Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Coming round the mountain on her bike

When Agata Tamulewicz first took up mountain biking she thought paying a thousand euros for a bike was crazy. That was then …

The Polish woman has lived in Ireland for nearly five years and first got into mountain biking (or MTB as they say in the crew) in her search for a hobby in her new country.

“To be honest I couldn’t really get what people saw in cycling in circles. For me a bike was something that could carry me from point A to B faster than my legs, and that was all. After the first year in Ireland however, I felt that it was the time to do something more. I probably saw somebody on a mountain bike and it appealed to my imagination,” she says.

Not that she was exactly sedentary with a history of hiking, rock-climbing and survival camps behind her. That sporty background meant she went all in with the MTB, buying her first bike - a light-blue Ladies Giant Yukon €450 – before she ever hit the trails.

Tamulewicz says: “I convinced my flatmate to buy a bike as well and a week later we went for our first biking adventure to Ballinastoe in Wicklow. There we met MAD (Mountaibiking Association of Dublin), a bunch of friendly people who took care of us and invited us to join the club.”

Four years later she’s still in love with it.

Maybe one of the reasons it’s so easy to love is there is so much variety, it’s not really just one sport.

Tamulewicz has tried quite a few from the standard 90 minute cross-country race to 12-hour races done in pairs. Don’t worry you don’t race for twelve hours, just six taking an hour on and off with your partner, no sweat.

That’s what she was up to this weekend at the Bontrager 24/12 in Plymouth.When she explains, Tamulewicz makes it sound so normal but … well, see what you think:

“The atmosphere is completely different to the standard XC events. You have hundreds of people camping in a big field, with music and barbecues. Hundreds people just like you, doing not entirely sane thing – riding for hours, in daylight and through the night, getting crazily tired but still riding…That insanity is quite bonding.

“You all push to your limits, until you think you can't go any further, but then your friends cheer you up, shout encouragement or sometimes give you a kick in your bum and you find strength somewhere inside you which you didn't know existed. All your problems become tiny, the only thing that matters is to keep pedaling, to climb that next hill, to just finish another lap.

“It's an amazing feeling, incomparable to anything else, some sort of sweaty catharsis.”

She says you can do this race or even a 24-hour event all on your own, but jokes that the ratio of suffering to fun would be too unbalanced for her. Her boyfriend Sean is her plus-one so not too many nights in front of the TV for this couple then.

I had a great chat with Tamulewicz about this mad sport, so you’ll be hearing from her again on keeping your nerve coming down the mountains and tips for finding the perfect bike.
Tamulewicz blogs at: Agata on a Bike  Photos credit: Marcin Koscielny and Keith Wallace


Anonymous said...

Way to go, Agata! Love this write-up, Niamh. The mountain sports translate beautifully into biking; this is a great inside look at the sport and a great competitor.

Snowcatcher said...

Ditto what Ti said. My husband longs to do a 24-hour race, and I personally think that's just nuts. But I do sincerely admire those who are able to compete with such intensity for such long periods of time.

niamh said...

@Ti - very different way to take on the mountains alright, I hadn;t realised people went so far up till we talked

@Snowcatcher - Nuts indeed. I've met people who do 100km running + kayaking but this is a whole other level