Sunday, 27 December 2015

Home for Christmas

I think rotund was the politest thought I had when I saw 1st Cat this morning, but despite the extra few pounds he still has a bit of power.... The weather as I left my house at altitude was perfect, but as I descended into the mirth the temperature plummeted.

At Forestside Digger, Retro, Hannibal, 1st Cat and Simon who's visiting from Edinburgh were waiting. With ice all around we headed up the Saintfield Road in to the fog, but by Cairnshill we'd emerged into sunshine. The ice hadn't melted, so we stuck to the main road all the way to Saintfield, where we picked up Catherine who hasn't been out with Castlereagh in about 15 years - another "home for Christmas" visitor.

We still weren't confident in the back roads, so onwards to Crossgar and Downpatrick alternating between sunshine and freezing fog. We reckoned salt air on the coast was our best bet, so kept our course due south to Killough. Round the coast soaking up the scenery via Ardglass, Ballyhornan and Kilief where 1st Cat reminded us why he's 1st Cat.

It turns out the Pantry is closing shortly but despite a limited menu we got enough in the tank to get us home. Just for the laugh I called a left up a climb and down into Raholp and then back up to Saul. From the Quoile Bridge over to Annacloy, Kilmore, Listooder and home - those roads never get any easier even when your nickname says they should.

Another lesson in why the route is never set in stone. Brilliant riding by our guest stars from Portovelo and Manchester Wheelers. Our visitor from London needs a bigger wardrobe - he barely fits in the current one.... Really good fun, with a lot of laughs.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Bones and the Berg go Boxing

Bones and the Berg go Boxing.... Two of us had a morning pass for Boxing Day and fuelled by a weird mix of cabin fever, offset by Christmas Dinner lethargy, we put in a morning of hard efforts interspersed by cruising and talking nonsense (mostly me).

The start took us up the Ballygowan Road and we kept the hammer down all the way. From Ballygowan to Balloo was more leisurely, with the odd hit up the hills. Castle Espie offered up lovely scones and a short respite before we saddled up again and headed through Comber and up to Scrabo. A loop around and over Craigantlet to empty the tank, doing our best gorillas in the mist impersonation, before dropping down Ballyregan Road and home.

Enough to feel like training, but still good fun and home before the passes expired. I think Bones won this round on points although I landed the odd good shot.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Four Hangovers and Partridge in a Peartree

"Four Hangovers and Partridge in a Peartree". While the youngsters slept off the night before, the men of maturity went for an immature spin to jog the hazy memory of Nu Dehli and The Perch. Lee was at Forestside to catch Mark roll up first, followed by Phillip, then the Ghost of too many Christmas's past. Hannibal and Digger rolled up last, looking so bad it made me feel good!
The wind didn't let us take it as easy as we'd like - it's bad when you're giving it full gas up the Saintfield road and barely hitting double figures - it's worse when those figures are in kph.... We reckoned we wouldn't get coffee til after 11, so the third most popular plan (after go home or sleep under a hedge) was to do a 90 min spin to Hillsborough. Man it was hard.

Bar Retro looked after us as always and we even got a belated text from Retro who'd missed the mothership. With a good feed and a strong tailwind we shot back towards Carryduff and home. Thanks to everyone for the company and the laughs. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, 19 December 2015

The Night Stage!

These are just of the prologue - fog at altitude (and good judgement) prevented further coverage of the mountain stage.... 

Big thanks to Steve for his organisational skills and to General Chaos for his work on the night. Thanks finally to all the members and friends of the club for a great year.

A report of today's run will follow - after I have a wee sleep.

The Day Stage

I'm not sure if my problem was over doing it on the bike Christmas decorations or over doing it at work and festivities this week - either way, when we took off hard I suffered. But like we've said before, if you aren't prepared to suffer, don't give it out and I've given it out plenty over the years.

Seven of us wiggled into the fierce wind, around the lanes are past Ballynahinch to Spa. We took a bit of a loop along back roads, then back through Spa for coffee at Hollys in Ballynahinch - great scones.
Another wiggle to get home via Saintfield. Day stage done, time for the night stage!

Sunday, 13 December 2015

The Iceman Cometh

"The Iceman Cometh" - the 500yd walk from my house to the nearest gritted road told me all I needed to know this morning (I'm nuts) - we were headed to the coast, sticking to main-ish roads especially on the way out. At Forestside we had a mixture of people who live low enough not to have seen the ice, and the idiots who saw it and ignored it.
Four of us rolled across the carriageway and out the main road to Ards. Retro was talking about a coffee stop in Greyabbey and we set that as our target - I should've smelt a rat, when his description didn't fit the ones I knew.... For Martin and David's sake we kept the pace steady, but when a North Down rider came past it was like a red rag to a Retro and before you knew it, three of us were banging through gulping down cold air. I was hugely impressed by Martin and David who hung on brilliantly.

At Greyabbey we pulled in so Retro could figure out he'd mixed up Greyabbey and Kircubbin.... We quickly came up with a plan that Retro and me would recreate the old days round to Kircubbin, while the others had coffee in The Villager.

