top of page

your freizeit stories

Cycling holidays with Active on Holiday

Leisure Cycling Blog

Racing The Bury Steam Railway

I love cycling, but trains are one of my other passions...

Let me put it out there that as much as I love cycling, I also love the railways. Many of my rides either incorporate train travel to get me to the start or to take me home. I will happily get up at 0500 on a Saturday to jump on one of the first departures from Manchester to anywhere to explore another part of the country on my bike. I have covered thousands of kilometres on my bike and visited much of England and Wales.

Another thing I am deeply passionate about is the idea of local adventure and challenges that are individually created, but not far from your front door. Could I find a way of combining my interests in train travel and cycling in a local challenge? The answer was ‘yes’ and here is the story…

A local challenge in a 'Top Gear' style...

I have noticed a growing trend in ‘racing’ trains and other modes of public transport along similar routes with the hope of arriving before the scheduled arrival time. As I used to live in Bury, work in Rochdale and often cycle in the area, it dawned on me that I could attempt to ‘race’ the East Lancashire Steam Railway cycling from Heywood, up to Rawtenstall, down to Bury and then back to Heywood again.

This idea was largely inspired by the ‘Top Gear’ challenges that I really like and was a chance to do something locally, had a train connection and meant I could spend a couple of hours on my bike creating a unique story.

I caught the Northern Rail train to Castleton from Manchester Victoria using my weekly commuter train pass. I rode the short distance to Heywood Station, the starting point of the steam train.

35 km from Heywood to Rawtenstall and back...

The 35 km round-trip route is timetabled to take the train 1 hour 58 minutes and goes up the line to the market town of Rawtenstall before returning via Bury and back to the end of the line at Heywood.

I set off against the 1130 steam departure on Valentine’s Day and lined side-by-side with the engine in the car park. I then headed out of Heywood towards Ashworth Road and began the 5 km climb to Edenfield Road ascending 181m fairly quickly to the misty ‘tops’. I then went into the top chainring sprinting to Edenfield before carrying onto Rawtenstall station for a quick ‘evidence’ photo.

The train had not arrived and I was well ahead at 1220. The timetable has a 15-minute locomotive turnaround which I used as a buffer and set off back down towards Bury along Bury Road.

Upon battling through busy Saturday shopping traffic in Bury, I reached Bury Bolton Street station at 1250 and asked the Station Master to phone Heywood station and let them know that I was about to start the return leg.

Success! I beat the train...

The roads out of Bury were busy and I was stopped at every traffic light between the town centre and the M66 Junction! I arrived into Heywood station just after 1325 and had ridden 40 km in 1h 29m. I honestly did think it would be closer than that, but I am one of the strange characters that like to climb hills on the bike and this area is not short of them!

Is it a challenge worth doing? My answer is yes! It just shows with a little imagination, you can challenge yourself on the bike in a quirky and enjoyable way without going far from home.

bottom of page