Richie Byrne: Blood And Steel
Life's hard...so you should play hard. No excuses... now you would not be reading this unless you are in to Mountainbiking. Mountain Biking, it's the ultimate experience... it's like the Zoo, the circus, the Stag party and the moment you die. It's always the big unknown." - Richie Byrne, 2012.
The Last Blast
Richie Byrne savagely gave it his all in a full scale war with cancer. Then he passed away peacefully on September 29th, 2016. Ten days later, five hundred mountain bikers pedaled up an Irish mountain to raise their helmets and bid him farewell.
That would have been enough to raise my curiosity in the posthumously published collection of Richie's writings. The powerful emotions his passing pulled out of my friends from the Irish mountain bike community made experiencing this text mandatory.
His ardent passion, unsparing humour, raw yet reflective humanity, and focused energy all shine through in his writing.
I'm very lucky, I get to meet brilliant people all the time... sure I piss off the occasional person. I'm not Jesus, what I do is introduce people to each other through the medium of Mountainbiking... there's even a couple of Babies out there, that wouldn't be there if I hadn't come along...which is pretty fookin cool all the same." - Richie Byrne, April 27th, 2013.
Blood And Steel
The book consists of a collection of Richie's blogs spanning 2011 to 2016 and aims to continue his legacy of entertaining and inspiring both hardened and aspiring mountain bikers.
I’m certain that if five hundred people reviewed this book every one of them would select different passages to highlight Richie's writing. I've ended up flagging half the pages of the book. If you've read Richie's blogs, and there's a quote that highlights his work for you, please post it in the comments below.
So many characters in Enduro... but they deserve there day in the dazzling sunlight that is Enduro racing...of course they do. Strava cannot keep up out there, it's too fast and too sexy for Strava." -Richie Byrne, June 16, 2013.
For me, it's a sweet, brutal, cocky, honest, sometimes questionable, beautifully emotional, and bitterly affecting cancer story routed in a burning passion for family, friends, and mountain biking.
You can't buy 'The Blogs Of The Godfather' and that's a shame. The book 'Blood And Steel' was printed to order €35 at a time. By my count, there are only some 250 copies in the world. But, if you know someone from Ireland who rides mountain bikes there's a great chance they know someone with a copy.
I think the best way to experience Richie's writing is outside with a pint or a cup of coffee and a hard copy, which I suppose is a bit ironic since it is tacked together from blogs. Don O'Connor, of Slick Fish Design, did a beautiful job
It's not always easy to process. Richie was at times poetic and at times brutally blunt. He was unsparing, including to himself, and simultaneously gives zero f*cks and all the f*cks. I'm positive he'd have been beyond stoked if you read this book and wouldn't give two shakes if you didn't.
I can promise you won't agree with every sentiment or laugh at every joke, and you might even be perturbed from time to time, but I read every word cover-to-cover and appreciated the book profoundly.
Mountain bikes were a central tenant of the Tao of Richie. Riding, racing, event organizing, coaching and also selling them at Giant Dublin. He donated endless hours introducing kids to mountain biking through the Little Giants program he fostered.
A fun theme of the book is Richie's transition from a passionate advocate of XC Racing, due to its accessibility for all ages, to a consummate fan of Enduro which "reminded me why we all took it up in the first place."
Why we don't encourage more women into Mountainbiking is difficult to understand..I know we all start off with good intentions and then start shouting at them when they struggle. Then they just wander off and hate us!"
Richie touches on far more themes than I could recount here, but I love how he captures the experience of a bunch of guys trying to get more women into cycling. As with anything Richie discusses, he is equal parts boastful and self-deprecating.
So I try my best and half the time I thinking..."How do they not tell me to F*ck off"...I have no idea but I am sorry to all the Ladies who wanted to kill me after a couple of spins..." - Richie Byrne - Dec 12th, 2015
Boastful nature aside, it's beyond debate that Richie introduced more people in Ireland to mountain biking than anyone. He was sometimes on the trails seven days a week and by his own admission, he hated riding by himself. Byrne is quite forward about his selfish want for riding friends, his passion for winning, and deep appreciation for watching other riders improve.
I can't do justice to the candid way that Richie addresses the ups and downs of his personal cancer battles. He blends it with humour, profanity, and of course, a hearty base of mountain biking narrative but the full flavour of his experience is present with every bite. Fair warning: If you’ve witnessed someone close fight cancer then there's a good chance you'll cry at some point reading Byrnes blogs.
Modern medicine is savage, I am in perfect shape for this..a big thanks to Ian Coates who has me on the Juice Pluice diet and for all his help, I am feeling like a God..the shop is marching along but please buy some bikes now! I am going to lose my hair, probably throw up a few times but I will have at least one podium next year, my relationship with my family is beyond belief, I mean, we are like a Disney family..a slightly hilarious Disney family but FAMILY all the same. Amazing how important that is right now, it's another one of those things you just let slip..don't, that would be a disaster!" - Richie Byrne - Nov 11th, 2015
That fecker in the stripey pjs is getting his arse kicked up and down Pottery Road tonight by the Honey Monster! Sorry, brain tumour, ye get funny thoughts!" - Richie Byrne - Nov 11th, 2015
It's a testament to Richie's storytelling that I actually laughed at times during many of the darkest chapters. He never ceased to search for the humour in his experience and engage in a bit of life counselling while he has the reader's attention. Clichés become profound in the context of imminent death.
Let go of your squabbles...so Christmas was shit in 1987, everything was shit in 1987! Love you guys till tomorrow! Here's me sheep!" - Richie Byrne - Nov 11th, 2015
Blood and Steel is the autobiography of a good human with a competitive streak and a stubborn nature who tried passionately to get everyone on mountain bikes, candidly shared his hellacious cancer experience, and open-heartedly left us advice for a good life in an imperfect collection of humorous high energy musings.
I've enjoyed the book so much I went through it multiple times to pick the best passages to highlight why I think you'd enjoy reading it.
Life's too short kids for that shit. I have had a tumultuous existence with loads of people, the passion in sport is all about that! I am happy to say I am experiencing a brilliant wave of reconciliation and my faith in humanity is restored. In fact it's supernatural, amazing! So the goal for the day...forgive a Dickhead! You'll feel great." - Richie Byrne - Nov 7th, 2015.
Richie was a huge supporter of Giant Bicycles and with their global retail presence, I'd love to see them do a printing of this collection to introduce more riders to the writings of a lost disciple of the global mountain bike community. Proceeds to support his passions of course.
In the meantime, I know there's already more than a little competition among my friends to read this copy. Richie would have appreciated that.