It was a whistle-stop tour and it feels like it was a lifetime ago already. But my god it was fun.
Nearly a thousand miles under our belt, the ageing Mercedes camper ticking along kindly without a complaint, we arrived back at Rossguard ferry port with wide grins still spread across our faces. Chris & I had made the trip to Ireland with the Ballyhoura mountains as our final destination, to participate in the Singlespeed World Championships for 2011. It seemed a good opportunity to explore some of Irelands trail offerings – particularly as neither of us had been outside of Dublin previously.
So, wind back a whole week to bleary eyes descending from the Rossguard ferry onto Irish soil, having chosen to sail with the 2.45am ferry to nip in an extra days riding on the Monday. Chris had thrown together a basic itinerary that took us in a decent round-trip to close in Ballyhoura, sampling some of the recommended trails put together by Coiltte. First stop: Ballinastoe, near the Wicklow Mountains in the backyard of the guinness estate.
60 miles, a bacon sarnie & stern cup o’tea later we arrive in the vicinity. It takes two laps of the local area to find the small parking clearing but yawns aside we emerge from the van keen to sample the first trail of the week. It’s a good one too. What it lacked in distance, it gained in speed, flow & a continual state of adrenaline coursing as you flick the front wheel through the twisty, rock-strewn trail. It was a beautiful reminder of some of the New Zealand trails we experienced last October.
A post-ride natter and we discovered we had missed out an entire section – a common error apparently. In we went again. First impressions count & we finally found ourselves back at the van buzzing about our find & stating that we probably should’ve brought knee & elbow armour… but that’s speed combined with a lack of sleep for you. We decided simply to man up.
So onto Portumna the following day, this was a natural next stop en route to Galway. With hard pack trails with a height gain of no more than 20m at any point I’ll confess I was a little flippant going into the first of the two 10Km trails after our experience in Ballinastoe. I was duly brought back to earth finding the many rocks marking the narrow trail edge keen to catch me out as I banked round each twist & turn! In hindsight I think I managed to do myself the most damage on this ride! Lesson learnt. Don’t be put off by the stated moderate difficulty; it’s worth a look-in for an afternoon.
Day 3 of the trip found us just outside of Oughterrad, Galway at the Derroura mountain bike trail. Moody skies above threatened to follow up the 45 degree downpour we saw in the morning from the comfort of the van in the Salthill campsite. But sunshine prevailed, drying the rocky trails before our eyes as we pounded round over the craggy trails. In between the rocky terrain was smooth flowing hard pack, now a common feel after the previous two days riding. There was a surprising level of grip in the slightly damp conditions, with drop-offs, switchbacks, berms & technical climbs. The views were the most awe-inspiring we found over the trip, reminiscent of North Wales riding, with little civilisation visible & beautiful mountain ranges & lochs sprawling across the landscape.
Day 5: Ballyhoura – the finale. We had actually arrived in Kilfinane, Co. Limerick on the Thursday, late in the afternoon to a greeting of a heavy downpour. As it happened we stumbled upon some other Singlespeeders and found ourselves on a bus to Limerick for the 2012 Singlespeed Championship hosting rights games… a story for another time.
Friday found us heading back out to the Ballhoura mountain trails, supported by an excellent centre with clearly marked trails – and 51km of them. It was seventh heaven. Probably unwisely, with a Guinness head on & a race the following day we each decided that the full 51Km route was the one for us – the full experience. There are 3 other flavours of lesser distances that cross each other making it easy to swap trails as you wish / need. The trails themselves range from hard pack, pump-track type flowing trails across the side of the mountains, to clay-mud tracks leading into forest trails. Split by the odd section of North Shore. Grin factor 11.
The steeds what we rode…
A rigid 69er Kona Kileau, sporting Continental Race Kings & an On one Inbred softened by front suspension.
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