Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Free cans of Guinness - Roll up, roll up!!

A.W. Wainright once promised a half-pint of beer to anyone who fully completed England's Pennine Way - by the time the poor fella died, he was £15,000 out of pocket!

Tony Evans thought his wallet would remain in hibernation when he made the same promise to Tango & Cash about their crazy plan to nail the new Ulster Way route in 6 consecutive days. "It's impossible!", he cried. Little did he know that he would be dragging himself down to the off-licence to remain true to his word.

The ceremonial handing over of the cans of Guinness took place on the banks of the Lagan on 13 May 2008, 15 minutes before a couple of local teenage toe-rags bombarded us with water-bombs!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Photographic Record of The Ulster Way

We tended to only take pictures when we were in good form, so long periods of our Ulster Way trip go unphotographed!

Full gallery at

It all started one damp Saturday morning at Belfast City Hall...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Ulster Way versus the Transalp Challenge

In July 2006, we completed the Transalp Challenge, hailed as the world's toughest mountainbike race, and we trained our socks off for it for 6 months, albeit we did not really know what we were at. A couple of days ago, we completed the new Ulster Way, devoid of adequate training, having only been out on only one 4+ hour ride in 2008, round Lough Neagh the week before we departed.

We thought it would be interesting to do a comparison of the two challenges, in terms of times, distances, and vertical climbing, just to see how it all stacks up. The results are interesting (if you find this sort of guff fascinating, that is!)

Basically, it's no wonder the Ulster Way nearly killed us!

Transalp ChallengeThe New Ulster Way
Total distance (km)600937
Total climbing (m)22,00015,744
Number of days86
Total time we took (hrs)5684
Average climbing / day (m)2,7502,624
Average distance / day (km)75156
Average stage time / day (hrs)714

Friday, May 09, 2008

2 careful owners, only 600 miles on the clock...

The Ulster Way bikes for sale

Day 6 of The Ulster Way

Portrush to Belfast City Hall, via Ballycastle, The Moyle Way, The Antrim Hills Way, Ballyboley, Woodburn, Belfast.

98 miles of torture, 2,850 metres of vertical climbing, in a mere 17 hours!

Just finished the Ulster Way, back outside Belfast City HallWell, we finished, at 1:00am, having started the day at 8am with a photo for RNLI in Portrush. That was pretty much the last time we smiled until we finished.

Phil was our cheerful companion for 65 miles or so, into Glenarm, before heading for home, having run out of Minstrels!

In the morning, round the coast towards Ballycastle, my front cog exploded into 50 bits and I fell off as a result, which gave us a problem for an hour or so, as single speed bikes only have one cog! Flipping the bike over to change the cog also wiped our GPS data for that morning, as the reset button was held down, so that was further joy!

The generous Ivan Park, who had joined us for the morning at Dunseverick, allowed us to strip his bike for parts, and we left the poor lad with a useless bike and kept moving, stopping briefly for EXCELLENT fish and chips in Ballycastle.

The Moyle Way, from Ballycastle to Glenariff, was unspeakably unpleasant with the bike, albeit the scenery was lovely. We had to walk and drag and carry and haul our bikes for mile upon mile of soft, muddy, tussocky, heathery ground, and we hit our mental lowpoint half-way down Trostan, having thought that nothing could have been worse than coming off Slieveanorra.

By the time we reached Waterfoot, it was nearly 8pm, we were utterly depressed, and we still had an hour's pedal to Glenarm, and the entire Antrim Hills Way to do, before a 30-odd mile pedal back to Belfast. Our GPS conked out half way to Glenarm, but we took photos to document things instead.

Lynda Foy from Larne Borough Council met us in Carnlough with loads of provisions, including sweets, bananas, waterm orange juice, a torch, maps, etc etc, in anticipation of us tackling the Antrim Hills, and it was great to have the additional support.

We left the valiant Phil in Glenarm, and set off up the long 20%(!) road climb before we were to strike for the open hills. After much debate, and enormous regret, given how far we had come, we took what we think was the right decision NOT to go onto the open mountain in the dark, as we did not know those hills, the ground was rough, we had bikes to carry, there were cliffs (I could give another 20 reasons!).

So we effectively missed the open sections of the Antrim Hills Way, sticking to the high road instead, and headed for Ballyboley on the roads. This was particularly disappointing given how Lynda Foy has supported and encouraged us, but was the right move.

Tim Holmes, who started out with us last Saturday to see us off, and who has been a constant source of encouragement on text messages over the past 6 days, met us in Ballyboley to see us back to Belfast, and, given that it was 10:45 by the time we met him, we were VERY glad that he could take over some of the navigation to get us along the rest of the Ulster Way, through the likes of Woodburn (which he knows well) and back to Belfast.

