Pea Royd Lane has been the venue for the national hill climb championships in 2009, 2014 and it will be the last minute venue for the 2018 National Championships.
It is a classic hill climb length- relatively short and steep with a few sharp corners to make it really testing. The gradient is variable from fairly shallow at the bottom to a gradient of up to 20% near the top.
I was driving up north this weekend, so I took the short detour off the M1 to revisit Stocksbridge and have a go at Pea Royd Lane, which I haven’t done since 2009. The weather was warm with a cross wind. It felt like a headwind at the start, but tailwind in the middle. The last section I couldn’t work out. That’s the nature of the course, the wind can be all over the place.
The over-riding impression of the climb was it’s steep and also a painful reminder of how hard hill climbs are. I’ve been looking for a similar hill in Oxfordshire, but there is nothing which gets the same height gain, in such as short space of time – though Whiteleaf hill and Chinnor Hill come close.
After a warm up, I gave it a good effort – to try and get a rough idea of what time I can do after a summer of 50 and 100 mile time trials. I’ve gone deeper in the hill climb season proper. But, it was plenty hard enough. I’m sure there was a lurking thought somewhere in my mind ‘Why do I do hill climbs again?’
It’s a hard hill climb because the gradient is always changing. The road surface is also quite rough. There was plenty of loose gravel, chippings and patched up road surface. I hear it is going to be resurfaced soon!
I took lots of photos of the climb (see bottom of post). It’s quite a mix of scenic Yorkshire views, with some ageing steel plants and electricity pylons thrown in. Still it’s a good view from the top.
It is the first hill climb of the year, though the nine mile slog from Kendal to the top of Shap on the A6, never feels like your traditional hill climb. It was also my first race under 25 miles. I haven’t done any 10 mile TT’s yet to gauge efforts.
The important thing for Shap hill climb is the wind direction. The wind from the south makes it “fast”. The wind from the north makes it painfully slow.
Photo: Kenny Roberts (2015). I used same wheel and bike combination Zipp disc, and lightweight front wheel without deep section.
Driving over to Kendal, it was quite wet and blustery, but fortunately the weather cleared up for the race, just leaving a nice strong tailwind. Setting off from north of Kendal, I was soon nearly in my top gear of 56*11. That’s a proper hill climb when you can go at 30mph plus. However, even a strong tailwind doesn’t get you up a gradient of 3-10%. The speed still plummets when the road gets steep. Although the average gradient is 3%, there is a considerable bit of flat and also downhill sections, so it means there are some more testing gradients and a lot of variable power efforts. It also goes on for nine miles. With a tailwind, the climb is a rough approximation to a sporting 10 mile time trial. With the wind at your back, I’m always a little uncertain whether to get low or to sit up and benefit from the wind. But, I was on my tribars for most of the ride, apart from the last tricky descent where there was a strong sidewind before the last steepest section to the line.
Sunday 21st September was the Tanks Direct Porlock Toll Road Hill climb organised by Minehead CC. After its debut year in 2013, it has grown into quite an impressive event, with both the main hill climb and supporting Go Ride events for youngsters and the Porlock Pedal for families.
Porlock Toll road was closed for the day, thanks to Porlock Estates. It meant a great venue for the race on completely closed roads. The road is a gradual 6% gradient, with a couple of hairpins. Mostly it is in the shadow of trees, though near the top you get some great views of the sea down below the hill.
Porlock Hill climb (toll road)
Distance – 4.1 miles
Avg Grade – 5.5%
Max gradient – 8%
Lowest Elev 160ft
Highest Elev – 1,360ft (414m)
Elevation gain (370 metres)
This year 101 riders entered, making it one of the biggest hill climbs in the country. The organisers have really made an effort to make it in a comprehensive event, which feels much more than just entering another race. There was a very generous £3,000 prize fund courtesy of the main sponsors Tanks Direct. There was also a starting ramp, personalised numbers and plenty of people around the HQ. Teas were provided by the local Women’s institute, and the village of Porlock seemed quite happy to invite lots of cyclists – which is always a bonus. Perhaps the best aspect of the event, is to see junior riders encouraged to come along and participate in the opportunity to ride a closed road event.
After the main hill climb and prize presentations, 40+ youngsters rode up the hill as part of the British Cycling – Merlin Go Ride event. To finish the day, a Porlock Pedal allowed all to cycle up the hill at whatever pace they felt. There was quite a buzz around the HQ with many bikes and people of all age.
Helped to lower the average age from your typical time trial.
Though a few of the usual suspects were out in force too.
Good to see a few of the Bristol South riding fixed.
Today was the Trevor Yeoman memorial Buxton CC Long Hill.
Long Hill is a steady long climb. Fairly constant, averaging only 3%. The wind direction can make a difference.
Long Hill from Whaley Bridge
Distance – 4.44 miles
Average gradient – 3%
Height gain – 195m – 425m (approx 230m)
I first did Long Hill in 2010, I set a course record of 12.26, there was quite a helpful tailwind that day. Since then I’ve ridden a total of 6 times in competition. Each time, I’ve tried a different equipment combination. My first record was set on a road bike, no tri bars. This year, I went for full time trial bike with discwheel. It was an opportunity to use the Trek Speed Concept before putting it away for the year. It’s probably the heaviest bike I’ve taken to Long Hill.
