Manchester to Blackpool back to Manchester via Preston
Ride Leader Andrew reports……
Thanks for the kind words folks both on-line and via email, it was a very stressful lead-up to the ride as the train strikes were announced but, in the end, I think it was worth it. I'm certainly pleased with how it turned out.
Once the strikes were in place, I could only think of two options; cancel or ride back. I figured that, if I changed the destination to Blackpool and took a more direct route than usual I could come up with a viable and manageable route.
Particular thanks are due to friends Lucy and Steve (neither are regular Fridays although Steve did York-Hull last year) for their help with route planning and their excellent company on the two major route checks that I managed to fit in. We had a great night in Blackpool on the 2nd route check; there was beer and everything !
Understandably, several of the potential riders from outside of MCR had to withdraw either because they couldn't get to the start or to home, illness or the return trip would be too far. That left us with 7 riders confirmed, two of whom would join us in North MCR. Two of the registered riders didn't show up at the start and, despite ringing them, 3 of us left Victoria Station bang on midnight collecting the 1st rider near Prestwich Forest Park and the other in Bury.
As usual, we stopped in Bury to remember Alan and to leave flowers for him. Then the climbing, which this ride is noted for, started. Up through Tottington, down and up a couple of dips to Edgworth and then the long, long climb through Crowthorne to the Grane Road peaking at over 340 metres/1120 feet. It has to be said that the weather was terrific; not too cold, relatively still and dry. I'll settle for that every time.
There was very little traffic on the descent of Grane and we made good time to food stop at the Euro Garages on Whitebirk Services. We arrived bang on 03.00 and, again, I would have settled for that. The guy on the till recognised us from last time and he joked with us about storing the bike while one of our number went to A&E.
We left about 03.50 and I then made the traditional wrong turns before I finally got us to Whalley New Road and the schlep out of Blackburn.
After a brief stop in Ribchester we headed up towards Longridge. The climb doesn't get any easier with familiarity but we all made it in fine style before we picked up the new route and my stress levels increased; I'd only ridden this route twice and both times were in daylight. Thankfully we didn't have too much time in complete dark as the sky gradually got lighter behind us as the sun rose.
My Garmin gave a couple of strange turn suggestions but, with input from the group, we soon got back on route. It was a good idea to share the gpx files with all the riders. This isn't normal Friday's practise but it worked well in these unusual circumstances.
There was a brief overlap of the return route in Kirkham then it was through quiet lanes then a lovely off road section through Stanley Park before our arrival at Blackpool Tower bang on 07.00. Result !
The group then set off South along the Prom towards Lytham before one of our number turned back to, I think, ride to Fleetwood to camp there. I was flagging a little at this stage and I figured if I was, the others were probably doing the same so I suggested we head to the Wetherspoons for breakfast. I knew it opened at 08.00 and I'd noticed that we'd get there at 08.00 and so it proved. We were the 1st customers and the rest and refreshment was very welcome.
Pushing on after about 60 minutes we hit the (mainly) quiet roads to the west of Preston before we got to the lovely off road section past Preston Marina and into Avenham Park for a coffee stop at the Pavilion café (recommended). It was about 10.40 by now and, after a 40 minute stop we hit more lovely off road trails through Avenham and then into Cuerden Valley Park.
After that (and with advice from a local member of the group) we ditched the climb to Rivington and stuck with the busy A6 through Chorley and on to Fredericks Ice Cream at Charnock Heath. We got there at 12.15. After a 30 minute stop (yes, ice cream was consumed) the 2 South MCR riders parted ways with the 2 North MCR riders and we continued along the A6 to near Middlebrook before we (eventually, I struggled to find it) picked up another excellent off road route into Bolton.
Traversing Bolton is a bit rubbish (lots of glass, lots of traffic and some notable hills) but it was very effective at getting us in short order onto the top of the Roe Green Loop line (more excellent off road) for the long, long descent to Monton.
After that, it was an on road schlep past the Traffic Centre to The Beech in Chorlton(CH). We arrived there just after 14.30.
We had a couple of beers sat in the sun before we parted company; me to have another beer and the other rider to head for home.
When I finally got home (I stopped at Stretford Mall to collect a parcel, a dropper suspension seat post; it had to be bike related didn't it ?) I'd done 212km, the longest ride of 2023.
In retrospect, it was well worth the effort and the stress to organise this. Many, many thanks to the group who rode with me and thanks for your input and patience when i was leading us astray and bloody well done on completing the route.
I'm hoping to be bale to lead another Manchester based FNRttC in 2024. I'd like to go to Morecambe as I'd planned for this year. I'll be tempted to stay over and ride some or all of the way back on the Sunday, we'll see !
You've read the report, now watch the video shot by one of the Fridays. Josh: