Titel Div

Dienstag, 18. Juli 2017

Sloth in Wicklow

When I learned that 'Dropkick Murphys' would be performing in Dublin, I thought it would be a great idea to buy some tickets for André as a birthday present.
When he asked me to come along, I realised I had not checked flights before, and so it turned out that we had to go to Dublin already 2 days before the concert. We had heard of the great Mountain Biking trails in the Wicklow Mountains and so we booked a guided tour with Biking.ie. Not taking our bikes with us this time (to save on extra luggage cost and moreover on the size and thus cost of the rental car we'd require) we booked rental bikes as well - although this is normally against our principles. Every rental bike experience yet told us that the respective tours would have been much better had we done them on our own bikes.
Once we arrived in the Wicklow Area in said rental car, it soon became obvious that there must be a local MTB scene. We saw people riding around on pretty decent bikes, and passing a clearing on a forest hill we saw some North Shore elements close by the road, a few hundred meters away from our B'n'B. Upon closer inspection the next morning, we found an obviously abandoned bikepark!
Later we should learn that what we were looking at were the remains of an investment done a few years back. However, the investor seemed to have missed out on actually getting all the stuff that was built properly permitted by the local authorities. So the whole thing was never officially operated and more important, never maintained. A cutting of trees on said clearing then put a final end to most North Shores. Walking the perimeter, we still discovered a good bit of nice singletrail that is clearly in use.

Encouraged by this discovery, we packed up our gear and went off to meet our guide at Ballinastoe Mountain Bike Trail.
Biking.ie runs a bike rental and shop at the foot of Ballinastoe Mountain Bike Trail, a 13km course located close to the town of Roundwood, Co Wicklow. But the trail would not be our primary target today, and we spoke about probably giving it a go 'after the tour'. Little did we know then...
A cup of coffee, some setting up on the rental bikes and last minute fixes on gear later, we met Janos, our guide for the day. Seeing him approaching and seeing his bike, I immediately knew we were in for a challenge. The whole process of getting geared up and ready was really flawless, and so we set up for what Janos called the 'up and over' tour.
Our first stop should be the 'Guiness Lake' at the foot of Djouce Mountain, the ride there being a mix of fireroad and singletrail. Our ride would cross the road to Sally Gap and bring us to a viewing point above said lake.
Being the son of a Swabian father, Janos' German is superb, and so we understood each other effortless. Which was brilliant, because Janos turned out to be a human cornucopia  on not only biking related, but geographical, historical and local facts of the Area. As much as his very unique bike, his knowledge impressed me deeply.
Taking in the respective information he had to offer on the Guiness Lake wasn't too easy though, as a very strong wind blew up from the lake and made understanding what was said a careful calculation of the tilt and angle of your head as well as placing yourself leeward of the speaker so his words could be carried in your direction :-)
This wind meant as well that we'd enjoy a strong push on the following climb up Djouce Mountain to it's very peak. Halfway up we went on wooden planks (some railway tracks found a second life being integral part of the Wicklow Way's boggy terrain traverses). The wind was ever increasing, and this meant we were literally laying sideways on our bikes after the trail made a slight turn to the right about halfway up. The planks ended and the ascent got technical and tiring. I  have a little experience when it comes to windspeeds, but what we expected on top of the hill must have been pretty close to 40 knots if not over.

Anyhow, the view we enjoyed was worth every meter we had climbed. Dublin to the NorthEast, Eastward we could see Bray - on a clear day it is possible to see Whales even.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. Many of which by the way were shot by Janos, who from time to time sped a little ahead to take pictures. You can tell that he is into filmmaking (he actually is - but he will tell you himself ;-) ) from looking at the pictures. But still, as good as the pictures may be, they do not live up to experiencing the moment yourself.

After the windiest photo session I ever had we set off on a descent that is best described as a 4 meter wide, 200+ meter long, steep Rock Garden. This was the first true test for our rental bikes, which they passed to our full satisfaction! You could feel these bike were being taken good care of. The bike itself was perfectly fit for the tour as well. Enough travel on both fork and shock, and both with superstiff lock outs for an almost hard-tail like climbing behaviour. Dropper posts - check.
Knowing our rides would live up to what we'd be asking for we set off after Janos. Our ride took us further down the northern foot of Mount Djouce, Janos choosing fire roads or easy trails to ascent and taking fantastic singletrail downhill. We rode several trails that were part of race events like EWS  or Gravity Enduro and many more, some of which Janos had built himself or with friends.

As good as the bikes might have been - there was a minor bother to both of us. We never managed to quite have the same feel as riding our bikes. We both came to the conclusion that this must have been because of the breaks. Irish brakes are as UK brakes (and as the whole way of driving) 'the wrong way round'. It did not ruin the ride, it was just those last 5% of preciseness that seemed to be missing.
Well - I would have needed just 96%, and maybe I would't have 'squeezed my noodle' on a slow, technical descent - guess you catch my drift...

20km after we set off we arrived in a forest that was literally webbed with great trails. Of which we could not ride all, mostly because we had already used up almost all our scheduled time! But Janos was not at all bothered by that and led us on to Powerscourt Waterfalls and back up towards the start and finish of our today's tour.

Both André and myself had run dry by then, and so it was good we passed a well we had discovered earlier and could fill up our canteens.
Way over time, and totally exhausted - at least on André's and my part (Janos claimed to be 'a bit tired' himself, but I did not believe a single word) - we struggled our way back to the cabin of Biking.ie. So much for taking the Mountain Bike Trail after our tour ;-)
The whole day had been fantastic. Apart from our personal fitness, there was no point of complaint, not even a hint of dissatisfaction for us. A truly grand day out on Irish Trails with Janos!
Everything about the day had exceeded our expectations
- the bikes:  in flawless condition, decent long-travel bikes, 1x11, 100 mm dropper posts, rock shox / fox
- the trails: wide variety, great condition, not too easy, not too hard, different styles and terrain
- the tour: fantastic scenery, great views in a beautiful landscape
- the staff: helpful, welcoming, very friendly
- the guide: that guy literally breathes cycling!

If you like Mountain Biking as much as the guys from Biking.ie, or as much as we do, or as much as all the other riders we have seen and met on our trip, I can only recommend to plan a day of cycling in the Wicklow Mountains. And why not check if Janos can give you a tour? You cannot possibly combine so much riding fun with entertaining facts and stories on the very countryside you're looking at.

See you in Ireland!

Janos' own blog can be found here.
His youtube channel hides behind this link.