Autumn for some can be a time of renewal, a chance to unwind after a long season and recharge the batteries before the wild, wet and windy winter arrives. One of the best ways for any cyclist to recharge the batteries and have a lot of fun along the way is to head off road and into the mountains. Ireland is a great place to go mountain biking and one of the best places in the country is The Nire Valley in Co. Waterford, with an abundance of exciting but very rideable single track trails to choose from. It’s also the location of ‘The Nire Valley Drop’
Tens of thousands of Irish Cyclists take part in road sportives throughout the year but there are very few if any that cater for those who might want to venture off road. This was one of the thoughts that went through Paudie Halpins’ mind when he discovered the plight of the inhabitants of Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western World after a devastating earthquake struck the Country. A builder by profession Paudie was asked to join a group of 30 volunteers organised by the Haven Partnership Charity who go over to help build homes for the millions of people who found themselves homeless. In order to raise funds for the Charity the idea of ‘The Nire Valley drop’ was born. A local committee was formed with the likes of Ger Walsh, Beanie Byrne, John Molloy, Michael Desmond, Liam Moore, Barry Dunford, Declan Spellman and Paudie all helping to co-ordinate the efforts of the entire community.
It began four years ago with 90 participants and this year is expected to have over 300. With routes of 30k, 45k and 55k there is something for everyone. There are also many cut off points which allow people to tailor the course to suit themselves. Last Saturday I went out to Ballymacarbry to see just what’s in store for those who turn up on the day.
Paudie, Ger and Beanie were hard at work when I arrived but soon had their gear on as we headed off to explore all that the Nire Valley drop has to offer.
Sign on and registration takes place in the Ballymacarbry Community Centre with plenty of parking nearby. This is also the finish destination where the homemade soup, brown bread and all manner of confectionaries have now reached legendary status and provide a very welcome reward for everyone at the end of the event. Right from the beginning a constant feature of The Nire Valley Drop has been the huge community involvement. Nearby businesses and bakeries also play their part. The local Nire GAA club also help out in a big way and are the co-beneficiaries of the event along with the Haven charity.
A short spin on the road out towards ‘The Nire’ provides a gentle introduction into the woods where the real fun begins.
From the start point up to the ‘Coffin drop’ area where the course crosses over itself, there is a gradual climb for 13k. This point is a great area for spectators and can easily be reached from Clonmel by driving up past Careys Castle and taking the next road to the left. This is also the location of the food stop where bananas and brack will be on offer along with the opportunity to top up your water bottles.
The main attraction of the event of course, is the number of single track ‘drops’ on offer. Each has a name and a significance. The one common denominator that I also found was that each one could be exhilarating and give you a real adrenaline rush whilst also being very manageable for even a novice off roader. There has been a huge amount of work put in throughout the year to make the entire route as rideable and safe as possible.
There are many ‘drops’ throughout the course with some of the highlights being ;
A long straight drop over 500 meters long. The first half is fast and not overly technical. Then you cross a small stream and the real fun starts. It becomes more technical and necessary to scrub off a good deal of your speed.
An area where Paudie and his father used to hunt together regularly.
The Nire Valley drop
Where the splendour of the entire Nire Valley stretches out before you.
Nothing but wild mountains ahead far removed from civilisation, with the the odd suspected sighting of a Grizzly bear depending upon how much effort has been put in already.
Watch out for a few wild deer and the odd Stag
A long and winding drop through marsh land.
Much of the entire province of Munster stretches out before you.
Keep an eye out for those black and white moving bushes.
The combination of gradual climbs on the fire roads, the adrenaline pumping drops, the very rideable single track and crossing a few streams and fields surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery in the country makes this event a ‘must do’ on any cyclists’ bucket list. Riding the course with the lads, I felt like I was a teenager again. Out enjoying the pure pleasure of riding my bike in good company, having the craic, testing my limits and breathing in the pure fresh air surrounded by a natural technicolour theatre that looks much the same as it must have done hundreds of years ago.
An added bonus of taking part in the event is the satisfaction of doing something to help those less fortunate whilst out riding your bike. Paudie and the 30 other Irish volunteers all bring their own tools and work 10 hour days whilst sleeping in tents help to build over 200 homes in 2 weeks each year. The funds raised from this event help to make that happen.
The Nire Valley Drop takes place on Sunday October 30th 2016and you can find out more details and how to enter here :
This is also a good taster by Shane Power from last year of what the event has to offer :
Thanks to Paudie, Beanie and Ger for giving me the guided tour and I look forward to seeing you all again on October 30th 2016.