Porlock hill climb

Porlock – The hard way – A39

  • Distance – 1.6 miles
  • Average gradient – 12%
  • Max Gradient – 25%
  • Height at start – 140ft
  • Height at top – 1,138ft
  • height gain – 998ft / 304 metres
  • 100 climbs #5

porlock-hill-top

View from the top of Porlock A road. It is a really tough climb, with 25% hairpins at the bottom, taking you out of the village of Porlock. After this very hard 1st mile, the gradient mercifully eases off, but it’s still a long drag to the top. It is a really tough climb.

top-exmor

Porlock up the A39 is probably the hardest and steepest A road in England. It is a really testing climb. Very steep from the bottom, then a long way to the top. I rode up the hard way after the race up the toll road.

Strava

Porlock Toll Road

jochen-langbeing-porlock 2014

jochen-langbeing-porlock 2014

  • Distance – 4.1 miles
  • Avg Grade – 5.5%
  • Max gradient – 8%
  • Lowest Elev 160ft
  • Highest Elev – 1,360ft (414m)
  • Elevation gain (370 metres)

See also: Porlock hill climb 2014

Sunday 29th was a 4 mile hill climb up Porlock Toll Road, organised by Minehead CC. The road was closed to traffic and it was a really great event, enthusiastically promoted by Minehead CC with support from Porlock toll road and Porlock village. There was also a very generous prize list sponsored by (www.exmoorexplorer.com). – a big mountain bike race held each August.

porlock-bottom

Porlock hill climb Toll road to the right, A39 climb  to the left.

Despite travelling around the country quite a bit, I rarely go further south west than Bristol. I’ve done very little riding around Somerset so it was a great opportunity to start riding some of the Exmoor climbs.

The village of Porlock is quite charming and for a hill climber, seems inundated with great hill climbs at every junction. (hill climbers heaven or hell, depending on your point of view!) The A39 main road climb out of Porlock features number 4, in Simon Warren’s 100 Greatest hill climbs. (rated 9/10) At 25%, it is reputably the steepest A road in the country. However, the race was to be held on the alternative climb – Porlock Toll Road. This is a fantastic climb – 4 miles of pretty constant 5-6%. The road surface is good; and it’s as close to riding an ‘Alpine’ style climb as you will get in the south of England.  On the lower slopes it is mostly in sheltered woods, though every now and then you can get a glimpse of the sea to your right.

view-2-porlock

There are two 180 degree switch backs. It’s a great feeling when you’re climbing and can see the road down below you’ve just come up. Towards the top, the climb shallows out, and is a bit more exposed. I rode it once before the race started and liked it straight away.

switchback

Double switch back

Veloviewer

Strava

 

Blog – Porlock Hill Climb 2013

I believe it is the first time that a race has been held on the whole climb, so it was hard to gauge how long it would take. I thought it would be a little like Snake Pass, just a bit longer. I started off reasonably hard. The hill is slightly steeper on the bottom. It is a good hill to get in a rhythm and I stayed in the saddle all the way to the top. The 180 degree switchbacks were interesting. I’m not used to racing on these kind of climbs. On one corner, I had to touch my brakes as I was running out of road. Towards the top, the trees disappeared, and fortunately a tailwind gave a little help to the finish. The gradient also became a bit shallower for the last mile. I finished in a time of 13.24 (just under 18mph) This was enough for first place, and I think I can claim a course record.

It was also nice to get quite a few cheers from a surprisingly large number of spectators and marshals by the side of the road.

Porlock Hill
After the race, I couldn’t resist having a go at the other Porlock hill climb. It’s been a light week of training and it’s not often you get a category two, 370 metre hill to have a go at. That’s a real brute. A wicked section of 25% at the bottom and then another couple of miles long slog to the top. I’m sure many were glad to be racing up the toll road!

After the race there was a prize ceremony with former world champion Wendy Houvenaghel giving out the prizes. The whole event was really good, you felt a lot of work and enthusiasm had gone into it from members of Minehead CC, and it was nice to see it pay off.

One nice touch, the village of Porlock were really keen to encourage the event, helping us to have good facilities and a local womens group did the refreshments.  I also received a homemade trophy by local schoolchildren. Very cool. Perhaps we can suggest something similar to the residents around Box Hill in Surrey.
Some photos of Event

james-dobbin

James Dobbin (Arctic Sram RT – National hill climb champion 2006, 2007

 

pjones

Paul Jones Bristol South CC

start

The start.

tejvan-start-action

Tejvan Pettinger at the start. What you might call hill climbers arms.

 

walcot

(a VC Walcott rider)

wendy-houvenghal

Wendy Houvenaghel (Bike Chain Ricci) World Champion Team Pursuit

aryavan

Aryavan Lanham, Sri Chinmoy CT

Porlock Hill

The start.

clothes

Fortunately, it was a warm day.

rollers

Using muesli bars to prop up rollers on the grass.

