Manchester and the Peaks are a road rider's dream, one of the UK’s greatest outdoor playgrounds for cyclists. A haven of heart rate-increasing climbs and hair-raising descents, where swooping switchbacks, much like those in the Alps, are part and parcel of virtually every ride. Here’s where you can be overawed by gritstone crags that flank the narrow ribbon of tarmac threading itself through a gorge, outpaced by wild hares over rugged moorland, and career through river valleys, a slip of black tar under your tires.
There are so many reasons that render Manchester and its environs so suited for riding – not least because its proximity to the High Peak means you’ve got virtually immediate access to what Daniel Defoe described as ‘the most desolate, wild, and abandoned country in all of England’ back in the early 18th century. It sounds romantic, right? And it is. Manchester has wholly embraced cycling, and even a certain celebrated cycling apparel brand has set up its only out-of-London branch in the city of Manchester. Of course, we are talking about Rapha.
Manchester's bid for cycling glory is boosted by its proximity to the Peak District, which became the UK’s first designated national park in 1951, meeting the stipulations that dictated a national park ”should have great natural beauty [and] a high value for open-air recreation.” Both of these traits hold true today, and the majesty of Manchester’s surroundings is rarely up for question – especially not since the Tour de France rolled across the moorland in 2014. Then there’s Chris Boardman, the pro of days gone by, who now adds even more value to Manchester’s cycling credentials with his role as Greater Manchester’s very first cycling and walking commissioner.
These routes go a fraction of the way towards representing the greatest riding in the Northwest, with some well-known classics and lesser-known entities thrown into the mix. Propositions range from short to long–and even very long, from slightly undulating to altitude profiles that wouldn’t be out of place in an Alpine guidebook. Some of the routes are best done when the sun is shining, at other times the views may well remain bedecked in mist. You'll ride through Hebden Bridge, Holmfirth and Hope, postcard-worthy towns with old stone buildings and lively outdoor scenes. Matlock Bath and Macclesfield, Knutsford and Alderley Edge, which might easily become your next favorite place, your go-to town for social rides in which you'll roll up to your chosen cafe, exhilarated and just a little exhausted.
As one of the best-connected cities in the UK, you won’t go far wrong with any ride starting from Manchester. Here’s where you’ve got the luxury of opting for transportation that can whisk you and your bike into the wilderness in less than 20 minutes or pedalling out from the city without concern. And from there, the roads (and Defoe’s ‘comfortless, barren, endless moors’) are yours.
Great idea for a ride, but going to start, finish from Alderley edge station, thanks, frank
If someone asked for your the most archetypal tour of the North, this Round Rochdale loop would be ranked highly.
You'll set off from Rochdale, which lies at the foot of the Pennines, and head north from there, paralleling the canal for a while before reaching the picture-perfect Hebden Bridge, which…
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Around 40 minutes on the train from Manchester, Glossop serves as both the grand depart and the arrivée for this ultra hilly route.
This one starts with Snakes Pass, the ultimate wake-up and warm-up after your train ride. Despite being an A-road, the traffic isn't all that bad and as it comes so early…
Starting and finishing at the National Cycling Centre, here's a great loop that's not only family friendly but also incredibly diverse and a real showcase of eastern Manchester.
It is essentially split into two halves - pre- and post-hill. Pick your favourite section and plant the seed for a future on…
It's back out to Edale for this classic Century ride that loops across the entirety of the Peak District before a tidy turn in the idyllic (if not slightly over popular) town of Matlock.
Enjoy the first leg of the loop as it swerves southwards on quick-rolling lanes. After a brief pause at Matlock Bath…
One of the best routes to ditch the city and get a substantial dose of vitamin D and nobility, this lollipop-shaped ride takes in two of the region's prettiest towns - Knutsford and Alderley Edge - as well as no fewer than two National Trust territories, so expect grandeur on a big scale.
A bit of unconventional one thrown into the Northern mix here with a semi-road, semi-gravel but full fun route from the centre of Manchester to Wigan, from where you can return by train.
For a large chunk of the ride you'll be following the National Cycle Network route 55 as well as the historic Bridgewater…
With views like this, there's no need for anything showy.
You'll start from Edale and loop round to Hope the gentle way; here's where the mountain bikers hang out and if you're feeling like a coffee then Cafe Adventure will sort you right out. It's a great spot.
From Hope to Hathersage you've got a stretch…
A stone's throw from Manchester lie the beautiful, often overlooked Pennines, where the payoff for the effort to get there is never up for question. The reward comes as soon as you get some vertical metres into your legs and the views open up. Those reservoirs in your line of sight? They were built in…
Road Cycling Collection by Katherine Moore
Road Cycling Collection by ChrisHallRides
Hiking Collection by Kit P
Mountain Biking Collection by Carola „Bandit“ K.