If there is a trail that scares me in the Slieve Blooms its this one. It doesn’t stop me going for it every single time though, just the stakes are higher on this one! For the majority of this trail there is absolutely no margin for error. I have ridden it maybe 15 times at this stage so I have a decent grasp of its characteristics and I have a little confidence when taking it on.
It is actually a connector trail between the trail networks of the Laois side of the Slieve Blooms and the Offaly side at Kinnitty. If you are coming from the Laois side after a short blast on tarmac this trail brings you onto the Offaly network. There is a trail that goes the opposite direction too that brings you from the Offaly side to the Laois side, video on that at a later date.
Drop and Roll has a Squirrel catcher at the top that catches my bike every single time, this is due to the length of the bike and isn’t something new. Not much can be done about this so if you are on a handbike be aware! After the squirrel catcher there is a relatively flat section that begins to throw a few gentle corners at you, theres a few rock patches and small drops before the faster descending begins. The first challenging corners are reasonably flowy but need to be taken with a bit of caution.
Next up is a longer rock section that narrows with a tree stump or two to keep you alert, this is quickly followed by a series of drops that lead into a flatter section.
After this you head into the first fast section with plenty of rock patches and corners that flow nicely, its easy to build speed but do so with caution, the next section has some drops and lips that will have your wheels off the ground. Anticipating where you might land is important as going off the trail here will be easy, getting back on would be very hard!
Following this is a series of switchbacks that are manageable with handbike steering. The corners feature some rocks offering a bit more grip and berms to prevent you going off the edge. The last of these switchbacks, you need to control your speed well as there is a ravine that would be very difficult to get back out of if this corner is misjudged.
Having got past the switchbacks you enter a set of flowy left right wider corners interspersed with rock gardens. The trail straightens out with a decent stretch that speed can be built on with a few drops throughout. It’s very tempting to push hard but the rocks could have you bouncing off the trail and with ditches either side you could find yourself in trouble if you do! The last corner has a more severe rock patch and then its plain sailing to the bottom and onto the fire road. This trail is really great fun! If you go quick it is hard on the bike. In fact this trail is where I snapped a rear axle and was very fortunate to get all the way down without being in a lot of trouble.
I would advise having suspension set to soft on this and to apply brakes liberally! It’s not for the faint hearted!