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Cycling holidays with Active on Holiday

Leisure Cycling Blog

Cycling around the Preston Guild Wheel

Finding the best Brompton for the price of a basic model...

Ever since renting my first Brompton folding bike from the Brompton Dock, I have wanted one of my own. I love the way the bike folds, the compact size and the fact that I cannot get a standard-sized bike into a small car. The Manchester Dock has also been quite busy recently and I have been unable to rent a bike when I have needed to.

I've always been slightly put off by the high price tag of a basic Brompton and have spent hours trawling through Gumtree, eBay and the online clearance sections of leading bicycle retailers to find a top-end model for the price of a standard one. I'd never succeeded in finding the right one. Until now...

And there she was, gleaming in Harry Hall Cycles...

One Saturday in September, I was coming out of the gym and thought that I would go to nearby Harry Hall Cycles in Manchester City Centre to see if any Brompton bargains had come into stock. As entered the shop, I saw it. The Brompton that I had been looking for.

A raw lacquer 'industrial finish' model with six speeds, Schwalbe Marathon tyres, the aggressive riding position handle stem complete with matching Brooks leather saddle and handle grips. Brand new, this bike would cost well over £1300, but I had managed to buy the Brompton for £775 as it was a Part-Ex model. With patience and not giving up on the search, I have my dream folding bike. A good lesson in life learnt.

About the Preston Guild Wheel...

My first outing on the new bike was to Preston with Simon from work. Preston is the unlikely setting for one of the UK's leading leisure cycling routes, so we went up from Bolton to find out more. The Preston Guild Wheel is a 21-mile circular cycle route around the suburbs of Preston in Lancashire.

The route was created to leave a lasting legacy of the 2012 Preston Guild which remembers the Royal Charter for industry assigned to the city by King Henry II in 1179 and is celebrated every 20 years. Preston is the only city in the U.K that remembers this event and the established cycle route is now so popular that it is the second most recommended Preston visitor attraction on TripAdvisor!

Losing each other in ten minutes...

We arrived at Preston train station and somehow lost each other almost straight after leaving the train! Simon took the lift and I walked with the Brompton and headed for the exit. Somehow, Simon had managed to act as a helper to about three people with luggage for about ten minutes whilst I was waiting outside wondering if he had gone to another exit!

After the initial confusion, we regrouped and headed out to the suburbs. Frustratingly, there are no signs to the Guild Wheel Cycle Route from Preston train station, so we just headed out eastwards towards Ribbleton.

Preston Bus Station - Brutalist Icon...

Before we started cycling on the Preston Guild Wheel, Simon allowed me to indulge in a recently acquired passion. I have realised that I have a growing fondness for 1960s and 1970s brutalist architecture and the 80 bay Preston Bus Station is one of the best and largest remaining examples in Europe.

I think that this interest stems from seeing firsthand the 2004 destruction of the infamous Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth when I worked in the nearby Argos store on Commercial Road. There is something about concrete architecture that I find both beautiful and powerful.

Time to appreciate decaying concrete...

I love how the light can make the concrete go from being menacing and oppressive on a grey day to bright and gentle in the sunshine. The buildings also photograph really well in black and white too.

There aren't many people around who would appreciate standing outside a bus station taking photos or finding beauty in decaying concrete forms, but Simon does and I even think he found my facts about the structure and how Preston was meant to be a 'super-city' for the North quite interesting!

Onto the Preston Guild Wheel...

We picked up the Preston Guild Wheel and started cycling on mainly traffic-free paths following the extensive signage. Frustratingly, there are some gaps which left us wondering if we went the right way or not. However, using a GPS or similar would solve this problem. Interestingly, the path winds through some green areas, urban spaces and through Preston's once large docklands area.

There is not a huge amount to see, but the Wheel is varied enough for an enjoyable few hours. I'd say that the Guild Wheel is more of a good place to ride with a family or in a car-free environment, but it is great to have such a facility for public use in a busy city and the sections along the river are first class with smooth tarmac and great views.

Shared user path conflict...

Annoyingly, there does seem to be a bit of conflict between users of the Preston Guild Wheel route including one incident that we saw first hand with an aggressive road biker who took it upon himself to angrily remonstrate with an elderly dog walker as he sped past.

There was no need for that on a nice sunny morning and this just encourages local councils to replace tarmac cycle paths with rough shale or gravel.

Onwards to Leyland, Buckshaw and Blackrod...

We left the Guild Wheel after crossing the River Ribble and headed towards Leyland, home of the famous commercial vehicles company. We then cycled through the sprawling new build Buckshaw Parkway estate, swerved around Chorley before stopping at the iconic Frederick's Ice Cream Parlour on the A6 near Blackrod where Simon lives to admire two Harley-Davidson motorcycles outside.

The daily distance was short and we only covered 50 km in five hours. That said, it was more a first outing for my new Brompton bicycle and as a 'close to home' route for Simon to teach his young daughter how to ride a bike in a safe, traffic-free environment.

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