next to me


With plenty of time to get all arty atop the hill of death, it’s fair to say that Geordie Clarke is considerably stronger and faster than I am. I keep trying to blame it on me riding a heavier bike or being tired from doing something or other the day before or whatever but, if I’m honest, I’m just fat and he’s just not.

Now, despite my considerable weight (dis)advantage and GC’s penchant for torturing me on the longest, steepest climbs we can find, he always has been and shall probably always remain my cycling buddy of choice.

With Geordie visiting for the extra long jubilee bank holiday weekend, there was nothing for it but to organise a weekend of cycling. Starting out with a little pootling around Manchester on the Saturday (with the obligatory visit to the bike shop, of course) we signed up for a Sky Ride Local event on the Sunday. Completely outnumbered by the ride leaders, we were in for some more pootling, lots and lots of rain, drivetrains full of sand and a nice cup of coffee at Manchester’s Velodrome.

Whilst it wasn’t really a challenge for us, I really quite enjoyed our little ride out in the countryside. If you’re new to cycling, want to build up to bigger mileage, explore your local area or just meet new people, I reckon you could do a lot worse than sign up and have a go! It’s free, the ride leaders take care of your safety during the ride, they’re just about everywhere these days and there are routes to suit just about every ability level. Oh, and you’ll even get a free hi-viz Sky Ride top just for turning up! We declined, incidentally, which nobody minded.

The main event for the weekend was really the Great Manchester Cycle on the bank holiday Monday which I’d signed us up for ages ago. Despite Geordie’s protestations, I signed us up for the middle distance of a mere 26 miles; with the journey to the start and back, it came out at roughly 40 miles for the day which I thought would be plenty.

Of course, these things never really go according to plan… A mile or so from home and I noticed my crank arm was loose; probably because I hadn’t tightened it down properly! Happily, there was a man with a rather impressive 8mm allen wrench and a builder’s bum on hand at the start of the ride who leaned on my cranks and got me going again.

The ride itself was lots of fun! The organisers had done a great job of getting so many people safely onto and around the course of closed public roads which included a section of Mancunian Way – how often do you get to cycle on a closed motorway?

Once all the queuing was done (and there was plenty of it to do), we set about storming around the course, scalping as many serious looking roadies as possible. There’s something really special about the incredulous look you only get from beating everything in sight with a big old ridiculous Troll!

The first 5 miles flew by along with several team replica jerseys struggling on the most minor of inclines. Getting down in the drops and chasing onto Geordie’s wheel, I starting getting really comfortable with the odd looking riding position I have and before I knew it, we were rolling across the bridge at Salford Quays.

A short stretch later and I was being refused entry to the feed station with a reluctant promise that we could go in on the next lap. Heading back to the start / finish line at the Manchester City ground, we passed by the Manchester Utd ground, scalped more roadies on Mancunian Way and dropped back down into the city for lap 2.

Enjoying the random applause from people lining the streets, I almost wiped out by running into the back of a slow moving group taking up the entire width of the road; Geordie, being all small and slinky, had somehow managed to find a gap and was fast getting away from me… git.

Getting ‘stuck’ once more behind a group of lycra clad girls, I eventually found a way through and, once again, we passed through Salford and the feed station was looming. Having paid my entrance fee, I was as sure as hell going to bag my free munchies even though I really didn’t need anything.

Carefully ignoring the box of jelly babies and haribo, we both made a bee-line for the girl with long, flowing red hair and a tray of jaffa cakes. Flirting out of the way, we each pocketed a couple of bananas and I nommed a chocolaty – fudgy muesli bar and we set off again.

Relaxing the pace a little, we kept leapfrogging 2 separate pairs of guys but we beat them in the end. In the final stages, I got stuck once again and there was nothing to do but take a free tow from a rather nice lady in grey shorts… and, all too soon it was all over.

We picked up our goody bags at the end and rode home. Geordie wanted to ride up the hill of death to get some more miles in but the higher than normal pace and the beer from the night before was starting to tell on my thighs so 40ish miles for the day it was.

As some kind of consolation prize, I caved in and let Geordie punish me up the hill of death before I dropped him off at the train station. Being on the Troll, I decided to ride home via a stretch of NCN route 66 along the Rochdale canal; the surface is quite good overall but appalling in places – a good test for the Troll and probably my new commuting route. I feel a future post coming on about cycling on the canal network…

Anyway, all in all, I reckon I racked up about 120 miles over the weekend which is probably much less than Geordie wanted to ride but I had a blast all the same.

Oh, head over to and search for my rider number 4592 and you can see a few action shots and even a short video of me on the ride. Keep an eye out for me pulling my Salford face on the bridge!

mr. writer

Bald, bearded and (in this picture) berating me for not getting his wheels fixed as I’d allegedly promised to, my very good friend and preferred cycling buddy Geordie Clarke is Deputy editor at Money Management magazine (part of the Financial Times Group). He also happens to be a wine aficionado and is mainly to blame for my interest in all things cycling related; you can read his wine blog here.

Anyway, I happen to be going away for a much needed holiday in the sun for a week so in the meantime, I am entrusting my blog to Geordie in the vain hope that he’ll post a guest entry or two about his collection of bikes which includes a full carbon Condor, a titanium Planet X, a steel Surly Long Haul Trucker and a couple of other bikes in various stages of being built / taken apart.

Also on our list of shared interests (along with bikes, food and redheads) is a penchant for really good beer. Incidentally, sweet talking your way into the Ironbridge Brewery doesn’t make their beer any cheaper or better… It’s OK, but I’m not sure it’s good enough to warrant the hideous climb back out of Ironbridge Gorge. So, maybe GC here will regale us with tales of his beer drinking adventures instead?

Well, whatever he ends up writing about, I’m sure it’ll keep you entertained whilst I’m sitting in the sun, sipping a Sangria… unless he starts writing about pension plans and the such… zzzzzzzz