Hill climb bike 2015


Hill climb bike

  • Trek Emonda SL frame
  • Shimano Di2 9000 Dura Ace 11sp – Front mech removed,
  • 39 Chainring – 23-11 (11 speed cog with one cog removed to fit on 10sp cassette.)
  • Handlebars Zipp Contour SL – 135 grams with drops chopped off
  • Bontrager stem
  • Bontrager direct mount light brakes
  • Rear wheel Zipp 202
  • Front wheel – tune hub, AX lightness spokes
  • Tubs Vittoria Crono
  • Weight: 5.2kg.

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Huddersfield SW hill climb 2015


This Saturday was the double header of Huddersfield Star Wheelers – Granville Sydney Memorial Trophy (on Jackson Bridge) and Holme Valley Wheelers (on Holme Moss)

Top of Jackson Bridge

With the National on Jackson Bridge in two weeks time, there was a big entry, with 90+ riders and many of those hoping to be contending for Nat. Champs on startsheet.

Jackson Bridge
Jackson Bridge

It has been quite a good week training. I went to Jackson Bridge earlier in week to test the national course. It was wet and strong headwind, though sun did come out just towards the end. The bad news was my stages power meter finally went kaput. It had been going through  batteries every four hours, but now this is nothing working at all. I’ll have to hope I can get an exchange for this Stages generation one for Stages generation Two, but by the time I’m back in Oxford and get a replacement, it will be too late to use this hill climb season. Still my Quark power meter broke for several months in 2013 – it’s not the end of the world, though there is always a value to seeing your power go up and down.

Today, the weather was quite good, though there was a light headwind at the top – unlike last year where I think there was light tailwind.

I did the course in 4.19. Slower than last year. I thought I maybe held back too much for the first steep section. Though I had brief chat to Adam Kenway at the top. He felt he had gone too hard on the first section and suffered on the rest of the course.

It’s a tough one pacing hill climbs, especially a variable gradient like Jackson Bridge. If you don’t do as well as you would like on a hill climb you can always think you could have paced it better, but sometimes you just don’t have the legs.

I finished 4th, behind Dan Evans, Adam Kenway and Joe Clark.

  • 1st Junior was Tim Home – 4.27 NRG RT
  • 1st Vet – Jim Henderson 4.28
  • 1st Lady – Lou Bates –
  • 1st U/16 – Nathan Allatt

Holme Valley CC 2015-start

After a brief drive over to Holme, it was time to get ready for the second hill climb on the menu. It is a 1.3 mile version of Holme Moss, made famous through the Tour de France climbing it in 2014. It averages 9.5% for the 1.3 miles, and fortunately there was a light tailwind at the top. I went reasonably well; it’s definitely a climb where you can get into more of a rhythm than Jackson Bridge.

view from Holme Moss

I finished in 6.30 which was 3rd place. 1st D.Evans, 2nd J.Teasdale. 3rd me. 1st lady was Dame Sarah Storey.

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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).

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.


Andy Sherwood of Sherwood cycles

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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.


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.



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

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

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 your 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.

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Watford Velo Hill climb – Aston Hill

Today was a new hill climb organised by Watford Velo on Aston Hill in the Chilterns. It is about 1.3 miles long- gradual at the start, increasing in gradient to 15% near the top.

I often train in the Chilterns. There is a long ridge from Watlington in the West to Tring in the East, where there are innumerable climbs of about 1 mile long. I often use these climbs for training – Britwell Hill, Watlington Hill, A40 Hill (Confusingly called Aston hill too), Chinnor Hill, Bledlow Ridge, Whiteleaf, Kop Hill, Aston hill from Tring. Probably more, but you get the idea there are plenty of hills in this part of the world. I often start in the West and move along the ridge. I don’t often get as far as Tring, but I have done Aston Hill on a couple of occasions in the past few years.

tejvan-matt-james Photo: Matt James, flickr

The hill climb season often involves quite a bit of travelling so it is nice to be able to do a local hill climb on roads that you actually train on.

It was beautiful early Autumn weather and a great day to be cycling. I felt a little guilty to be driving there, when I could have cycled the 50 miles roundtrip. But, it’s always good to treat each open like a big event, get used to using race wheel e.t.c. Testing your warm-up routine e.t.c.

The hill climb seemed quite relaxed, Watford Velo a club of 70-90 riders had an impressive turnout of 25 riders, making up about half the field. I felt a little out of place with supertight skinsuit, NOpinz pouch and every weight saving marginal gain on my wheels. I even still had my tribars left on bike from last weekend. I can’t say this was a scientific decision to leave on to gain aero advantage – more I never got round to taking off.

However, my professionalism and hill climb marginal gain efforts were deeply undermined by riding the hill climb with water bottle in. As mentioned in my ‘Ultimate Guide to Hill climb warmups’ Rule number 47  – is never do a hill climb with water bottle in – always remember to take it out.

