Why am I cycling the Cheshire Ring..?
In 2012, I undertook one of the hardest things I have ever done - the Cheshire Ring Kayak Challenge organised by Macclesfield Kayak and Canoe Club. The event consisted of kayaking through the day and night, over 97 miles in distance and above and below tunnels, locks and porterage of the canoe through urban areas.
I could also not paddle a kayak very well having only been out a couple of times before the event and I had never been in a kayak with my partner and kayaking legend - Mick Rogers until the day of the event!
Everything was stacked against me (and us), but we completed the 'Ring' in 25 hours, battled through wind, rain and sun, in darkness around southern Cheshire and even came second overall. It was by far the hardest physical event I had to do and I learnt alot about endurance, physical effort, the important of working as a team in the boat and also with our land based support crew including Scott Sumner who saved the whole race for me with a Dairylea Lunchable and a maltloaf!
The Cheshire Ring remains my hardest physical event and was a great example of when I focus on something, I can really make the magic happen!
Back on the mountain bike...
I decided to revisit my kayak journey by completing the 97 mile route on my mountain bike in stages over the winter months. As I live in Manchester City Centre and at the hub of the North West canal network, I will just pick-up sections and aim to complete the Cheshire Ring once again.
The first stage was a simple route starting in Marple on the Peak Forest Canal towpath. Due to the very mild December and the recent deluge of rain, the towpath was busy with walkers and also very muddy. This is a problem with canal towpaths generally and the battle for space on the canals is apparent each time I ride along them.
This was a short stage of around 25km to the Ashton Canal entrance in Ancoats, Central Manchester, but due to the slippery and muddy conditions, it was quite hard going for most of the way. The surface has recently been improved when you reach Tameside with a hard packed trail, however in the winter with the leaves and mud, it still requires the use of a mountain bike or similar.
Marple to Manchester through rural and urban areas...
The Marple to Manchester segment takes you through and across some excellent canal infrastructure including the Marple Aqueduct and the Hyde Tunnel. The route is a combination of rural and urban riding with several former hints to the region's industrial past along the way including the former mills at Guide Bridge, the stack chimney in Ashton-under-Lyne before continuing through inner city Manchester.
As you pass through Tameside and enter the official Manchester boundary, you go past several modern icons in the world of sport. There is the base for British Cycling and the new Etihad Campus that is home to Manchester City Football Club.
The exit to the Ashton Canal is located in a regenerated part of the city centre called New Islington where former mills have been converted into modern apartments and you ride past the first station on the recently extended Metrolink tram line to Tameside.
An unseasonable rainy, yet warm winter...
The ride itself was fairly uneventful apart from my overshoes disintegrating in the sticky mud, the unseasonable warm December weather and a fairly uninspiring route as I frequently run up to Ashton to go to Ikea!
The next stage will take me in a westerly direction from Manchester City Centre to Preston Brook near Runcorn along the Bridgewater Canal...