The trail is designed to be an all weather sustainable trail. It is all gravel-stones so weather shouldnt be an issue. Some natural trails we have here get very mucky and slippy in the winter. This has been designed with that in mind.
At the trail head there is a pump track with an outside loop and two central cross over sections for figure 8's. My bike wasnt ideal for the pump track having 150mm travel front and rear but with the fork and shock locked out after a few goes I got the hang of it. The pump track and trails are ideal for a Hardtail bike. There isnt any features that really require a full sus bike other than the comfort factor.
Chain Reaction Cycles had a fleet of Vitus Mountain bikes for the local school children to have a go on the track. Even some of the people on the business and investor side of things had a go. Which was great to see and I think we may even have found them a new hobby.
The http://www.trailbadger.com/ boys had their own tandem to take people around some of the track. The tandem was in full demand with many people wanting to have a go. With Davey piloting the big bike they had no worries at all.
We took a lap of the trail taking it fairly easy at the start to get a look around see how the trail was constructed and what features lay ahead. The trail starts fairly flat but with the smooth surface you can pick up speed in no time. Twisting through the trees traveling around the Blessingbourne estate in an anti clockwise direction.
The terrain is fairly flat so the majority of the work is done by the rider. With no major climbs it means you can keep a good pace around the trails. I think like any trail you ride the key to this one is keeping that pace all the way around. There is a lane crossing were care is advised as this is a busy estate. It is less than 200 yards on the road before you are back into the forest and a nice open section down through the trees.
Photo Above: Michelle Brady Photograpy
The first red section has some fairly wide log crossings. These get narrower as you progress but even the last one is about a foot wide so for the beginner this should be enough to test your skills without being to daunting. For the more advanced crossing these at speed wont be an issue. These are linked with a series of berms then another log section in steps. There is a small rock jump before a tight bermed corner. The next section has three rock drops with a smaller alternative to the side of each of these. Again these get bigger as you progress but all can be rolled or dropped. The end of this section has a couple of table tops and then another berm to finish.
Photo above: Michelle Brady Photography
The trail then winds through the trees again and at this point you have two options. To the left there is another red section. This is a really fast series of flowing berms that you can really carry speed through. There are a few small bumps to double and then this brings you back to the start of the log crossings and rock drops. This small loop really adds to the trail and doing it a few times to get a good line will obviously add to the trail distance but also give you a chance to get faster each time you ride it. When you get a good line through this section you can really carry a lot of speed due to the bermed corners. After completing the loop you can do the rock section again or cut this out and pick the trail up again at the end of this red section. This time we took the right turn passing the red loop and continuing along the main trail.
Photo above: Michelle Brady Photography
The next section is another series of flowing corners that lead into small rock gardens and a series of table tops. The track is through the trees but the trees are very open along this section giving you a good chance to spot the jumps and get a bit of speed up. After this there is an open section of bermed corners and small kicker jumps. Another really good part that has been designed so you can keep the speed through the corners. The final section is a winding single track through the forest and back to the start. There is a short section on the lane so care should be taken. With a few km in the legs the pump track felt a lot better the second time around. If you havent been on a pump track before just give it ago. With the momentum you soon get a feel for when you need to push. The idea is not to pedal rather use your momentum and weight to Pump you around the track. The clue is in the name!
As I said above it is a fairly flat trail but the designers have made great use of the little elevation they had. It is up to the rider to make the most of this type of trail. If you put the work in you really can get an enjoyable spin round this short track. I think the design has been cleverly worked so that anyone can ride these trails. It still gives the opportunity for the more experienced riders to pick up speed and enjoy the trail. It really is how you choose to ride that will determine the fun factor. There is nothing overly technical about this type of trail but for a good days craic and a fast blast it ticks all the boxes. But dont just take my word for it, when Glyn O'brian and Colin Ross (Former Downhill Champions and MTB Instructors) are praising the set up and riding with smiles on there faces you know the trails are good. The trails are short but I think through time they have the option of adding more trails and increasing the overall length. If you are used to riding the likes of the 7stanes you could compare this to the more advanced blue grades. Personally I wouldnt say the red sections merit the red grade more like an advanced blue. Great fun and I think if you ride them to the full potential then they might just scrape the red grade.
The trail can be enjoyed by all the family regardless of skill or time on a Mountain bike. It can be used as a safe way to get into the sport, yet have the added family appeal so that the parents can have a go and see how their kids are progressing. We had a good day trying the trail and the pump track. Hopefully this is just the start of things to come with sustainable trail centres in the North of Ireland.