The only downside to taking TT bike was no power meter, but sometimes it’s good to remember what it is like to ride on feel. If anything I rode rather conservatively, not wanting to really blow up too early like last week at Snake Pass. I took it fairly steady all the way up, just around the threshold level which is close to what is tolerable. It was only on the last horseshoe corner that I increased effort a little. For a short while there was a mild headwind, before the final last minute and half to the top.
A bit of a hobby is seeing the Google keywords that people search to come to your blog. These are some of the interesting keywords and questions that people type in Google to end up at cyclinguphill.com. Unsurprisingly many things connected with cycling up a hill seems to get linked to this blog.
These are some of the random keyword searches that people put into Google. However, many of these queries can be answered with three golden rules of cycling uphill.
For example, take the Google search – ‘can’t cycle up hills’#3
You will have to cycle up hills slowly.
Get a lower gear for your bike. This makes it easier to cycle slowly.
To get better at cycling uphill, you need to do more of it. Eventually after years of practise, you will be able to cycle up hills, slightly less slowly.
If all else fails, moves to Netherlands, but cycling uphill is not as intimidating as it might first look.
– Some suggest the ideal hill climb interval is a gap of about a year in between each big effort. Others of a more masochistic sort, like to see how many times they can go up and down a hill in a day. You pays your money and you take your choice.
The hills never end
It may seem daunting at first, but once you’ve done some training to get stronger and more adept at going uphill, you will soon be seeking out the hardest and steepest hills to see what time you can do – e.g. 100 climbs.
Google Searches related to Cycling Uphill
‘riding uphill find it hard’
This is good. Riding uphill is supposed to be hard – whether a beginner or pro, cycling uphill is never easy – otherwise where would be the fun? As Greg LeMond once said about cycling uphill. (much repeated advise) – ‘It never gets easier, you just get faster.’
‘biked uphill almost passed out gear‘
‘Almost passed out’ is something hill climbers might like to boast about. If you cycled so hard you nearly passed out, this is a sign that you could make an excellent cyclist. If you don’t actually enjoy that feeling of nearly passing out or if you have a 100 miles further to cycle after going up hill. The best advice is to go slower (see: rule #1)
This is the real secret to riding uphill – go slower. Lowering your expectations is always a good way to get through life.
Another thing to consider is getting a compact chain set or even triple granny chainring (rule #2 – get a lower gear). There are some people who will tell you a granny chainring is for well ‘Grannies’ but when you’re struggling up Kirkstone pass in 39*25 – zigzagging all over the road trying to prevent yourself falling off into a ditch – you soon learn macho gears are no comfort. Get a lower gear, and enjoy the ride.
Holme Moss is an iconic British hill climb used in many big races, such as the Tour of Britain and the now defunct Leeds Classic. It is also used in quite a few cyclo sportives, such as the Tour of the Peak, and also hill climbs. Because of its history and epic length, Holme Moss has become a popular venue for road cyclists – it featured in Sky’s top 10 places to ride, and also the first edition of 100 Greatest Hill Climbs (#43). However, all this history was trumped by featuring in stage two of the 2014 Tour de France. The crowds on the slopes of Holme Moss had to seen to be believed.
Thanks to Camperman64 (flickr) for permission to use photos of Holme Moss from Tour de France.
Holme Moss is on the border of Yorkshire and Derbyshire – 11 miles south of Huddersfield, 27 miles west of Sheffield and 21 miles east of Manchester. In July 2014, an estimated 60,000 spectators were on the climb – officials had to draft in extra stewards to try and keep the road safe. Former British cyclist, Rob Hayles remarked that the number of tents in the fields reminded him of Glastonbury. Both Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas said that riding up Holme Moss ‘gave him goosebumps’ such was the noise and atmosphere.
There are two ways to climb Holme Moss – from Holmfirth (north to south) and from Woodhead Reservoir (south to north). At it’s peak the climb reaches 524 metres (1719 ft). There is a small car park at the top, where you can often see cyclists recuperating before they descend back down! The climb from Holmfirth is better known and is longer, though from south upwards is also a good test.
The first 3 km is quite a gentle gradient. It is only after the village of Holmbridge that it gets steeper. From Holmbridge to the top it averages over 7%. It is long and unrelenting. It is quite exposed so if the wind is in the wrong direction, it can make the climb even tougher.
The toughest section is the last few kms, the gradient is a relentless 10-13%. You’ll be in your lowest gear or close by this point. Not because it’s so steep, but because the hill wears you down.
Someone has marked the last mile, 1/2 a mile and 1/4 mile. It’s nice to see these signs as you hold on for the top.
Holme Moss from Woodhead Reservoir
Distance 4.3 km
Avg Grade 6.6%
Start Elevation: 240 m
Finish Elevation: 525 m
Elev Gain 285m
Holme Moss from Woodhead reservoir does not have the same height gain. But, it is still a tough climb, with another long drag reaching a maximum of 12%.
