We caught up with Garry from Moycullen Bike Works initially to get some tips on how to improve our mountain bike skills. What we got was a great yarn, so if you want to cut to the chase then you'll need to scroll down for his top three MTB tips.
See here: To shop Everything Bike
A man, his knee caps, and the grafts that got away.
Since he could walk, Garry Davoren could ride.
That is pretty handy given he hasn’t always been able to walk – properly at least – since he started riding. There was that one time, just before he was due to race the 2013 European Single Speed Championships (Fat Bike category) in Northern Ireland. He’d been out riding a week prior and the rider in front tore off unexpectedly, suddenly exposing Garry to the full force of the elements. They were so strong and so unexpected that he was thrown off the trail and down a granite embankment. Down he flew, smashing both knees onto the granite and effectively flaying all the skin off the knee caps. It wasn’t pretty. He ended up in hospital, but not before medical staff asked him to take the back entrance so the sight wouldn’t upset others waiting. The outlook wasn’t good, and he knew it. So he did some sweet talking and convinced the Doc not to start mending in earnest until the race was over. He’d handle the pain until then. Just patch him up loosely to get him over the line. So you could say he went into the Championships with an open mind and open knees… Turns out he won it, and celebrated with a trip straight back to the doctors for a proper double graft. Garry thinks it was a pretty savage job at the time, but the fact hairs started growing back has got to be pretty impressive.
So whilst those wounds are still fresh in our minds, we thought we’d find out how Garry got into seriously dangerous riding…
The big, the bold and the beautiful.
Back in the day Garry went out of his way to put wheels on anything so that it would roll, and roll fast – preferably straight down a hill. He tried every kind of riding on every kind of bike, until his early teens when he caught the mountain biking bug. There was nothing better than taking the MTBs out into the remote wilderness of Galway, deep into trails and over obstacles that made Garry wonder if any human had ever passed this way before. Then the thrill of downhill would come after all that physical effort, and Garry got hooked.
It wasn’t long before all that passion landed him in the States, and it was there Garry’s mind was blown open to the potential of biking back home. Here was a scene that was all about the community – bike shops threw themselves 100% at events and really rallied behind riders. Garry saw for the first time how budding talent only got a proper leg up when the community got around them; when stores recognised their early prodigy and not only directly supported them, but introduced them to all the right people who could help nurture that ability and make it something great in years to come. Here was a scene where people would crowd the trails, creating a buzz of collective energy for riders as they flew past. Superstars of the sport would casually hang around and rub shoulders with mortal cyclists – it was addictive stuff. So much so, that Garry came home only to work hard enough and long enough to get himself back over the Atlantic ASAP and truly, deeply into the sport he loved so much.
The call of Galway – and the start of something pretty cool.
In Garry’s words, nowhere on earth can you connect with people the way you can in Ireland, and he missed that camaraderie. So he left his carpentry job in the US, and the constant races, and came home. A super experienced mountain biker with an eye for specs, Garry soon discovered the local racing scene and industry in general wasn’t at the pointy edge like back in the US. He found himself going online for parts and accessories, and doing the bike work himself. He got talking with his friend Eric Pierson, a highly skilled bike mechanic, and the two realised they could start something themselves.
In 2009 MBW, Moycullen Bike Works, was born. Straight away the shop was committed to looking after locals as well as clientele far and wide around the country. People soon caught wind of the shop that would look after you to the nth degree, whether you had 50 euros or 5,000 to spend. The magic of MTBing in the US had left an imprint on Garry not only as a cyclist, but as a businessman. Even to this day, it still takes a village to raise a cyclist, and MBW is a bit of a town crier in this regard. They have been behind riders like Jacob Dickson and Leah Maunsell for years, doing all they can to give Irish athletes a leg up in a demanding yet brilliant career.
But this store isn’t just for the elite – far from it. Walking into MBW and straight away you know nobody in here as OCD – this isn’t the kind of shop that has a perfect place for everything, making you feel intimidated to venture too far in.
Actually, Garry’s probably the first to admit he can’t always find everything straight away – as long as he and Eric know where the tool kit is at all times, then that’s the main thing. Whether you’ve been in the game for decades and you’ve come because you know few other stores in Ireland will have those parts you’re after, or you’re just starting out and want solid and no-strings-attached advice, you’ll settle in at MBW. Even customers who have not bought their bikes or even spare parts from MBW will still feel comfortable coming into the guys and getting them to do repairs or servicing – it’s just that kind of place that feels good for all involved.
Or you might just want to come in and play on the underground skate park Garry built below the shop. Up to you…
But what’s this got to do with shredding knee caps?
… We got distracted.
Well, this part of the story isn’t really connected to naked knee caps. It kind of makes them look potentially low-risk. Actually that’s not quite accurate, because these days Garry rides and does everything to mitigate risk – he’s calculated, considered and exacting, which is exactly what you need to be when you’re driving micro adventure tours like he’s now doing with William O’Connor. The two buddied up out of a joint love for conquering paths, the likes of which you’d never normally consider taking a bike up nor on. Their aggressive adventuring attracted Kona’s attention – MBW is a preferred Kona retailer – and specifically the use of fat bikes to beat around (or beat into submission, more likely) these paths. With fat bikes you can explore places normally only animals would reach – proper, true wilderness the likes of which will take your breath away. Like-minded brands Reynolds Wheels and Crank Brothers, which had also developed a great relationship with MBW, were equally quick to get behind the duo as well.
The aim is two-fold; experience the most amazing adventures and explore the true pristine wilderness and wildness of Ireland, but also test and inform on the design and development of products intended for just this kind of gritty work. In fact thanks to these adventures Kona will soon be launching the hotly anticipated Wozo alloy fat bike – but more on that another day. It’s been a short but explosive ride for all involved so far, much of it captured in some pretty cool video stories online.
See here: For more great advice, reviews, guides and news, head this way
These trips are all about pushing limits and if you make it on the to-go list it means you know your way around a bike, to put it mildly. These are the sort of adventures that come with 300 foot straight vertical drops – make just a slight move wrong and the outcome isn’t even close to knee re-grafting; it’s fatal. These are the sort of adventures that eat fair weather riding for breakfast – classic Irish fog will roll in at any point on some of the hairiest points of the journey, creating zero visibility and meaning if you’re not careful you’ll turn off road and straight down those drops we’ve already mentioned. They might be micro adventures but they’re macro suffering, test-yourself-to-your-limits kind of stuff. But the group has a ball on the way. In fact, if you’re not the kind of cyclist who can suck up and chuckle in the face of physical agony and pretty serious mental pressure, then you’d fall to pieces on this kind of trip. If a quick stop and a good cup of tea isn’t enough of a plaster, then move on; this is not for the faint-hearted.
Top tips for becoming a harder core mountain biker (no matter how hard or soft you already are!).
Listening to Garry and then writing about him, I want to be the kind of rider that he is, but my healthy inner dose of grandma prevents this from ever happening. So I ask him, what are his tips for becoming a better mountain biker, no matter what your level?
Breathe the adventure. This is about more than the bike, more than the chair lift and more than anything you might predict. Soak it all up and be ready for anything that is thrown your way.
Get fit(ter). It helps you enjoy it all the more.
Get great at planning. Look at maps, get local knowledge, assess in advance dangers (including weather), know land owners and/ or know where to avoid in case of trespassing. Respect locals and respect the environment. Never, ever do random. Pack the right food, the right gear, have spare batteries and make sure your phone is fully charged. Little things can suddenly become crucial when good turns bad and bad turns really quite dangerous.
Further MTB reading;