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100 Climbs Yorkshire

A review of Simon Warren’s Cycling Climbs of Yorkshire. The book features 75 climbs from all corners of Yorkshire from the East Riding to the Yorkshire Dales and south Yorkshire climbs.

hills-yorkshireI was brought up in Yorkshire, learning to cycle amidst the dales and hills. Climbs like Park Rash and Fleet Moss were enough to create a little fear and trepidation in the average club cyclist. It was only on rare summer days, we would go ‘over the top’ to Hawes and leave the comfort of the lower Wharfedale slopes.

These days I’m fortunate to often go back to Yorkshire and I often end up searching some new hill climb challenge. There is a great variety in Yorkshire, from the big hills of the Yorkshire Dales, to the ridiculously steep 30% gradients of the North York Moors and also the short cobbled climbs of Halifax and Calderdale. It was only in recent years, I started to learn the joy of climbs around West and south Yorkshire – built up areas, but still some great hills and good for cycling.

 

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Fleet Moss

The 75 climbs offer a broad overview of the Yorkshire climbs. Of course, you could easily find another 25 or 50 climbs to add to this selection, but it is still a lot to be getting on with. Continue Reading →

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The hills of the North York Moors

The North York Moors is a national park in North East Yorkshire. It has the largest expanse of heather moorland in the UK, but in cycling terms is more famed for the abundance of very steep climbs, with plenty of 25% gradient signs, and the odd 1 in 3 – if you’re lucky!

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The North York Moors is only 40 miles from Menston, but I’ve never been before. It’s just out of range, and with the Yorkshire Dales nearby, there’s always other hills to do. But, I’ve been reading about some of the climbs like Boltby Bank and Rosedale Chimney and so finally made it over.

I drove to Sutton Bank and saw many signs welcoming the Tour de Yorkshire on the 1st May. I think the race route goes down Sutton Bank, but to many people’s disappointment it avoids any of the really epic 25% climbs. Perhaps a decision made not for benefit of cyclists, but for the calvacade of cars, which could get stuck on the hairpins of Rosedale Chimney.

Boltby Bank

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First up was Boltby Bank. A one mile climb with a significant 25% gradient at the end. It looks imposing from the distance as you descend into Boltby. Don’t go off too hard, as it gets tougher near the top. Continue Reading →

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Bowland Knotts and beyond

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Bikes on the Leeds to Morecambe train.

The weather forecast for today was sun and westerley wind. I thought I would be clever and get a train from Bingley to Clapham and avoid a long slog into a headwind. It partly worked out because the wind was strong, but ‘light occasional showers’ obviously means something very different west of Settle.bowland-knotts-moor

First up was a new climb south from Clapham towards the Trough of Bowland called Bowland Knotts. It is a climb from 100 climbs, and I probably wouldn’t have thought of taking this road without a desire to tick off a few more climbs in the book. The road was certainly very isolated and quiet. In a long ascent and descent, I think I only saw one car, four people and a dog. It’s not mid-summer, but if you’re looking for traffic free roads, this is as good as it gets.

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The climb is a long drag of 4 miles plus – averaging only 4%, but with a strong side wind, it was tough going, though some great views partly compensated. Looking back down the hill, it reminded me somewhat of the bleak open climb of the Stang in North Yorkshire. Though this climb has no 17% gradient to start off with. Continue Reading →

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Clee Hill

Clee Hill is the highest A road in Shropshire. A long climb, offering (weather permitted) great views of the surrounding Shropshire countryside and beyond. If you take a left turn off the main road, you can also go all the way to Clee Hill summit proper which, at over 500m, makes a pretty decent climb of nearly 4 miles, averaging 5%. In fact, the quiet single track road heading towards a golf ball on the summit, reminded me somewhat of Great Dun Fell. The climb is quite similar to Great Dun Fell – just half the distance and half the average gradient.

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Clee hill in the distance from Henley

I was staying in Bromyard for the weekend, so I looked at surrounding maps for the highest point to aim for. Clee Hill stands out, though there is quite a choice of hills around this part. I recognised some of the surrounding roads from previous time trials starting in Great Whitley.

I have been doing quite a big block of  endurance training, not really doing too many hills, so it was nice to do a few hills for a change. Still a long way from hill climb season though.

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On a very clear day, from Clee Hill, you are supposed to be able to see Snowdonia, the Cotswolds, the Brecon Becons, the Black Mountains and even the Peak District. Today, was not such a time.

