Tag Archives | hills

Hour record cycling uphill

This is a training session, which is a bit different – A bit of fun or a bit of torture, depending on your point of view.

Pick a hill (less than 5km) and see how many vertical metres you can climb in an hour. It is like a mini Everesting attempt all condensed into one hour. It will make excellent hill climb training, good training for a 25 mile TT and also good training for long Alpine climbs.

The 5km limit is purely arbitrary and based on the fact most accessible climbs in the UK are around 1-2km. Short hills make it harder because you have to do  more u-turns and more descending. If you wanted to  maximise vertical ascent in an hour, you would start at the foot of the Col du Tourmalet and see how far you can get up in an hour. A really top pro, may be able to manage close to 1,500m – 1,600m in an hour. Which is equal to  VAM (velocità ascensionale media) – basically vertical meters climbed per hour. But, in the UK, there are no such climbs.

The optimum hill

The optimum hill would probably have a constant gradient of around 12-13% All your time is climbing, you don’t have to pedal on descent and you can probably do all the climbing in the saddle.

The important thing is to be safe when doing u-turns at the top and bottom of hill. The road needs to be quiet and good views of traffic. It’s only a training session.

Chinnor Hill reps


Chinnor Hill during 2014 Tour of Britain

I chose Chinnor Hill because it is near enough to Oxford to cycle out and gives a reasonable height gain of 119m / 9% average per lap.

  • Distance: 0.8 miles / 1.3km
  • Height gain: 393ft/ 118m
  • Average gradient: 9%
  • Max 16%

It also has a convenient roundabout at the bottom of the hill, to make safer u-turns at bottom of hill. Continue Reading →


Trooper Lane

Trooper Lane is a short, steep cobbled climb in Halifax. It makes a good claim to be the toughest cobbled climb in the Yorkshire area – possibly the whole of England. With contenders like Thwaites Brow, this is tough competition.


Trooper Lane towards the top

I saw Trooper Lane on the Cycle Show a few weeks ago, with Simon Warren going up and describing the climb.

I have also been reading James Allen’s 50 Classic Cycle Climbs in Yorkshire / Peak District, which includes Trooper Lane.

So it was definitely on my bucket list of stupidly hard climbs, that for some reason I feel a compulsion to seek out and ride up as fast as possible.

Trooper Lane

  • Distance: 0.4 miles
  • Average gradient: 18%
  • Height gain: 125 metres
  • My time: 4.09
  • Average speed: 6.5 mph
  • Gear used: 39*28.
  • Cadence 58 rpm
  • Location: Halifax

Continue Reading →


Oxnop Scar and Fleek Moss

Today was good weather in the Yorkshire Dales so I drove out to Kettlewell and  headed off for some of the big Yorkshire climbs.


I could have cycled from Menston, but driving to Kettlewell saved 50 rolling miles and it got me closer to the big hills. The surprising thing is that it’s not actually that much quicker driving to Kettlewell than it is cycling. 1 hour in the car. Cycling – 1 hour 20 minutes. Still I got to the first climb of Fleet Moss nice and fresh. Continue Reading →


Cycling climbs of South-East England

Cycling Climbs of South East England is the first of the regional guides to road cycling hill climbs in England. It follows the same format as the best-selling 100 climbs. In fact the regional guide includes 50% of the hills in the first two volumes. It means for owners of the original books, there is repetition, but also all the climbs in one place with quite a few new ones too.

The South East includes Oxfordshire and some of the Chiltern hills I know and ride so often – climbs like Chinnor Hill, Muswell Hill and Whiteleaf. The South East also includes the south coast of Sussex and Kent – somewhere I very rarely cycle. Probably the last time I rode near the south coast was the Brighton Mitre hill climb on Steyning Bostal in 2006.

The regional guide didn’t give the same thrill as the first 100 climb book. Because many of the climbs are now well known. But, there are still a few new climbs, I’d not done before. Last week, I checked out Whitchurch Hill- from Pangbourne I’d never ridden around there before, despite being a mere 25 miles south of Oxford. I nice little 3 minute climb with good road surface. Oxford is certainly spoilt for climbs. I will probably end up buying the South West, because Oxford is as close to the Cotswolds as the Chilterns.


The South East doesn’t have all the big climbs of Yorkshire or Wales, but there’s certainly enough interesting climbs to make a good edition out of. It also features many climbs which feature in the London Olympics and Surrey classic (e.g. Box Hill, Leith Hill) And if you watch the Prudential Ride London classic, it shows you don’t need a col du Tourmalet to make an exciting race. Continue Reading →


British hills vs Alps / Pyrenees

The defining feature of British hills is that they are short and steep. Four minutes of a lung bursting effort of gradients up to 30%.


Hardknott Pass (30%) – Lake District

British roads were not built with smooth cycling in mind. We throw a road on the hill and hope for the best; hairpins are a luxury rarely afforded – at best we may get a quarter hairpin so the gradient is kept below 25%. The gradient is never constant, but nearly always variable. You can’t get into a rhythm but will find you are constantly changing gear or wishing you had a lower gear to go into. To add insult to injury, the road surface is invariably rough and potholes create an added challenge.


Luz Ardiden in winter. Photo James Burke CC

The Alps and Pyrenees by contrast are wonderfully engineered and manicured climbs. You can have a climb with an average gradient of 8%, but the maximum is 10%. In England, an average of 8%, usually means a maximum of 18-20%. On the continent, the road surfaces are usually something we can only dream of –  smooth and well maintained. The other defining thing about the Pyrenees is that the climbs are long  17km, 20km climbs. We just struggle to comprehend how long the hills are. It’s like doing a 10 mile time trial uphill at an average gradient of 9%.

