I got invited during the week by Tom Tom and Garmin to do a spot of mountain biking yesterday in Balinstoe woods. Tom tom and Garmin you might recall are the 2 club members that went MTB’n on mount Leinster last season and got lost for 6 hours, hence their nicknames.
I have a MTB bike the past 3 years but never really rode it in anger, so I thought I might as well. Kevin called for me at 8am sunday morning, I was on the verge of not going as my young lad, Charlie, had the vomitting bug and when he is sick, he wants to share ‘daddas bed’, I suppose so he hasn’t to travel to far to vomit directly on me. Anyways, after 4 hours sleep and 3 changes of bed sheets I was off…. We drove up to Kens house to throw the bikes into his van and head on… on the way, thankfully it was early morning as Kevin still half asleep drove through a junction without stopping, much to my disbelief… I know moutain biking can be dangerous, but I didn’t think it started the minute you got into the bloody car. We arrived at Kens and switched to his van and drove on, again within minutes, while Ken was preoccupied with the million of wires that hung down from underneath his dashboard, he didn’t think to look where he was driving, so I had to push the steering wheel to the right to avoid the ditch at the end of his drive….
With the usual banter and slagging that goes on at these things we were soon at Ballinstoe… it was damp and misty but not raining. We kitted up and headed on… the first part of the 14km route was a long climb, one to really open the lungs and hurt the throat…. we plugged away at a snails pace, but it soon came apparent that the temp was alot hotter than I thought, so I had to take off a few layers. After 15 mins of climbing we reached our first section of single track. Kevin been a seasoned pro at mtb’n, he lead the way and he left me for dust, as this was my first time in years, I was taking it slowly, actually too slowly… the faster you travel on terrain like this the better, but its easier said than done. Ken was behind me making sure I was ok… It took I think 10 mins of so to finish that part and again we were back out onto fireroad.. with another long climb up the mountain. Climbing on an MTB ain’t easy even with the 1000 gears at your disposal… but like most climbing get into a gear and keep a steady pace… thats what I did, but the heat was getting to me, but I had to suffer it as I hadn’t much else to take off. We soon reached the second section of track… more flat and less techincal…. I started to take a few more risks and push it a little bit. The only problem I had was the pedals I was using where standard BBB pedals, not much grip… I had a pair of SPD’s, but I hadn’t the confidince to use them, as you need to put the foot down the odd time pretty quick, and last year in Bunclody, the 3 times I fell was because I was unable to get my foot down quick enough. So as the muck built up the foot got increasingly slippy. The tracks are well maintained with the odd tree stump in the way for you to worry about and also the little rock mound steep enough to make sure you have good speed up to get over it.
I got through that section with ease, again not too techincal, but the next climb was a leg breaker and it hurt… I was gasping, and sore, but battled on. The 3rd section was great, by now my confidence was better again, and this route was fast and not to technical, and in the middle of is a section on a purpose built boardwalk for the bikes through a marsh.. it was class, even with the wood been damp it still had good grip… I sailed through this part… again with Ken behind me… however from time to time, I would jam on the brakes unexpectily, not unpurpose, but been the slower rider it was funny to hear Ken behind jam on his brakes to avoid running into the back of me!…..
By now we were in the middle of the route, high up in the clouds and I was totally lost, I believe the views are spectacular from here, but I would have to wait another day to see this as the weather had closed in, but the rain was holding off… We were quickily to the next section, again through the woods and nice and fast, the only thing holding me back was my feet slipping all the time, but I’ll have that sorted for the next trip… half way through this part I could hear a rattle on the bike, my back disc brake had come loose… thankfully Ken carries a rucksac the size of a small farm animal on his back and has everything in it… and I mean everything… We managed to secure the brake in place with cable ties and we got moving again.
After another short trip we were back on the trail, a rocky one at that and required some skill to stay upright… By now Ken was infront of me, tired off running into the back of my bike because of my dodgy bike handling…. As I came out into an open part I heard a crash, I wanted to look up but couldn’t but I knew someone had hit the dirt, it was Ken, a nice auld slap he got. Myself and Kevin laughed at him first, then made sure he was ok, then laughed somemore and rode on….
By now we were in the final 3 km of the route and I was tired… this was hard cycling, but good.. So We made a bee line for the cars as I was going to call it a day, I actually couldn’t hold the handlebars any more my arms were that tired, it was mainly due to the fact because of nerves I was holding on so tight each time my arms now weighted a tonne… The last section was a nice fast run all the way to the bottom, I lead the way and was able to match the lads for pace as by now I was getting more confident, plus the route wasn’t too techincal.
The rain had really started by now, so i called it a day, the lads went out for another 30 mins as I got changed… soon we were on the road home, wet, tired, laughing and stuffing our faces with crisps… Highly recommend anyone to give the MTB a go, A great day all round.