Continue Reading →

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Otley CC hill climb 2015

This weekend was the Otley CC hill climb, with perhaps a record field of 58 riders. It was the ninth time I’ve ridden the event (though 2 of them were in the last Millennium). Still I have a long way to go to catch up with Paul Brierley of Huddersfield R.C. who was making it 28 starts for Otley CC hill climb).

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Paul Brierly on Guise Edge

I was ridding my Trek Emonda, which is getting close to Nat HC weight. My top bike mechanic Andy Sherwood came round on Friday, to make it single chainring (39*) I nearly didn’t make it because I lost a single chainring bolt, but I was lucky because somehow Andy had a spare single chainring bolt lying around his van. That whole operation must have taken at least 250 grams off an already light bike. There’s probably a bit more to come off before National, but not very much.

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Andy Sherwood of Sherwood cycles Continue Reading →

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How to cycle uphill techniques

Some of the useful techniques for cycling uphill from 3% long drags to 30% wicked hairpins.

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Simple top 7 tips

The quickest 7 tips to cycling uphill I would give are:

  1. Avoid going into the ‘red’ too early on the climb. Don’t get carried away on the lower slopes, if you still have a long slog to the top.
  2. Maintain a reasonable cadence of 65-80 rpm. It will be a lower cadence than normal, but avoid pushing a big gear at a very low cadence.
  3. Anticipate steep sections in advance by getting into lower gear before.
  4. Traffic permitting, avoid the steepest apex and go wide around corners to maintain the best rhythm and constant speed.
  5. Where possible remain seated. Save standing on the pedals for the really steep hills and steep sections.
  6. Stick to your own pace. It is counter-productive to try and stay with much quicker riders. You will lose more time in the long run.
  7. Know what you are climbing – length, gradient, max gradient, and likely time needed.

Preparation

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The effort required to cycle uphill increases exponentially as the gradient increases. If you’re unfit / new to cycling don’t start off in the Lake District, it may put you off for life. You need a reasonable fitness before you tackle steep hills. Also, when you start to climb, you use your upper body and back more. Core strength exercises to strengthen upper back muscles will help a lot.

Climbing in saddle or out of saddle?

A big issue is whether to climb seated in the saddle or climb out of the saddle. In short, I find it best to be seated for long gradual climbs.  Getting out of the saddle is useful for when the gradient really gets steep. Climbing out of the saddle is less aerodynamic and is harder work. It is good for short bursts of power, but you will tire more quickly.

Climbing in the saddle

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Snake Pass, gradient 7%. Time 11. mins. All climb is done in the saddle.

Where possible, I try to remain seated when climbing. It is more efficient and you can maintain a high power for longer. It is also more aerodynamic. For novices, it is good training to try and climb whilst seated and get out of the habit of standing on the pedals as soon as the road goes up hill.

Climbing whilst out of the saddle

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Matt Clinton on rake at 23%. Powering out of the saddle (notice handrail by side of road, it is steeper than it looks.) Photo Bob Tobin

Sometimes referred to as ‘standing on the pedals’. Here you employ a lot more muscles and upper body strength to help you pull up against the handlebars. If you stand up, you will get a short term increase in power. If you’re using a power meter, you will probably see you’re power increase significantly. This is great for acceleration or getting through a particularly steep section. But, when the fast twitch muscle fibres are exhausted, the burst of power will evaporate, and you will find your power dissipates.

Bear in mind, there is no hard and fast rule about climbing in the saddle. If you watch the Tour de France, you will see different riders have different styles. A light rider like Alberto Contador always seems to be out of the saddle rocking around all over the place. A heavier more powerful rider like Cancellara will be much more likely to be going up the Alpine climbs whilst seated. Shorter, lighter riders generally do better out of the saddle than heavier riders. Sometimes it’s good  get out of the saddle just to give your back muscles a stretch and break the monotony of climbing in the seated position.

Don’t forget the wind

Some of my hardest hill climbing experiences have actually been due to a super strong headwind, as much as the gradient. The closest I came to walking up a hill was Wrynose pass (25%) but, that day there was a super strong headwind. Obviously, if you can keep lower on the bike, it helps avoid the headwind. This is why it can be good to practise climbing seated. On the other hand, in 2013 the national hill climb had a 35mph tailwind, making it an advantage to do most of the climb standing up!

Rock solid core and minimising other movements

Talking of pro techniques – watching last year’s Vuelta Espagne I was struck by the stage where Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky) won. On the last climb, he was absolutely solid on the bike. His lower and upper back wasn’t moving – only his legs were moving. He must have worked a lot on core strength, this increases power climbing because more effort is going to his legs and less into his upper body.

