Manchester to Blackpool Bike Ride 2012

8th July 2012

Hers something a little different to my usual weekends on the fells & that is my annual Manchester to Blackpool bike ride. Its been quite a tough week personally, so much so that the bike ride never happened for yours truly. I was even leaning towards not bothering at all this year as my attention being diverted more than the usual troubles & strife’s of which I’m sure even at some point through the blog It may appear-or it may not.

The good news is, I was talked back into doing the ride.

Training is a big fat full stop. Because that is about how much I & the usual suspects have done for 2012, why you lazy beggars I hear you screaming, lazy so & so’s!

Put simply, take a look outside your window, is it raining? if it isn’t your probably not in England, in fact your probably not in the UK. Training has been blighted by the horrible weather that all of us has been experiencing, we were lucky to get out once a week… this gave the bike fitness a major hammering.

Its ok to say I’m fit, but am I bike fit like I am mountain fit? the answer simply is no Paul, your far from it. What particularly scared me was about a week ago during probably – thee one dry we had was we decided to test our ‘bike fit minds’ on a not necessarily gruelling twenty two miler, eight of it constantly up-hill, After we had the hill section behind us we hit two more hills & then a straight bit of free wheeling road, all of this with-in a mile or so, then we descended a steep rural tarmac road, only to be met by a equally steep ascent, it was here my calf’s burnt like hell, lads, I have to get off.

That has never happened to me, ever.

Not only did I question my own fitness, as the rare days we did manage to get out each day my bike fitness felt as if I was getting worse, at something that I had been doing since the age of about six.

Within less than a minute I was back on that bike stood aloft the pedals after finding something somewhere within that would see me at the top of that bloody hill. Where it came from I do not know. The first fortnight of training I was like a whippet on the hills, feeling guilty even at leaving the pack behind for something of my own speed, then all of a sudden I’m left trailing looking yonder at the backs of my fellow riders.

As you may or may not know depending on how up to date you are with my blog I also pushed myself last weekend too on a eventful 25 miler, where muscle’s I never knew I had ached for days afterwards, no bike training for me this week, even if it was cracking the flags, my muscles needed to recover & that is exactly what I let them do.

The next few, wonky & jittery photography is down to my Samsung Galaxy II, the paved streets & built up towns are all too familiar once brought up in the north west of England, Lakeland is certainly isn’t, but it does have that one familiarity of what I am about to do in these next few photos is the exact same thing as I find once I find myself at the bottom of a steep crag looking up – not at the summit, but many false summits.

I simply go for it & enjoy it (or die trying)


Start: Manchester United Football Ground, Sir Matt Busby Way, Manchester - 07:58am
Finish: South Promenade Blackpool (Opposite Mirror Ball) - 12:11pm
Weather: Overcast to Start, Dry. Turning Bright & Sunny, Windy Along The Coast, Highs of 17°C, Lows of 14°C
Top speed: 32.3mph
Average speed: 14-15mph
Miles: 64.4
Time Taken: 4hrs 13 Minutes
Route: Manchester United Football Ground – Salford – Pendlebury – Worsley – Astley – Leigh – Westhoughton – Aspull – Haigh – Wigan – Standish – Coppull – Euxton – Leyland – Preston Docks –Penwortham – Warton – Lytham St Annes – St Annes – South Shore – Blackpool (Opposite Mirror Ball)

Map and Photo Gallery

The route


Old Trafford.

We arrived at Old Trafford in great time beating the crowds (what crowds?) at around 07:20am & kitted up at the back of our tour van er, I mean, Kia mum bus with all the seats down! The front wheels of the bikes were detached so we could all ride in relative comfort in our own seats, a far cry from the back of a Vauxhall Vivaro van, with no windows holding on to dear life to anything you can get your hands to, this something that we are more used to, for this, we have to thank Dave, Ste’s brother.

The trip as I say was uneventful & comfortable, we attached the front wheels to the bikes & made final checks in a secluded side street not far from the stadium. The weather was fair & even a little muggy, we prayed it would stay that way.


Group Shot. Baz (L) Ste (C) and me (R)

A husband & wife had noticed us as we stopped for a few pre-ride pictures, she asked would we want a group picture we of course obliged although handing a £500 phone over to a complete stranger is always a bit jittery!

No need though, great picture & big smiles, next we check in.


Old Trafford East Stand check in.

Er, where is everybody? This, my fifth Manchester to Blackpool bike ride & this scene, most certainly the first time I’ve seen check-in look so empty, usually there is around three thousand bikes & riders here & the queues are normally so far back as to where I took this photo-hundreds deep?

