Admittedly Ireland has no Alpine size mountains and there really is something amazing about riding in such spectacular scenery, but when it’s limited to 3 or 4 months of the year due to snow then its less of an advantage. For downhill and freeride Switzerland probably wins, uplifts and long descents make far more sense for this than small hills. There is also has the advantage of an extremely reliable and extensive train network so its easy to get to different riding locations at the weekend to get some variety.
Cycling is not a seasonal sport in Ireland. I can’t get my head around the fact that here everyone puts their bike in the cellar between November and March. Summer dust is all very well but mud and wet roots are my favourite biking conditions and make for good technical skills. We don’t have the option of skiing so you just toughen up (actually that is possible here 95% of the time too but most people seem too weak!).
Then there is the social side. Clubs here seem to be only for serious cyclists and most people ride alone or in small groups. There are a lot of people riding but so many of them can only ride downhill or else tear around the fireroads on pimped out bikes but have no skills or appreciation for what the sport is really about. I couldn’t imagine anything like the Epic Club race with 50 or 60 people turning up for some hardcore xc mtb fun and then having a laugh in the pub afterwards. I really think that for xc riding and training Dublin is one of the best places you can live. No matter what level you are riding at there are club rides, races and training buddys to make things more fun.
There is so much potential for mountain biking in Ireland, which is perhaps beginning to be recognised internationally, but not anywhere near as much as it deserves. But actually maybe we should keep quiet about it, keep Irish mountain biking for real mountain bikers – an influx of Eurogoobers could seriously ruin things…