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The best road cycling in Greater Manchester – exploring the northern boroughs

One of Tour de Manc’s organising team, Sarah Galligan shares her love of cycling on Greater Manchester’s more northern roads.

One of my new year’s resolutions in 2020 was to cycle north of Manchester more and to cycle with new people.

As a Northern Quarter dweller, I either dodged city centre potholes as I went to work or the gym on my hybrid; or I bombed through south Manchester towards the glorious Peak District on my road bike. I did not get tired of the Peak District – but I did get tired of riding through Manchester to get out there.

And so, on 6 January 2020, I joined some friendly randoms from Manchester Social Cycling Facebook group on a ride from Heaton Park up Owd Betts to Ashworth Reservoir. This started my love affair with the hills of Bury and Bolton – and later Oldham, so it was a good call and ended up with a marriage: I’ve ended up moving to Ramsbottom.

What I love about routes from the city centre northwards is that you hit greenery earlier.  (I’m thinking of that blast of greenery as you get past Middleton). It takes a while longer for you to be in true rural beauty, but you get a sniff.

And then there’s the hills amidst the mills. From Rivington to Darwin to Saddleworth with pearls like Hollingworth Lake; the boroughs north of Manchester are a joy for road cyclists. Good quality roads, plus the towns have their beauty. If you’ve not visited Rochdale Town Hall yet, you should. And I have to mention the Rake: the steepest climb in Greater Manchester at 25%. It’s short and brutal. No shame in putting a foot down. It’s a fairly busy two-way road so my tip is to go early so you can weave away without meeting a car on the blind bends.

My recommendation for anyone wanting to take a ride in Greater Manchester’s northern boroughs for the first time is to focus on some of the places I have mentioned as you plot your route on your favourite app or your physical map. Or here’s one I made earlier. 

Some of the Tour de Manc taster rides preparing you for the sportive head through northern borough beauty. Do join us and perhaps you too will be buying a house in Ramsbottom. 

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