One of the most noticeable features of the Newport Landscape this summer was the appearance of bicycles. In all shapes and sizes, colours and designs. On bike racks attached to cars, on trailers, and stand alone they appeared.
Why? well, we all know thw answer, The Great Western Greenway attracted cyclists from far and near, from Ireland and abroad, experienced lycra clad veterns vied with first time grandmothers heading down the greenway toward Mallarranny. A bike fest!!!
New bike rental agencies emerged to do business. B/B’s experienced a new phenomenon – Bike Helmets – high tech pumps – instead of fishing rods.
We are on the cusp of a tourism paradigm shift here in West Mayo. Newport is poised to become the biking centre of Ireland. Remember Stradballey and steam, now Electric Picnic? We can do that too.
The Greenway has created a spinal column to which Newport can add the limbs of electric assisted bicycling, and off road intermediate mountain biking. And of course pure mountain biking …. the trail already exists in Letterkeen Wood, it just needs tweeking.
Such a route as the Achill Spur hiking trail would be an excellent intermediate mountain bike trail. The Western Way from Derry near Bellacorrick south through the forest is already in used by some. Srahmore and Letterkeen wood are a haven for such off road trails. With a little adjustment here and there they would be first class. There is physical challenge, wild wilderness, astounding scenery such as anything I have seen in Oregon or Washington state where such trail cycling is enjoyed.
So what do we need to do? Not a lot really, marketing certainly but the Greenway cannot have cost a lot in marketing? So get out and utilize the existing bog roads, forestry trails, signboard them! signpost them! map them! Make .gpx files available to users.
Encourage the RRO and Trails people to promote them. Educate the Tourism people to their existence and usability. The Great western Greenway is a great success, it can be an entree to other forms of off road biking.
There are other bikers out there who crave such experiences, I mountain biked in Moab Utah last year, slick rock cycling they called it. We could only go out at seven o’clock in the morning or late in the evening. They hankered after a drop of cool rain!!! Imagine that!
Imagine building on the concept of the Greenway … Rails to trails…. how about a cycling Museum in Newport, somewhere in my archive of old Newport photos there is one of two High Nellies leaning against a wall!!!
It is nice to dream …. to imagine what may come to pass.