One of the iconic rides in the north of England...
Manchester to Blackpool is one of the iconic cycle rides in the north of England and a route that thousands of people have undertaken for the annual Christies charity ride from Manchester United's Old Trafford ground to the seaside along Blackpool Promenade. The distance varies depending on the route taken, but generally, you can expect to ride close to 100km on a Sunday in July.
Unfortunately, I am unable to take part in this year's edition of the annual ride due to a prior commitment, so I decided to do the route using a Brompton Hire Bike to test how the legendary folding bike covers a 50 mile plus distance on varied road surfaces and whether I would regret leaving my carbon road bike at home at the end of the ride. Best of all, this would only cost £2.50 to do as I could take out a Brompton Hire Bike from my conveniently located Manchester Piccadilly dock for the day.
Staying at the Norbreck Castle Hotel...
The original plan was to ride home to Manchester City Centre on a Friday after work with my friend Scott who would be on his road bike. However, after a few afternoon texts, we decided to stay in Blackpool after finding a cheap room at a hotel only a couple of hours before. For only £17 each, a cheap train journey in the early evening from Manchester Victoria station and a decision that made us avoid an unpredicted overnight thunderstorm, it was certainly a smart move.
Our overall plan was simple and at 8 am we left the hotel and officially set off from outside the landmark Blackpool Tower to head back to Manchester to finish at the iconic Beetham Tower in the city centre. Both towers dominate the local skyline and were natural cycling start and finish points.
Let's test out the Brompton...
We set off along the promenade on a grey, yet warm morning stopping at the Tower for an obligatory photo stop. One of the most intriguing things about riding a Brompton compared to other bikes is that you can quickly fine-tune your ride position without messing around with Allen Keys and spanners due to the quick release mechanisms. Even though I only borrowed the bike a few hours ago, it felt like a bike I had owned for much longer and once we were on the way to Preston along the faster A roads, the bike handled brilliantly and zipped along at a steady 30km/h.
The A roads outside of Preston quickly became too congested with Saturday shoppers and we picked up a cycle route called the 'Guild Wheel'. This 30-mile route does a circumference of the city and follows old railway lines, riverside paths and quiet roads. We were only on the route for a short time, but due to the Brompton's puncture-proof Schwalbe Marathon tyres, the varied cycle path surfaces were no problem and handled the terrain much better than my friend's larger wheeled road bike.
Do you really need more than 3 gears..?
After leaving the Preston area and going towards Leyland, the Brompton had its first climbing test with some of the hills around Chorley. Despite only having 3-speed hub gears, the bike climbs well and handles confidently on the descents. As we passed through Wigan, we decided to have a quick pit-stop for drinks before heading through the industrial landscapes of Atherton, Leigh and Salford.
The road surfaces in this part of the world are not the best and with only 16-inch wheels, I was hesitant of riding around here more than the distance itself. Overall it was not too bad and the Brompton handled the broken road surfaces well, though I was glad to get through to the smoother surfaces around the Trafford Centre where we added the Venetian inspired tower to the tally.
Blackpool Tower to Beetham Tower...
We reached Manchester City Centre after going past Old Trafford and ended outside the Hilton Hotel on Deansgate 100km later and looking back it was a most enjoyable ride. I was impressed with the quality of the bike and the ease of folding/unfolding on the train, being able to cover different terrain comfortably and the fact that I could conveniently return the bike to the Manchester Piccadilly Dock at the end of the day.
Did I miss my road bike? Let's just say it was hard taking the Brompton back to it's home rather than my own! Who knows what I can do next month...?