Off the leash Retro hit it hard round to Katch 27 in Kircubbin, where we grabbed a quick cuppa. Back to Greyabbey where the guys raved about the bacon sarnies. Single file back to Ards, the up Bradshaws and home. About 75k in a bit under 3hrs, not bad considering the conditions.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Cycling Ireland licence 2016

Cycling Ireland licences expire 31/12/15 and are now available to renew at

The renewal process is a bit of a faff, so I've shared what I learnt below - I didn't get any renewal notification so I'm guessing no one has yet.

What I learnt:
You choose a Competition; Leisure or Non-Cycling Licence.
If you choose Competition there's a drop down choice for Full Competition or Limited Competition (all types of race including club races, but not open road races) - a limited competition costs £53.
Once you renew, the club has to approve it, then you can pay.
When you go to pay its Paypal, but you don't have to have a Paypal account.
Once you're done you get an email and temporary licence.
Hope my pain helps someone...

Sunday, 6 December 2015

They're behind you

"They're behind you!" - almost every ride with Retro is a pantomime, so as a seasonal special we took him to the coffee stop that loved him so much, they named it after him. They even gave him a sandwich so big he had to ask for volunteers to finish it. To say thanks he unleashed some of his smoothest lines....
The day started with Derek calling by on his cross bike and Mike almost missing the bus being even later than me. No one had any big ambitions and with a strong WSW wind we reckoned we'd stick together. Using a mixture of less taken roads and a few regulars in reverse, we made our way out to Lisburn, Moira and on to Aghagallon. From the far side we swung back and through Magherlin to Orange Lane.
Digger and Scotty we're loving the climbs around Redhill, Mike and Lanterne maybe felt differently, but everyone was happy to get in to the warmth of Bar Retro. Refreshed we took a pretty direct route home. Great weather and some good efforts from the cast. Just what we needed after being blown around recently. 

Sunday, 29 November 2015

The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind

"The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind". That was rough, properly rough. Five of us met up at Forestside and I gave out high fives just for getting that far, although standing there in the shelter you could've been forgiven for thinking the weather was fine. With the wind, no one was planning on a long one but we at least thought it couldn't get worse - it did....
The idea was to keep between the hedges and we ended up behind one to fix Sean's puncture. Remounted we bulldozed on, trying to zig-zag into the wind. When we got caught in a deluge between Temple and Saintfield the Big Lad turned for home while the rest of us gunned it to get warm and try to outrun the storm.

By Saintfield the rain was somewhere over Bangor (the wind was that strong) as we turned back into it. At one point we had possibly the worst wind/rain I've ever experienced on a bike (the day we considered leaving two riders to die up a mountain in Gran Canaria still counts as worst overall weather - you know who you are). The rain/hail was hitting that hard it cut my lip. Looking ahead was almost impossible and "log left" was the day's most common shout.
More back roads for safety, soon brought us back to Carryduff and relative safety, although I did come close to ditching in a hedge a couple of times. Respect to the brave and foolish. Quote of the day goes to Sean for "I hate myself, but I hate you more". Sure aren't you glad you did it?!‪#‎rule9‬ ‪#‎badass‬

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Glory Days

As Retro and Bruce Springsteen have been known to say, "Glory days, pass you by in the blink of a young girls eye". Today we took a wet and windy trip down memory lane to some of the race circuits Castlereagh used to use for club races in our glory days, which we're hoping to use again soon. The side benefit was it kept us close to home.
Comrade, M. Poulet and me decided to aim for about 2 hours with no stop and a few hard efforts. We headed out past Purdysburn and up to the Mealough Road Race circuit. 2 1/2 laps was enough to teach the guys the layout and show them how the wind can change the tactics. Next came the Temple TT circuit, but only after Comrade brought up his breakfast - fair play for not turning home.
By the time we'd done that we decided it was time for home, with one final lash up the hill to Carryduff. Tough, but good work by everyone. If it's too wet and cold for a long ride, may as well make it short and hard.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Wookie Speaks

The Wookie speaks (and he's picking up country lingo....).
"Tempo Thursdays" (or CCCTTT, as Darragh has christened it!) Is done and dusted for this week. The weather was fierce mild - not too cold, roads surprisingly dry and the wind not too biting.

Five of us made it out; myself, Sean, Darragh, Derek and Sam. The first lap of the airport road through holywood exchange wasn't too brisk, and we got to work on smoothing out our rotating pace line, with pleasing results.

Loverboy had to disappear after the first lap, so the fantastic four stayed behind and slogged through another lap into the growing wind, this time picking up the pace and taking regular turns in single file.
With a very sneaky last minute change in rules (on my part) the final sprint started from dee street roundabout, finishing at the TQ lights. I went early but didn't have the legs, and it was strongman Sean who sailed past me to take the win. Valiant efforts from all!

Taking a moment to compose ourselves, and while comrade waxed lyrical about the moon, we discussed the night's events. All of us are keen to keep it a regular fixture, and keep working on its current format of drills, with an effort towards the end. I'll be away next week, but hope to see more of you at CCCTTT soon!

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Turn on the Lites

"Turn on the Lites!" 
Cold and dry was the forecast...with the exception of a very brief shower, it held true. Five riders, wrapped up tightly in bioracer's finest, huddled together at forestside looking for some lite action; myself, Derek, Joe, Sam and Mark. With heavyweights Digger and Berg also in the mix, it was decided to stick together, but keep the pace comfortable for all. Cruising over the rolling hills along the Killynure road, we arrived in Saintfield in record time. Straight through and on towards Balloo, the hills got a little meaner, but it was a chance for Digger and Bullet to stretch the legs out, punishing themselves on the hills but waiting to regroup at the top every time. 

The heavyweights opted for an extra loop and Bullet headed home early while the rest of us fought for bike parking space at Daft Eddies. There, it was with glee that we realised Castlereagh 's long term goal of world domination is well underway; a Kaners rider was sporting a castlereagh/tour of the glens cap!

Refreshed, we RV'd with the heavyweights and headed back towards Comber, encountering Neil "el pistolero" Smith on the way. Derek and I took a brief detour to test our legs on Bradshaw 's Brae, but met up with the others again at Ormeau park to cheer on Hannibal as he tackled the extremely technical CX race route and finished high up in the pack. Congrats!

All in all, a great day out. There will be another lites run next Sunday, and we hope to have a few more along.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

A Seaside Adventure

Arrrggghhhhhh it was a fine day for a seaside adventure, but shiver me timbers it was cold. Four salty sea dogs hoisted the main sail and headed out this morning, but sleet in Ards brought out Stephens sensible head and he walked the plank, leaving First Mate Digger, Captain Ice-Berg and Cabin Boy Skull & Cross-Bones to head on.

We were soon soaking and cold and any thought of setting anchor at a coffee stop went out the porthole. My ad hoc route was probably a bit far for Bones given the weather, but he suffered like a good pirate and once his fingers grow back I'm sure he'll raise one or two to me to show his appreciation.

One of those rides you enjoy more looking back on, than at the time, but sure if you don't wanna suffer, you can always take up golf.


Sunday, 15 November 2015

The Smiles In The Photos Say It All

 The smiles in the photos, say it all. The forecast last week for Sunday was shocking, but the view from my kitchen morning was damp roads but no rain. It did catch up with us at one o'clock but we were well warmed up by then and it didn't last long. The temperature was high anyway, with most of us stopping after 5 miles to strip - not quite the full monty....

Martin was the only rider for a Lite run, but was happy to head out together and turn off. We reciprocated and kept the route reasonably level and the pace calm into a west wind. We seem to have a habit of heading towards the cross races without actually getting to the event - we're generally too early. This time we dropped Martin off in Moira and headed on to Lurgan. Out past Oxford Island and a loop up to Derrytrasna. The point was just to explore some new roads and get a few more miles in before coffee. A few of those miles were done at pace to make sure everyone deserved their grub back at Oxford Island.

We decided on a pretty straight hit home, but me being me we used back roads and threw in a few variations which as planned got us back in good time.

68 miles without getting cold is a cracking result for a day other people might have spent in bed. Mark surpassed himself and got really stuck in. A couple of short sessions (which I spent mostly on Jeff's wheel) also made sure everyone got a bit of quality as well as quantity. It really doesn't take much to make us smile....

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Rule #80


After some Rule #80 "casually deliberate" lounging, the first official ride from our new meeting spot at Forestside set out under dark skies, but that didn't dampen the spirits. Whether you subscribe to Rule #9 or not, winter riding is good for the soul. Fair play to Derek for offering to take a Lite option, but unfortunately there were no takers this time - build it and they will come.

Saturday's are perfect for mixing it up and taking the road less travelled. On that vein we wiggled over to Drumbo and out towards Hillsborough. The hills were tough, but meant we had our work in the bank. Pretty early on, we agreed to forgo a coffee stop and just aim for 3 hours non-stop. With a mixture of regular and new roads we ended up on the Dromore-Ballynahinch road just as the weather worsened.

A puncture for Scotty took a while to sort meaning the Wookie was shivering despite his hairy ass. We tried to get warm and set a direct course for Ballynahinch and home. Apologies for the poor photography, but given the conditions. Anyway we made it home with about 65k on the clock which isn't as much as usual, but is a lot more than you'd get on the sofa. Fingers crossed for more fun tomorrow.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Surprise Surprise, Ballymena

Amazing weather with barely a breeze (unless you're on top of the Antrim Plateau). Surprise surprise when I asked Retro where he wanted to go, he called Ballymena. Paul suggested a return trip through Doagh and Tildarg to The Battery. Derek chipped in that the Antrim Rd had road works both ways. So as we rolled in to town I put all those in the cement mixer that is my mind, and out popped a trip up the Doagh Rd, out towards Ballynure, through Ballyclare, Ballyeaston and up to Shane's Hill.
From there we split, with four riders going over the top of Shane's Hill for coffee at the battery and over Big Collin home (I was impressed with the right turn down through Burnside and then the right off the Longshot - back roads = cool).

