Last weekend Ryan and me went down to Tipperary for a big Sherlock family reunion. And since his brother now lives only about an hour from the Ballyhoura trails, we had planned to nip down to give the trails a blast. Ryan had never been there and I had only ridden them once at night time in the worst rain when they were still unfinished and I was about half way through a 24hour adventure race.... so of course I wanted to see what they were like.
The blue trail
We arrived at the Ballyhoura car park - it's actually a bit hidden to find, you kinda really need to know where you are going, hopefully they put up a few more signs earlier on. If you have a GPS (or the really useful new iPhone ;)), I'll put up the exact coordinates of the car park later (have enough battery though on your iPhone, as it eats through it when in GPS mode!). It costs 5Euro to park your car there for the day, which you pay in a little building at the side that also contains toilets (probably the most indestructable ones I've seen) and showers (toilets are free of use, showers cost 2Euro). Outside the building there are a few wooden seating groups (benches and tables) and there is also a little coffee and snacks van.
We paid our parking fee and set off. There is about 5 different trails of various difficulty, all colour coded in green, brown, white, blue and red by increasing length and difficulty (more info can be found here: http://www.ballyhouracountry.com/bhsection.asp?bhl1=Tourism&bhl2=Features&bhl3=Features&sloc=&rrn=847). We decided to go for the blue trail (about 41km, estimated time 3.5-5hours), since the weather wasn't that great (it was already drizzling when we started off).
Kieran trying his luck
The trails are organized so that they start off all together on the same trail and then the shorter trails branch off earlier, so you can actually decide on the trials if you wanted to go on do a longer or a shorter loop. In the end they also all converge again onto the same trail back to the car park.
The trails itself are comparable to the trails in Ballinastoe. They are very flowy and can be ridden in any weather since they are hard cored in most places. This was good because 5min into our spin it started pouring rain... There are no steep climbs or descents and all is rideable without dabbing, even on the blue trail. No technical bits per se, so similar to Ballinastoe, the fun lies in riding these trails fast, because then the many many corners become a whole lot more interesting. The only annoying bits are the stones to both sides of the path, strategically placed so that people will go around the corners rather than ride straight through. Sometimes this means that the natural flow is obstructed by these stone obstacles. I think the colour coding isn't really for the difficulty, because the blue trail was in no way more difficult than the green trail, but rather just the length of the trail.
Some fun bits to notice where the boardwalks over some really boggy sections. The are actually quite long and require you to ride with full concentration and at a speed that is high enough so you can balance well.
Standing next to Californias time trial number one! ;)
We also had to skip some section in the middle due to felling going on, so our whole loop came down to only about 34km in the end which took us just about 2hours 10min. Most of it ridden in pouring rain, but still enjoyable, since all is still rideable in crap conditions. Ryan really liked the last few bits which were really fun and you could hammer down. We later found out that the bit that was cut out would have been the most fun bit to do, so we might have missed out on even better bits.
Due to the crap weather and the sandy grit spraying up which is common on these type of trails, both Ryan's and my brakes were wearing down fast. Unfortunately they don't have a bike bits stand or such, but talking to the people there they said they were considering one, maybe even just selling stuff out of the back of a van.
The best thing on the whole place however is the jet bike wash - for 2 Euro there is enough water to be able to wash about 4 bikes, probably more if you are efficient. The power is amazing, the dirt is just washed straight off (Ryan thinks it's a little too powerful, so be careful when washing all the moving parts on your bike).
The red trail
On Sunday we repeated the thing with a few changes: we took Ryan's brother Kieran out as well, who is actually a roadie and currently ranked number 1 in California for time trial in his category, so while Ryan and me put good distance on him on the singletrails ("wow, you actually have to concentrate and look where you are going!"), he wasn't even breaking a sweat when I was huffing and puffing up the hills. We also decided to do the red trail, since the weather was a lot better (51km, estimated riding time 4-6hours. It took us about 2hours 30min for the detoured version of about 45km.... I guess those guestimations are tailored towards the recreational riders and not racers ;)).
Do you think Ryan looks fat in this pic?
And because the weather was better, we enjoyed a nice coffee after having washed our bikes with that superstrong pressure cleaner :)
Facit: those trails are fun and suitable for riders of all abilities. Look somewhere else though if you are looking for technical trails or downhill action.