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.

Read more

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

Read more

Buxton CC hill climb 2015

Today was first hill climb of the year – Buxton CC hill climb on Long Hill. Actually it was the second hill climb of the year. I’ve already done one in May on truncated version of Shap Fell, where I averaged a rather incredulous 25mph for a hill climb.


Long Hill is another of these long and gradual ascents. Get a tailwind and it makes it relatively fast. It makes something of a gentle transition from the time trial season to the more brutal 11% 4 minute climbs which will soon be coming thick and fast.

After weeks of patchy rain, conditions were relatively benign. Mild, dry and a gentle tailwind – as good as you can get for hill climb season. There was a good turnout with 67 riders on the start sheet.

I was able to warm-up on Long Hill before the race started, but then at top my garmin mount broke so I stuffed it down jersey for the rest of the day.

Read more

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.


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.

Monsal Dale

Read more

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.

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?

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!

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

Coldharbour Lane
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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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

Read more

Thwaites Brow – cobbles and climbs


Thwaites Brow – cobbled


It’s the time of the year to start thinking about hill climb training. Whenever I start to do hill climbs in summer, there’s always part of me that thinks – why do I do this? Perhaps this will be my last year… But, after a few weeks, these thoughts fall away.

August is a gentle introduction to hill climb training, not 100% all out efforts, just a few unstructured rides – up and down different hills. If possible a chance to get into some different terrain before the more specific intervals up the same local hill.

After the end of TT season, it’s time to get used to the road bike and climbing up steep hills, with lower cadence, and using the whole body to drag you up the climb. It’s all very different to getting into an aero tuck and maintaining a metronomic cadence for 1-4 hours.

My parents live in Menston, which is perfectly situated for hill climb training. You can go anywhere in a 360 degree radius and find innumerable steep climbs to test your legs. Today, I threw a dice on the map and headed off south towards Keighley.


I said August is a gentler introduction to hill climb training, but for some reason, my first hill interval of the day – I chose Thwaites Brow a steep cobbled climb from the outskirts of Keighley, which could never be considered a gentle introduction – even with new a Emonda, tailwind and nice bit of sun.




To be honest, I had forgotten how ridiculous this hill is. This is not a neatly maintained cobbled climb like you might find in the Tour of Flanders. This is a cobbled climb which looks like it was built by a few blokes in a rush to get back to the pub – throwing a few rocks randomly on to the 15% gradient. OK, I might exaggerate a little, but the gaps between the cobbles have to be seen to be believed. When there is this much gap, it seems about 30% of your pedal revolution involves pedalling on air. It’s hard to get the power down.

I managed to take a photo of the best-looking cobbles. I’m sure it was much worse when I was cycling uphill!

The other thing about the steep cobbled climbs is that the climb seems to have a mind of its own. It’s not a question of picking the right line. The climb throws you off-camber and all you can do is hang on. When you’re not eating your own handlebars to keep the cadence going, you might get ca hance to look up in the forlorn hope of picking a better line. But, even if you can see a slightly milder set of cobbles, you’re never guaranteed to actually make it. In places, there is a little bit of patchwork tarmac, but I often ended up missing these anyway.

If it wasn’t cobbled, it would be a tough test in its own right, but throw in the mix of random cobbles, and it’s really hard. It’s kind of a relief to get to the top – though, I can’t say I’ll be in a rush to go back.

They say heavier riders do better on cobbles. So how does it work for cobbled climbs?

Nearby Climbs

  • Hainworth Lane – just a few miles up the road – another cobbled climb

Stocks Hill

  • Distance: 1 mile
  • average gradient: 11%

At the top of Thwaites Brow I followed my nose – which means that I took random directions and got mostly lost. I headed up Oxenhope Moor and then hoped for the best. An unexpected bonus of getting lost is that purely by chance I happened upon a new climb – Stocks Lane.

Thanks to comments on this post Hill Climb Courses is that I found course V9919 is actually Stocks Lane. Halifax Imperial Wheelers have a hill climb on this lane on 26/09. – 900 yards of it average grade 10%. It’s a great little climb from the village of Luddenden. It’s a less intense climb than the neighbouring Halifax Lane/Luddenden  But, it’s a nice steady 10% gradient with a double switchback.


100 climbs 100 greatest cycling climbs is a list of some of the hardest climbs in the UK – including Thwaites Brow.