The remaining three musketeers descended Shane's Hill towards Larne, then sharp left on to Starbog Road, a hidden gem if you've brought your climbing legs. The views were stunning and from the top we explored a few more unnamed lumps before a five mile session into Broughshane. Our eyes hadn't deceived us a few weeks ago, there is a coffee shop in Broughshane, open on a Sunday, serving great value pancakes and flat whites - we will be back!
After a discussion of the Flower Pot Men and the Soup Dragon, we saddled up again and tried out Woodside Road - on a beautiful autumn day it was a classic. That took us back to the Battery and we pointed for home over Big Collin and through Ballyrobert. We don't know what it is about Retro and the Antrim Road (maybe memories of convent girls), but each red light became an excuse to practice our team pursuit start -and we got plenty of practice.

Good fun, brilliant weather and some bonus climbing - it's the only way to get better at it!

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Gettin Dirty

Cracking day for getting dirty. Seven of us took a random tour of the muddiest lanes County Down has to offer and slip slided our way home again. Andrew and Jonny aren't the only ones who enjoy the slippy stuff.

Begny Hill Road probably wasn't the kindest route, but everyone looked out for each other and together with the autumnal colours and debris, gave the ride a great late season feel. It was also a great advert for mudguards - ideally two (you can see why from my shins), but even one saves the furniture at the coffee stop and your teammates.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Looking Smart

Two ways out and three ways home - this gig is complicated. Then you come home, clean the bike, eat, clean yourself, transfer the photos, edit the photos, copy the strava links and think what you're going to write....or get to number six on that list and have a doze.

Thanks to Sam's hard work on the kit order everyone was looking smart at the start. The consensus was to head out together and split somewhere down the road, so I got to work on a cunning plan. The weather was dry and crisp as we meandered south towards the Quoile Bridge. There I offered high road and low road options. Five choose low, heading straight to Strangford while five choose high, going up through Saul to Raholp and right eventually on to the coast at Kilief - the perfect road for 30 second turns averaging 37kph into Strangford with Scotty out kicking Digger for the 30's.

The early arrivals were well rested by the time we all went to leave and given the good weather decided to head on round the coast with us as far as Ardglass where they turned right for Downpatrick and home. The pace kicked up again as the five of us drove on through Killough including a cheeky 30's across the bridge. Comrade was feeling ropey and wisely decided to take a direct hit home with Sean.
 That left three of us and we dialled the pace up to 11 as we headed for a climb Scotty knew above Minerstown - Scolligs Hill - it was a good one. Toffypops were being consumed at a horrific rate, as each of us took turns to blow their biscuits on some amazing lanes across to Drumaness. After a quick drink stop we powered on to Ballynahinch and finally lined out to Ballynahinch with two min turns wringing out the last drops. Digger proved why you never discount a sprinter no matter how busted he looks!

A really good day out, where hopefully everybody got what they needed. Overall the distances don't look that different, although the profiles tell another story and I can vouch that the hardcore group was giving it plenty....

Saturday, 24 October 2015

The Gimp Squad

The Gimp Squad were all out today and had a great morning, as the weather just got better and better. Bert and Ernie were rocking the kinkiest overshoes ever. I had my new gimp jacket and Hannibal was rocking his man in black look before getting down and dirty at tomorrow's cross race.

We'd braved rain to get down to Forester Green, but once there the rain stopped and things brightened up. With a slight west wind we settled on Dromore, but as usual wiggled a bit to get there. We were all on relaxed form and did long turns as we chatted away, just enjoying being out on quiet roads. We swung out beyond Dromore, then back in for coffee using some roads we learnt on the Dromore CC sportive.

Refreshed we headed for Ballynahinch and halfway dropped the hammer - it was a training ride after all.... The route home took in a few lesser used roads and a few frequently used roads, bringing four smiling cyclists back to Belfast. Turns out I run better on Heinekenpower than Peronipower, but maybe it's a quantity thing..... ‪#‎rubberbandits‬

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Great Turnout

Cracking weather and a great turnout (even with a couple of riders missing the mothership). The Big Lad called the route giving me a morning off and set a course that would get us all home in time for the rugby.
Everyone stuck together and did great. Anyone feeling strong did long turns, while anyone who was feeling it stayed in the wheels. 30's came thick and fast with plenty having a kick. All good safe fun.

Jeff's Birthday Bacon Bap

The fact that the newest bike out today was 10 years old tells you winter is coming and we're cheap, but the weather was more than kind. I could've done with a few more wheels to sit on coming home and a few less lemonades the night before, but hey....

We bought Jeff a birthday bacon bap in Downpatrick - but I forgot the candles - not sure we'd have fitted them all on.

