Cycling in Manchester
It may be home to Team Sky and one of the world’s best velodromes, but Manchester is unlikely to feature on any ‘top cycling cities’ list. It’s certainly nothing like London for cycle-commuting. Poor infrastructure, car-centric layouts, tram tracks, a fiendish one-way system, infrequent bike parking and endless urban sprawl make it a challenging and often unpleasant place to get around by bike. No wonder the city’s campaign group, GMCC, is very active.
There are some good things, though. Getting from the centre to, and certainly around, Salford Quays (with the Lowry, War Museum, the BBC, and shiny new dockside developments) is fine; Old Trafford is conveniently bikeable if you’re going to the football or cricket.
And good cycle paths do exist. NCN6 and NCN60 provide some often good, smooth railtrail access to some southern and eastern parts of the city, and NCN66 provides a canal towpath route northeast out of the centre; NCN62 (part of the Transpennine Trail) can take you all the way to Liverpool, much of it car-free.
There is family cycling to be had – at Chorlton Water Park for instance along the Mersey, or following the car-free Fallowfield Loop – and at the National Cycling Centre, not far from Manchester City’s Etihad stadium, you can book a session on that velodrome, try the indoor BMX track, and even go mountain biking on seven miles of trails.
Manchester Airport, thanks to handy rail connections, is a much more convenient option than Heathrow if you’re flying with your bike. Trains can also take you and your bike away from hectic city-centre streets to the neighbouring Peak District, with its superb scenery and quiet back roads.
Cycling groups and clubs in Manchester
Manchester and District CTC (Manchester)
Range of rides from beginners to the experienced long-distance Audax rider
University of Manchester CTC BUG (Manchester)
Subsidised locks, free security marking events, monthly bike to work event with free breakfast, etc
South Manchester CTC (Cheadle/Hazel Grove)
Regular (non-racing) rides into Cheshire and Derbyshire and beyond
North Manchester Community Cycle Club (Manchester)
Monthly led ride for beginners over 12 years old
Impact Safer Trailers (Manchester)
Campaign to make it mandatory for all agricultural trailers to be fitted with guards
Alfa Cycle Club (Manchester)
Trafford College (Manchester)
Tameside Women's Community Cycling Group (Ashton-under-Lyne)
CMFT BUG (Manchester)
Central Manchester Hospital's Bike User Group; campaigns and holds rides
Man Met Riders (Manchester)
Manchester Metropolitan University’s Bike User Group; campaigns, and offers monthly breakfasts
Urban Fitness Collective (Manchester)
Using sport to inspire young people
Moston Cycling Club (Moston)
Bolton Hot Wheels Cycle Club (Middlebrook)
A Go-Ride Club for riders aged 5-16 riding in Bolton Arena in Horwich
Sk6 Spinners CC (Marple)
Westmead Team 88 (Stockport)
Specialises in time trials
Altrincham on Wheels (Altrincham)
Enables and encourages Altrincham children and young people to cycle
Second Chance Cycling Manchester (Manchester)
Simply Cycling (Manchester)
Offers cycling to disabled people on specially adapted bikes
Sale Cycling For All (Sale)
Family bikes rides and a site with links to events, rides and all things cycling in the area
Empowered People Disability Cycling Charity (Royton)
Positive Cycles (Oldham)
Saddleworth Clarion Cycling Club (Saddleworth)
Ability Wheelz (Oldham)
Oldham and Tameside CTC (Oldham)
Coppice Sporting Alliance (Oldham)
Cycle Ops (Stalybridge)
The Urban Cycle Centre (Manchester)
Marina Milers (Manchester)
Dadly Does It Winton (Manchester)
Wheels For All Salford (Manchester)
Wheels For All Debdale (Manchester)
Royal Northern College of Music (Manchester)
Platt Fields Bike Hub (Manchester)
Friends of Longford Park Community Cycle (Manchester)
Manchester Mountain Bikes (Manchester)
Popup Bikes (Manchester)
Manchester Science Park (Manchester)
Home MCR (Manchester)
Manchester College (Manchester)
Lady Pedal Manchester (Manchester)
The Bike Hive (Manchester)
Sperrin Spinners (Manchester)
Chain Gang BUG (Manchester)
Team Glow (Manchester)
Southway Housing Trust (Manchester)
Hamilton Davies Trust (Irlam)
Bicycle Village (Sale)
The Bike Barn (Sale)
Seamons CC (Altrincham)
Second Chance Cycling Manchester (Manchester)
Manchester Airport BUG (Manchester)
The Western Link Cycling Club (Manchester)
Gatley Cyclists (Gatley)
Transformation Trust Tower to Tower (Manchester)
Standish Community Cycle Club (Standish)
The Tribe MBC (Horwich)
The National Clarion Cycle Club (Manchester)
Heywood Health and Social Club (Heywood)
Littleborough Amateur Boxing Club (Littleborough)
East Lancashire Road Club (Rochdale)
Petrus Community Cycle Club (Rochdale)
Rochdale CTC (Rochdale)
Rochdale Ezi Riders (Rochdale)
Whitworth Wheelers Cycling Club (Rochdale)
Bowlee Park Community Cycle Club (Milnrow)
ABC Centreville Manchester (Milnrow)
Bury Employment Support and Training (Bury EST)
Real Life Skills & Well-Being (Bury)
The Welly Community Cycling Club (Bury)
Bury Tandem Club for Blind and Partially Sighted People (Bury)
Wheels For All Bolton (Bolton)
Bogtrotters Mountain Bike Club (Manchester)
Wigan Borough Community Cycling Club (Wigan)
Wigan Wheelers (Wigan)
The Orrell and District Mountain Bike Rider Group (Wigan)
Gearing Up (Wigan)
The Handlebards (Wigan)
Hindley Cycle Group (Wigan)
Wheels For All Wigan (Wigan)
Dukinfield CC (Stockport)
Stockport CP Wheelers - for disabled and rehabbing cyclists (Stockport)
Cera Easy Riders (Stockport)
H3 Supported Cycle Scheme (Stockport)
Stockport Community Cycling Club (Stockport)
What to take with you on your ride
The only thing you really need for cycling is a bike. And maybe a phone, and credit card: in Britain you’re only a call away from any service you might need.
But unless money is no object, it’s wise to take a few things with you on a day ride. A saddlebag, panniers or bikepacking bags are best for carrying stuff. A front basket is second best. A rucksack is third best. Your sweaty back will soon tell you why.
Cycling short distances in jeans and t-shirt is fine, but on a long or strenuous ride – over ten miles say, or in hills – those jeans will rub and the t-shirt will get damp and clingy. Shorts or, yes, lycra leggings and padded shorts will be much comfier, and merino or polyester cycling tops wick away the sweat, keeping you dry and comfy. (They don’t have to be lurid colours.)
If rain’s in the air, pack a rainproof top. If it might turn chilly, take a fleece or warm top. But the thing you’re most likely to forget is the sunblock.
It’s remarkable how often you enjoy being out on the bike so much that you suddenly realise it’s getting dark. So take lights (which are legally required at night). They’re price of a sandwich, take no space, are easy to put on thanks to tool-free plastic clips, and the batteries last for ever.
Take a puncture repair kit (with tyre levers) and pump. Make sure it fits your valves, which will be either ‘Presta’ or ‘Schraeder’ – realising they don’t match is a very common roadside discovery! Carrying a spare inner tube (make sure it matches your tyre size) makes puncture repair much easier: mend the old one back at home. If you do get in trouble, some kindly passing cyclist will probably stop to help.
Using a helmet is a personal choice – they’re not legally required.
Cycling makes you thirsty, so take lots of water. Long-distance riders talk about ‘the bonk’ – a sudden loss of energy rendering you almost stationary. It’s miraculously and instantly cured by eating something sweet. On short rides you’re unlikely to run out of energy, but just in case, take a snack like flapjack, banana, chocolate or jelly babies.
Taking a packed lunch or picnic will save you money, though that hot drink and cake in a cosy cafe could yet prove very tempting!
Your phone GPS could be invaluable for showing where you are when lost; you can download free detailed UK maps and GPS software before your trip.
Paper maps are still useful, though, so take one: no power source or wifi signal required, and they’re great for suggesting possibilities or changes of plan.