “yeooing” like kids and high fives all round. The German onlookers waiting on their uplift looked confused by this outburst of emotion. If you asked each of us what we enjoyed down that run, you would likely get five different answers, but one things for sure mountain biking is what we love and that feeling at the bottom of a trail is something that unites us.
Finale Ligure, I hadn’t even heard of the place until the EWS rolled into town some years ago. In our last trip to Scotland Ian planted the seed “Next trip Finale”. I don’t think any of us took it seriously, but it ate away at us all and by Christmas the plans were in place. 1 week in the land that helped forge the Enduro race scene. Davy let the side down. He came back from a winter in New Zealand a changed man and didn’t want to associate with us “riff raff”.

We arrived at our apartment on Saturday afternoon. An absolute cracker, secure bike area, washing facilities, pool and to top it off the apartment looked brand new. First things first get the bikes built and make sure the baggage handlers had been kind.

Our uplift wasn’t until 10:30 on Sunday so we took our time getting ready, already starting to embrace the Italian way. No one really knew what to expect, bar Ian who had been here before, so an air of anticipation hung over us. The NATO Base was to be the starting point. This place was eerie. An old telecommunications base for the US Army back in the day. A concrete outpost overlooking the sea miles from any civilisation. It is now the centre of a mecca for mountain biking. Off we headed down “Madre Natura” and as soon as the wheels hit that first dusty corner, I knew this week was to be epic. Halfway down and the Ian’s trusty 29er had suffered a flat. His Huck Norris either saved his rim or failed to anything, you decide. An hour and a half later we were on our way. Brian with some words of wisdom, “stop fecking about fixing tyres and stick a tube in”. We ended the day absolutely buzzing and psyched for the rest of the week.

“We’ll pick you up at the beach”

Monday resulted in me being the most bored I have ever been on a bike. Long descents = long climbs. We climbed from the bottom of “New Rollercoaster” back to the top. An hour of spinning the legs up a moderate gradient, for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how people enjoy road cycling. Ian’s fitness was his downfall on this. I came to the top to see him huddled and shivering with the cold waiting on the stragglers. The boredom was soon forgotten and I soon realised it was more than worth it. Dropping into the trails and this time trying “Kill Bill” and “Madonna del a Guardia”. The views halfway down from the chapel were absolutely incredible. Madonna was a cracker. Lulling you into a false sense of security before breaking off with a tight left hander into rocky chutes and some epic corners. We all came into the hardest section at full lick, a long rocky, steppy section. With a bit of a look this section would likely be easy but coming in hot it was a case of pick a line and commit. To make matters worse we had an audience, some poor soul who had decided to walk this section. To his dismay we all passed him hollering with excitement (more likely relief) for getting through.

Eyes on the prize. Andrew Lynas Photography with a cracker


Tuesday was to be a full day guiding with Finale Freeride. Our guide loaded his Intense M16 onto the trailer, we knew it was going to be a day of epic descents! Toboggan was our first stop and my god does it live up to its name. I was on Ian’s tail down this. He would gain on me through some corners and I would get him in others, every time he stalled in a turn I made sure to remind him that it was the 29ers fault! This was a trail to find your flow, coming out of a corner, wheels planted, body shape perfect, head up looking to the next and nailing it is a feeling like no other. This was going to be a good day, or so we thought. Next stop Rollercoaster. Matti our guide sent us on. We knew this trail and he knew to just let us at it. I lead us down the bottom section of Kill Bill and got to the bottom buzzing. A few seconds passed, Ian had been on my tail for most of it. I was in the zone and didn’t notice losing him. Had I taken a wrong turn? As the moments passed I started to worry, someone was down. Brian rolled down and broke the news, Ian had binned it and hadn’t just jumped back up like usual. Eventually he rolled down. He was in a lot of pain but keeping a strong face. Matti and one of our fellow group members got to it and started patching him up. It wasn’t the cuts that were the problem, his shoulder was in a bad way. Ian, our leader, the one person who had probably taught me more about biking than any other was out of the game. This was a not so subtle reminder that we weren’t invincible and mountain biking is a dangerous game. It took a while to get back into it. The atmosphere was a bit shit in the afternoon. It turns out me leading the way is not a good idea. Eddie binned it over a small rise into a corner whilst on my tail. His thumb was mangled! Disaster. Back at the apartment we regrouped. Ian was out for the week and potentially longer. Eddie had a gammy thumb but with ample strapping he might make it out another day.

