Meet our groups: Rainbow Riders

Rainbow Riders from Greater Manchester welcomes everyone, whatever their background or ability. Photo: Rainbow Riders
Recently affiliated to Cycling UK, Rainbow Riders' aim to be inclusive and welcoming to all. Group founder Zach Butcher tells us more about the group and their ambitions for introducing even more people to the joy of cycling

Rainbow Riders was founded in October 2022 because the founders noticed a real gap in the cycling scene for a friendly and inclusive group that welcomes everyone, whatever their gender, sexuality or riding ability.

When and why was the group formed?

Rainbow Riders is dead set against excluding anyone – it doesn't matter if you're a man, a woman, or somewhere in between, whatever your sexual orientation, or if you’ve only just learned to balance on two wheels

Sure, there are other LGBTQ+ cycling groups out there, but some lean a bit too much in one direction. So, we thought: "Why not fill that gap and create something that works for everyone?"

Starting an outdoor cycling club in the middle of winter might not have been the best choice, but we've kept the wheels turning with rides all year round. And for those not quite ready to hop on a saddle, we've thrown in some great socials. It's all about creating a space where everyone feels right at home, come rain or shine.

Why do you think there is a need for a group like yours?

Ideally, we wouldn't need a group like Rainbow Riders – in a perfect world, cycling should be a big, inclusive party for everyone. But let's be real, for now, there's a definite need for it.

Unfortunately, we recognise that the cycling community, like many others, isn't always as welcoming as it should be. We stuck a small ad on Facebook, thinking it'd be a good way to get the word out. 

Surprise, surprise – we got hit with a bunch of snarky comments from folks saying: "Why bother with an LGBTQ+ cycle club? Just join a 'normal' bike club."

Well, curiosity got the better of me, and turns out one of those critics, an avid cyclist, had just returned from a Facebook ban for spreading anti-Trans comments. Talk about proving our point!

Instances like this highlight the ongoing need for groups like ours. When faced with derogatory remarks and discriminatory attitudes, it becomes clear that spaces emphasising inclusivity are crucial. By the way, we're cool with anyone joining, LGBTQ+ or not – because, you know, nobody's perfect.

How have you done this?

We've tackled it by keeping our events calendar packed. Planning is the name of the game, and with a calendar full of exciting rides and socials, our members can plan ahead. It's the secret sauce to ensure we always have a crew ready to hit the pedals.

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Happy riders, happy faces on a Rainbow Riders ride. Photo: Rainbow Riders

When and where do most of your rides take place?

We're all about keeping it regular – you can catch us hitting the pedals on the first Saturday and third Sunday of the month. But you know what's been fantastic? Over the summer, more of newer riders grew the confidence to lead rides themselves.

It's really eased the pressure of filling the ride calendar. Our line-up mostly includes road rides at a mixed pace, and we've thrown in some gravel rides. Exciting news – we're gearing up to add mountain bike rides to the mix soon too.

Does the group take part in social activities or rides in other areas?

Absolutely. We're all about the good times – and proudly expressing ourselves. Every month, there's our Friday Frolic – a non-bike social right in the heart of Manchester's Gay Village. Plus, we've got a crew of theatre enthusiasts with an open invite for the whole gang.

But that's not all. We've hit the lanes for bowling showdowns, facing off (or teaming up) with other LGBTQ+ sports clubs in Manchester like Northern Wave (water polo), Manchester Frontrunners (running) and Northern Cocks (badminton).

We're not just about the local scene – we've made our mark in organised sportives too, joining the Tour de Manc and the Manchester to Blackpool charity ride. And to add a powerful touch, this year, we pedalled our way through the streets at Manchester Pride Parade, not just to wave flags but to boldly express our LGBTQ+ pride. 🌈🚴‍♂️✊

How many regular riders do you have?

Our rides usually roll with a fantastic group of 6-10 riders, and we find that's a sweet spot for a comfortable ride. Of course, we're always keen to welcome more into the fold. With a larger gang, we could spice things up and offer a variety of rides every weekend.

How many volunteers do you have to run the group?

We're powered by a dynamic team of 10 volunteers, ranging from dedicated committee members to passionate ride leaders. It's the combined effort of these fantastic individuals that keeps the wheels turning.

Even chilly winter weather doesn't put members of the group off getting outside for a sociable ride. Photo: Rainbow Riders

Do you have a club kit or dress code?

Exciting times ahead! We're currently in the design lab crafting our unique kit, so stay tuned for that reveal. In the meantime, we've got a super vibrant social T-shirt that turned heads at Manchester Pride – it's so bright that even Barbie would be proud to rock it.

How do you attract new members to the group?

We've got the full toolkit! Rides are posted on our website and via the Spond app, a handy tool that helps us track who's up for the ride. But where the magic happens is on Instagram and other socials – we've found that sharing pre- and post-ride pics, along with some strategic hash-tagging, is like a beacon for like-minded souls.

What is the group most proud of?

Trying! In a city as bustling as Manchester, options for activities are endless. We might not be Jumbo Visma – in fact, we’re not solely about cycle sport at all – but what we've crafted is a solid foundation of rides led by a diverse and capable set of leaders.

Our pride lies in strong representation – we stand tall for every member of our community, especially those often marginalised, and they are at the core of our success.

What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened on a group ride?

During our first tour in the Netherlands in 2023, we had some proper weird moments every day… patient drivers; cycle paths cleaner than your nan's kitchen; Highland cows having a kip on the cycle path – classic!

Oh, and let's not forget the pop-up bicycle park at an electronic music festival just outside Amsterdam. Life on two wheels is full of surprises!

Do you have a favourite tea/coffee/pub stop?

We quite fancy starting our rides from Station South in Levenshulme, in South Manchester. It's a community hub serving up a belting array of coffees, beers, and grub.

When we're on a ride, a well-timed coffee break is a must. Kickback Coffee Shop, nestled halfway up the renowned 'Brickworks' climb, is a proper spot to refuel.

Our favourite route

Our Pride Ride is a proper gem. We've partnered with Trek Cycles Manchester for a laid-back pedal around Manchester's LGBTQ+ landmarks.

It might not be the longest or trickiest route, but it's packed with history and Manc spirit. (See GPX file attached below.)

What three words would you use to describe the group?

Approachable, inclusive, fabulous!🌈🚴‍♂️

How can people contact you?

We're everywhere you want to be! From Instagram and Facebook to Twitter, Threads, our website, and the Spond app – we've got the whole social media smorgasbord. Start your journey at and take your pick!

Order your Rainbow Laces today!

Wednesday 6 December was Rainbow Laces Day, the 10th annual celebration of LGBTQ+ inclusion in sport, fitness and physical activity.

The theme this year is #LaceUptoKeepItUp, encouraging continued support for the aims of the campaign and we at Cycling UK are proud to support it again.

We have some rainbow laces to give away so you can demonstrate support too. To order a pair of your choice, please send your details to before 31 December 2023. If you are a group, please get in touch for a bulk order to be sent directly to your group contact.

Available as long as stocks last.