Well it’s been an eventful cycling week! In a break from the norm, I spent last week away on a training course which entailed me spending the whole week in a hotel at Manchester airport. Having had a look for cycle routes in the area, I found a link to what looked like a really pleasant eight mile loop around the airport. And so, hoping for a nice way to unwind at the end of each day’s training, I packed my Dahon into the car along with my luggage.
|The Dahon, tucked in the corner of my hotel room|
I’ve had some fine experiences on national cycle network routes and so it was with some excitement that I ventured out on Monday evening. The first part of the route followed a dual-use footpath alongside a fairly busy road. That notwithstanding it was lovely to be out on my bike just for the hell of it. A couple of miles into the ride came a real treat though in the form of the tunnels that take to road and footpaths under both of the airport’s runways. I’ve cycled in some odd places before but I think this has to take the biscuit. There are two large car tunnels a couple of hundred metres long (one in each direction) and to the outside of each a smaller tunnel solely for the use of bikes, pedestrians and (judging by the odd pile of poo) horses as well. All of the pedestrian/cycle tunnels are surfaced with the smoothest and most cycle friendly tarmac in the world. If only all cycle paths were so pleasantly covered.
|The tunnels under the runway (pedestrian tunnels on the far left and right)|
|Inside the tunnel|
Just after the tunnels, the route turned left, away from the main road and onto some lovely tracks and trails alongside the airport runway itself. The route turns away from the road but unfortunately on Monday I did not. It took until the hard-won top of the next hill for me to realise my route finding error and turn back. At least I got to cycle down the hill again.
After riding alongside the runway for a while (and pausing to watch a few jets take off and land – the big kid in me, I’m afraid) the route joined some lovely leafy lanes for a couple of miles. This route certainly had variety of terrain in spades!
|Much more like it :-)|
At the end of the lanes, the next section started to get a little more built up. However, it was still well signposted and alongside the busier roads consisted of traffic free, dual-use footpaths. Finally the route turned off the road again and through an urban park (complete with feral kids and bull-terriers galore) before rejoining the original road, about half a mile from my hotel.
On Tuesday night, I managed this final section without a hitch. Monday night was a different story. I missed the turning into the park and ended up following the main road into really rough looking estate! I had the route on my phone but needed to take care finding somewhere safe enough to stop and get my iPhone out. I know I’d have been fine with a paper map but my ongoing disgruntlement with satellite navigation continues. The root of the problem (other than the fact that I got lost in the first place) was that the little arrow on the Cycle Network app seems not to point in the direction you are facing all of the time. This resulted in me stopping, checking and retracing my tracks more times than I care to remember. All this at the same time as trying very hard not to look like someone worth stabbing for their phone/wallet! I did eventually find my way back on track though after adding a couple of miles or so to the total distance ridden.
A fellow course delegate knew the area and told me the next morning that the estate I got lost in is where the sitcom “Shameless” is filmed. I certainly looked like it too!
Requiring something a little more restful on Wednesday I chose to follow the first part of the loop as far as the runway tunnels before turning right off the main road, away from the airport (and “Shamelessland”) into a network of lanes and villages. I had much more luck with the sat nav this time especially as it was on terrain that I’m more used to riding. I even managed to find a really rather good pub for a mid-ride pint and bag of pork scratchings. There’s nothing quite like it in a sunny, summery evening! In the end I covered about 16.5 miles and arrived back at the hotel feeling grand.
All in all, a nice week’s cycling really and it served to show yet another benefit of folding bikes. Whenever I’m away with work from now on, I’ll be packing the Dahon along with the rest of my stuff. Adventure beckons!