Porlock hill climb

Porlock – The hard way – A39

  • Distance – 1.6 miles
  • Average gradient – 12%
  • Max Gradient – 25%
  • Height at start – 140ft
  • Height at top – 1,138ft
  • height gain – 998ft / 304 metres
  • 100 climbs #5


View from the top of Porlock A road. It is a really tough climb, with 25% hairpins at the bottom, taking you out of the village of Porlock. After this very hard 1st mile, the gradient mercifully eases off, but it’s still a long drag to the top. It is a really tough climb.


Porlock up the A39 is probably the hardest and steepest A road in England. It is a really testing climb. Very steep from the bottom, then a long way to the top. I rode up the hard way after the race up the toll road.


Porlock Toll Road

jochen-langbeing-porlock 2014

jochen-langbeing-porlock 2014

  • Distance – 4.1 miles
  • Avg Grade – 5.5%
  • Max gradient – 8%
  • Lowest Elev 160ft
  • Highest Elev – 1,360ft (414m)
  • Elevation gain (370 metres)

See also: Porlock hill climb 2014

Sunday 29th was a 4 mile hill climb up Porlock Toll Road, organised by Minehead CC. The road was closed to traffic and it was a really great event, enthusiastically promoted by Minehead CC with support from Porlock toll road and Porlock village. There was also a very generous prize list sponsored by (www.exmoorexplorer.com). – a big mountain bike race held each August.


Porlock hill climb Toll road to the right, A39 climb  to the left.

Despite travelling around the country quite a bit, I rarely go further south west than Bristol. I’ve done very little riding around Somerset so it was a great opportunity to start riding some of the Exmoor climbs.

The village of Porlock is quite charming and for a hill climber, seems inundated with great hill climbs at every junction. (hill climbers heaven or hell, depending on your point of view!) The A39 main road climb out of Porlock features number 4, in Simon Warren’s 100 Greatest hill climbs. (rated 9/10) At 25%, it is reputably the steepest A road in the country. However, the race was to be held on the alternative climb – Porlock Toll Road. This is a fantastic climb – 4 miles of pretty constant 5-6%. The road surface is good; and it’s as close to riding an ‘Alpine’ style climb as you will get in the south of England.  On the lower slopes it is mostly in sheltered woods, though every now and then you can get a glimpse of the sea to your right.


There are two 180 degree switch backs. It’s a great feeling when you’re climbing and can see the road down below you’ve just come up. Towards the top, the climb shallows out, and is a bit more exposed. I rode it once before the race started and liked it straight away.


Double switch back




Blog – Porlock Hill Climb 2013

I believe it is the first time that a race has been held on the whole climb, so it was hard to gauge how long it would take. I thought it would be a little like Snake Pass, just a bit longer. I started off reasonably hard. The hill is slightly steeper on the bottom. It is a good hill to get in a rhythm and I stayed in the saddle all the way to the top. The 180 degree switchbacks were interesting. I’m not used to racing on these kind of climbs. On one corner, I had to touch my brakes as I was running out of road. Towards the top, the trees disappeared, and fortunately a tailwind gave a little help to the finish. The gradient also became a bit shallower for the last mile. I finished in a time of 13.24 (just under 18mph) This was enough for first place, and I think I can claim a course record.

It was also nice to get quite a few cheers from a surprisingly large number of spectators and marshals by the side of the road.

Porlock Hill
After the race, I couldn’t resist having a go at the other Porlock hill climb. It’s been a light week of training and it’s not often you get a category two, 370 metre hill to have a go at. That’s a real brute. A wicked section of 25% at the bottom and then another couple of miles long slog to the top. I’m sure many were glad to be racing up the toll road!

After the race there was a prize ceremony with former world champion Wendy Houvenaghel giving out the prizes. The whole event was really good, you felt a lot of work and enthusiasm had gone into it from members of Minehead CC, and it was nice to see it pay off.

One nice touch, the village of Porlock were really keen to encourage the event, helping us to have good facilities and a local womens group did the refreshments.  I also received a homemade trophy by local schoolchildren. Very cool. Perhaps we can suggest something similar to the residents around Box Hill in Surrey.
Some photos of Event


James Dobbin (Arctic Sram RT – National hill climb champion 2006, 2007



Paul Jones Bristol South CC


The start.