Too many cooks…


Wednesday was an enforced rest day. It rained all day so uplifts were cancelled to preserve the trails. Cabin fever soon set in. A trip for Gelato was the highlight of the day, but this Gelato is like no other. The best ice cream you will ever experience.

Valleys of endless possibilities


Myself, Andrew and Brian rocked up to the uplift centre on Thursday for one of two uplifts. Eddie and Ian left behind licking their wounds. Unfortunately, uplifts were cancelled again. Mountain biking has become a huge industry for Finale, so a sustainable attitude towards the trails is to be respected, but you couldn’t help but be frustrated. Time was running out and all we wanted to do was ride our bikes! Plan B was to pedal somewhere. We reviewed the map and made for the San Bernardino area. This was a surreal area. Riding through ancient terraces on a hillside, it was epic. The steep hillside also resulted in the hardest trail I have ever tried to ride. “Pianarella”, steep rocky switchbacks. A couple of Hail Mary moments all round, but we made it down in one piece, albeit battered and bruised!

Strange sites in the hills


Friday, where did that week go. Eddie got the strapping out, he was going to get one more day in. We started with an uplift from Finale. We had planned another pick up at 12:00 from further up the valley so everything had to go to plan. A Swiss man had other ideas, he took it upon himself to join the uplift without a booking. Half an hour late we rolled out. We were late to the top. No time for messing about. The rain over the last couple of days left the trails in amazing condition. The dust was now mostly hard pack and there was so much more grip. A new trail to was on the list “Mini Champery”. It lived up to its name. A masterclass in trail building with epic corners. We rolled into Feligno at 12 on the button, perfection. We finished the week on one of the favourite trails “Ingegnere” the perfect end to the best weeks biking I’ve ever had and potentially the best holiday I’ve had.

NATO Base, the Five admiring the views


It wasn’t just the biking. The food, the people and the ice cream made this week one to remember. The craic was 90 all week despite the injuries. Barry Scott helping to ease the tensions. Everyone in Finale was happy to see you. They’ve embraced mountain biking and are prospering off the back of it. Every uplift van and trailer was full. The pubs and cafes in the town were full of bikers. They’ve turned this place into an absolute mecca and I can’t wait to get back.

 

 

 

Scottish Alpine

Last week saw me taking a trip to the Highlands to enjoy/suffer some winter climbing. The plan was simple. Meet up with Andrew, get back into the swing of the winter stuff and climb some routes. The weather had other ideas. A bit of a thaw had left conditions a bit on the lean side, to say the least!

The last of the snow
Thursday was to be a refresher day. Get the crampons on, dig some belays and get back to grips with the whole winter lark. There was a bit of snow hanging in around Cairn Lochain so we headed up here, along with every other sinner and the  ptarmigans seeking out some winter conditions. After a bit of route finding through the bogs which should have been frozen, we made it to the snow slope. Crampons went on and up we went. A couple of ice axe belays and the like and we called it a day for the winter stuff. Unlikely we’d be needing it. We dandered on up round to Cairngorm and back down via the ski slopes, a bit of a strange experience with the total lack of snow.

Happy with the buried axe
10,000 years bad luck apparently
Ski practice
Day 2 took us to Ben Nevis. Kris had informed us there was still some snow hiding in No.3 & no.4 gully. An early start meant we were at the North Face car park for just after 8. A bit of a slog up the path was well worth it. By the time we reached the hut we were above the cloud line.

The view from the hut
From the hut to the snow slope was a nightmare. This had to be the slickest rock around,  bambi wouldn’t have a look in!