Continue Reading →


Luz Ardiden

Luz Ardiden is a ski resort built in 1975 and has featured several times as a summit finish in the Tour de France. It starts from the same town as the Col du Tormalet – to the north east of Luz Saint Sauveur in the Midi Pyrenees,  It is a classic Pyrenean climb – averaging 8% for a height gain of 982m, with frequent hairpin bends. It offers some stunning views from the top.


Luz Ardiden near the top.

  • Distance 8.1 miles / 13 km
  • Average gradient: 8%
  • Height gain: 982m / 3,223ft
  • Summit height: 1702m / 5585ft
  • PB: 43.29 / 11.2 mph (18 km/h) 17 May, 2015
  • Category: HC

Continue Reading →


Col du Tourmalet

The Col du Tourmalet was first featured in the Tour de France in 1910. Since then, it has featured in the race over 73 times and is one of the most prestigious climbs on the Tour.


1926 Lucien Buysse on the Tourmalet

The early intrepid riders were climbing poor road surfaces on heavy two speed bicycles; in those days, to climb a Pyrenean pass like the Col du Tourmalet was a herculean task. With lightweight bikes and good road surfaces, it is a little easier than for those early pioneers, but it is still 2,100m to ascend.


Eventual winner Octave Lapize walking up the Tourmalet in 1910.

In the Tour de France, the Col du Tourmalet is often the penultimate climb of the day. It is conveniently situated near many mountain top finishes like Luz Ardiden, Hautacam. There are no shortage of other climbs in this part of the world. One thing always guaranteed with the Col du Tourmalet is that the peleton will be split into little pieces with perhaps twenty or thirty minutes between the front and back of the peleton.


The Col du Tourmalet can be climbed in both directions, and offers a similar gradient and challenge. Continue Reading →


Long distance climbing

In a spare moment, I think it would be good fun to do an everesting attempt (climb 8,848m in one ride) but then I do 2,000m of climbing in training, and I think why would anybody want to do that *4?

Of course, there’s a difference between sprint training up a few hills, and taking it steady for 12 hours plus.

When I recently rode the Tour of Yorkshire stage 3 (3,000m of climbing) I knew I had to approach it differently. You can’t start hammering it from the start when there is such a long distance and number of climbs to do. So I took the first 1,500m of climbing at a steady, reasonable pace. Sticking in the 28 sprocket and not going crazy. It takes a little discipline to hold back at the start of a long ride. Travelling south to Hebden Bridge, there was a tailwind making the climbing seem quite easy. I’m almost hardwired to see a hilly and start sprinting up it. But, it was quite a good experience to go up some long climbs like Cragg Vale and Cote de Hebden Bridge as if you were going to be doing this all day. If you have the right gearing you can keep the effort at a reasonable level. I understood how an everesting is more practical if you don’t kill yourself sprinting up the first hill you see.

Getting the right gearing

It's a 42!

“It’s a 42!” – I was taking photos on the Cow and Calf and this rider shouted out with great seriousness ‘It’s a 42!’. I’ve got a 42!” (he was referring to the size of the chainring.) I loved the tone in his voice which was said with a combination of resignation, regret and perhaps a little pride. Who wouldn’t want a 39 on this 16% slope?

Continue Reading →


Oxnop Scar

Oxnop Scar is a climb from Swaledale south towards Wensleydale. Typical of Yorkshire Dales climbs in this part of the world, there is a really steep section of 25%. The steep section is at the bottom, so you will be tired after that for the long remorseless climb towards the top.

The only thing that can be said about the first section is that , traffic permitting, you can take the hairpins wide to reduce the gradient a little. But, it is still quite brutal.

Looking back through some old photos, I found I did this climb a few years ago. In those days, I called it ‘a steep climb in Swaledale’. It was probably done after cycling up Fleet Moss and Buttertubs. The metres ascent can really add up in that part of the world.

  • Location: Swaledale, North Yorkshire
  • Distance: 2.5 miles
  • Avg grade 6%
  • Max Grade: 25.0%
  • Elev Gain: 236m
  • 100 hills #46
  • Everesting? 36.7 laps – Total distance 183 miles (BTW: useful site http://everesting.io

Photos of the Oxnop climb


Swaledale is a great valley. This was taken at the foot of the climb.



25% sign is well merited. Continue Reading →


Hartside Fell

Hartside Fell is long steady climb in the north Pennines. It is one of the longest continual climbs in England – rising 400m over 5 miles. It will be used as a summit finish in this years Tour of Britain, stage 5.


Photo by Bryn looking West from top of Hartside


  • Location: A686 – North East of Penrith towards Alston
  • Distance: 4.9 miles
  • Avg grade 5.0%
  • Max Grade: 7.0%
  • Elev Gain: 400m
  • Maximum Elevation – 1915ft / 583m
  • Cat: 2
  • 100 hills #77
  • Strava segment
  • Everesting? 23*9.8 miles = 225 miles

Photos from 2015

I rode Hartside on May 4 – after Kent Valley R.C. Shap hill climb. There was a nice tailwind on that day. As it is an exposed climb, a tailwind makes it much more enjoyable. Would be hardwork into headwind. The good news is that the prevailing wind is from the East to west.

There’s no real secret to the climb, it’s just a steady 5% all the way to the top. Perhaps slightly steeper on final hairpin.

You get a lot of motorbikes in this part of the world whizzing past you on the way up.

BTW: if you want a real test, Great Dun Fell is about 10 miles south.


Lake district in the distance


The long winding road


snow markers

hartside-3 hartside-4 hartside-6 hartside-7 hartside-8


Photo Fiona in Eden from top of Hartside after floods of 2009


Photo Brucie Stokes – bottom of Hartside

Continue Reading →


Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes

free hit counter