A tradition of some years now…
J. P Weigle, rider, constructeur, father and host of French Fender Day, has for the past few years done a virtual FFD. Previously it was a real life meeting of like minded friends over in the USA. Clearly as much we’d love to go along and join in the fun it’s not a realistic desire right now hence the virtual joining in by posting images on Instagram and tagging them with #ffd2021v so everyone can share their enthusiasm.
Keeping to our own tradition, we were a week late this year, bettering our last year’s day late effort somewhat, a late call for an early meeting at the cafe was somewhat hopeful given that the weather forecast was awful, I was not disappointed. Sitting on my own sipping a coffee I decided to go urban, the trails were sodden and even the best mudguards in the world wouldn’t have helped today so canal tow paths and Sunday quiet roads it was.
My home city is Manchester, a vibrant place full of history and culture, known for its rainy days and its contribution to the industrial revolution, its hard to avoid either of these once the summer has headed south, the city centre is a great place for a bike ride if you go early to avoid the traffic.
I headed in via Salford Quays, after the early days of the industrial revolution this place was the key that really unlocked Manchester to the wider world, sitting at the end of some thirty odd miles of a canal that was built to bring the biggest ships into town and then straight out to sea. Nowadays it’s no longer a port, but a thriving media centre now sending out TV programs all over the world, the modern buildings reflecting the glories of the past, the imperial war museum not so much!
After winding my way through the mini Venetian waterways I was back onto the canal tow path, not many Mancunians know that at one time Pomona Island had a world beating exhibition centre on it, big enough to rival Crystal Palace, sadly there are no traces left anymore and after decades of being abandoned an opportunity to build a city centre park was given over to more soulless apartment blocks, the city council should be ashamed.
Onwards now towards Castlefield and the magnificent railway arches and canal intersections, these structures were built to last, the railway still uses the bridges but the canal basins are now firmly in the grip of the leisure industry, bars and restaurants providing for the drinkers of Manchester.
All around are signs of regeneration, the old warehouses that laid empty for years (occasionally used as rehearsal rooms for some of the famous Manchester bands, Joy Division et al) are now chic loft apartments or funky office spaces, the skyline of Manchester forever charging upwards, a new building being erected every few months it seems, where are all these people who can afford half a million pound flats coming from?
Once away from the canal I’m heading towards the Northern Quarter, gentrified beyond recognition now, my childhood memories of this part of town revolve around joke shops and pet shops on Tibb Street, everywhere else was almost a no go area, the improvements here get a thumbs up from me, artisanal coffee, decent food and a chance for a hipster haircut, what’s not to like, plus, you can find the best bike shop in the world right at the heart of it all (Keepedalling!)
A full english breakfast and my second coffee allows time for the sun to come out, the wet roads glistening and steaming, I’m starting to dry out after the early rain so I plot my route home via the Alan Turing statue, past Manchester museum and out to the south of the city.
The traffic is still sparse but the occasional car comes along and each time the driver seems to delight in finding the biggest puddles to drive through, great fun for them I’m sure, not so funny for me, despite having my ‘fenders’ fitted I’m now wetter than when it was raining and glad to get home and into the bath, it was not the spectacular sun shining through the woods type of ride I’d hoped for but it was still twenty five miles on the bike and I bagged plenty of photographs for #ffd2021v 🙂
Words and pictures – Steve Makin