Well, going of my entrance number of 4442 at least I know around 4’000  plus riders are here or about to arrive, but there whereabouts puzzled us.

We make a quick phone call to fellow friends joining us as we learn they are slightly late, we get the nod to go ahead without them & hopefully they’ll catch us up somewhere along the route.


Outskirts of Haigh Hall, Wigan.

It took us just over an hour to ride the 22 miles from Manchester to Wigan, this was the easiest 22 miles along the whole route, typically in my home town of Wigan was where the gradient increased dramatically not far from our first rest stop.

We had a lot of flat ground behind so this fifteen minute break was met with quite a bit of banter between the three of us, inside we knew what lay ahead but for now that didn’t matter, with no sign of the rest of the group who had ran late after a quick phone call we again are told to press on, with this & a rather annoying Marshall who repeatedly rang out, Left for refreshments, Left for refreshments, Left for refreshments, we kind of had enough…lets go.


Outskirts of Preston.

Red lights were at times awkward to say the least, a red light could mean changing down from high to low gear in seconds whilst at a steady pace, this causing a few curses from me, & indeed everyone around you, typically a light would change to red at the bottom of a steep hill thus requiring a quick change down with all momentum lost. yeah, I swore there too…

Not this red light, time for a quick drink & even a photo.


Preston Docks 11:30am approximately.

Preston Docks is another landmark in where the land changes shape, we had just rode through some of Lancashire’s most rural & indeed flattest roads with more to come I might add, Yet I don’t know if its fatigue setting in I’m not so sure, but after Preston, the remaining miles are mostly met with a full on wind & gritted teeth.

Indecently as I know we all love a good bike crash there was one a second after I took this photo at the corner you see in the picture, there was blood & twisted bones all over the place with more riders adding to the casualties, handbags & dummies had been lost just like you see in Tour De France..

No not really, but I did get you going, three riders collided & they couldn’t of been nicer to each other, sportsmanship at its best!!


The bike was fairing really well, pity about its rider!


The Saddle Inn Lea Town, Preston.


Approaching the fifty mile mark.

These are times when muscles ache & cramp up, when you cant feel your hands having been stuck to the handle bars for the past three hours & momentum dips up & down, it is here whilst on the flats you must reserve your energy for the gruelling last six miles whilst trying to ignore the muscle pains.

After this kind of millage the amateur rider starts to suffer & it was just about here my shoulders, especially my left one cried out in pain, riding whilst trying to hold a conversation was painful as it meant looking over at the one who is talking to you, it was here & not just me the banter died completely down, from here, its all about getting to the finish.


The Windmill, Lytham St Annes.

This is a tortuous mile long hill with only ever a slight ascent to it, yet also met by strong head winds, Ok, I admit the lack of training is going to hit you here & it did me, Keeping in high gear at a constant speed of around 14/16mph is key, anything less than this & your going to find yourself at the back of a very large crowd.

Pulling trees up, we press on through the sea air.


Passing Lytham Pier.


No pain no gain Sharkey!


Passing the new Tram Terminal, South Shore.

I’m not quite sure what Baz is thinking but you can clearly see what’s going through Ste’s mind!


The finish line is almost in sight.

As I spoke about earlier, the last half dozen miles are truly the worst physically, it is here we break single formation & ride side by side as if to cross the finish simultaneously.


The finish line South Shore, Blackpool.

I drop back & take this final photo as total strangers cheer the riders on at a job well done.

At the finish line Marshalls order the riders off your bikes & everything comes to an abrupt stop, we are given a small slice of Soreen Cake in a handy little package that I cant wait to get down my neck! along with this, bottles of water are handed out & free massages are advised in nearby tents, who-er!

We ride through the finish line & the packed out crowds of well wishers & family members their to greet tired faces. We need to find a spot to arrange with our support team (Kia mum bus!) to arrange a pick up point.


Behind the finish line.

The Soreen goes down well as we trot across to en empty space. For the second weekend running again, I cant feel my feet as every footstep feels numbing but the feeling soon returns.


Get of my shoulders!!

The shoulder pain clearly etched on my face as we ask a young girl to take our photo, if she decided to run off with my £500 phone I can honestly say there isn’t a soul behind that finish line who would run after her!

Really, this is a fantastic achievement as painful as the last half dozen miles may have been, 2013? you bet your life we’ll be there!!

There’s talk about carrying on with the training, to get up with ones fitness maybe two/three times a week, but I’ve heard ducks fart in wet grass before!


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