Sunday, 1 April 2012

Alternative sports for Comeraghs/Monavullaghs&Knockmealdowns.

It is well known within the walking community that the Comeragh,Monavullagh and Knockmealdown mountains offer some fantastic trails and walks for all levels of fitness.It's less well known that other sporting interests like Paragliding,Rock climbing,Quading,Scrambling,Fell running,Orienteering,Whitewater kayaking,Road cycling etc. also use these mountains.It's even less well known again that the mountains could be opened up to an altogether larger audience among the younger and older generations by the introduction of sports on a more organised basis like mountainbiking,mountainboarding and grass skiing.
Above:XC mountainbikers in Monavullagh mountains Seefin summit in background.
Below;Hillwalkers meet mountainbikers.
According to "there are not enough trails" in Ireland.There are only four purpose built  mountain bike trails.With the exception of Ballyhoura there are no facilities.No first aid,no bike repair centre,no toilets and no showers.As the crow flies you have Balinastoe in Wicklow and the next nearest trail is actually in Wales!.The other trails in Ireland being two in Co.Galway Derroura, Portumna Forest Park and Ballyhoura on the Cork-Limerick Border.There is a clear vacancy for such a trail in the South East region  in one of our mountain ranges.
Mountainbiking can be broken  down into these categories:Cross country (XC),Trail riding,all mountain,downhill,freeride,dirt jumping and trials.
Cross country xc mountainbiking pictured above in the Monavullagh mountains requires a different range of skills and a higher level of fitness then other types of mountainbiking.Advanced riders pursue steep technical descents and in the case of freeriding downhilling and dirtjumping,ariel maneuvers off of specially constructed jumps and ramps.The majority of mountainbikers ride off-road trails whether country back roads,fire roads or single track narrow trails that wind through forests, and mountains of which we have no shortage.
Road from Seefin.
In downhill mountainbiking the biker is usually dropped at the top of a mountain to where descent starts and off they go.This has been tried out from the summit of Seefin 726m in the Monavullagh mountains as there is a gravel road/track leading right up to the summit of this mountain.The two downsides to this venue is the the track has three gates on route one at start which isn't an issue but there are two along the route up and are more often then not closed.Second being the lack of a ski-lift.You have to rely on your own fitness to reach summit.Full body armour is worn with full face helmets.Specifically using DH bikes.The frame geometry of these bikes lends itself to descending and definitely not hill climbing.Courses include huge drop-offs of tens of feet and extreme inclines.
Typically this event is used at off-season ski resorts.
Seefin summit at 2,387feet highest point of Monavullagh mountains.

Downhill Mountainbiking Slievenamon summit to foot in under 7 minutes.

This is a well established if little known extreme sport derived from snowboarding.Began in U.K,the U.S.A. and Austrailia in 1992.Riders from different boardsports (unknown to each other began designing and developing boards that could be ridden off-road.The sport of mountainboarding was created by the desire to expand the possible terrain that a boarder can ride.This sport is the perfect off-season alternative surfing and snowboarding.With Co.Waterford's seaside towns and villages having a vibrant surf and bodyboard scene our mountains are perfectly situated to offer an alternative sport to compliment their skills.
There are different disciplines Downhill(DH),Boardercross(Boarder X,BX),Freestyle(FS);(slopestyle,big air,skatepark/jib),Freeriding(FR).
Mountainboarding centre in Mourne mountains,Northern Ireland.

  Ballymacarbry,Clogheen,Rathgormack,Newcastle,Kilbrien,Cappoquin,Kilrossanty take note; At present there are no mountainboard centres in the 26 counties so there is a big opportunity for one of our mountain regions to grasp the nettle on this and bring badly needed tourism and income to the locality and introduce a totally different generation to visit and for youth of these areas to stay in the area.
A mountainboard is made up of components including a deck,bindings to secure the rider to the deck,four wheels with pneumatic tyres and two steering mechanisms known as trucks.There is also the option of a hand-operated disc brake.
Grass skiing.
Invented in Germany in 1966 with the idea of giving ski racers a method of training during the Summer months.With the proliferation of outdoor sports,grass skiing has caught on in places as disperate as Taiwan,Iran and Japan.
Caterpillar-like threads are used in place of skis,and the rolling contact between the skier and the slope seems to cause little damage or erosion to the grass slope.It surely gives skiers a way to hold their edge during the Summer months.
There are no grass skiing runs in Ireland at this present time.
Below is an article on why Britains hills would be perfect for this sport:
The above are just some ideas on how our mountain areas can move forward and help to halt rural isolation and emigration by possibly creating some badly needed alternative jobs.Securing tomorrow,Waterford's Mountains seeking solutions.
Even more ideas are often discussed and offered on the following links;!/WaterfordsMount
Important update;
In this original article the call was put out there among the mountain villages and communities to take note of the potential and opportunity of alternative sports and their under utilisation in Ireland and especially in the South East region.Well it is with great satisfaction that the people of Ballymacarbry,Nire GAA,Ballymac Cycle,Ballymacarbry Community Centre in co-operation with Coillte organised a mountainbike event "The Nire Drop" which from all reports and publicity in local and national newspaper and magazine media was a terrific success with over 100 entrants for a maiden event.Congratulations to all involved and may you all be inspired to make this an even greater success in future.