We donned the crampons and made our way up no.3 Gully. The going was a bit awkward. The footsteps were well frozen and you just couldn’t get a good rhythm going. However as it got steeper the going got a bit easier. A great wee route to get a bit of a taste for Winter Climbing again.

Ascending no.3

Once at the top, we got ourselves some grub. The views were simply incredible. Cloud inversion and sunshine made it look like the Alps. The conditions may not have been up to much for climbing, but when you had views like that it more than made up for it. My first time up the Ben so a quick jaunt to the top was in order.

Incredible views from the Cairn

Our descent took us down No.4 Gully, it was easy enough going and didn’t take us too long to get back to the hut. From here it was a quare slog back to the car. Would be a fun line to try on the bike! We got back to the car for around 4 or so, not bad going.

Descent of no.4

Day 3 saw us joined by Andre. We decided to head back into the Cairngorms for a bit of scrambling. The plan was Fiacaill Ridge and possibly Afterthought Arete. We flew up the Ridge overtaking a few groups. This was a fun wee section with some great views and a nice balance of exposure and technical wee steps. At the top we grabbed a bite to eat and had a nosey at the map. We decided not to bother with Afterthought Arete and just go for a dander round the plateua. Another beautiful day up top. Sun splitting the rocks, just what you expect of Scottish Winter!

Heads down missing out on the view

Day 4 and the weather had changed slightly. There was a small dusting of snow on the ground and it was very overcast. We decided to give Curved Ridge a go. The going was awful. The fact the rock was dusted in snow meant every foot hold was slick. Had there been more snow or no snow at all we would have flown up this, especially considering the speed Andre flew up Fiacaill Ridge on Saturday. But it hampered our progress significantly. There were a couple of moments of “why the feck do we bother” but once at the top we realised it was actually good fun despite there being no views at all.  The descent was horrendous. You had to think about every step and more often than not you’d be slipping on something. We eventually made it down in one piece.

Andre keeping a good eye out

So overall a good trip was had. The conditions were terrible for climbing, but the views were magnificent. It more than made up for things.

James and M

Thanks to Andrew and Andre for their company and also to Jonny Parr for the accommodation and advice while we were there. I’ve been out with Jonny in the hills alot and he is one of the best instructors about so look him up if you’re looking at giving Winter Climbing a go, he may be able to squeeze you in this Winter http://www.jonnyparrclimbing.com/ .

Not your typical spin

The forecast was awful for Saturday. Rain, followed by rain and more rain. It was one of those days where you know you really couldn’t be bothered to go out in it, but neither me nor Andrew had the heart to bail. We’d planned on doing this for a while. Spurred on by doing the Brandy Pad and Binnian in recent months we knew it had to be done sooner rather than later. 

Friday night we got the route planned. Rostrevor to Newcastle throws up a lot of possibilities. Do we want to stay completely off road? How many peaks do we do? What will be the best descent? After getting the route sorted it was time to sort the kit. I knew this was going to be an all dayer so needed to pack properly. Plenty of food, extra tube, extra layers and a head torch were the essentials. The rest of the stuff was what’s always in my bag, pump, tyre levers, leather man, multi tool and various other bits and bobs. 

All the gear, no idea

Saturday arrived and off to Newcastle I went. My car would be at the end point. Andrew picked me up and by this stage we had a new recruit with us. Josh, one of the new trainees at Tollymore was to join us. I’m not sure if he realised what he had let himself in for! 

We set off at 10am into the rain. The first part was easy. I knew exactly what to expect. This was my standard Sunday morning spin back in the day. Rostrevor to Leitrim lodge. A nice wee warm up to get the legs ready for the day. The boys really enjoyed the last approach into Leitrim Lodge, pity it wasn’t any longer!

From Leitrim lodge it was up the Ulster way. The descent from the col of Rocky and Tornamrock was our first real taste of the open mountains on the day. A large covered hole left me clutching at the air trying to find solid ground. The front wheel had almost completely disappeared beneath the grass. The landing was soft so I walked away without a scratch. 

