Leeds – Liverpool Canal

By Nigel Blandford

9th July 2020

Firstly, sorry about lack of photos but I think the rain got the better of the phone on the ride and it’s busted . I’m busy trying to recover my digital life to a spare phone today. Here’s a write up and the route is on my Strava profile MCR BikeCommuter.

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It’s been on my radar for a while and it was going to be my Longest Day ride but the Lockdown intervened. However there was still enough daylight hours to complete it once the hotels reopened so I chose what looked like a dry day and booked a Leeds hotel for the night before to ensure a dawn (04.30) start. As it turned out I was joined by Paul Vandercamp at the start, who would be a welcome companion. Would he end up regretting it?

It was warm and dry as the sun came up and we made rapid progress on good, empty towpaths out of Leeds. We took a brief diversion to look quickly around the beautiful model mill town of Saltaire before carrying onwards until our first stop around three hours from departure, in the picturesque town centre of Skipton with it’s historic buildings. By around 9.30 we crossed back into Lancashire and stopped in Barnoldswick, the home of Hope Components and Rolls Royce. A much needed sit-down drink and a bite to eat in the town square and then onwards.

We deviated slightly in Barrowsford for a circuit of the Steven Burke cycle track solely because it was there! Shortly after we met up with Adrian Brooks, who paced us, showed us the half way marker and fixed Paul’s “snakebike” puncture. We couldn’t have asked for a better Domestique! Adrian left us at Darwen by which time it had stated to rain lightly and wouldn’t really stop until Liverpool. We had our tea in a chippy in Wigan. It was a pie of course. Up until now the towpath surfaces had been generally good, firm and dry. Shortly after Wigan they became more variable with lower quality surfaces and because of the rain some sections became very slippery. I was riding reasonably treaded 700×35 Schwalbe Mondials and would loose traction at times. Paul’s narrower, slick Continental Gatorskins were really suffering on some sections.

At Burscough we hit the West Lancs agricultural lowlands with it’s peat and silt soils. The towpath deteriorated, disappearing in places and the wet surface was like slime. It probably wasn’t that far in the scheme of things but it took an age and sapped mental energy between Burscough and Maghull as progress slowed with lost traction. At Maghull, back in civilization the surface improved immeasurable and spirits instantly lifted. We cruised into Liverpool and the end at Stanley Dock at sunset. It was a proper dawn to dusk ride.

Take away messages for people thinking of riding the route in a day.

1. It’s entirely possible to complete during the day if you have more than 15 hours of daylight riding. However, bring lights in case of an emergency and getting back from the finish.

2. Ideally best on ridden on a hybrid/gravel/touring bike.

3. Tyre choice is critical. 700 x 28 as minimum preferably wider with good puncture resistance because of the urban areas you’ll be cycling in and some tread. If it is or has been raining in the previous few days and the ground is wet then there are some muddier sections that are slow going or near impossible if you have little tread and narrower tyres.