A memorial spin and an epic mountain bike trip to the Burren!
The late John Behan has a lot to answer for and so too does Paddy O’Donoghue! Ahead of the memorial spin held today at the spot where John passed away last June a “small” trip round the Burren was organised by the Burren Cycling Club’s Paddy O’Donoghue. John’s name was invoked a number of times during that epic adventure – “Johnny would have loved this” or, “Jaysus, Behan is probably laughing at our best!”. Suffice to say that John’s spirit stayed with us on that fabulous day and throughout the next one too.
What a contrast in the weather! Saturday began with a light breeze and very dry conditions while Sunday brought downpours – it was as if the great man himself was sending us a message – if there’s no pain or hardship – sure it’s not worth it!
This 42km MTB spin had it all – steep climbs and ascents both on and off the bike, fantastic views, muck, ring forts, rocks, more rocks, bog, new cattle roads and much more. Starting in Ballyvaughan at around 11 o’clock, some 5 hours later we would return battered but buzzed up having ventured on an Odyssey through the fantastic landscape that is the Burren. For the 16 cyclists who enjoyed (or endured!) the trip there was a range of assaults on the senses (and the bodies) – from the breathtaking scenery and heartbreaking climbs, to the scrapes and bones crunching falls and the natural highs from having been able to take part in such a great journey.
The first few km’s were innocuous enough before we started on a tricky ascent through a hazel bush forest. You needed your wits about you here to stay upright. As we rose above the trees there was a nice switchback climb along a green road before a descent to find a blue digger as our landmark to get us back on track. We rejoined the main green road encountering a few gates along the way, allowing the weary to rest while pretending to hold the gate for the others coming through! After this we experienced the first technical descent of the day involving some ginger rock-negotiating skills on a very steep drop. At the bottom of this we hit the road known locally as the Khyber Pass which runs along the Caher River and dropped to Fanore where Brendan Quigley was on hand to deliver some very welcome sustenance.
That break was needed as before us was the biggest climb of the day up a newly built cattle road, designed and built to assist in protecting the fragile ecosystem of the Burren. The climb was relentless with seemingly ever-increasing digs all the way up. At the top it leveled off and for a while it seemed like we were traversing a Tibetan plateau on our way to what Paddy described as the “Bowl”, a depression to the South-East of the high point above Black Head. Here we had to climb up with our bikes on our shoulders before pressing on to meet another newly built track where we had our first and only puncture of the day.
Another fine descent before hiking a short distance down where we stopped just above one of the many ledges to be found in the Burren. Again we found ourselves hauling the bikes down, this time to Caherdooneerish Ring Fort followed by another scramble down through the heather to meet the green road that heads towards Ballyvaughan. This very quick descent on a tight path was a great way to finish the day, allowing some to let loose showing their technical downhill skills while one or two others ended up falling over the side!
Special thanks goes to the guide for the day, Paddy O’Donoghue for his leadership and hospitality and to the rest of the lads in the Burren Cycling Club for the endless banter and unmerciful slagging that went on between them and of course for showing the Galway lads how to ride a mountain bike!! We had a special treat of tea, coffee and a fabulous selection of cakes at the Tea and Garden Rooms in Ballyvaughan at the finish, courtesy of Paddy and his sister Jane.
Special mention must also go to some virgin mountain bikers including Pat O’Connell and Joe McCaul who skipped through the whole day without a bother on them, although privately they might insist otherwise!!!!
I think John would have approved of our endeavours for the day and would have been laughing from above having sent the wet weather down to us the following day just in case we thought we were getting ahead of ourselves! It was a testament to the man that over 50 cyclists for all over Ireland turned out in his memory for a damp “Johnny Behan Special”.
Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.