Mountain Biking in Wicklow

View From the First Climb. Wicklow Towards the Sea.
View From the First Climb. Wicklow Towards the Sea.

I love the idea of being a tourist in your own country or city. I think it’s important to try to see the place you live through the eyes of a visitor. I always find that having visitors in Dublin allows me to appreciate the city more. I’ve complained to C more than once about the fact that I sometimes feel like I haven’t seen enough of Ireland, or that we don’t get out of Dublin enough.

Getting out of Dublin is so easy, so that last complaint is easily remedied.

I wonder if it was that desire–to get out of Dublin and to act like a tourist–that C was hoping to fulfill when he bought my wedding present. It must have been. Because I have never had any desire to go mountain biking.

I cycle around town every day. C and I did a really wonderful bike trip from Vienna to Budapest last summer, but Mountain Biking has never been a sport that tickled my fancy.

On the morning of my birthday (over a month ago), C told me he had a day of biking in the Wicklow Mountains lined up. If I didn’t jump for joy it was only because rain was falling horizontally outside our bedroom windows. So we postponed.

Last Friday we finally had a free day and the good weather to make our bike trip a reality. We boarded the Glendalough bus from Dawson Street with a bunch of American and Spanish tourists. After forty minutes, we were let off at the side of the road by a golf club halfway between Kilmacanogue and the Sally Gap. We got a warm up hike of about twenty-five minutes up to the bike rental.

Roundwood Reservoir
Roundwood Reservoir

Forty minutes on a bus and we are in the country; small roads, cottages, farms complete with sheep dog puppies and fields of sheep. No sign–smells, sounds, sights–of a European Capital city a mere twenty miles away. The road smelled of earth, sheep, honeysuckle and grass.

We found Biking.ie and met our guide, Richie. This is where things got a bit worrying for me. In fairness to C, I don’t think he was expecting to get a lesson on hard core mountain biking either.

The bikes are great; strong yet light, large-tired mountain bikes. We had to learn how to stand up on them, keeping our pedals even, and one finger always on both breaks. We had to learn how to let gravity help us over rocks and roots. I was scared. I was nervous. I was not excited.

Richie seemed to think we’d do fine. After only three “practice runs” on a little trail around the rental compound. We had a long twenty minute climb up to the trail head. That part was hard, sure, and my thighs were like, “whaaaaaaaaaat?!”,  but at least we were on a long, combed road that didn’t have sharp twists and turns, or huge rocks and roots.

We had a short reprieve at the top to take in the view before hitting the single track trail. I was not thrilled about this. I told myself, though, that I would be proud of myself if I could do it. I told myself that if C and I were just newly dating I would want to attack this challenge to prove that I am both athletic and tough. I held onto those emotions–or tried to, I really wanted to cry–as we set off.

The trails were beautiful, and I really wanted to be on foot so I could enjoy them. The actual trail riding is kind of a blur of total fear and frustration. I did it though, and was so happy to come out on the open road that looks out over the Guinness Estate just in the valley before the Sally Gap.

Made It!
Made It!

After some Jelly Babies (for glucose!) and a photo op or two, Richie gave us the choice of either riding some more trails or taking the road down around the Roundwood Reservoir.

“YES! Let’s do that. I just would feel happier.” I chickened out. But this was my birthday present and I wanted to actually enjoy it without breaking down in a mess of tears. I had managed to ride two trails. I was proud of that.

The rest of the ride was really wonderful. The day was gorgeous, I felt confident on the roads and didn’t even mind the few big climbs we had to do. I’d never seen the Roundwood Reservoir, and it is beautiful.

All in all we were on our bikes for about three hours. It was a good, solid ride, sometimes very scary, sometimes absolutely perfect for the early summer day.

The whole day reminded me that getting out of Dublin, of doing something new–even something right on your doorstep! even something that scares you!–is such a good idea.

And now I also know that I don’t want to be a Mountain Biker. So I can tick that off the list!

Me and My Bike. #nailedit
Me and My Bike. #nailedit
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Mountain Biking in Wicklow

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