Unofficial Ladies Day

I need to tread carefully here, today had two themes - unofficial ladies day and getting dirty - please don't mix them up.... Zoe, Selena and Jacqui were joining us for the spin, and Jonny, Andrew and other friends of the club were getting dirty at the cyclocross in Lady Dixon park.
As ever, the plan was based on the riders who turned up and the weather. A few of us wanted to get back early enough to watch the racing, which gave us a window of just under 3 hours plus a quick coffee. The route was pretty simple, via Sandy Lane to Hilden and on through Lisburn to Ballinderry, Aghalee and Moira. We hit the coffee stop at a busy time, so it took a while, but with everyone refuelled we headed home via Route 9. Everyone was in good shape as we came through Drumbeg.
Most of us pulled in to Lady Dixons in time to watch some of the thrills and spills. Andrew and Jonny were flying. It was great to catch up with good friends, but we all started to cool and headed home.

Thanks to the girls for your company. Hopefully you enjoyed and felt welcome.

Wookie, Sith Lord, Yoda and Princess Leia

The Wookie, the Sith Lord, Yoda and Princess Leia had a fun spin this morning. Continuing the theme of making dreams come true, I gave Retro the choice of destinations and then worked out a way there and back.

Dundrum was a good choice for a small group and the bacon sodas were as good as I remembered. The pace there and back was smooth and steady, covering the miles rapidly. Good fun and great to have Nitemare back on the road.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Jonny races at Apollo CycloCross

Jonny raced the Apollo CC "B" CycloCross race in Lurgan on Sunday.

The "A" race was won by Irish international rider and current Irish CycloCross champion, David Montgomery (Chain Reaction Cycles) with Roger Aiken (Team Asea) in 2nd, closely followed by Glenn Kinning (Kinning Cycles) in 3rd.

Johnny Boyle of TC Racing won the "B" race with Paul McCarthur (North Down CC) in 2nd and Andrew Patton (Kinning Cycles) in 3rd.

You can see Castlereagh CC's CycloCross racer, Jonny Wilson, in action at about 1:40 in to the following video - our first cross racer!

Thanks to Glenn Kinning for the footage.

Full results can be found at

Sunday, 4 October 2015


The youth team started at 8.45 from Forestside to make the start of the Ciclovia event at 9am from Botanic gardens and enjoyed cycling the city with closed roads, another well organised event. The normal 9.30am club ride also made an appearance at the event and got some video footage!
Ciclovia is a health and community based initiative which closes a part of the City to traffic, on a given day, for a specific period of time, in which cyclists are given the opportunity to ride through the traffic free zone of the City.  It is also an opportunity to create a mini festival environment which will attract and encourage people to come into the City centre, on their bikes, and enjoy the freedom of the City and sense of community. This is a completely FREE event to take part in.

More info on the event can be found at

Deja Vu in Reverse

Today was deja vu in reverse - like last week, a big group heading out steady, then three idiots heading on for more punishment. The plan worked great.
Every week I ask Retro where he wants to go and every week he says Ballymena. Usually a howling south or west wind means I feel I have to crush his dreams, but today I granted his wish. Heading north also meant we could check out and support the Ciclovia event in Belfast. We headed down the Ormeau Rd then down a car free Botanic Ave and Dublin Rd to the city hall. Retro almost got himself tangled in a fishnet but that's another story.
We kept things steady ups the Antrim Rd and along the lanes to Doagh with everyone working through. Steady through Burnside to Tildarg, then left up Big Collin. 

After an acrobatic display from paragliders most of the group stopped at the Misty Burn (Battery) for coffee. Three of us headed on for Broughshane lifting the pace - I'm not a big strava fan, but trophies don't lie. From there we headed to Ballymena for our stop, almost crashing as we passed an open coffee shop in Broughshane - the times they are a changing...
Our route home took us up Doctors Hill and then across to Parkgate and down the main road. We took two minute turns, but each time I came off the front it was a full minute before my eyes could focus on my watch to tell! That brings us to the theme of the day - "If it's not hard, you aren't doing it right!". Everyone got great training today, the Lites doing almost as far as the three amigos, although mercifully at a fractionally lower pace. Well done everyone. Ps good to have the Big Lad back.

Taking Piglet to the Farm

Today we took Piglet to the farm (technically it's also a garden centre and coffee shop, but hey). Thanks to his comment that Sean's calves look like a pair of frozen chickens, we also have a potential new nickname - Monsieur Poulet (a little nod to his recent continental excursion).
The Ards peninsula was Piglets call and I did my best to keep us off the busiest roads. After coffee in Harrison's we eventually had a short pace line stint up the coast to Ards. Digger and Piglet were both on great form and lit it up for every 30 with M. Poulet building his form up too.
Good fun and good training. Oh aye, It was alleged I was taking photos of my own ass (when it was actually a well framed shot of my team mates), so I actually did take one of my ass - big children!