Porlock Hill

Village of Porlock.

View from the hill

180c

Porlock hill

Porlock Pedal

After the event, the road was kept closed to traffic to allow other people to have a go at climbing the hill with car free roads. Quite a few people took advantage.

porlock-pedal

porlock-pedal2

Nice views

pedal3

Partial Results

  1. Tejvan Pettinger Sri Chinmoy CT – 13.24
  2. William Harrison – Taw  Velo – 14.36
  3. Charles Coleman – VC Walcott – 14.36
  4. James Dobbin – Arctic SRAM – 14.43
  5. Tavis Walker – VC Walcott – 14.56
  6. Paul Jones – Bristol South  – 14.59
  7. James Coleman -VC Walcott – 15.02

Women

  1. Wendy Houvenaghel  – Bike Chain Ricci – 16.14
  2. Wiebke Rietz – 1st Chard Wheelers – 19.16
  3. Ayse Vahiboglu – Exeter Wheelers – 19.17

Junior

  1. Sean Henderson – North Devon Wheelers – -15.04

Thanks to Vilas for many photos. And again thanks to those who helped put on the race. Hopefully, the event will be held same date in 2014.

 

Related Pages

Purchase 100 Climbs

Book Cover

100 Greatest Cycling Climbs at Amazon.co.uk

100 Greatest Cycling Climbs at Waterstones

 

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11

Leith Hill Climb

Leith Hill is the highest point in South East England (993ft). Set within an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Trust site, it makes a great setting for a hill climb. Leith Hill was also climbed three times during this year’s pro race – Surrey Cycle Classic. Fortunately, we were doing this hill climb without 100 km of hard racing in our legs. Just a short explosive effort. 0.8 miles of excruciating pain instead.

aryavan--kingston-wheelers

The hill climb goes through a mixture of woodland and open space offering views into the surrounding hills.

The Hill climb used by Kingston Wheelers for the John Bornhoft Hill climb starts a little way from the bottom of the road (by a suitable grass verge) However, this is the shallowest section.

start

The start

Leith Hill – John Bornhoft Memorial Event hill climb

  • Distance 0.9mi
  • Avg Grade 8.0%
  • Max Gradient – 18%
  • Height gain 115m

The gradient varies a little. I think it would still be suitable for fixed gear. I didn’t change gears very much (and when I did they did seem to be rather clunky changes)

The race 2013

Conditions were good. Warmish and gentle tailwind on last part of climb. Last year I did 3.33.8. I thought with the good conditions, there might be a chance of going a bit quicker and setting a new course record.

tejvan-leith

My week previous had been quite light on training. On Monday I got a bad back (perhaps caused by riding up Mow Cop on a time trial bike). I though I could ignore it and trained on Tuesday as normal, but it made back worse, so I only did a light ride on Thurs and Fri. Shame to get another niggling injury. Anyway by Sat, I was in good shape. For a change I had a team-mate Aryavan Lanham (originally from Australia) riding. He’s a super enthusiastic cyclist, mostly used to riding the track or long 100 mile rides. He was intrigued by this English phenomena of the hill climb.

aryavan-3

So far this season, the hill climbs have been nice and long – making an easier transition from the TT season to the hill climb. But, Leith Hill is a classic 4 minute hill climb. It’s the distance to suit riders with a bit of explosive power. It means you really have to push yourself over the limit – in many ways they are more painful than the longer 15 minute efforts. You can train for these hill climbs all year, but when it comes to the race, you just need that ability to push yourself into the red and hold it. It requires quite a lot of commitment – because when you feel light headed with effort, it’s really pushing the body out of the comfort zone and it’s instinctive to pull back. I rarely do these climbs and think I went too hard too early. Mostly I hold back for too long.

3-riders-uphill

In the race, the pacing was OK, I didn’t start off too hard, and could maintain a good speed all the way to the top. I’ve perhaps given a bit more in these kind of 3.5 minute efforts, but I still felt pretty pooped at the top and it was a good effort. It was good to get a good cheer by the Kingston Wheelers support team on the hill. Kingston Wheelers must have had about 20 riders in the race, plus quite a few turning up to support. A good atmosphere for a hill climb.

I managed to do 3.33.1 – just enough to take 0.7 seconds off the course record (to be confirmed). Hill climbs are all about fine margins.

