It’s Good Friday now so a short week with just 4 working days. On Monday I took the tram, which has improved in that it’s got quicker over the years. Tuesday was my regular cycle commute which has also improved as a significantly helpful segregated cycle lane has been installed for 1km of my route. The cost of clothing to keep me dry has been spread across 12 years of consistent riding and I’m currently wearing more expensive over-trousers and a light blue Ron Hill running jacket (to be seen but avoiding our current fixation with hi-viz everything) and these items can also be used for my fell running adventures. Seems a bit excessive but I’ve learned that it’s worth investing in good kit once you know you are going to use it regularly and I can ride all year round in absolutely any weather.
So Wednesday was the turn of the ‘Express’ bus. In past years I’ve tried local First buses and they deliberately go around the estates of Prestwich and Salford as they head towards the city. Prestwich is on a straight road from Junction 17 of the M60 to Manchester City centre and is served by the x41 and x43 buses which travel down the M66 from Blackburn, Burnley and other places up the valley. They make limited stops from Prestwich (about 1 in 4) and I love to tuck in behind them on my bike when the traffic is moving freely.
I was a little late leaving the house so traffic was building after 7:30 and the bus was slower than my bike would have been until we reached the MacDonalds at Broughton. A bus lane enabled us to pass over 50 slow moving cars until we reached Strangeways. I spotted a Mobike and jumped off (maybe a stop to early) booked out the hire bike and then caught the bus up at the next set of red lights.
The return bus ticket had cost £5.60 so not much cheaper than tram and with the cost of 2 bike hires at 69p each I would be spending more today. I might have been a bit lazy in asking for a ticket to Manchester which they took as meaning the end of the line, maybe if I’d stipulated Strangeways which would be 2 miles shorter could it have been cheaper?
I prefer travelling by on the top deck of a bus to a tram anyway; peering into peoples gardens and noticing things along the route that I never do when driving or cycling. There were seats too; from 7:15 I’ll usually be standing on a tram and these bus seat were leather with extra arm room (only 3 seats wide rather than 4 upstairs) wi-fi connectivity and USB charging points. I guess some travellers would be spending the best part of 3 hours a day on those buses.
Upon Mobike #16516, progress along Chapel street seemed laboured for a man of my fitness. I noticed that my knees were nearly hitting my chin because the seatpost had gradually sunk downwards. Despite being only 5’7″ (when stood up very straight!) I need the seat at the highest point on a Mobike to feel comfortable. In the space of 1km of riding with the vibration of the road the seat had slid down to its lowest point.
I got off at the junction of Trinity Way and pushed over a short section of pavement to pick up a little side street and then met with my familiar cycle commute route along Ordsall Lane. Bike ride was 4k and 15 minutes so with walk to bus stop and 5 or 6 minute wait for bus the whole journey, despite slow moving traffic on the bus was 50 minutes.
Coming home I tried to be clever and it backfired on me. My ticket for the x41 Red Express was also valid for the x43 Witchway and according to the bus company websites they took different routes out of the centre of Manchester. So to find a stop where I could catch either I took a Mobike to Deansgate. I just missed an x43 but an x41 turned up in another 3 minutes and then we queued for 20 minutes to make our way to Strangeways and Bury New Road where we finally started to progress at more than walking pace. I should have cycled to Strangeways and probably would have caught an earlier bus and saved 20 or 30 minutes. So the return took an hour and 10 minutes despite traffic home (without a bus lane) moving quicker from Strangeways than it had in the morning.
Thursday I ran to work in 55 minutes. I’ve done this a few times and it’s a great way to get in some of my weekly mileage to enable racing or harder running at the weekend. You don’t have to run, many mornings I see a former colleague walking the 8km from Prestwich to Manchester. He’s no super-athlete and likes a drink which is the medium through which I’ve kept in touch with him in the 10 years since he left Sage. For variety I ran down into the valley to avoid the traffic of Bury New Road and picked up the former Bury Bolton Manchester canal through Agecroft taking me to the roundabout at Pendleton. From there 3km more of streets through Langworthy and picked up pace for the final km down Trafford Road.
This was a recovery run for me after running harder the previous evening, and I enjoyed listening to a compilation of mostly 80s Guilty Pleasures (Kid Creole and the Coconuts anyone?) and with nobody else around for most of the route I could sing along too. Shower at work changing into the clothes in my backpack then porridge and a big dirty cooked breakfast for lunch. All earned and very necessary re-fueling!
Heading home I took a Mobike to the edge of the hire bike’s zone of operation as they shouldn’t be taken over the Salford border into Bury MBC. I conveniently stopped at the Star Inn community pub which required a short climb up cobbles – a nice little challenge – and then enjoyed a couple of pints of Guinness and a bit of a natter with some local characters. I succumbed to repeated requests to put a bit of PM Dawn on the jukebox and once I’d got a few credits in there Andrew was demanding a Sonia track too. I’m clearly not the only one with guilty pleasures!
Jukebox charged and myself refuelled I headed home marching at a bit of a pace with a full bladder. 32 minutes for 4km is quite a pace for a walk. So if you cut out the drinking time then my Mobike and march was just 52 minutes. Cheaper than bus or tram even if you include the price of the first pint. I think I’ve found myself the winning commuting option!