Manchester might be home to the National Cycling Centre but when it comes to travelling on two wheels its streets leave a lot to be desired.
Endless roadworks, sinkholes and a labyrinthine one-way system make navigating the city more of an extended hazard perception test than a relaxing journey.
Thankfully, a few minutes out of the city centre opens up a whole world of safe scenic routes. Whether you want to check out Manchester’s industrial past, go on a gentle off-road family trip or simply ride hell for leather worry-free, there’s something for everyone.
Here’s our top five cycling routes in and around Manchester.
The city’s canals give a fascinating insight into how the Industrial Revolution formed Manchester. It’s worth exploring the many towpaths but the bridges, cobbled paths and canal locks are often better for walking than cycling. Happily, the Rochdale canal cycle route has few disruptions but plenty of history. Part of the National Cycle Route 66, the journey from Manchester to Newton Heath is a relaxing three mile outing with minimal traffic.
One of our favourite quick trips is to follow the River Irwell through Salford and Broughton. Travelling along the wide canalside paths, you’ll pass age-old mills side-by-side with sprawling natural scenery, just minutes away from the city centre. And if you’re in the mood for a more relaxing form of local history, on the way back you can stop off for a drink at the Eagle Inn – a favourite with thirsty locals since the 1800s.
Chorlton Water Park
— Georgina Cullen (@GeorginaCullen) September 28, 2015
Chorlton Water Park is the perfect place for a short, family-friendly ride. A wide open path circles a picturesque lake full of ducks and geese, with plenty of smaller paths that snake off for longer journeys. It even has a small playground and picnic tables, making it ideal for a day out in the sun. Putting aside that street in Burnage where the Gallagher brothers grew up, it’s the nearest thing south Manchester has to an oasis.
Manchester Airport Orbital
For a longer off-road route, the eight mile Manchester Airport orbital cycle route can’t be beat. Pack some sandwiches and a drink and set off from the city centre, going up through Fallowfield and Wythenshawe. This takes you within spitting distance of planes taking off, and even through tunnels that go underneath the runway.
— Catherine (@Catherineburton) February 19, 2016
If you want to travel further afield, there’s plenty of stunning countryside surrounding Manchester. An hours drive brings you to the Peak District where you can park up at various nearby locations before setting out to travel the Monsal Trail. This runs along the disused Midland Railway line, passing through some of the countries most stunning limestone valleys. Recent years saw millions of pounds spent making rail tunnels accessible, and cycling through these is an experience like no other. Maybe Beeching had a point after all.
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Main photo: image_less_ordinary / Flickr / CC