  • 2nd place was Vet rider Pete Tadros in 3.50 (riding fixed)
  • 3rd place was Chris Baines (Buxton CC) who did 4.0? to gain his first podium finish at an open hill climb. Chris has moved to Abingdon near Oxford, which is ironic as I seem to spend a lot of time moving up north to ride in the hills near Buxton at this time of the year.
  • 1st lady was Maryka Sennema, Kingston Wheelers
  • (sorry I don’t know rest of results)

My friend Aryavan said he really enjoyed the hill climb. He remarked – with a friendly cup of tea and nice simple event in old village hall – it reminded him of 1950s England (which I think is a compliment)

tea

A nice cup of tea and a homemade flapjack at Forest Green HQ

Despite the Daily Telegraphs dire warnings of raging battles between motorists and cyclists, it was all very civilised

(although, now I come to think of it, the rider due to start a minute before me said he got knocked off by a car riding to the event. I don’t know details, but it was sad to hear. I certainly had no trouble cycling or driving on the leafy Surrey lanes.)

Unfortunately, power meter stopped working so I have no power result, only time. But, since the 1960s is in – I guess it’s always good to ride on feel.

Thanks to Kingston Wheelers and John Bornhoft family for presenting prizes.

Related Pages

Purchase 100 Climbs

Book Cover

100 Greatest Cycling Climbs at Amazon.co.uk

100 Greatest Cycling Climbs at Waterstones

 

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4

Is it ok to undertake buses at traffic lights?

down-inside-cycle-lane

Cycle lanes known as ‘feeder lanes’ encourage you to go down the inside of traffic. In theory, you can move into the ‘advanced stop box for cyclists’. This gives cyclists a way to beat traffic jams and hopefully puts them in a visible position when the lights change. However, in practise when you get there, invariably you find a vehicle has stopped either totally or partially in the box. Also, the lights may change before you even get there, leaving you in a difficult position as heavy buses move off with you on the inside.

I was interested to read the case of a cyclist recently fined for running a red light, when in fact all he had done was get to the advanced stop box to find a car in it. Because it was an awkward position he came to a stop in front of the white line.

The police gave a ticket because technically he was running a red light – he stopped in front of the white line.

However, the Cyclists defence fund is supporting his appeal. They argue that some discretion needs to be used. When you go down the inside of traffic but find cyclist box covered, it makes practical sense to stop in front of the white line rather than risk getting squashed on the inside. It is something I have done. I never thought I was running a red light – just getting into a better position to help both me and the general traffic flow. See: Cyclists defense fund

I hope he wins his case because it’s something I’ve done myself.

It raises a difficult question of whether it is ever good to go down the inside of stationary traffic at traffic lights?

down-inside

Cyclist squeezing down the inside of double decker buses on Oxford High Street. There is a brief cycle ‘lane’ near the traffic lights, encouraging this behaviour.

Some points

  • When you cycle down the inside of large vehicles, you are entering their blind spot. It is easy for drivers not to see you. If a vehicle is turning left, you are at high risk of serious accident. Left turning vehicles into path of cyclists is a significant cause of fatalities.
  • I always feel if you go down the inside, you have to be fully aware of the risk. If I’m confident of getting to the front of the queue before traffic starts to move, I may take it.
  • Sometimes I see cyclists go down the inside even when buses have started to move, this makes me feel very queasy as it is so tight and dangerous. The fact there may be a cycle lane painted on to the road is no guarantee.

How cycle feeder lanes and advanced stop signs can work in practise

advanced-stop-sign

a rare example of vehicles respecting all the cycle lanes and advanced stop signs. From this angle, you can see the potential of cyclists getting to the front of the queue. Continue Reading →

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3

Mow Cop – the Killer Mile

Mow Cop is a fantastic little climb on the border of Cheshire and Staffordshire. From the valley bottom, you can see the imposing ruins of Mow Cop castle at the top. Mow Cop was obviously an excellent defensive position in the days of medieval battles. These days Mow Cop is the scene of a different kind of struggle.

mow-cop-pub

Mow Cop Hill climb stats

  • Distance 0.9 miles
  • Average Gradient: 11.7%
  • Maximum gradient: 23%
  • Elevation gain: 170 metres (560 feet)
  • 100 Climbs #36

The Climb

mow-cop-6

The climb starts after a busy level crossing, where high speed cross country trains often fly through. Initially, the gradient is a respectable 8-10%, but after a while you reach the first steep part – approaching 20%

early-rider-mt-pleasant

and the first time you will be grovelling into your lowest gear. The gradient then eases off in the middle section, but as you come around the corner, the piece d’resistance looms in the horizon. The final stretch of 23% looms menacingly on the horizon. The pub to the left starkly highlights the gradient. There is nothing but to put yourself into the lowest gear and pull yourself up the straight bit of hell.

mow-cop1

The middle section before final killer blow

The final section is, by contrast, a meagre 7%. But, after fighting up the 23% it feels very painful. Continue Reading →

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5

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