Aston Hill is a little unusual, 1.3 miles. With fast start. There is even a little bit of downhill where I touched 31mph, then there is a gradual height gain before you turn left up to Aston Hill proper. Here the hill gets steeper straightaway. But, the gradient is variable. Near the top it reaches a max of 15%. Near the top, there was an excellent crowd of spectators for a local hill climb. There was a great roar as you hit the last 300m. I have done the hill in training, but is really very different to race on. I paced my effort quite conservatively. Averaging mid 350 watts for first half. In last half, there were bursts of 500watts for the steep bits. I may have ridden too conservatively in first half, but I had enough left for hardest bit.

My time was 5.03, which was good enough for first place.

Average power was 404 watts, which seemed a little low compared to training this week. But, I did recalibrate power meter on my rollers.

Thanks to Watford Velo, Cyclopeadia, Watford and all who came out to spectate.

I took some great photos, but left my memory card at home, so nothing to show for the day.

Watford Velo took this short video

Talk on hill climbs at Beeline bicycles


Next Monday, I will be at Beeline Bicycles with Paul Jones. PJ will be giving presentation on his book ‘A Corinthian Endeavour‘. I reviewed the book here

The talk is at 6.30pm. Details at Beeline

Paul will be talking about the National hill climb championship, his book and some of the characters who make up the sport.

For my part, I will be sharing all the secrets of hill climbs. Which essentially boils down to being thin and then cycling quite fast up a hill.



Hill Climb warmup


A reader asks – do you have an suggestions warm up for a hill climb lasting 4 to 6 minutes (the hill climb, that is, not the warm up)

It’s a good question. I have much experience of warming up for hill climbs, though very rarely do I manage the perfect warm up. I feel more qualified to write how not to warm up. But, last year Gordon Wright helped me think about warm ups a bit more seriously.

A potential hill climb warmup

The road to nowhere
The road to nowhere. 2010 Nat champs on Dovers Hill.
  • Arrive at least 90 -120 minutes before start.
  • If it is possible (i.e. race is not in progress) I will ride up the hill steadily, just to look at gradient and see where the wind is blowing. This will help pacing. Sometimes I arrive just in time to ride up hill.
  • Have all kit neatly packed and easy to find. This is important so you don’t waste time rummaging around in car for something half way through warm up.
  • Don’t make any last minute technical adjustments, you should have practised on any equipment you were going to use before race.
  • Spend 20-30 minutes on gradual warm up. Rollers would be ideal, you can also warm up on road. Perhaps 30 minutes to get the blood circulating. It’s also good to check bike is working ok.
  • 20-30 minutes to go. At this stage you should have loosened the muscles and be spinning quite nicely. Over next 10 minutes you can do a few micro intervals to get the body used to racing at full intensity. This can just be 30-60 seconds at maybe 90-95% max intensity. Have few minutes spinning then do a few more. Maybe 3-4 of these intervals.
  • The idea is to do these short race warm ups – close to the start so you get body used to racing and is ready to go from the start line. If you do them an hour before, it is no good. But, you don’t want to overdo it and start tiring your muscle fibres.
  • 10-7 minutes to go. Get off turbo, put race wheels on and get to the start.

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Up the Buttress!

So I learn that there really is a cycle race up The Buttress in Hebden Bridge. It’s this Saturday 12th September! What I shame I have to go back to Oxford (or is it relief?)

Of all the hill climbs I know about this really is the craziest.

From: Up the Buttress

I didn’t realise you could start from top of a bridge and get a bit of a running start! Mind you I wouldn’t particularly want to hit those cobbles at too much speed.


Next year, I’ll have to borrow a mountain bike or big fat rear tyre or granny chainring.

What about a two stage hill climb – Up the Buttress in the morning, Mytholm Steeps in the afternoon!

Mytholm Steeps

Last time I was up in Yorkshire, I found Trooper Lane and Shibden Wall. Glutton for punishment, I was keen to find more of the same. As it turns out, I found a hill in Hebden Bridge which had me reduced to getting off and walking very slowly. A hill that has truly defeated me, but more of that later.

First off, I headed over Bingley Moor and Oxenhope Moor to Hebden Bridge to have a go at Mytholm Steps, I have done it before, but I fancied another go.

BTW: If you want to do some real hill climb training, rent an apartment in Hebden Bridge. I think it’s fair to say Hebden Bridge has the highest density of really hard hill climbs in the whole of Great Britain. I can’t think of any other town, which is surrounded by such a feast of anti-gravity challenges.

Mytholm Steeps / Rawtonstall lane

Mytholm steeps
Great view from top

It’s a real killer mile. average gradient of 12%. But the middle half a mile averages 17%, with some brutal 25% hairpins. It climbs 200m in a really short space of time. Quite often you think you’ve done enough to get to the top of any hill, and then another section of 20% looms in front of you. It’s a really tough. It will have you out of the saddle all the way up until you escape the trees and the final (relatively more) gradual finish.

Getting steep

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