24 Jul 2017

Manchester City Bike Ride : The How and Why

Leading by example to motivate your child to bigger and better things is what parenthood is all about.

The Challenge

When his parents took on a cycling challenge in the new year and went on to complete it, six year old J was keen to follow suit. He wanted a cycling challenge of his own.

J has been on his Islabike for a year and a half now, growing ever more confident with his cycling. We have been out cycling as a family a couple of times, mostly on holiday, but had never done a competitive bike ride before.

Why We Chose The City Ride

Not that the HSBC UK Manchester City Ride is competitive. Far from it. It is touted as a family-friendly bike ride around the city, with roads closed to traffic along the route. It is open to people of all ages and abilities and you can choose to cycle on any type of bike. You can even hire a bike for the day if you don’t have one of your own.

What I mean is, we had never taken our son cycling on a road at the same time as a thousand other cyclists. In fact, we had never taken him cycling on roads at all, preferring the quiet solitude of a cycle path or the local park. But it was a challenge, and J was up for it.

That the roads would be closed to traffic for the duration of the ride was a big factor when it came to choosing the City Ride. As a parent, the safety of my child takes precedence over all else, cycling skills included. So I registered on the website and added M and J as additional riders under my profile. The ride is completely free, so we were good to go.

The Prep

On the morning of the ride, we breakfasted on bowls of porridge like proper cycling pros. J donned his newly purchased padded cycling shorts to ensure we didn’t end up with a sore bottom at the end of the ride. I strongly recommend buying padded shorts if your child is keen to cycle over longer distances. We bought dhb shorts from Wiggle.

The route was a 7 mile circular from Albert Square in Manchester city centre to the BBC studios in Salford Quays and back. We had the option to join the ride at any point along the route, but chose to start at Salford Quays.

Car Parking

The official car park was supposed to be sign-posted from the main road, but we never found it. So we just parked in a by-lane around one of the industrial estates on the outskirts of Salford Quays. Being a Sunday meant there was no business traffic to worry about.

The Hub at Salford Quays

We cycled along the pavement to the Hub, which was heaving with cyclists, many of whom were families with children on bikes, tagalongs or in trailers. There was music, food, face-painting, a caricaturist and lots of information on cycles and cycling. There was a mini velodrome and an off-road cycling course for kids. You could decorate your bike with shiny tassels and attach a very noisy tooty horn as well, if you wanted. J obviously did. We picked up our free cycling bibs and J got his personalised.

The City Ride

After the mandatory pre-ride photo, it was time to start the ride. We headed off along The Lowry, over the Quays bridge and towards Manchester. It was busy, so we opted to ride in a single file rather than 2 or 3 abreast. That way, I could lead the way, with J following and M bringing up the rear. J was confident from the word go, and only needed to be told a few times to keep steady instead of zig-zagging all over the place! Other than that, he only needed a prompt to change gears when going up an incline.


We were keeping a nice, steady pace as were most cyclists around us. It is what is expected when you sign up to do a friendly, non-competitive bike ride. Unfortunately, there were a few cyclists who opted to speed along the route and there was some dangerous overtaking. We witnessed a couple of pile-ups where at least two cyclists ended up being injured. I was close to being run into myself, as J and I stopped to watch one of the off-road tracks set up along the route.

M even overheard a cyclist moan about how the kids were slowing things down and cycling in a wayward manner! Well, the event is geared towards young riders who are trying to find their feet in the world of cycling. So if you want speed and competition, don’t sign up to a fun, friendly event. And don’t spoil things for those who prefer the sedate pace of a family bike ride.

Albert Square

Manchester City Ride : The How and Why

Despite the wayward riding by some of the ‘pros’, I was glad to see my son enjoying the ride. He was thrilled to see a tram pass us by and was excited when a train crossed overhead as we cycled under the bridge towards Deansgate Castlefield. He tooted his bike horn noisily at intervals and especially when we passed the ‘Toot Your Horn’ section.

The Hub at Albert Square was buzzing with action by the time we arrived. Bikes stood everywhere as people relaxed over food or milled about taking photos and chatting. British Olympic champions Sir Chirs Hoy and Joanna Rowsell Shand were set to make an appearance, but J was growing impatient. So after a bite to eat and a quick bike check at the Halford’s stall, we headed back to the route.  

Finishing the Manchester City Ride

The road was a lot quieter on the way back. And a lot of it was gently downhill. Either that, or the delicious fish and chips we had just eaten had given us enough energy to pedal better. This time, we didn’t have to worry about speeding cyclists. We were able to ride abreast and pick up a little speed. We were able to look around at familiar landmarks – the Old Trafford football ground and the IWM.

We saw some fun bikes along the way – tandems, unicycles and one of those tall crazy bikes. We especially enjoyed cycling through the bubble tunnel, with bubbles popping all around us as we cycled past.

It was a delight to watch my son on his bike, standing up in his saddle with his little legs pedalling furiously as he climbed up an incline, his face alight with the thrill of the ride as he took a sharp corner or went down a slope. It was a pleasure to see him tackle the off-road course, taking a couple of tumbles but never giving up, trying till he had it mastered. It was a joy to see my son revelling in a challenge.

I can thoroughly recommend cycling as a family pastime. It is fun, something the whole family can do together and gets everyone outdoors and active. After the initial investment of buying a bike and gear, all you need is muscle and will power to keep you going. 

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Here is all you need to know if you plan on doing the HSBC UK Manchester City Bike Ride. A great beginner ride on traffic-free routes through the city centre.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder why they didn't let the speed merchants set off first to get them out of the way? But it sounds like you all had a good day and got some good exercise at the same time.


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