Best line to take climbing

This is a hairpin on Box Hill. The rider is taking a wide route.

This is a hairpin on Box Hill. The rider is taking a wide route.

Where possible you want to try and reduce the gradient of the hill by going wide on the corners and avoiding the apex. The shortest route is not the quickest. If you go through the apex you will break your rhythm and be forced to try harder. It is better to try and maintain the same gradient by going wide. You can keep in the same gear and maintain your speed; this is a secret of climbing, maintain your momentum where possible. Continue Reading →

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Swain’s Lane

Swain’s Lane

A short steep climb in Central London. Swain’s lane has also featured in the Rollapaluza Urban Hill climb. A quick ascent of Swain’s Lane might be done in 1.30.

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Photo: SarfLondon

Continue Reading →

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Newbury RC hill climb – Walbury hill 2015

Today was the Newbury RC hill climb on Walbury Hill.

The start was a very civilised 10am, with myself as last man at 11.20am. It meant I could start the day watching a video of the last 20km of the women’s world race championship. I didn’t know the result, and when I turned it on, it didn’t look too promising for British hopeful Lizzie Armistead. But, it turned out to be a thrilling race, and a really superb victory for Lizzie Armitstead (from Otley, Yorkshire). As the imperious old rugby union commentator Bill McClaren would say:

‘They’ll be dancing in the streets of Otley tonight.”

Back to domestic time trialling in the UK, and there was not quite as much glamour driving down the A34 towards Newbury, but it was a great Autumn day and super views from the top of Walbury hill.
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After last year’s first open, Newbury RC have made efforts to make it an even bigger event. They managed to get a rare road closure (which is great to race on) and a generous prize fund, due to sponsorship from Ridgeway Volkswagen and several others. Continue Reading →

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2 minute intervals

I’ve spent two weeks in NY. I did a little training on Dougleston Parkway – a short hill, which takes 1.30 if you really go for it. It’s a bit like Monsal Head, except instead of the beautiful Peak District, you have as a backdrop – innumerable concrete flyovers,  a smelly sanitation dump and cars driving like only crazy New Yorkers like to.

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Quite often you get the passing draft of a big smelly dumpster truck, though the benefit of the passing draft is negated by the nervousness about breathing in within a 20 foot radious. Refuse collection is essential for any city – it’s just that we don’t tend to do high intensity intervals next to it. Still, I got four good training sessions in during the 12 days. Just about enough to feel I didn’t fall behind in the general scheme of things.

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Monsal Dale

Continue Reading →

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Cycling in Surrey Hills

I last rode Box Hill in 2012, a few days before the London Olympics. It was a memorable time for British sport and cycling in particular. I’d been looking for an excuse to go back. Simon Warren’s guide of S.E. England climbs showed quite a lot of climbs around Dorking I haven’t done before. After Yorkshire hills last week I was on a roll for finding new climbs so  good weather encouraged me to drive an hour from Oxford to Mickleham to try and range of different climbs on the Surrey downs.

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Box Hill

First climb of the day was Box Hill. Everyone knows Box Hill now. 2 miles @ 5% It’s a beautiful climb, it’s iconic, it’s wonderfully engineered and a delight to ride. Yet, there’s the Yorkshire Hill climber in me who sees this wonderful natural hill and thinks – wouldn’t it be better just to throw a few cobbles up this surface and make a hill that goes straight from bottom to top?

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If this was West Yorkshire, they wouldn’t have bothered with these ‘European hairpins. But, made a proper hill climb.

Having said all that, I was worried by a  sign at the bottom of Box Hill – warning of loose chipping – max 20mph, but fortunately, they haven’t chucked a load of gravel on the smooth surface of Box Hill yet!

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Box Hill

After Box Hill, it was over Ranmore Common and up the long climb of Coldharbour Lane from Dorking. It took quite a while to find the start of the climb because of Dorking’s one way system. But, it is a good climb, with varying degrees of steepness. It’s a long old drag to the top of Leith Hill

Coldharbour Lane

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Coldharbour Lane

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Coldharbour Lane

  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Average gradient: 4%
  • Height gain: 125m (132m total climbing because there is some descent near top)

From Leith Hill I made my way to Cranleigh and Barhatch Lane, which is said to be the toughest climb in Surrey. A long drag then a real sting in the tail with a 21% gradient to finish. Continue Reading →

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