Cycling in Manchester

Space for Cycling ride in Manchester (credit: GMCC)

Cycling in Manchester

Looking for information about cycling in Manchester? Cycling UK's guide to cycling in Manchester gives you routes, events, clubs and advice to inspire you to cycle in the county.

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)

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

Chainlink (Manchester)

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)

Debdale Park Cycling Group (Manchester)

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

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 or rear rack and panniers 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.

What have we missed? Let us know your favourite routes by leaving a comment below. 

Cycling routes in Manchester

Getting around Manchester, canals, leisure routes and mountain biking

Cycle A-way’s list of routes, maps and resources for Manchester

Journey Planner

Greater Manchester Cycling Maps

The Fallowfield Loop (NCN6)

The Rochdale Canal Cycle Route, Piccadily Station to Newton Heath (NCN66)

Cycling events in Manchester

Check out our events calendar to find a ride that suits you

Make sure your bike is working
(from our partners, Halfords)

Creaking cranks, wobbly wheels or slipping saddles are the last thing you want, but Halfords' guide to basic bike maintenance will keep you rolling smoothly. Whether you’re a regular commuter, a leisurely weekend rider, or prefer to tear it up on a serious MTB trail, signs of wear and tear might keep you off the saddle from time to time. Whilst we can’t promise to banish those roadside mishaps, we can help keep your bike tip top with our top tips!

You’re heading out on your lovely bike, with a pannier packed with your essentials. A glorious route lies ahead, but then you run into a spot of bother! Most of the time there are handy hacks you can do to tide you over whilst out and about, and we’ve taken a look into the most common bike problems and solutions…

Clicking saddle? Check that the bolts connecting the saddle to the seat post are not loose. Tighten until the saddle is firmly secured using an allen key from your trusty toolbox!

Squealing brakes? This could be down to dirt or oil on the brake pads. Give it a quick wipe down, then when you get home take the brake pads off and readjust.

Squeaky derailleur? A little lube should help. Remove any excess.

Creaky pedals? Dry pedal bearings, loose crank arms or a worn bottom bracket could be the culprit. Once home, remove and lube the pedal bearings, tighten and lube the crank arms, or replace the bottom bracket if it’s still making a fuss.

Problem areas

Some of the problems you find with your bike might need a closer look, and here’s where we can help!

Wobbling disc rotors, spongy brakes and rattling bolts needn’t be as pesky as they sound for long enough to keep you off your bike! Call and see us with your two wheels at your local Halfords, or with any other bike bothers you might have.

From as little as £15 a year, Halfords will take the labour out of looking after your bike. Halfords offer a range of care packages, they provide free fitting on all parts and accessories bought from Halfords, and even include an annual service worth £50 as part of the plan!

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