Dawn was breaking. The wheels of the bike crunched over the shale-covered surface of the path as the wind swirled beyond the overhanging ledge. Conditions were far from ideal: damp, misty and with more than the hangover of a storm in the air, they left little margin for error – an error that equated to a sheer 600 foot drop down to the waiting rocks and waves of the Atlantic. The riders had ventured out not knowing fully what to expect, but it was too late to turn back now.
When Hans Rey embarked on a road trip with fellow mountain biking star Steve Peat, the plan, as he told Environmental Graffiti, was “to ride all the cool biking trails and spots in Ireland and to visit a few pubs along the way.” Yet the Swiss trials rider and multiple World Champion had long had his sights on the Emerald Isle’s legendary Cliffs of Moher and just knew he had to “ride that edge one day.”
The problem was that they hadn’t foreseen the Cliffs being quite such a tourist trap by day, nor that the weather would be as adverse as it was. So they postponed their plans until early the next morning, though not without misgivings. “We were well aware of stories of the dangerous upward drafts, strong winds that would sweep the cliffs, and as stories have it, pulled several people down over the years,” said Hans.
Daybreak came, and it wasn’t just the visibility that was a bit on the murky side. “Our heads were slightly foggy as well,” Hans explained, “from the Guinness the night before.” Still, they only had one shot at it, and weren’t about to be put off. “As we went out there, I quickly felt comfortable and in my zone. As a trials rider you learn to focus on your line, on what you want to do, not what you don’t want to do – in this case, fall to death.”
The guys’ confidence grew as they became more comfortable in their environment – and like a dog that smells no fear on you, their environment seemed to grow more accustomed to them. “Even though it was a stormy day, the winds were calm right on the edge of the cliffs. We got more and more daring. We rode ledges that were only about 4 inches wide and even jumped over 4 foot gaps.”
Yet however crazy this sounds to us, pros who are used to navigating over all kinds of obstacles – often without ever putting a foot down – know where the real perils lie. “The dangerous part riding the ledge was not to ride too close to the hillside, since we didn’t want to catch a pedal on the rocks and high-side down the cliff.” Obviously it takes superlative skill to pull off a stunt like this, and the riders completed their spectacular trail without mishap.
Of course, the local authorities knew nothing about what was going down on the Cliffs of Moher that cold Irish winter morning, and apparently they were none too pleased when they later found out. But since when have extreme sports guys cared about doing things by the book? “Just for the record, there were no parachutes in our backpacks, as some had speculated,” Hans concludes. “Mind over matter and the mercy of Mother Nature.”