I’ve been coming to Manchester WI for nearly 2 years now, and have had many conversations with ladies who want to get out on their bikes more. As a keen cyclist I want to share the love, so I took a ride leader training course last autumn with a view to helping those ladies achieve that goal. Rachel suggested that we start by applying to TfGM to be part of their Women’s Cycling promotion, Ride With Us, which took place in February and March, and we advertised three rides as part of this.
The weather wasn’t great in March, though our rides fell on the weekends either side of the snowy ones, so we didn’t get much take-up, but two excursions were enjoyed. The first ride began at Patricroft station in Salford, with poor Rachel having to ride to the start from the city centre at the last minute due to an unexpected line closure. I met sisters Jenny and Suzy and we did our bike safety checks while we waited for Rachel. They both counted themselves as beginners so I decided not to take them too far, and to use the newish Port Salford Greenway and Roe Green Loopline, rather than the Bridgewater Canal towpath, as these were wide and well-surfaced. We stopped at the Secret Garden cafe in Worsley for refreshments and had a really good chat as they forgot to bring our food for ages! We ended up doing about 4 miles, and were probably cycling for no more than an hour. Both the ladies rode their bikes again the next day, which is the key to building up new cycling habits. Hope to see you on more rides this summer, ladies!
The Culture Cycle ride started on a sunny Saturday at the Whitworth, where Rachel and I met Nicola, who wasn’t a WI member but had seen the ride advertised by TfGM, and Bianca, who was on foot. After a look round the modern art there, we cycled up to Home, where a women’s cycling festival was taking place to round off the Ride With Us events. Bianca joined us for art, coffee and cake, and then we headed to the Art Gallery as our final stop. The sunshine was out in force for this ride, and it was lovely to talk all things art and cycling with the others. The Oxford Road bike lanes made the trip between the museums very easy, especially as traffic was heavier in the city centre due to the Mancunian Way closure – we just sailed past it all!
I’m now planning to organise more simple, sociable rides during this summer, and want to make them as accessible as possible to as many WI members as possible, and so will be mainly using off-road and leisure routes. I commute daily along the Ashton canal towpath and rode more than 50 miles on a sunny weekend in February exploring quiet routes and off-road leisure cycleways ahead of our March rides, as I wanted to be confident that I could provide the sort of ride which suited whoever signed up. There are some beautiful off-road rides to be discovered across Greater Manchester!
However, I know not everyone feels confident joining in without some extra support. Perhaps you need a bike buddy to help you plan your route to the start? Maybe if all rides began and ended at a rail station you’d find it easier to join in? Or might you need to get your old bike revamped before you feel safe to ride it out and about?
I’ve prepared a survey to find out what kind of cyclists and potential cyclists we have at Manchester WI, and based on the responses, will tailor a programme of excursions to suit those who’d like to come – they’ll be advertised to the membership once they’re confirmed and all are welcome. I’m happy to come and do a one-to-one ride with some of you, for example if you live in south Manchester and would like someone to cycle with you to a starting point for a WI ride in Chorlton as you aren’t confident about riding there alone. Hopefully I can get lots of you out to join me on beautiful routes like this one!
Take the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/XQCLFGY
Finally, if you do want get out on your bike more and are happy to go it alone, there are many ways to get cycling in Greater Manchester. A few are listed below:
TfGM have lots of info for cyclists, including excellent free cycle maps, training and more. Details at their site: https://tfgm.com/cycling. You can also sign up for their monthly cycling email newsletter.
Critical Mass – leaderless global mass cycle ride, takes place on the last Friday of every month in cities across the world. Manchester’s ride meets outside Central Library, in St Peter’s Square from 6pm. Goes slowly around the city centre and environs in a large group, and usually ends up at a pub somewhere not too far away.
Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign social rides – last Thursday of every month, to a pub in a different destination all summer. Meet Albert Square to depart at 6pm. There are always people heading back who will make sure you get home ok: https://www.gmcc.org.uk/get-involved/social-rides/
Manchester Friends of the Earth run Bike Fridays, which are rides to work on the last Friday of each month from different starting points across the city, ending at a cafe in the Northern Quarter: http://www.manchesterfoe.org.uk/loveyourbike/bikefriday/
GM cycling festival, North West Velo Fest https://www.facebook.com/NorthWestVeloFest/ is currently being planned and will start in May. Like their Facebook page for more info – last year’s included bike treasure hunts, games and a midsummer’s eve ride.
There are a number of clubs across Greater Manchester catering to all levels of rider. For the sportier lady with a road bike, Team Glow are where it’s at: http://www.teamglow.net/ – they also have a lively Facebook page. Stockport Community Cycling Club have friendly rides aimed at all abilities, including after workers in summer: http://www.sccc.co.uk/. Chorlton Wanderers are also a more relaxed cycling club. https://chorltonwanderers.wordpress.com/. Please share other tips in the comments on Facebook!
Finally, if nothing will get you out on the road unless no traffic is guaranteed, 1st July needs to go in your diary for Let’s Ride: https://www.letsride.co.uk/events/manchester If the route is the same as in previous years, roads will be closed between Albert Square and Media City and you can ride there and back without risking meeting any vehicles at all – great for riding with kids too; my 6 year old niece loved it last year.