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

Today was a case of "Making Hay While the Sun Shines". Other cliches and catch phrases heard included "I like convoluted", "I've never ridden a horse", "He needs a good talking to", "He needs a good seeing to", "I keep slipping off the seat", "I need to stop and get more biscuits", "Nitemare Nitemare, where for art thou Nitemare", "She smells nice", "I like spicy, well I thought I did", "This reminds me of Steve McQueen dishing out potcheen", "We have all winter for sitting indoors watching TV" - there were hundreds more that either I can't remember or couldn't repeat in public....
Facebook is playing up again, but the gist was a pretty direct hit on Newcastle where Sam, David, Peter, Mark and Martin stopped for coffee. Determined to make the most of the brilliant weather, the three amigos kept on to Annalong, then via Silent Valley to Attical and up Spelga. Down to Bryansford and across to Castlewellan with Retro scything through some sportive riders at warp speed.
After a laughter filled bowl of soup we headed home along the most convoluted route I could think of. The weather was just too good not to.
A brilliant day out, with pretty much 150k of fun - my longest ride since the fondo. What bikes were made for.

Sun in the Sky

Sun in the sky, You know how I feel, Breeze driftin' on by, You know how I feel, It's a new dawn, It's a new day, It's a new life For me, And I'm feeling good.... I really should pay more attention to the forecast, so overdressed but back rolling on my own working bike (thanks Brian) I set off up the Saintfield Rd on the front of a group of eight - Tiger and Piglet side by side. Also there were Lanterne, Stephen, Digger, Scotty, Sean and Conor.
It didn't take long for the sun to appear and a plan start to evolve to make the ride a little longer than usual. Stephen and Neil both needed back early and turned for home leaving six, with me feeling very much the weakest link - uphill anyway.
The route hit familiar spots, but took a few unfamiliar roads between them (I like to mix it up), taking us south into the wind and over towards home.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Lites Outweighed the Heavyweights

With a contingent of hardcore riders heading for Torr Head (including the trip there and back), the Lites outweighed the heavyweights today. The wind was coming from the South, so I suggested we head to Kinallen and then anyone looking a longer one could head to Scarva with me, while the rest could head for Ballynahinch.

That's pretty much how it went down. Up to Temple Golf Club, then Boardmills, Bailies Mills and Annahilt. Lanterne played his cards well to take the green jersey up to Kinallen where Derek, Philip, Martin and Neil turned left. 
Stephen & me turned right, through Corbet, Cappagh and Loughbrickland to Scarva. After saying hello to familiar faces we saddled up and cut through Drumlish to Laurencetown and through Blackskull and Hillsborough home. Stephen predicted rain coming in at 13:00 and sure enough a few spots landed, but we lit the afterburners and outran it home. Ballpark 105k, mission accomplished.

Lite run -

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Snake Hips and the Power of Peroni

Today's ride is dedicated to Snake Hips and the power of Peroni. He wasn't even out today, but pretty much the entire route was a consequence of him trying to derail my two weeks of life as a pro last night - he underestimated my stupidity! Before I forget, for almost a year I've been holding on to the misconception that his bike had Di2 gears - I can only assume it was a Derry/Belfast translation issue.
The forecast was poor, but this mornings weather was bright and sunny,making it surprising there were only five riders out. I'd been hoping for a big Lite group to sit behind, but no such luck. Digger, Flashdance, Lanterne, Scotty (the bike and a few Star Trek references) and me rolled up towards Ballynahinch cutting in to the lanes around the lakes working towards the south. Across to Valverde Hill and on to Drumaness. I was dying on the climbs, but when it's self inflicted you just have to dig in and suffer. On towards Brennan's and over the main road to loop round to Seaforde where Lanterne threw it down for the 40's - oopsie....
Right and over to Maghera, with Flashdance swinging off for home. I was feeling worse and worse, but we were all looking out for each other and a line out in to Newcastle seemed to flush the system a bit. We made an important scientific discovery in Niki's - French toast with maple syrup and blueberries officially cures a hangover! Refuelled we climbed to Bryansford, where with my energy returning I came up with a dastardly route home, loosely based on the Dromara Hilly. The climbs of Largy Rd and the Horseshoe brought us over to Leitrim and then round to Slieve Croob and finally over to Spa.
I wasn't aware at the time, but we were on course for Lanterne's second longest ride ever and by far the hilliest - impressive riding. Home was simple via Ballynahinch only stopping briefly for a coke and a smile. A great day out over a tough route which everyone seemed to really enjoy.‪#‎peronipower‬

