With the much-publicised success of Team Sky and Team GB in all manner of cycling events and competitions, thanks in no small part to the brilliant facilities at Manchester’s Velodrome, cycling is becoming increasingly popular with the public. Whether it’s commuting to work or a weekend ride, as a nation we are more and more choosing to don our helmets and hop in the saddle.

Here in Manchester we’re blessed with some of the best cycling Britain has to offer. It’s not something you’d expect from a city known worldwide for its part in the industrial revolution, but thanks to our proximity to the hills it can be quite easy to get out of the concrete jungle and into the fresh, rolling countryside. Within a reachable distance of the city centre are the Cheshire plains, the South Pennines and the northern Peak District, all of which offer a variety of routes and courses to suit your cycling desires.

I’m relatively new to cycling. I bought my first bike in June and have had a whole summer of fun tackling the Pott Shrigley brickworks and the hills around Kettleshulme, so I can tell you from experience that it is not as hard as you might think to get out and enjoy the roads. And it’s getting even easier with the help of Transport for Greater Manchester.

In their Greater Manchester Cycling Strategy published this July, TfGM has pledged to increase our city’s cycling volume by 300%, aiming for 10% of all journeys to be by bike by 2025. This, they predict, would result in a 48% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. Healthier people and a greener environment sound pretty great, right? As part of this pledge there are plenty of schemes and training exercises that we all can, and should, take advantage of. If you want to get out, but are a little too scared to tackle the roads or have never ridden a bike before, there’s something for you.

There are courses for people of all abilities. There are the Learn to Ride, Road Ready, On the Road and Ride Leader Training courses, as well as easy and intermediate maintenance courses based all over Manchester. They run regularly and all you have to do to get involved is sign up and register your interest online.

Alongside local schemes such as those offered by TfGM, there’s also the government-backed Cycle to Work scheme, which offers people the chance to buy a bike and safety equipment up to the cost of £1000, VAT free. This amounts to a usual saving of around 30%. To take advantage you have to check if your employer is registered and, if they’re not, encourage them to sign up. It’s completely free to join and it can all be done online.

Furthermore, if you’ve recently found employment after signing off Jobseeker’s Allowance, have a word with your advisor and ask about the Bike Back to Work scheme. It’s open to all Jobcentre Plus and Primes customers and, if you are eligible, your advisor will give you a validated application form. If you’re successful, you’ll be booked onto a cycle training and bike maintenance course at a venue near you. You’ll also be given details of where to pick up a completely free recycled bike, along with a helmet, lock, pair of lights and a high visibility jacket.

We might be heading into the winter months now and the thought of going out on our rainy roads will no doubt strike fear into your heart. But get the practice in now and, when spring rolls around again, you’ll be ready to tackle the tarmac better than Froome. Will Manchester end up the Amsterdam of the UK thanks to TfGMs lofty plans? Who knows? But getting back onto a bike was one of the best things I’ve done this summer, and with all the help currently being offered I wholeheartedly recommend you give it a go too.


david ewing