Tejvan Pettinger at the start. What you might call hill climbers arms.



(a VC Walcott rider)


Wendy Houvenaghel (Bike Chain Ricci) World Champion Team Pursuit


Aryavan Lanham, Sri Chinmoy CT

Porlock Hill

The start.


Fortunately, it was a warm day.


Using muesli bars to prop up rollers on the grass.

Porlock Hill

Village of Porlock.

View from the hill


Porlock hill

Porlock Pedal

After the event, the road was kept closed to traffic to allow other people to have a go at climbing the hill with car free roads. Quite a few people took advantage.



Nice views


Partial Results

  1. Tejvan Pettinger Sri Chinmoy CT – 13.24
  2. William Harrison – Taw  Velo – 14.36
  3. Charles Coleman – VC Walcott – 14.36
  4. James Dobbin – Arctic SRAM – 14.43
  5. Tavis Walker – VC Walcott – 14.56
  6. Paul Jones – Bristol South  – 14.59
  7. James Coleman -VC Walcott – 15.02


  1. Wendy Houvenaghel  – Bike Chain Ricci – 16.14
  2. Wiebke Rietz – 1st Chard Wheelers – 19.16
  3. Ayse Vahiboglu – Exeter Wheelers – 19.17


  1. Sean Henderson – North Devon Wheelers – -15.04

Thanks to Vilas for many photos. And again thanks to those who helped put on the race. Hopefully, the event will be held same date in 2014.


Related Pages

Purchase 100 Climbs

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100 Greatest Cycling Climbs at Amazon.co.uk

100 Greatest Cycling Climbs at Waterstones


11 Responses to Porlock hill climb

  1. sm September 30, 2013 at 6:09 am #

    Congrats Tejvan. I’d say you’ll be ready for a nice juicy burger soon once hill climbing season is over but I doubt those hill climbing arms of yours could lift one! 😉

    A second website too (needs a new header!) – you really are a dedicated cyclo-machine.

    Did you have a crack at Dunkery Beacon? That’s my favourite hill climb in the area, rising abruptly too the bleak but beautiful moor. Exmoor is one of my favourite places to cycle when the sun has got his hat on. The ride from Porlock down the coastal road to Lynmouth is fantastic too.

    • tejvan September 30, 2013 at 6:58 am #

      Thanks sm, Dunkery Beacon is on the list for next year.

  2. William Wake September 30, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    Thanks Tajvan for such a positive write up and it is great to hear that you enjoyed the ride. I have placed a link to this blog onto the MCC Facebook page so that others can read your account. This should be the link to the page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Minehead-Cycling-Club/177741212324015
    I hope that MCC will run the event again next year – I would quite like to ride it myself – hopefully there will be a category for riders with cake lifting arms….
    If your readers fancy a few more Exmoor Hills before the dark days really arrive, we have a 100km Audax on Sunday 13th October. Starting from Minehead Middle School on Ponsford Road at 9.30am. The route heads South over the hills to Dulverton and around to Wiveliscombe and then West back to Minehead. £4/£5 entry and free cake at the end…

  3. Andrew September 30, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    Many thanks Tejvan for your kind words…see you all again next year!
    It was a pleasure to watch some really talented riders zoom up the hill…hopefully you’ve inspired a few others to have a go at the Toll Road…at any speed!!

  4. Chris September 30, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    Well done again Tejvan, you really are in top form.

    Do you keep a training log and do specific routines each day, each week or just do what you think fit on each day because whatever you are doing seems to be perfect for you.

    • tejvan September 30, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

      I have a rough routine and training plan I try and follow, but it doesn’t always happen as a I plan.

  5. Nick Martin September 5, 2017 at 1:48 pm #

    Hi Tejvan, what gearing were you using for this hill climb? I am doing this one in a few weeks time and wondering if 40 x 11 will be big enough for the less steep parts.

    • tejvan September 6, 2017 at 9:40 am #

      Nothing special, just usual road bike gearing. Mostly on 39 – 15/16 something like that.

      • tejvan September 8, 2017 at 7:13 pm #

        Perhaps big ring if there is a strong tailwind at the top


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