Manchester canal commute during winter

megs85

New Member
Hi there,

For the last 2 years I've commuted into Manchester on the roads 4 days a week on my road bike. The route is Ashton to the city centre and is about 7.5 miles, heavily congested and full of exhaust fumes.

I decided to buy a cyclocross bike and ride the "Ashton Canal" into town which is what I've been doing for the last few weeks. I'm really enjoying the fresh air and relaxed pace. With winter approaching I have a few questions:
  1. In regards to the local waifs & strays, how safe are canals (the Ashton Canal in particular if anyone has the experience) after dark?
  2. Are they gritted when the mercury drops?
Thanks.
 

I like Skol

Hold my beer and watch this....
Great canal route now as it is all surfaced. I am 99.9% certain it will not be gritted no matter how bad the weather gets.

As far as personal safety goes I would say you have to make your own assessment on that. As you are no doubt aware, even in daylight the canal can be a lonely place and although I would have no worries about using it at any time of day or night, all year round, I have to point out I am a 6ft+, 14½ stone ugly, bad tempered male travelling at 20+mph. If you are a small female bimbling along at 10mph or less on your flash new CX bike then you are obviously a much less daunting target to any ne'er do wells than I represent.

What kind of people have you encountered during your daylight commutes, have you felt threatened, how busy has the tow path been at the usual commute times of day?

I am assuming (probably wrongly) that you are a female, which if correct opens up other safety concerns besides bike theft and muggings. I probably wouldn't be very happy at all if my wife were to do what you are suggesting.

I do have an idea but not sure how practical it is. During your previous commutes along the canal do you see any other cycle commuters travelling the same way at the same times? If you could buddy up with someone else for the trip it could be mutually advantageous to travel along the canal together. It might even be worth getting to the canal 10 minutes early for a couple of days and waiting around to see who travels that way at the time you do. I'm sure anyone cycling on the canal would be happy to have a bit of company and support during the darker months?

If you can overcome the points I have covered above then it will be a great way to get into the city from Ashton and even as a hardened urban road commuter that isn't bothered by traffic and congestion I would probably use that canal if it was going my way.
 

fossyant

Ride It Like You Stole It!
Location
South Manchester
What skolly says above.

If you decide to ride the canal in winter get studded tyres. The canal near me is quite muddy. I certainly used to commute off road into Manchester when it was icy. Above freezing was by roads but when the temps dropped I grabbed the MTB with studs.

Most of the idiots aren't up in the mornings and aren't usually about in rush hour. There have been muggings on the Fallowfield Loop during the day. I never saw trouble at rush hour. I don't cycle commute any longer but I'm regularly out using the canals at night. You rarely see anyone. Just get good lights.
 
OP
M

megs85

New Member
Thanks for the replies!

I Like Skol, I'm afraid you did assume wrongly, maybe I need to change my writing style haha. Although I'm not a 6'odd angry looking guy I am mid 30's male, 5'7" and in good shape, but its hard to look tough in Lycra, helmet and florescent jacket i suppose!

To be honest I haven't really seen anything looking too threatening apart from the odd group of youths behind the Etihad but they've all moved aside when I've approached. In the morning the canal is mostly empty and in the evening it's all MTB cyclists and people out for a stroll, I like your idea about tagging on to someone and will keep an eye out for any regulars I notice over the coming weeks.

I generally don't ride if the mercury goes below 0 on the road after it's rained so I'll probably continue this if the canal isn't gritted.

Thanks for your help, I suppose I'll just play it by ear and see how the lay of the land is on approach to winter. Maybe I'll dig my hatchet out of the garage and strap it to the bike just in case!
 

hoppym27

Well-Known Member
I too commute on the canal in Manchester..albeit the bridgewater on the stretch from Monton to Trafford Park. I havent seen any idiots yet but Ive only been doing it a couple of months.
 

I like Skol

Hold my beer and watch this....
but its hard to look tough in Lycra, helmet and florescent jacket i suppose!
There's your problem right there!

Ditch the helmet and get a hat for when it is chilly. Fluorescent looks awful.... and looks even more awful once stained and discoloured by mud and road grime. Lycra?!?!?!?

It is almost a shame you are not female because now I have to say you should be fine, just don't slow down or stop if you see anyone that worries you. I say it is a shame because it is kind of acknowledging that there are places and areas that are seen as out-of-bounds for lone 'vulnerable' women and having to think that way (rightly or wrongly) doesn't feel right.

Anyway, keep up the good work and hopefully I will see you about some time. I ride a dirty old grey GT hybrid most of the time, what's your bike?

Sorry about the gender confusion, it was just your forum name that threw me as all your actual post was gender neutral :okay:
 

400bhp

Guru
I used to commute along the canal from altrincham to the city centre, usually when the weather was bad or when I wanted a change.

I worked office hours and don't recall seeing any undesirables at 7-8 in the morning. I occasionally saw some on the evening return but they were often preoccupied with their mates.

If it's dark it's often difficult to see the detail of people up close, even with lights. This cuts both ways and it's very difficult for domeone to see you with a bright light in their face.

I would add to the points above to get to know the route very well so you know where the exit points are, any pinch points/dark spots etc.
Perhaps start commuting in on the canal if that's a morning start and build up to commuting back along the canal, perhaps doing bits of the canal at a time.
 

bigjim

Guru
Location
Manchester. UK
Shave your head and wear your scruffs. If the prats are about they will leave you alone. They look for victims not one of their own. No helmet, hi viz, or lycra.
 

hoppym27

Well-Known Member
Shave your head and wear your scruffs. If the prats are about they will leave you alone. They look for victims not one of their own. No helmet, hi viz, or lycra.
Oh I do hope the scruffs see me in high viz and a helmet and see me as a victim! I'm a 14 stone 6ft1 ex-serviceman and I would love to 're-brief' a couple of them!
 

bigjim

Guru
Location
Manchester. UK
Oh I do hope the scruffs see me in high viz and a helmet and see me as a victim! I'm a 14 stone 6ft1 ex-serviceman and I would love to 're-brief' a couple of them!
I can top that at 6'2" and 14.5 stone. I can do a lot of damage, but I've learned my lesson. You can't get involved much these days or you end up in a courtroom, when all you want to do is just ride your bike.
 

Alan O

Über Member
Location
Liverpool
its hard to look tough in Lycra, helmet and florescent jacket i suppose!
Wear tweed plus-twos, a check shirt with tie, and a flat cap (or tied-down deerstalker) - and should some ruffian stand in your way, don't shy from giving them a piece of your mind. Oh, and be sure to wave your pipe in their direction to give you an added air of authority.
 
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united4ever

Senior Member
I am a Bridgewater canal commuter through trafford. it's quite busy on that stretch so usually other cyclists nearby but I would say sticking on someone's tail improves security....safety in numbers and all that. cannot be done if it's a lightly used path though.
 

clf

Senior Member
Geese, dogs and clowns going for strava records are a bigger problem for me on the canals, I'd rather take my chances with cars and lorries, they are slightly more predictable.
 
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