O'Jays Love Train

After a stressful couple of weeks and despite a total lack of form, I was delighted to be out this morning and meeting a good group of riders. No one wanted to split from the off, so we set a NW course up the Glen Rd. The pace to there had been very controlled, so
I suggested everyone ride to the top at their own pace while I sat at the back guiding David on his first ride with us. It worked well, with the fast guys getting to empty the tank and me getting to save my toffeepops for later.
Riding into the wind meant the strong guys could sit on the front without wrecking anyone at the back on a meandering route towards Glenavey which has more downhill than up. There we split with Mark W leading a group towards Moira containing Martin, a hungover Snakehips (is there any other type), a fit and well looking Lanterne, Big Mike and David.
That left me leading Bones, Retro, Sean and a very lean looking Flashdance towards Crumlin and along the Lough side to Antrim, where Flashdance turned for home. Technically I'm not sure if leading is the right term as it took all I had not to disappear out the back. From Antrim we headed towards Ballymena and then into some lanes that Retro had recced through Milltown and eventually Randalstown. Retro was absolutely flying and Bones continued his great form taking every 30 I can remember.
Truffles did us proud as always, including a great job of lodging the O'Jays Love Train in my head for the way home "People all over the world (you don't need no money), Join hands (come on), Start a love train, love train (don't need no ticket, come on)", I think partly I enjoyed it because I knew how much Nitemare would disapprove!
We set a fast pace back to Antrim then along the Seven Mile Straight taking 2 min turns. Retro put my lights out up a rise and it was a relief to turn left and engage the wee ring for some real climbing. We headed across to the top of Hannahstown Hill and finally descended home. Sean's highlight of the day was a Retro attack on the descent - not his natural habitat when surrounded by relative heavyweights.
Hard work for me, but really good fun, which made the best of the NW wind and seemed to suit everyone. Well done to David who didn't quibble once about heading up the Glen Rd and who did a great job over to Glenavey - respect.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Tour of the Glens 2015 - A Rider's View

Sunday 30th August 2015, 0730 hours... The dull grey canopy of overshadowed sky and the cool, crisp air mirrored the drawn and disquietened faces of those assembled at the Loughside Recreation Centre. It was the Tour of the Glens, one of the most arduous events in the Irish Cycling calendar, and riders had come from afar to test their mettle against a selection of County Antrim’s most unforgiving climbs, but also to enjoy some of its most scenic roads.

The drab morning was attenuated by the colourful carnival of cycling kits which was rapidly unfolding from car boots; iridescent pinks from North Down, the fluorescent yellow of the Kaners, the spritely blue of King’s Moss, the refreshing palette of white, lime green and royal blue from Phoenix and Ards, as well as ardent reds from Madigans and the rich, umbrous navy blues from Shimna Wheelers and Castlereagh. Other flecks of exotic colours were provided courtesy of riders from Ballycastle, East Tyrone, Steady CC, Portadown, Dromore, Kinning Cycles and the Rouleurs (and many more!).

