There’s little doubt that Manchester is among the most exhilarating places to visit in the UK, as an energetic city bursting with history, culture and unforgettable character. From independent businesses to world-famous sports stadiums, this iconic city is full of personality and offers something for everyone, on every street.

Today, we’re looking at a fun and active way to explore this great city - cycling. With a recently announced 10-year plan to create a thousand miles of interlinked bike and walking lanes across Greater Manchester, there’s never been a better time to grab your road bikes and get pedaling along our top 5 cycle routes in and around Manchester.

Bridgewater way

One of 6 new ‘cycleways’ recently opened in Greater Manchester, Bridgewater Way is a series of resurfaced canal towpaths that link Manchester city centre to Altrincham, Castlefield and the intu Trafford Centre. This regeneration project is a fresh approach that will create a 39-mile leisure route for walkers and cyclists alike, connecting communities around the Mersey Basin and the North West via the iconic Bridgewater Canal.

With plenty of access points, it’s easy to join the route and begin to absorb some of Manchester’s proud history by cycling along England’s first canal that was constructed without an existing watercourse. This completely traffic-free route has an all-weather surface to ensure you can hop on your bike whatever the elements, with solar lighting guiding you through the darker sections of the course.

Ride from Broadheath through Trafford Park, where you’ll find paths leading you to the iconic Salford Quays. Soak up the excitement of MediaCityUK, or cycle on for a spot of shopping at the intu Trafford Centre. Boasting nearly 300 stores, just make sure you can fit all your new purchases on your handlebars!

Download the map (provided by TfGM)

Fallowfield Loop

Sport has always been a defining characteristic of Manchester. Starting and finishing at the National Cycling Centre, the home of the cycling superstars and Olympic medalists of Team GB, the Fallowfield Loop allows you to ride your bike within the very heart of British cycling.

At 8 miles long, the Fallowfield Loop is thought to be the longest urban cycleway in Britain. As a former line on the Manchester Central Station Railway, the route is flat and well surfaced, making it a great ride for beginners. Be sure to take a moment to embrace the beauty of the parks and open spaces linked by the linear park and wildlife corridor of the route.

View the route (provided by Sustrans)

Broughton Cycleway

As the longest segregated cycle route in the country, Broughton Cycleway features traffic islands and bollards to offer a safe, traffic-free way to access the city centre along Blackfriars Road.

Running from Broughton to the very centre of Manchester, this route provides a cheap and active transport option that leads you straight to the heart of the city, where you can explore the very best of Manchester’s things to see and do.

Download the map (provided by TfGM)

Ashton Canal Cycleway

As another traffic-free option, Ashton Canal Cycleway takes cyclists along the canal between Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester city centre.

With a recently renovated surface and solar-powered lighting, this route provides a seamless way to access the city. Ride past the Etihad Stadium to get a feel of the sporting prowess of Premier League champions Manchester City, before hopping off and storing your bike in the secure Cycle Hub at Piccadilly Gardens.

From here, you’re able to explore the many wonders of Manchester city centre. For the football fan not satisfied by a glimpse of the Etihad Stadium, consider the National Football Museum for a fun-filled family trip that doesn’t even require you to open your wallet.

Download the map (provided by TfGM)

Pennine Bridleway

After you’re done exploring all of Manchester’s iconic attractions and hidden secrets, consider a ride along the Pennine Bridleway to take in the breathtaking natural beauty of the surrounding Pennines.

As the country's first national trail for horse riders, cyclists and walkers, this route passes through the Peak District, South Pennines, North Yorkshire and Cumbria, offering unrivalled views along the way. 

Join the route at Watergrove Reservoir near Littleborough, where well maintained and signposted tracks offer a unique view of Manchester city centre from afar.

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Manchester is quite simply a must-visit city that offers something for everyone. Following these tips will ensure you remain fit and active, whilst still getting the very best out of this vibrant metropolis.

Author bio:

Alex Jones is a features writer for Start Fitness - providers of running, cycling, gym, football and outdoor products.