Why cycle from London to Manchester..?
Having spent many hours on trains, coaches and even aeroplanes travelling from London to Manchester, could I cycle back to Manchester from London Euston in one day and become a 'double-centurion' cyclist in the process?
Who did I cycle with..?
My friend, former colleague and triathlete Robert Webster was also keen to ride over 200 miles in one day and we both set-off to London together on the 0525 to London Euston.
What equipment did we use..?
We were both riding Verenti Rhigos bikes bought from work. We both had a compact gear system, limited kit, Garmin GPS, a healthy supply of flapjacks and assorted snacks.
About the ride...
We left Manchester at 0525 on an Advance purchase ticket to London bought for £15. It was quite daunting going down with a one-way ticket knowing that another ticket would cost around £80 and we would be riding our bikes home. The aim was to get back to Manchester safely.
We set out after some 'evidence' photos at Euston at approximately 0800 and turned right out of the station heading towards Kilburn. We then made it an aim to reach the M25 and continue through the Chilterns towards Towcester for our first pit-stop.
Progress was slow as we found the country lanes to be too meandering which was frustrating especially when we took a wrong turn out of Tring! It was 1600 before we arrived into Rugby and we had a decision to make. Do we go on the busy A5 towards Tamworth or continue on the rural backways which were hampering our progress?
The mutual decision was made to go on the A5 towards Tamworth and the difference was immediate. We managed to cruise along the fast road at well over 35 km/h riding in each other's slipstream and reached Sainsbury's Tamworth for 1700. The final 130 mile push was on. Our progress so far meant that we would be riding into the night if we were to complete the challenge.
We set off from our 30 minute stop towards Stoke-on-Trent on quiet A roads and a dramatically dropping air temperature. We had been very lucky with the weather and the sun shone all day, but set just after a quick stop outside Rugeley.
Our final stop was at a Costcutter petrol station outside Stoke-on-Trent before riding through the city just after dark. The attendant said we looked tired and he did not believe what we were doing until he saw the photos taken earlier in the day.
The scariest moments actually came along the A34 Congleton to Wilmslow section. We did expect to still be riding in the light at this point, but we were paying for our slow progress to Rugby in the late evening.
We passed signs for Manchester Airport and we were both beginning to tire. We continued to head towards the city centre via Burnage and Levenshulme. Rob actually rode past his house which was understandably frustrating for him to do.
Time was ticking close to midnight as we arrived into Manchester Piccadilly on the same platform we departed from on the first train in the morning. We completed the 335km / 208 mile ride in 14 hours and burned over 10K calories!
How much did this ride cost..?
The London to Manchester ride was a real low-cost adventure, however it was the potential for the day to cost more that spurred us on to succeed. The Advance train ticket to London was £15 booked about 3 months before. Buying in advance gave us enough time to train and a date to work towards. We did not stay overnight and our only expense was food along the way in newsagents, petrol stations and supermarkets.
Would I recommend London to Manchester..?
If you are looking to do a long distance ride and would like something to tell your cycling friends in a cafe-stop then this is one of the best. My advice would be to ensure that you have cycled over 100 miles previously and are confident riding along busy roads. I do not recommend riding along the midlands section of the A5 at any other time except at the weekend and even then be cautious.
Oddly there were very few stops in the villages through the Chilterns until Towcester. I suggest refuelling prior to leaving the M25 area.
Prior to the London to Manchester ride, myself and Rob did a smaller distance to see how we rode together over 100 miles from Hull to Manchester. The ride was not the most inspiring and we had to take shelter in Wakefield Sainsbury's due to torrential rainstorms! However, it made us think and work like a team.
If you want to take part in an organised event, there is the Rapha Manchester to London ride that comes with an entry fee. However, we proved that you can do this independently. With a good route and some planning, London to Manchester is an excellent one day challenge.