0800 hours... clustered tightly together in the chilly air, Club Secretary Colin Morrissey addressed the 100 – strong peloton. A route change had been introduced due to roadworks in the Ballynure area, but otherwise everything else would proceed as planned. Then we were off! The group worked up to a comfortable speed behind Chairman Gordon in the lead car as we rolled down the Shore Road in a long, strung-out pack, before biting into the long drag up the Doagh Road. At this early stage, legs were spinning nimbly as riders focussed on getting warmed up. The chill would not last long – the first cracks of sunlight were peeking out from behind the thin smatterings of cloud, and smiles were spreading contagiously throughout the pack. The Gods of the Glens were going to smile on us today after all!
Having conquered the Doagh Road drag, we proceeded onto the Carntall Road and then the newly-laid A8 into Ballynure. There was a brief moment of confusion upon joining the A8, but Ronan and I were able to assuage the doubts of the rest of the pack and convince them that we would soon take the slip road for Ballynure and get back to some more familiar territory. Indeed, it was less than two miles before we saw the welcoming red arrows on the tarmac and felt the bunch breathe a collective sigh of relief behind us.
The rest of the trek into the first food stop at Bally galley proceeded without incident, and we were able to enjoy the gentle rolling terrain on offer along the Deerpark Road and through Killwaughter, the diversion along Hannah’s road (the dual cabbageway) and the Ballymullock Road. The latter, with its long, gentle descent and spectacular view of the Irish sea ahead of us, served as a succulent appetiser for the roads further ahead of us.
Rolling into Ballygalley, most opted to stop for a bathroom break and to partake of the selection of gels and other goodies on offer. I would have followed suit, but while unclipping, heard a furtive “Oi! Stuart! Let’s go!” I looked up – Nitemare was rolling straight through the food stop and wanted company (for a while at least). Uh oh... Every piece of advice I’d ever gleaned from other members of the club (including the immortal “Don’t blow your biscuits!”) flashed through my mind in an instant, but I ignored it all and went anyway.
The two of us cruised steadily along the coastal road, effectively doing part of the Giro route in reverse. By now, the sun was beaming brightly in the sky and beating down on the vast expanse of water between us and the Scottish coast. Millions of shimmering waves reflected the sun back at us. This was truly some of the most beautiful road I’d ever ridden.
The first real challenge of the day came in the form of the Munie Road; starting in Glenarm, it turned back towards the south and then meandered steadily upwards for a couple of miles. The reward for our effort was the panoramic view on offer on the fast, twisting descent. From the top half, Carnlough bay seemed to open its arms out wide and welcome you all the way down, waiting to embrace you at the bottom. Alas, the comfort I sought in Carnlough bay would have to wait; we turned left on the Coast Road and continued onwards to the second food stop. Along the way, another brief effort was called for; a sharp hairpin bend preceded a short steep climb which carried us around the back of St. Killian’s College via Tower Road. This was easily one of my favourite parts of the entire day – cycling through a corridor of sheer rock face is just so cool! Back on the Coast Road, we flew through Waterfoot and into Cushendall, despite the headwind which was starting to pick up.
Having taken part in the Billy Kerr Sportive just a couple of weeks prior, I was fairly well-aquainted with Cushendall, so I knew exactly how far I was from the food stop at the yacht club. My goofy, grateful smile must have been much too perceptible, because as we rolled in, I was met with a half-stern, half-laughing, “We’ll not stop too long here. Straight in, straight out...” from Nitemare. The advice that I’d ignored earlier replayed again in my head, but nothing changed...
Topped up with sugar and water, courtesy of the Castlereagh volunteers who were monitoring the stop, we set out together again for what is arguably the most challenging part of the entire route. Starting on the Tromara Road just outside Cushendun, we had to complete a vicious figure-of-eight loop which takes in the highest A- and B-roads in the county. Beginning with a steady drag, the route then took a left after the viaduct and crept up the much steppier Glendun Road. I was extremely glad to have the scenic river and forests to keep me distracted while I fought desperately to keep Nitemare’s wheel up the climb. My optimism and strength depleted with the scenery, however, and I was dropped just before the misty and barren Slieveanorra Forest, a stark contrast to the inviting scenes I’d been witness to just minutes beforehand. I was unable to appreciate much of the scenery on the rest of the loop, but I promise the reservoir is beautiful when you’re not on tired legs!
Castlereagh had rather strategically (vindictively?) stationed photographers Joe and Ian on the Glenann Road to catch the grimaces on film. I’m sure many people experience the same bizarre phenomenon I do; under the glare of a camera lens, the legs come back to life (until you’re out of sight again). By all accounts, the photos from Slieveanorra were a wonderful showcase of both the number, diversity and strength of riders we had out on the day. Everyone certainly looks much fresher than I felt at that point!
The second food stop at Cushendall was even more welcome than the first. Nitemare had been and gone, of course. “You could still catch him,” Kyle offered encouragingly. “I doubt it,” I mumbled forlornly through a fig roll. The food was fantastic, with sandwiches, fruit loaf, tea and coffee and a veritable smorgasbord of biscuits on offer. It definitely gave me the pep I needed to make it back home!
My account of the remainder of the course is necessarily more brief as I don’t remember a lot of it, having actively tried to ignore the pain in my legs! More punishment came in the form of a long drag out of Cushendall and into Cargan, but the scenery of Glenariff Forest was a welcome distraction. There was no respite afterwards, with lots of steep rolling hills through Broughshane and into Ballyclare; perhaps not the most taxing on their own, but definitely a challenge with 100 miles already in the legs. At this point, I was passed by two riders from Dave Kane’s and Ballycastle CC (both absolute animals on the hills!). After Ballyclare, it wasn’t far back to HQ, and the final descent down the Antrim Road was a great opportunity to spin out the legs.

The welcome back at Loughside was second to none, with Martin on photographry duty, Mark G handing out shiny 12-tooth-cog medals, and Philip and Kyle making sure everyone was well-fed. Nitemare, and the Kaners/Ballycastle duo were waiting for me, all looking remarkably fresh! All that was left to do was wait as riders rolled in, all elated at having completed the Tour of the Glens.

With the exception of an ETCC rider who had an unfortunate spill near Slieveanorra (but soldiered on with a nasty gash on his hand...machine!) everyone had made it round safely, and the feedback was unanimous; a tough day in the saddle, but the weather was amazing, the scenery beautiful, the food delicious, and the accommodation and effort made by Castlereagh top-notch.

It will be Castlereagh’s ambition to make next year’s Tour of the Glens just as much a success (if not better!) than this year’s. In the meantime, we wish everyone a safe year of cycling, and invite them to wear their Castlereagh/Tour of the Glens caps with honour. We would also like to extend our warm thanks to all the riders who participated, and hope they enjoyed it as much as we did. The atmosphere on the day was incredible. We certainly hope to see you next year!

Finally, a very warm thank you and congratulations to all involved in making the Tour of the Glens a success, including (but definitely not limited to); Colin, Gerry, Andrew, Gordon, Mark G, Mark W, Mark M, Ronan, Sean, Darragh, Ian, Brian, Sam, Michael, Neil, Jeff, Karen, Kyle, Philip, Drew, Ruth, Steve, Joe, Mike, Martin, Chain Reaction Cycles, the volunteers at Cushendall who prepared food, the PSNI, Cycling Ireland, and the staff at Loughside Recreation Centre for being so hospitable. My most sincere apologies if there’s anybody I’ve forgotten. Your dedication and individual efforts were a testament to Castlereagh and I consider myself very privileged to be a member of the club.

Stuart Burns
Castlereagh Cycling Club