Tag Archives: mtb

a mechanical in lockdown

I’m not the handiest person when it comes to bicycle repair and maintenance and my main cycling fear during lockdown is that I would break something beyond my basic repair skills. That happened yesterday!

My cycling mileage has steadily decreased over the 8 weeks of restrictions but the MTB has been neglected the most. Apart from a short and uninspiring spin around the local roads my MTB hasn’t seen much use since since the end of March.

On Tuesday our exercise restriction was relaxed to allow us to go up to 5km from home for exercise. This covers two and most of a third forestry area that are perfect for a 60-90min blast on the MTB. On our last couple of visits to Monellan for walking we also discovered 2 new trails off the main tracks and perfect for a bit of “natural” MTBing.

On Friday I managed to shake off my resurgent cycling ennui and decided to dust off the MTB. Down the road, across a rough farm track, back on the road for 2km and into the woods. The first bit of trail runs down the side of the river and along the original estate wall before meeting up with another trail. Along the wall the trail passes through a number of narrow gaps between trees and on some of these someone has added piles of small branches to create small jumps for ponies. These also make perfect small jumps for a MTB. The third jump has been made too big to take with a bike so I detoured to the left to avoid it. As I passed I didn’t see the end of one of the branches sticking out that managed to catch my rear wheel and drivetrain. By the time I realised what had happened the damage was done!

Thankfully the hanger did its job and broke before the derailleur itself was damaged. A bit of online research and it looks like an easy repair but getting the part will be the tricky bit. There are a multitude of hangers available to buy and you need to buy the exact one to match your frame.

Normally a quick call to Halfords and I would have one within a couple of days. Unfortunately all the Halfords stores are currently closed in RoI and services in NI are highly limited plus my nearest NI stores are approx 45min away.

An online chat with the UK website resulted in a recommendation to contact a store and discuss with store staff as the online rep was working from home with limited access to information. I’ve decided to wait until tomorrow to try and make sure I get a more experienced member of staff on shift.

At least getting home was easier. Catriona and Conor were walking in Monellan so a short wait for them to appear on the trail and I was able to head to the car park, load the bike into the back of the car and wait for them to finish. A 4km walk home pushing a broken bike wouldn’t have been much fun!

Header image by Pixabay from Pexels

barnes summit

Yesterday was such a good day with warm Spring sunshine for probably the first time this year that I decided not to waste it and threw my gear together in the afternoon and headed for Barnes Gap forest.

I fancied something a bit different from Friday’s spin and thought the trails up there would be good with a possible climb to the summit in the back of my mind.

I was aware of the works in the forest as there is a construction company installing a windfarm. On my last visit they were working between the summit and the quarry with minimal security at the quarry end but safe enough as the site shut down for the weekend. Big change now! The works have spread out along most of the main trails with massive sections quarried out to provide stone for the widening of the trails for increased access for construction vehicles. Most of the trails have changed from potholed gravel and stone to chunky hardcore and rock. Where the vehicles have been working and travelling the trails are a mixture of smooth and some rock but the newer sections are very rocky making the going particularly difficult.

On my loop I entered and left the forest twice each. Neither of the two entrances were signed but both exits were. If I’d seen the signs early on I probably wouldn’t have gone but by the time I saw the construction I was committed and decided to go ahead, especially as all the vehicles were parked up for the weekend. The only security was at the quarry end again but he couldn’t have cared less about me as he was standing chatting to someone.

Halfway round brought me to the summit trail. No windmills going in up there so the track was in good shape. I headed up with the option to retreat if my legs gave up on me. It’s a tough old climb this one at 2.2km and an average gradient of 7.4%. According to Strava it’s an elevation increase of 165m but I’ve no idea how that reflects on other climbs. All I know is that it’s pretty relentless with very little respite and a number of steep sections hitting 12-14% and I’m sure 20% on one of the final sections. The steepness is a real challenge but it’s the loose gravel on some of the steep sections and especially on the tight corners that are the most difficult. Pleased to say I made it to the top without having to stop and even managed a PB for my 3rd attempt taking 45secs off my previous time.

pb but still only 15th overall!

The views from the top were amazing. I’ve been up here a good few times, on foot as well as on the bike and this is definitely the best views I’ve had. I hung around for a few photos but the windchill was significant enough to speed me along.

The drop back down isn’t for the fainthearted either! The steep descents are slippy now with the loose gravel and the turns are tight enough to test. With images of A&E flashing through my head I kept on the brakes and took it fairly handy all the way down.