Descent towards Rowan Tree River

From here it was over to Rowan Tree river and up around the side of Cock mountain. Tough going in the long wet grass. This was probably the biggest slog of the day. Some serious man handling of the bikes to get through this. Off the side off Cock was epic. Massive steep rock slabs. Weight back and pray the tyres grip! The cloud came down at this stage so a bit of nav was needed to get us round Slievenamiskan and down below Spelga Dam. Lunch stop along the Bann was well deserved. The climb up past Spelga was tough and reminded me why I’ve never had the urge to take up road cycling. Andrew scraped a few quid together to get a chip for the lads at the chippy van in the car park. A pleasant surprise and a real moral booster. 

Shelter


From here it was up round the road to the Ott track. The track itself was tough going on the bike. The shale not doing us any favours when putting the power down. Wheels spinning everywhere. 

From the wall we contoured round the hills following the path towards Bernagh. Some nice sections along here, but nothing sustained. At this stage we were starting to feel the day catching up on us. Any climbs were starting to sap a fair bit of energy. 

The descent down towards the quarry below Hares gap was so so good. Just what was needed to get some psyche back. Next stop Hares gap. Me and Andrew had been up this way before. Always good to get back on familiar ground. Josh got his first real sense of hike a bike here. No chance you can push your bike along here, on the back it goes and hope to god your legs still have the energy to pick a line through the boulder strewn ground. 

Sundew

Another rest was called for at Hares Gap. Here we met a lot of people heading home for the day, trying to figure out had we seen the forecast or if we were just a bit mental. 

What a view


From here the route was simple. Follow the wall to Commedagh. Well I say simple but this was a killer. Very little time on the bike here, lots of steep ground to cover.  I lost the lads on the last ascent to the top. I think this was the first time I’ve ever lost Andrew on a climb! The water tower a welcom sight through the cloud. I’d never felt such relief to see the top of a mountain. The two lads soon appeared through the clouds, looking a bit worse for wear by this stage. However, some snacks and we were psyched for the route ahead. Once again the descent entailed getting the weight on the back wheel and hoping there’s no holes under the grass and heather. We made it to the top of Donard forest unscathed by the descent, but absolutely shattered. At this stage the sun was out. Eagle rocks appeared through the mist. An amazing sight to end the day. 

Eagle rocks never looked better


A few trails through the forest and we were back at the car praying I hadn’t forgot the keys. 18:00 was the time. A long day. 

This was without doubt one of my favourite days on the bike. I love being in the mournes and having my bike makes the descents so much fun. Having checked the forecast I wouldn’t normally go out in the onslaught of rain that was forecast. But with two ML awards and two MBL awards between us we were never going to be out of our depth in the hills in those conditions. 

However I wouldn’t recommend the route to everyone. It took a lot of energy, planning and motivation to complete it. At times we had to rely on a map and compass as visibility was less than 20m. 

If you have experience of big mountain days go for it. If not, get a guide for the day or stick to the forests!

Rocking the tweed

Last week saw myself and Andrew returning to the Tweed Valley. This was my 6th trip to the area, some would say it was time for something new but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!

The big difference between home and the Tweed Valley is the length and volume of trails. It’s definitely worth the trip. There’s something for everyone. Family trails in Glentress, harder routes in Innerleithen, some of the best natural trails in Golfie and some big mountain routes in between.

 

Filled to the neck
Standard Ferry pic
A late ferry meant a few hours kip in a lay by outside Stranrear before trucking across to Peebles. 3 hours later and a can of Red Bull and we arrived at Glentress at about 7am. Another couple of hours kip and off on a lap of the trails. The highlight was seeing 3 grown men riding with no helmets, one even had knee pads on! Natural selection and all that.

Idiots
Idiots
Saturday saw us meeting up with Andre and another lap of the red in Glentress. Cool Runnings was the only change from previous years and a brilliant addition! Spooky wood as per usual was so much fun.

