Nick ‘O Pendle Hill climb


The Nick O Pendle hill climb is a testing climb from the village of Sabden Village up to the moors of Nick O Pendle.  (#72 on 100 hill climbs). The climb averages approx 10%, but at the start there are a few sections of 16%. It has been used several times for the National Hill Climb Championship, including 1988 when a young Chris Boardman won his first hill climb championship, setting a course record of 3.29 (he used a 60 inch fixed). A 19 year old Malcolm Elliot was also national champion on this hill in 1980.


Course Description

Start at the lamp-post outside the apartment block on the site of the old garage in Sabden Village. Proceed up the hill to FINISH at the large stone at the start of parking area and approximately 50 yards before the crest of the hill.The course is approximately 1350 yards long and has a maximum gradient of 1 in 6.

Nick ‘O Pendle Hill climb (from Sabden)

  • Distance 1.2km
  • Avg Grade 11.1%
  • Max Gradient: 16%
  • Elev Gain 135m
  • Height 1,514 ft – 461 metres
  • Course Record: Chris Boardman 3.29 (1988 – hill climb championship)
  • My PB: 3.35 (2011)
  • 100 climbs #74



National Hill Climb Championships at Nick o Pendle


A youthful Chris Boardman takes his first National hill climb championship in 1988.

Chris Boardman had finished second by less than one second to Paul Curran in 1987. But, after winning in 1988, he told Cycling Weekly: “I’m quite satisfied with the ride. It’s nerve racking to get it all out in three minutes. Some start too fast.


Malcolm Elliot 1980
19 year old Malcolm Elliot (Rutland CC) on his way to the 1980 championship.
Malcolm Eliot hill climb
Last man Jeff Williams (and 1979 Champion) in the 1980 hill climb championships. He broke his nose before the race and did the race with blood coming down his nose. At half way he was four seconds up on Elliot, but by the finish had lost out by just 0.2 seconds. A very close championship. Cycling Weekly estimated a crowd of 5,000.
  • 1980 – 1st Malcolm Elliot – 3.33.4,  2nd Jeff Williams 3.33.6, 3rd Gareth Armitage 3.36.6


Gareth Armitage – 1975 hill climb championship
  • 1975 – 1st Gareth Armitage 3.49 – 2nd Paul Carbutt 3.50 (Saracen RC) – 3rd Joe Waugh (Tyne RC)


It often rains on the Nick o Pendle in October
  • 1970 – 1st Granville Sydney -Huddersfield SW – 3.59 – 2nd Ralph Wilson – Bridwell Wh. 4.05 3rd Tony Gornall – Clayton Velo 4.10
  • 1962 – 1st Peter Graham

Riding the Hill

Ian Stott on Nick o Pendle


Fixed v Gear

I would imagine this is a good course for fixed. Chris Boardman set the course record on a 60 inch fixed. Although the gradient varies, there is no flat or downhill. I used gears and changed once or twice during the climb. I was riding a 39*15 for most of climb.

2011 Nick ‘O Pendle Open

The good thing about 2011 was the weather was kind – relatively warm and tailwind. At the bottom it wasn’t really noticeable, but on the exposed slopes it was really quite helpful, this helped push you up.

With the slight variations in the gradient so I found myself getting in and out of saddle. At about the half way point there is a cattle grid. You definitely want to be in the saddle for going over the cattle grid and keep the bike nice and straight. After half way the climb eases off a little.

But, despite the gentle gradient it was hard to pick up speed because my legs were already tired from the initial effort. Towards the last hairpin I caught my minute man, he offered me some encouragement before finding some extra strength and sprinting for the line. It was kind of funny as I could never talk in a hill climb! It gave me something to chase, but I couldn’t keep up; I ended up almost ‘dribbling over’ the finish line, I was relieved the finish was 50 metres before the crest of the hill. I was quite spent at the top and felt a little light-headed for a few minutes. I’d given it a lot and missed out on the course record by 5 seconds. There was quite a crowd of people waiting at the top and I got quite a cheer through last few hundred yards. I can imagine in a National championship, this would be a great atmosphere.

