Salford to Southport

The Sage Manchester R&D ride to the seaside was a complete success last Sunday with plenty of sunshine and only a slight headwind. 

After lots of discussion over our choice of tyres, and with me being worried about the quantity of glass on the Liverpool Loop lines, I opted to ride my hybrid with its bulletproof Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres, and this also gave me the benefit of pedals I could fix cleats to.  As it turned out there were very few glassy patches along the whole of the route.  One underpass was particularly bad and James, being the heaviest rider and with the largest tyre profile wisely chose to carry his bike through that tunnel.  Nobody suffered a puncture.

 
We met outside our office at Salford Quays at 9am and headed 3 miles down the Chester Road to join the Trans Pennine Trail near J7 of the M60.  The trail follows the course of the Mersey around south Manchester before skirting around Altrincham and picking up a former railway line which turns out to be the Ditton Junction to Skelton Junction line.   The trail’s surface was good and dry with the only frustration being the number of anti-motorcycle A-frames that broke our rhythm.  We crossed the Manchester Ship canal at Stockton Heath and continued on a route away from traffic by the Sankey & St Helen’s canals and never too far from the quickly widening Mersey.  After on road sections through the contrasting Hale & Halewood areas we picked up the Liverpool Loop line which reminded me a lot of south Manchester’s Fallowfield Loop line. 

 

We struggled to maintain our over-ambitious target pace for in excess of 35 miles and so decided to stop at Sainsbury’s in Knotty Ash for 30 minutes to re-fuel on proper food rather than the energy drinks, gels and the bars we had grazed upon prior to that.  At that point the group split with James JP and myself trying to push on to allow us to catch a late lunch at Nando’s.  I decided we would stop to help a cyclist who, together with his very poorly maintained and very cheap MTB, turned out to be well beyond assistance.  That 2 minute delay enabled the other 4 to catch us.  We set off and forged ahead again but almost got caught for a second time as they took a more direct route to trim a mile of meandering from the official route that we dutifully followed around Aintree.  We picked up a rough farm track and at this point we first noticed a headwind challenging us.  This was the toughest part of the ride particularly as we were 50 miles into the journey.  Once we reached Ainsdale we just had a cycle-path by the side of the coastal road to tackle and the improved surface helped compensate for the strengthening wind.  The finishing post was far more impressive that the end of the C2C ride and after posing for the obligatory photo we found Nando’s less than a mile away and tucked into well earned Brazilian beer and whole Piri-piri chickens.

If we were 10 miles closer to home I would have been tempted to cycle a direct return route.  I had 2 energy gels left and almost half a bottle of SIS Go.  There was also plenty of water left in my backpack as the temperature hadn’t been as high as the previous day.  I felt that I could ride further though I doubt I would have enjoyed it.  Instead, with satisfied stomachs, JP and I headed off to the train station and whilst JP sorted out the tickets I jogged a purposeful yet random course around Southport town centre to track down an off licence.  Within a few minutes I had sourced an assortment of Polish lagers with little to help me understand their exact contents other than the universally understood figures of 500ml & 5.7%.  There was one other cyclist boarding the train and we found just enough space for our 3 bikes to be lashed together in the luggage carriage before settling down to enjoy the lager and the benefits of travelling at speed without expending any energy.  At Wigan the train filled with football fans with Latics coming back from 2 goals down to beat Arsenal 3-2 and this prevented either of us finding a toilet, if one existed.  I alighted at Piccadilly with JP staying on until Stockport but it seems that we both had to dance directly to respective station toilets before being able to consider travelling onwards. 

The Polish lager had worked its magic and certain tender areas were feeling suprisingly firm and strong as I still found the energy to race (and beat) a 135 bus heading 5 miles along Bury Old Road from town to home.  I’d love to do the ride again, maybe setting off an hour or more earlier to enjoy lunch at lunchtime in Southport and then head back in time for tea, and that would be an ideal first 100 mile ride.

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About holmesinho

Happily married father of 2 living in Prestwich 5 miles north of Manchester, England. I cycle most days though mostly commuting and also enjoy running and triathlon.
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