Leith Hill Climb

Leith Hill is the highest point in South East England (993ft). Set within an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Trust site, it makes a great setting for a hill climb. Leith Hill was also climbed three times during this year’s pro race – Surrey Cycle Classic. Fortunately, we were doing this hill climb without 100 km of hard racing in our legs. Just a short explosive effort. 0.8 miles of excruciating pain instead.

aryavan--kingston-wheelers

The hill climb goes through a mixture of woodland and open space offering views into the surrounding hills.

The Hill climb used by Kingston Wheelers for the John Bornhoft Hill climb starts a little way from the bottom of the road (by a suitable grass verge) However, this is the shallowest section.

start

The start

Leith Hill – John Bornhoft Memorial Event hill climb

  • Distance 0.9mi
  • Avg Grade 8.0%
  • Max Gradient – 18%
  • Height gain 115m

The gradient varies a little. I think it would still be suitable for fixed gear. I didn’t change gears very much (and when I did they did seem to be rather clunky changes)

The race 2013

Conditions were good. Warmish and gentle tailwind on last part of climb. Last year I did 3.33.8. I thought with the good conditions, there might be a chance of going a bit quicker and setting a new course record.

tejvan-leith

My week previous had been quite light on training. On Monday I got a bad back (perhaps caused by riding up Mow Cop on a time trial bike). I though I could ignore it and trained on Tuesday as normal, but it made back worse, so I only did a light ride on Thurs and Fri. Shame to get another niggling injury. Anyway by Sat, I was in good shape. For a change I had a team-mate Aryavan Lanham (originally from Australia) riding. He’s a super enthusiastic cyclist, mostly used to riding the track or long 100 mile rides. He was intrigued by this English phenomena of the hill climb.

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So far this season, the hill climbs have been nice and long – making an easier transition from the TT season to the hill climb. But, Leith Hill is a classic 4 minute hill climb. It’s the distance to suit riders with a bit of explosive power. It means you really have to push yourself over the limit – in many ways they are more painful than the longer 15 minute efforts. You can train for these hill climbs all year, but when it comes to the race, you just need that ability to push yourself into the red and hold it. It requires quite a lot of commitment – because when you feel light headed with effort, it’s really pushing the body out of the comfort zone and it’s instinctive to pull back. I rarely do these climbs and think I went too hard too early. Mostly I hold back for too long.

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In the race, the pacing was OK, I didn’t start off too hard, and could maintain a good speed all the way to the top. I’ve perhaps given a bit more in these kind of 3.5 minute efforts, but I still felt pretty pooped at the top and it was a good effort. It was good to get a good cheer by the Kingston Wheelers support team on the hill. Kingston Wheelers must have had about 20 riders in the race, plus quite a few turning up to support. A good atmosphere for a hill climb.

I managed to do 3.33.1 – just enough to take 0.7 seconds off the course record (to be confirmed). Hill climbs are all about fine margins.

  • 2nd place was Vet rider Pete Tadros in 3.50 (riding fixed)
  • 3rd place was Chris Baines (Buxton CC) who did 4.0? to gain his first podium finish at an open hill climb. Chris has moved to Abingdon near Oxford, which is ironic as I seem to spend a lot of time moving up north to ride in the hills near Buxton at this time of the year.
  • 1st lady was Maryka Sennema, Kingston Wheelers
  • (sorry I don’t know rest of results)

My friend Aryavan said he really enjoyed the hill climb. He remarked – with a friendly cup of tea and nice simple event in old village hall – it reminded him of 1950s England (which I think is a compliment)

tea

A nice cup of tea and a homemade flapjack at Forest Green HQ

Despite the Daily Telegraphs dire warnings of raging battles between motorists and cyclists, it was all very civilised

(although, now I come to think of it, the rider due to start a minute before me said he got knocked off by a car riding to the event. I don’t know details, but it was sad to hear. I certainly had no trouble cycling or driving on the leafy Surrey lanes.)