Bugsy (my bro) met us outside the City Hall. The goths had all gone home, and there were just a few drunk girls to welcome us back, after our 600 mile round trip, but they were understandably stand-offish, given our condition.

Fillet steak and roast chicken, supplied by Bugsy, was ready for us in the car, and we devoured it with great gusto.

A big thanks to Tim for getting us back from Ballyboley- I honestly don't think we would have made it back without him.

We learnt loads on the trip, and will share a few conclusions and comments when we get our heads back together. Thanks for all your support over the last week.

(Terry, does that still count for a half-pint?...)

Davy & Rick
Tango & Cash

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Day 5 of The Ulster Way

Gortin to Portrush. (Again, Raymond from Bella Vista B&B in Belcoo, we are so grateful to you for running our bags to Gortin for us and donating to RNLI - thank you so much)

85 miles, 2500 vertical metres of climbing, over 13 hours.

Today was FANTASTIC! The weather was brilliant all day again, and we started the day with a big climb before going along the Central Sperrins Way, which was totally new territory to us, and a real highlight of the trip. The views and the terrain were amazing, and we hope to be back some day soon.

Lunchtime took a new twist today. Bugsy and Hugh met us in Dungiven, and produced a picnic hamper. We stretched out on the camping chairs the guys had brought, and enjoyed fresh strawberries, fruit salad, chicken liver pate on fresh baguette, stuffed olives, spicy chicken, pasta salad, Red Bull, sweeties, and Pringles, all washed down with a glass of the finest chilled Chardonnay!

Richard Gillen, Countryside Recreation Officer from Limavady Borough Council, also joined the party, and produced dessert comprising extremely sticky buns and Haribo sweets.

All this was the perfect preparation for getting stuck into a 300 vertical metre climb from Dungiven up Moydamlaght. Again, the views were simply amazing all day, with the climbs, descents and views reminding us of the Alps! The picnic team drove to the top of the mountain to meet us again, just to rub it in that we had to slog up under our own steam, and Richard Gillen felt the guilt and pushed my bike for me for 300 yards.

The only trouble with today was the amount of carrying we had to do. LOTS of the route was over terrain that was impossible to cycle on, so it was over the shoulder and hike-a-bike for some long sections, which was just misery.

Shirley Park met us outside Downhill Forest and guided us home to Portrush, where the CCAR contingent of Ivan, Joan and Keith were there in full CCAR fig to welcome us in, meeting us at the RNLI station. Delighted the the folks also made a very generous donation to our RNLI Lifeboats fundraising efforts.

Phil was on our doorstep when we arrived in Portrush tonight, and we were so grateful to see him, that we sent him down into the town to buy us some chips, hehe.

Big day tomorrow, our last day, finishing at City Hall at probably 10 or 11 pm, and Phil joins us for the ride! :-o

Day 4 of the Ulster Way

Belcoo to Gortin

95 miles, just over 12 hours, 2875 vertical metres of climbing.

Glorious day that saw us get another roasting, and we amazingly finished an hour ahead of schedule. We did not start until nearly 9am, so reluctant were we to get back on the bikes an leave our hosts in Belcoo.

The views all day were simply breathtaking, but we had to work hard to get them, with the hills and the wind our enemies all day. Both of us were pretty banjaxed, both complaining of sore knees, and both REALLY looking forward to finishing.

We have concluded that single speed was madness for this trip , something we would have been better deciding before we started. Our Chips today were enjoyed in Pettigo. In an act of unblieveable generosity, the owner of our bed and breakfast in Belcoo donated to lifeboats and then offered to drive our bags to Gortin, which solved a big problem for us. More on this later.

The finish was savage, with endless climbing towards and around Gortin Glen, and we were very happy boys to finally roll to the hostel and collapse at 9pm. Tomorrow sees us hopefully reaching the North Coast!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Day 3 of the Ulster Way

Tandragee to Aughnacloy on road, Slieve Beagh Way marked way to Donagh. On to Florence Court then Belcoo.

115 miles, 3025 vertical climbing metres, 14 hours on the go.

The weather was class and we are both burnt. We were in pieces when we arrived at the bed and breakfast at 10.45pm, too late to get decent food so cereal and toast had to do!

The run across from Tandragee to Aughancloy was good fun, the weather fantastic, and we took a long break in Armagh to enjoy the sunshine and some nice coffee.

We were sorry to see the departure of Transalp hopefuls the Cooley Bulls, Mickey and Declan, at Aughnacloy, where we enjoyed a superb lunch of chips, chicken and beans. Chips have proved to be our saviours - we have devoured lots of them every day so far.

Some savage climbing on the Slieve Beagh Way slowed us badly, and it was pitch black for the last hour. There was no way we could go up through Florence Court past the swallow holes and down the cave steps with no lights, and we were already far too late for our hosts, so we did not turn off for the caves.