Spooky Wood
Spooky Wood
Day 3 and we headed off to Innerleithen. Up the Southern Upland Way straight to the top of Minch Moor. Such a nice climb with great views. We descended down the red. It’s starting to get a bit ropey in places and could do with a bit of tlc, but nonetheless great fun to ride. A bit of a push up to the top of the DH trails and a run down Make or Brake and some sessioning. It’s a testament to the guys who built these trails that advanced riders can be challenged, but other riders can still get down them and have fun!

Southern Upland Way
Southern Upland Way

Make or Brake
Day 4 and 5 was dedicated to the Golfie. The sheer amount of trails here is mind-blowing. This is where the new Orange Five got a serious testing, but performed with flying colours.So stable through the rough and railing round the corners. A spike on the front would definitely have been useful for the typical summer conditions. The Scots like their steep muddy trails apparently.

The pick of the trails has to be Nae Spleens and Flat White. Nae spleens being steep and technical and Flat White being perfect berms top to bottom. Like nothing I’ve ever ridden!

Eyes on the prize
Eyes on the prize

Golfie View
Golfie View

Andrew keeping 26" alive
Andrew keeping 26″ alive
Day 6 was a quick blast at Inners. Too Hard for the EWS and Caddon Bank to finish off another amazing trip to the Tweed Valley.

Big shout out to Craig at No1 Peebles Road for the great food and tea and also for pointing us in the right direction. Make sure you call in next you’re in Innerleithen.

Still more to do next year, Cademuir, Thornielee, Yair and plenty more. Time to get planning!

Thanks as always to Orange Bikes, Urge Bike Products and Gamut for keeping me rolling!

New Bike Check

More exciting than Christmas morning, waiting to come home to that delivery. 

After a fair few years on my 2010 Orange Five it was time for change. The forks were feeling tired, but upgrades were limited by 1 1/8 steerer; I wanted to give tubeless ago, but 27.5 was now all the rage and the rear hub was cracked so a new bike was the most sensible option. Well that’s the story I’m sticking with. 

orange five 2016 mountain mint
The steed

So I decided to stick with Orange. I really liked the five, it could do anything and go anywhere. The new one is quite similar, but slightly longer, slacker head angle and a steeper seat angle. These changes really make a difference. From the limited time I’ve had on it, it feels perfect. Point it through a rough patch and get off the brakes and it will pull you through. 

The 27.5 wheels are something I didnt think I would notice. The speed you can carry is such an added bonus. Tubeless tyres are also something that really improve the feel across the ground. Hard to describe, but it feels like you’re stuck to the ground rather than bouncing over it.

The model chosen was the factory with a few small changes. 

  • Forks: orange 34 factory 140mm
  • Brakes: hope tech 3 e4
  • Shock: fox float evol
  • Wheels: Hope pro4 with Easton arc 27 rims
  • Tyres: minion dhf and High roller 2 rear
  • Seat post: reverb stealth 150mm drop
  • Cranks: race face sixc
  • Mech: Sram xo 11 speed
  • Chain guide: gamut trail sxr
  • Bars: gamut cillos tr
  • Stem: gamut cillos 50mm
  • Grips: odi Troy lee 
  • Pedals: gamut podium 

Hope brakes, ODI Troy Lee

Brakes with all the adjustment you could need. Taking a while to get these where I want them, but they pack so much power and great feel. 

Fox 34, Floating rotors, enduro guard

These forks are such a step up from my previous 2010 32s. Can really notice them tracking a lot better. 

Right hand reverb lever mounted on the left
Velcro keeping it neat and quiet
Velcro is my preferred chain stay protection. Looks neat and really dampens the sound. 

The 11 speed seems a bit excessive to be honest. However, having that bail out gear is a nice bonus. 

Race Face six c, Gamut Guide

Carbon cranks, a bit of a luxury. Gamut guide with taco. Wanted a bit of protection to protect the chain ring for when out coaching and guiding to limit any potential damage. Gamut guides are the best on the market too. 

30t chainring seems just about right. Used to run 32 but the 30 saves a but of energy on the hills. Gamut will have cinch compatible rings by July so will get it switched out. 