Unfortunately, power meter stopped working so I have no power result, only time. But, since the 1960s is in – I guess it’s always good to ride on feel.

Thanks to Kingston Wheelers and John Bornhoft family for presenting prizes.

Related Pages

Purchase 100 Climbs

Book Cover

100 Greatest Cycling Climbs at Amazon.co.uk

100 Greatest Cycling Climbs at Waterstones

 

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Is it ok to undertake buses at traffic lights?

down-inside-cycle-lane

Cycle lanes known as ‘feeder lanes’ encourage you to go down the inside of traffic. In theory, you can move into the ‘advanced stop box for cyclists’. This gives cyclists a way to beat traffic jams and hopefully puts them in a visible position when the lights change. However, in practise when you get there, invariably you find a vehicle has stopped either totally or partially in the box. Also, the lights may change before you even get there, leaving you in a difficult position as heavy buses move off with you on the inside.

I was interested to read the case of a cyclist recently fined for running a red light, when in fact all he had done was get to the advanced stop box to find a car in it. Because it was an awkward position he came to a stop in front of the white line.

The police gave a ticket because technically he was running a red light – he stopped in front of the white line.

However, the Cyclists defence fund is supporting his appeal. They argue that some discretion needs to be used. When you go down the inside of traffic but find cyclist box covered, it makes practical sense to stop in front of the white line rather than risk getting squashed on the inside. It is something I have done. I never thought I was running a red light – just getting into a better position to help both me and the general traffic flow. See: Cyclists defense fund

I hope he wins his case because it’s something I’ve done myself.

It raises a difficult question of whether it is ever good to go down the inside of stationary traffic at traffic lights?

down-inside

Cyclist squeezing down the inside of double decker buses on Oxford High Street. There is a brief cycle ‘lane’ near the traffic lights, encouraging this behaviour.

Some points

  • When you cycle down the inside of large vehicles, you are entering their blind spot. It is easy for drivers not to see you. If a vehicle is turning left, you are at high risk of serious accident. Left turning vehicles into path of cyclists is a significant cause of fatalities.
  • I always feel if you go down the inside, you have to be fully aware of the risk. If I’m confident of getting to the front of the queue before traffic starts to move, I may take it.
  • Sometimes I see cyclists go down the inside even when buses have started to move, this makes me feel very queasy as it is so tight and dangerous. The fact there may be a cycle lane painted on to the road is no guarantee.

How cycle feeder lanes and advanced stop signs can work in practise

advanced-stop-sign

a rare example of vehicles respecting all the cycle lanes and advanced stop signs. From this angle, you can see the potential of cyclists getting to the front of the queue. Continue Reading →

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Mow Cop – the Killer Mile

Mow Cop is a fantastic little climb on the border of Cheshire and Staffordshire. From the valley bottom, you can see the imposing ruins of Mow Cop castle at the top. Mow Cop was obviously an excellent defensive position in the days of medieval battles. These days Mow Cop is the scene of a different kind of struggle.

mow-cop-pub

Mow Cop Hill climb stats

  • Distance 0.9 miles
  • Average Gradient: 11.7%
  • Maximum gradient: 23%
  • Elevation gain: 170 metres (560 feet)
  • 100 Climbs #36

The Climb

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The climb starts after a busy level crossing, where high speed cross country trains often fly through. Initially, the gradient is a respectable 8-10%, but after a while you reach the first steep part – approaching 20%

early-rider-mt-pleasant

and the first time you will be grovelling into your lowest gear. The gradient then eases off in the middle section, but as you come around the corner, the piece d’resistance looms in the horizon. The final stretch of 23% looms menacingly on the horizon. The pub to the left starkly highlights the gradient. There is nothing but to put yourself into the lowest gear and pull yourself up the straight bit of hell.

mow-cop1

The middle section before final killer blow

The final section is, by contrast, a meagre 7%. But, after fighting up the 23% it feels very painful. Continue Reading →

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