Certainly too far for me to cycle, so it was get the train from Sandbach to Manchester Picadilly. Sandbach Station has a footbridge over the lines to get to the Northbound platform. A nuisance to carry a bike over. Buying my ticket, I asked for a reservation for the bike. ‘Just take it on’, said the very friendly ticketlady airily.
Sure enough there was plenty of room on the nearly empty train. But as it pulled in there weren’t any of the little bike icons to indicate where to store a bike. ‘On this train’, laughed the conductor, ‘the disabled means bikes too!’ Fortunately there were no disabled travellers so my bike sat in the wheelchair bay, soon to be joined by a lean and brakeless fixie with an owner who looked the part.
Locking up at Manchester University it was nice to come across this reassuring sign:
So my bike would be well looked after. Racks with CCTV! And patrols! I needn’t have worried. The only small concern was the complete absence of the aforementioned racks!
In an alleyway round the corner I found a bike rack that I could lock to, well away from any cameras! I removed my lights and took a chance with my quick-release front wheel. Returning a few hours later everything was fine. Of course it was! Being away from a big city and reading bike blogs can induce total paranoia about bike theft, but the probability of my bike or part thereof getting nicked on a once-a-year visit to Manchester must be very very small.
Coming home on the much fuller rush-hour train I meet ex-pupil Max, a deeply gifted bmx-er who is coming home from college with – and this was the funny bit – his dad’s old touring bike that he commutes with. He tells me that this train route usually accommodates bikes without any problems. But then onto the train comes a third bike, one too many for the now full disabled bay. It’s owner, (late twenties, helmet cam, looks like a hardliner) plonks it next to the other two which blocks the aisle and leads to a tense exchange with the conductress: Whose bike is this? Mine. Well it’s blocking my way. Silence. You must move it. Where would you like it? Out of the way. Eventually he moves it a bit and she squeezes by.
Back at Sandbach I ride home with seriously gusting wind. Wish me luck with the plan to cycle every day!