Gamut Podium Pedals

I have never put my foot on nicer pedals. Just look at the thought that’s gone into these. Hollow pins to increase grip and allows them to breakaway easier without damaging the body. Tapered leading edge to limit damage of strikes. 

Gamut Cillos bars and stem

I didn’t like the 35mm stem that came on the bike, so swapped out for the Gamut cillos. Lovely looking stem and so light. The bars are 760mm and feel really nice so don’t think they’ll be getting cut down. 

Perfection

So far so good. Absolutely loving this bike. It feels so balanced and I haven’t even got the setup dialled in yet. 

Big thanks to Orange Bikes and Gamut for sorting me out!

Now what?

So I’ve been a bit quiet on this front the last while as I’ve been pretty focussed on my MBL Award. Last week saw myself and two others become the first to achieve this new award from Cycling Ireland, so a proud achievement!

MTB Mournes
MBL Assessment

18 months ago I started out at Tollymore. I had no formal awards, but had plenty of experience in mountain biking. It didn’t take long to get my TCL award but I wanted more. I didn’t want to be limited by the remit of an award, I wanted to be limited by the skill and ability of the guys and girls I was out with. This led me to the new version of the MBL award.

CI had put alot of effort into to developing this award. Having taken the Scottish Cycling equivalent, they went on to redesign it from the ground up to include alot more focus on coaching. Assessment went from one day to two days and the award slots into the European Qualification Framework at the top end, above the equivalent British Cycling qualification so a handy one to have.

For me, coaching is just as important as the guiding. Everyone can benefit in some way from coaching, so for guides not to have the skills to do this is ludicrous. British Cycling have abandoned the MBLA scheme in favour of their own  shceme, which leaves coaching out as an optional extra! This disregard is sad to see, but highlights how Cycling Ireland are committed to developing a good pool of coaches as opposed to developing awards to create profit.

The assessment itself turned out to be two great days, sunshine and great trails. The first day was focussed on coaching with lots learnt. If you don’t learn something on assessments you’re doing something wrong. Day two was focussed on leadership with one of the best days riding I’ve ever had in the Mournes. It was nice to actually enjoy the assessment and not be stressing the whole way through like some other awards.

Now I’ve finished this chapter I’ve been trying to figure out what to do next. Its strange not having an award to focus on but maybe it’s time to start working on the log book for MIA, what’s the worst could happen?

Five Ten Impact vxi review

So, I’ve had these for nearly a year now and it’s time to update the review.

Overall it’s a mixed bag of feelings for these. I wore the old ones today just to remind me what they were like and it reminded me of how good they were.

20150925_153606703_iOS

The new Impacts are a pretty well thought out pair of shoes and a lot different form the originals, however having worn them for a year I don’t really think they’re a huge improvement over the previous model. Don’t get me wrong, they’re a brilliant pair of shoes and still one of the best on the market with a lot going for them but I just feel they’ve lost what made five tens so good- comfort, support and durability.

Pros:

• Light- these are a lot lighter than the original and its noticeable when you’ve them on all day
• Grippy- they seem to be slightly grippier than the previous ones i.e. They stick like nothing else
• Quick drying
• Hard wearing uppers, the uppers hardly look marked so far

Cons:

• Don’t drain well. As there isn’t a gusset on the tongue they fill up with water pretty easily. Once full they don’t drain well and with less padding in them don’t keep your feet as warm as the previous version.
• They aren’t very comfortable for walking about in all day. Sessioning or digging leaves my feet sore.
• Sole isn’t hardwearing. Already these are showing significant wear on the soles unlike the old ones which lasted years.
• Sweaty- in the limited heat we get these get very sweaty and don’t breathe well in the slightest.

Sole wear not as good as predecessor
Sole wear not as good as predecessor

So basically there are some small niggles. Overall they seem a more refined shoe than their predecessor but that bulk of the old shoe gives you a lot of support, especially for those foot flat out scenarios where running flats comes in to its own.

Overall they are still a brilliant shoe and should definitely be on your list of potentials. If I were buying again, I’d probably go with the previous version, but who knows what’s in the pipeline!

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!