After racing, I rode back up the hill to take some photos – the wind was even stronger. I can imagine with a headwind, this climb would be even tougher.

Brief Results from 2010

  1. Tejvan Pettinger Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team – 3.34.5
  2. Richard Handley – Team Raleigh – 3.40
  3. Matthew Pilkington – Progressive Cycle Coaching DS – 3.59
  4. Carl Hellilwel – 4.04
  5. Paul Jones – Bristol South – 4.06

1st Women

  1. Sarah Hartley – Blackburn & District 5.37

Results 2012

1. Tejvan Pettinger 3.39

Results 2013

  1. Matthew Pilkington 3.38
  2. James Gullen 3.43
  3. Jim Henderson 3.57

Previous Winners

2010 – Matthew Pilkington – 4.14
2008 – Adam Pinder – 3.50
2007 – Adam Pinder – 3.54

Photos from Nick ‘O Pendle


On the outskirts of Sabden.



Leaving the village of Sabden





The finish on the crest of the hill.


last few hairpins.



Black and White Nick O Pendle from B.Thompson’s collection

Thanks to PJ for photos of me cycling

Nick O Pendle from Clitheroe to Sabden (southbound)

  • Distance 1.7 miles
  • Avg grade = 7%
  • Max grade = 15%
  • Elevation gain 591 ft / 180m

From the other side from Clitheroe to Sabden the climb is longer, but not as steep, it features in the popular Nick O Pendle Cyclo sportive. It is quite a long and steady climb, but reaches 15% at its maximum. It is quite exposed.

In 2015, the Tour of Britain will climb Nick ‘O Pendle from this side




5 thoughts on “Nick ‘O Pendle Hill climb”

  1. This brought back memories of the old days (1982 and 1983 I won the National Student Hill Climb up it) … cattle grid still gives me nightmares because the 1983 climb was wet and I was really pushing … out of the saddle over the grid (you don’t always think straight on climbs, as you probably know !) – I remember the bike slewing sideways but I managed to right it before giving myself a verbal lashing ! I did ride gears, mainly because of the changing gradients, but I imagine fixed is a reasonable option – you just get out of the saddle on the steeper bits.
    I keep threatening to race again, but may give it another year and come back when I am 50 !
    Thanks for the article and good luck ! You never know, you may see me racing up West Country climbs in the near future 🙂

  2. This was my favorite climb from my hill-climbing days in the 70s

    First rode it in 1973 when I was 2nd to my clubmate and former national Champ the late Paul Wildsmith by I think 1.2 secs……..the following year I won with it being a head wind, and in the 1975 national champs I came 7th [utterly disappointed!] but we [East Bradford CC] did win the team prize, and would also of won it with our 4th counting rider DudleyHayton.

    My final race on Nick was the 1980 National Champs won by Malcolm Elliott……..I came 19th which was my lowest position in the HC champs, but perhaps being equal 3rd at the half way with Joe Waugh is some consolation. ironically I had beaten Elliott in a 10mtt only a few weeks before.

  3. Tough headwind towards the finish on this year’s race, but it was a privilege to share the road with Jim Henderson who won again with a time of 3:56.2.
    Although I’ve been over the Nick countless times on my regular bike rides, this year was the first time I’d entered the hill climb and it was great to be able to read your page and see where the finish line is for the race.
    Good luck next week in the Nationals.

  4. My club mate Dixon Millar aged 18 was third in the 1962 championship on Pendle behind Pete Graham beaten by 2/5 second! Dixon had to start early as he had borrowed Bill Bradley’s bike and he had to give it back to Bill who was a late starter. Because of his early start Dixon had much the worst of the weather compared with the other medallists. And could timekeepers back then with their old watches really place second and third 1/5th and 2/5th of a second behind the winner?


Leave a Comment