Holme Moss south side in winter. The road can get closed, so be careful.
Holme Moss Hill Climb (V970)
Glossop Kinder Velo put on some club events on this climb. You can turn up and have a go. Checkout Holme Moss hill climb at Glossop Kinder Velo.
Holme Valley Wheelers put on an open hill climb in October. In 2014 it is October 12th. Holme Valley open hill climbs
Here’s something that captures the imagination of cyclinguphill.com – the sport of ‘Everesting’.
‘Everesting’ involves choosing a hill and cycling up and down it enough times to gain enough vertical height gain to make a grand total of 8,848m.
8,848m is of course the total height of Mount Everest.
For example, if you fancied ‘Everesting’ Box Hill (130m height gain). You would have to go up and and 69 times in a day. Box hill climb is 2.5 km uphill and 2.5km downhill. Therefore each loop of 5km would mean a total ride of 345 km. But, obviously it would be no ordinary 345km ride.
There is even a website which records anyone who makes the first successful ‘Everesting.cc‘ of a particular 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.
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)
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)
National Hill Climb Championships at Nick o Pendle
1988 – 1st Chris Boardman – 3.29, P. Sheard 3.43, P.Curran 3.43.6 (link Paul Curran’s page)
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.
1980 – 1st Malcolm Elliot – 3.33.4, 2nd Jeff Williams 3.33.6, 3rd Gareth Armitage 3.36.6
Hill climb intervals are probably my favourite type of training. I generally do some kind of hill climb intervals from February to the end of the hill climb season in October. At this time of the year (spring), my 5 minute power is well down because I spend most of the winter focusing on endurance. Even I feel like a break from hill climb intervals in Nov, Dec and Jan. Because I’m starting from a relatively low base, it means that even a few hill climb intervals can see a big improvement in power output.
During the early part of the hill climb season, I’m getting used to riding at or above race pace. A typical session might involve:
Warm up for 15 minutes
3 * 1 minute intervals at 95% – this is about 400 watts. They are not completely ‘eyeballs out’ I like to break myself in a bit more gently.
7 * 4 – 5 minutes. To make it more interesting, I do intervals up real hills. The hill climb may last between 3 and a half minutes and 5 minutes, depending on where I’m training. I do the first one really hard, but not 100% as if I was doing a hill climb.
I’m most interested in maintaining high power towards the end of interval and towards the end of the interval session. A good indicator of form is how I go during the 6th or 7th interval. In that sense the intervals get harder as you progress towards the end because the muscles are tired and you are carrying around more lactic acid.
If my FTP is 290, I might be doing these intervals at 350 watts. – Or 20% harder than an effort during an hour’s constant time trial.
In between these intervals I ride at a recovery pace. Gently spinning to try and get rid of the lactic acid.
In a typical interval session, it might take 2 and half hours and take 50 miles.
At this time of the year, I might just do one a week. In peak hill climb training season, perhaps two. Generally, I need an easy day before and after to get the most from them. To be honest, if I really do a proper hill climb interval session, you don’t feel like doing anything other than a recovery ride the next day.
After the interval session, I recommend some stretching especially of hamstrings.
Aim of hill climb intervals
Increase climbing ability
By racing above your normal race pace, you hope to stress the muscles and heart to pull up your capacity. The main aim for time trialling is to increase your Functional Threshold power (FTP) – roughly the effort / power you can maintain for an effort of an hour. Intervals can do this
One way to train for an hour time trial is to train for an hour and see how fast you can do it. Intervals are deliberately training for a shorter time so you can ride at a level higher than what you can maintain for a long time.
Train different muscle fibres. In road races and even short distance time trials (25 miles), you will be using all three muscle fibres – slow twitch, fast twitch and super-fast twitch. Hill climb intervals are a way to train all three. You don’t get this training effect, just by riding hard for an hour.
Get used to dealing with lactic acid.
My main early season target is several hilly time trials. These interval sessions replicate hilly time trials quite well. The only difference is that I’m not racing in between hills – only when going up the hills.
Riding the hill climb intervals
Now I have a power meter I do spend a bit of time looking at the power meter to try and gauge effort and smooth over the effort during a climb. This generally involves, holding back a little at the bottom, but then making an even bigger effort towards the end of the interval to maintain the power. I think a power meter is useful in the sense it shows what you are actually putting out. I didn’t realise how easy it is for power to peter out, when the slope eases off at the top.
A reader (Ken Stott) kindly sent in a few photos of Eric Wilson’s hill climb bike from the 1950s and 1960s. Eric Wilson won four national hill climb championships in 1955, 1957, 1960 and 1964. Four titles over a period of 10 years. Ken still looks after Eric’s bike, though he says he doesn’t ride with quite the speed of Eric Wilson in his prime!
Ken says the bike weighs about 18lbs….. (8.1 kg). That’s about 2.1 kg heavier than the average (geared) bike in the national hill climb 2013!
The bike is of course fixed. Nearly all hill climbers will have ridden fixed in those days. Though gears were starting to become more popular. – For example, John Woodburn became the first rider to win the national 25 mile title on fixed in 1961.