Jono posted this up on Twitter today so I thought I would share it on here. The Man, the Legend, the Hoppo tells it like it is. Inspiring a Nation…or well maybe just a group of people to better their life. Well done Jonny for writing the story too. Read below:
Jonny Walsh offers Coddle.ie an insight into Mountain Biking, a sport which has been growing rapidly in Ireland over the past number of years.
Set in the Dublin Mountains, sandwiched between Ballinteer and Glencullen, sits Three Rock Mountain. Three Rock, which takes its name from the three groups of granite rocks at its summit, has always been a popular destination for lovers of the outdoors with spectacular panoramic views of Dublin and Wicklow visible from the summit.
There are a variety of attractions and activities available to the general public in the locality including historical sites, viewing points and picnic facilities along with hiking trails and an orienteering centre.
Three Rock is also a popular venue in the mountain biking scene. There are two official purpose built mountain bike trails on Three Rock, known locally as “Metro 1” and “Metro 2”. The two trails are effectively one continuous loop extending approximately 8km in length.
Metro 1 starts in Ticknock and involves an ascent up the mountain on a tarmac road through the forest. Metro 2 is an off road section descending the opposite side of the mountain. It provides a more technical challenge to the rider, with its narrow rocky surfaces, twists and turns and steep descents.
The Three Rock trails are custom built for mountain bikes with a hard packed shale stone surface, foundations, weather proofing and effective drainage. The first official mountain biking trail in Leinster was constructed in Ballinastoe, Co. Wicklow. The popularity of the Ballinastoe trail contributed in no small part to the construction of the trails on Three Rock. The trails in both locations were commissioned by Coillte.
Local enthusiasts who regularly make use the facilities on Three Rock reveal that there are also a variety of unofficial trails etched into the slopes of the mountain. These trails provide the rider with a more stern challenge than their official counterparts as they avail of more of the natural features of the mountain slopes.
Mountain biking is an all-weather pursuit with enthusiasts taking to the trails regardless of the conditions.They will ride in rain, hail, snow or fog and the general consensus is that adverse weather conditions can often add to the experience.
Local man, Ronán Hopkins, known in the scene as “Hoppo” is an experienced and accomplished bike rider with respective 4th and 5th place overall finishes in the cross country and downhill mountain bike leagues in 2011.
Every Tuesday evening Hoppo makes his way to the car park of the Blue Light pub in the hills of Sandyford to meet with fellow enthusiasts and friends and embarks on a two hour cycle on the various trails on Three Rock. The group generally end up back in the Blue Light after the cycle to dry off and warm up and have some refreshments.
Hoppo founded a group called “Team Awesome” two years ago. The ethos behind Team Awesome is that it involves a group of people, generally over the age of 30, getting back into biking after some years of excess. There is a feel good factor associated with the group with the participants reaping the rewards of the activity in terms of fitness, camaraderie and general levels of enjoyment.
In addition to Hoppo the group consists of Fuzzy and Louise (who have since emigrated to Canada), Keith, Martyn, Jono, Kyle, Donal and James. Each of the members got hooked on the mountain biking experience and graduated from Tuesday cycles to regularly competing in official races.
From Left to Right, Hoppo, Jono and Fuzzy
I asked Hoppo if he could describe what it was about the mountain biking scene that got him and his friends hooked?
“I love the freedom of it. I love what it does for me psychologically and physically. Plus there is the whole social aspect to it. There is nothing like being on top of a mountain in the dark or rain or fog with a light on your head and meeting up with another group of riders and sharing your experiences.”
He also spoke of the adrenaline buzz he feels from getting air time going over jumps and how mountain biking gives him something to look forward to and, more importantly, a sense of purpose.
From talking to him you get the sense that this pursuit isn’t just a simple case of going for a cycle and keeping fit. There is a lot more to it than that. There is a spiritual side to his love for mountain biking illustrated by the palpable sense of achievement involved in the combination of man and machine uniting to conquer the mountain.
“You start at the bottom of the mountain and then go up and down it a couple of times. If you manage not to fall off you get a real buzz out of it. There is something euphoric about the whole experience.”
“When you are out on the trails you are concentrating on staying on the bike and not falling off. You’ll always have near misses but that is what makes it exciting. It’s a great buzz. You don’t get that from sitting on your arse watching football.”
It seems that Hoppo and the other Team Awesome members are not the only ones to benefit from this challenging activity. Hoppo explained that in the last two years alone he has got to know two people who have battled with depression and have been aided in overcoming their difficulties thanks to mountain biking.
Mountain biking has been established in Ireland for the best part of 25 years. Traditionally mountain biking could be separated into two main categories: Cross country and Downhill. Both disciplines require specialist equipment. Cross country bikes are characterised by light frames and short travel suspension. The set-up of cross country bikes make them suitable for climbing.
Downhill bikes have strong, sturdier frames with long travel suspension on the front and rear. They are similar to motocross bikes without an engine. Downhill bikes are suitable for the more technical challenges presented by off road descents.
Recently a new genre has emerged which marries elements of both disciplines. This is called “Enduro” racing. This is a relatively new genre to these shores and, like the other disciplines, also requires specialist equipment. Enduro bikes have a light frame with front and rear mid travel suspension. They are designed to be technically advanced enough to cope with the demands of a downhill run but light enough to deal with ascents.
Official competitions in Ireland for each discipline are organised by Biking.ie. Historically the two main competitions were the Cross Country National Points Series and the Irish Downhill Mountain Bike Series. 2012 is the first year the Gravity Enduro series has been staged. The Gravity Enduro is a five race series, organised by Niall Davis of biking.ie, and one of the stages was held at Three Rock earlier this year. Other races were staged at Bigwood in Newry and Ballyhoura in Co. Limerick.
Local mountain biking club Madmtb are also staging an Enduro event, separate to the Gravity series, at Three Rock scheduled for the 13-14 October. “The King of Three Rock” is the last race of the year. These events generally attract and cater for serious enthusiasts and youngsters alike. Although given the difficulty level of the Enduro format only experienced riders are permitted to compete in this year’s “King of Three Rock” event and there are no under 16’s allowed.
Mountain biking is a scene that is gaining momentum by the year and the volume of interest showed by both local youngsters and adults bodes well for its future. Anyone interested in getting involved in the King of Three Rock race can log on to madmtb.com for details. People interested in the scene in general can log on to biking.ie and those interested in obtaining the necessary specialist equipment to take part should log on to ocsuspension.ie.