At the base I continued on through the construction site, stopping for photos before exiting out on to the main road. A short stretch of tarmac and back into the forest to loop around back to the car to give me almost 19km and 400m of climbing in 1hr 20min and a big smile on my face.

i went up the left hand one
click the image to view on strava

isolation distraction

One of the biggest concerns about avoiding the virus is the impact of isolation on people’s mental health. Luckily it’s Spring and the weather is reasonably good so it’s not hard to get outside and do something. The boys have been spending a good bit of time kicking the football and Owen has even started running in a bid to keep up his football and Gaelic fitness when he can’t train.

It’s very easy to fall into bad habits, staying up late at night and lying in late in the morning as well as eating all the wrong things. It’s also very easy to lose motivation and get very lazy. While I’ve definitely been quite lazy I’ve also made an effort to get out and off my arse too.

Since Monday I’ve gone for a walk each day (3 x 6km and 1 x 10km) and today was a biking day with almost perfect cycling weather.

My MTB has suffered much of the same maintenence neglect as my road bike so yesterday I spend the afternoon giving it a deep clean with a big focus on the drive system which was full of gunk. Today I spent 2 hrs and 30km getting it clattered in mud from a variety of local forest trails!

click on the image to view on strava

a traditional christmas

With my change of job this year has come an unplanned bonus, traditional Xmas opening hours and therefore traditional Xmas holidays. We worked right up until Xmas Eve with an early dart home and have been closed for the last 3 days giving me my first Boxing Day off and at home for 7 years and, according to Facebook Memories only my second in the last 10 years!

It has been a nice, family orientated Xmas this year with the last minute addition of Mum and Dad and my brother for dinner on Xmas Day, visiting a lot of the rest of my family on Boxing Day in Mum and Dad’s and obviously having 3 days to spend with my own family.

As a bonus I even managed to get out on the bike for a couple of hours this morning. A spin organised by MTB Donegal in Barnes Gap which turned out to be really enjoyable and gave me a fitness confidence boost that I wasn’t expecting after at least 2 weeks of inactivity and crap eating culminating in the excess that is also a traditional Xmas!

click the image to view on strava

muddy puddles

In perfect Peppa Pig style “everyone loves jumping up and down in muddy puddles!” or in my case splashing through them and bunny hopping over them 😊

Friday nights have morphed with the shortening days into MTB night. Two winters ago a group of us were out nearly every week for 2-3 nights but last year the rest of the group moved to the Dark Side and switched to Zwift instead. Admittedly it’s warmer and drier in Zwiftland but it’s still hard to beat the feeling of a frosty night spent rattling around forest trails and splashing through puddles.

This year it looks like I’ve managed to recruit a new group from the club that are interested in getting wet and muddy every Friday night and tonight we had our first spin out together.

click the image to view on strava

A really enjoyable couple of hours of hills, banter, complaining, downhill speeding and of course…….muddy puddles!

two for two

This week I’m feeling a renewed motivation to ride my bike again. I’m not sure what it is but I think it’s a combination of changing jobs, the warm glow of our week away, an increased feeling of fitness from walking so much each day we were away and an increased optimism for the future.

I was on the road bike yesterday and this morning I went out for 2 hours on the MTB.

Slightly over 32km taking in most of the trails I know around home. Off the forest tracks it was slippy and slidey following the thunderstorms last night testing my bike handling skills.

great to see kids still building these

there definitely is a trail beyond that gate

it wasn’t as grey as that sky suggests

I got soaked about 15min from home just as I went into Corradoey but it couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

Further plans for this week too 😊

mountain bike

Determined not to waste the good weather I decided to head out on the mountain bike this afternoon. Almost put off by a flat rear tyre when I went to check on the bike but had it changed within 10mins and didn’t let it stop me.

Headed down the road and across into Monellan woods. It’s our local Coillte planted forest and although it doesn’t cover a big area it has a good mix of forest tracks and off trail paths* that give a feel of more difficult and challenging biking. There’s a decent amount of rough areas with humps and hollows, roots and rocks and some small piles of logs** for hopping over.

*the paths are a mixture of tracks created by locals walking and horse riding in through the trees over the years.

**I think these are small jumps for people training horses.

I spent about half an hour in here before heading back to the road and climbing up Gleneely. This hill hits 12% on one section and 10% on three others so it’s a sure way to get the heart rate up!

The point of the hill was to get up to Corradooey, a small wood I only discovered a couple of weeks ago. It’s only a 2km loop but more than worth it with one section pretty much completely overgrown. It’s dry now but will be a real challenge in the wet Winter. This wood seems quiet and mostly un-used by locals. I saw a rare red squirrel here last time and a deer today.

Final bit was a fast downhill most of the way home.

click on the image to view the activity