3 days down, 3 to go - this is HAAAAARRRRRD work!!! Cheer us up :-(

Monday, May 05, 2008

A big THANK YOU from 2 very sore chaps!

Many thanks to those of you who have been leaving us messages and sending texts.  It really is great to get your notes during what is unquestionably the most arduous 'holiday' we have ever been on, so please keep it up.

Rick & Davy

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Day 2 of The Ulster Way

Across the Mournes to Rostrevor (26 miles), up the main road to Newry, round Ring of Gullion (36 miles), up the Newry Canal path to Scarva, then onto our night stop at Tandragee.

14.5 hours in the saddle, 84 miles, over 2800 metres of vertical climbing - we did not for a minute imagine that Day 2 would be as hard on us as Day 1, but so it turned out, as much of the terrain was simply woeful. We were carrying or dragging our bikes for probably half of our total time, and it was energy-sapping.

We decided to forgo our original 7am start time, and instead aimed for 8, as Day 1 had killed us. We were again joined by Mickey and Declan, who are now part of the furniture, and Joni McGlade, fresh from the hospital meat-slab.

We headed up into the Mournes in strong wind and heavy rain, and the going was slow and draining, much of it unrideable. Picked up the infamous Rowan McMahon in Tollymore, and staggered on as best we could in the terrible weather. Joni headed for home after the descent off Butter Mountain. The next section round Hen Mountain was appalling, totally unrideable and frankly depressing.

Reached Rostrevor after 5.5 hours, utterly spent, and took a break for an hour to eat the cafe out of stock. The weather then turned fantastic, and stayed so for the rest of the day, with unbroken sunshine. James Keown joined us on the road bike for a spell, but had to head back to Newry when the off-road got REALLY offroad in Ravensdale.

The run up to Newry was great, with the wind on our tails. The Ring of Gullion was much tougher than we had anticipated, with long and punishing climbs aplenty, but some fantastic descents to boot. The highlight was soup, sandwiches and coffee supplied by Davy (the other Davy) and son in Forkhill, where just previously a bull had prevented us from taking our intended route across a field - the monster was just daring us to climb that gate!

Declan and Mickey had to leave us for home at Slieve Gullion car park, so that they could prepare to meet us again tomorrow, by which time it was getting dark.

The push on to Tandragee from Newry was a slog, but we were delighted to have Dale join us just outside Newry to guide us home. Big chinese on the table when we arrived at 10:45pm - sweet!

Looking forward to Day 3, Scarva to Belcoo, County Fermanagh.

Thanks to everyone for your messages of support and humour - much appreciated!!

(T, 2 days down! Half-pints at the ready!)

Day 1 of The Ulster Way

Belfast to Newscastle. via Lisburn, Carryduff, Stormont, Holywood, round the outside of Ards Peninsula to Portaferry, over the ferry to Strangford, then the Lecale Way all the way to Newcastle.

13 hours in the saddle - it was murder. 110 miles, 60 of which was into a stiff sea breeze.

We left Belfast City Hall at 8am, a team of 8 folks, 5 of us destined for Newcastle, and were glad of the company of these and other folks we picked up in Holywood. Good to have Jonny Gallier, Tim Holmes, big John, Paul Kennedy, Rick Monro, and good to see Dusty on the beach, and Terry (start pulling the half-pints, Terry! Funny the way your house happens to be on the new route!)

Highlight was the Lecale Way, particularly the first off-road section, which reminded us of North Antrim coast.

Lowlight was the drag from Murlough Bay to Newcastle along the beach. 5 bedraggled souls completed the day - Davy, me, Mickey, Declan and Mark.

Great chinese and B&B - ready for Day 2 - over the Mournes to start!

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Ulster Way - only 600 miles to go

Tango & Cash Ulster Way logoWe start our 600 mile Ulster Way circuit tomorrow morning, Saturday 3 May, leaving from Belfast City Hall at 8am.

The plan is to head out the tow-path to Lisburn, swing round through Carryduff, Stormont to Holywood, coastal path and road to Portaferry, over on the ferry to Strangford, then the Lecale Way all the way to Newcastle. The guts of 100 miles on day 1.

If you fancy the spin, meet ready to go at 8 am at the City Hall on Saturday 3 May, or at the car park at the entrance to Slieve Donard Hotel at 7am on Sunday morning, from where we will be attacking the Mournes and the Ring of Gullion, before heading up the Newry Canal path to Tandragee, where we finish day 2. From there, we go west, young man.

We are joined on the first 3 days by two Transalp Challenge 2008 hopefuls, Mickey and Declan, plus a few extra folks for day 2, and a few others will be joining us for bits of various days, if they are as good as their word.

The plan is to keep the site up to date every night, to prove we still live, but it may not happen.

See all trip detail at our Ulster Way Blog