Cheddar Gorge – cycling

Cheddar Gorge is an interesting climb through the beautiful limestone gorge of Cheddar, Somerset. Climbing gently out of the village of Cheddar, the road starts to snake upwards at a gradient of up to 16% round some twisty corners. It is a tough start to the climb, but the remaining couple of km are a much gentler gradient, allowing you the opportunity to take it at your own pace as you climb away from the gorge and onto to the top of the moor.


Cheddar Gorge full hill

  • Location: Cheddar, Mendip hills, Somerset, South West.
  • Distance 2.6 miles
  • Average gradient: 4-5%
  • Maximum gradient: 16%
  • Height gain. 150m
  • 100 climbs: #1
  • Cheddar Gorge, Strava

Cheddar Gorge understandably features in many local cyclo-sportives and is a popular destination for many cyclists. It is also popular with tourists and rock climbers. The road can be busy – especially as you leave the village of Cheddar – so be prepared to be patient until you clear the car parks on the lower slopes of the climb.

It also makes a great twisting descent. But, be careful not to get carried away as near the bottom, you can really pick up speed on the sharp corners.


Cheddar Gorge is nestled within the Mendips in Somerset. There are plenty of other good hills and roads around here. It is just a few miles from Burrington Combe – another popular gorge and a similar climb.


The road is steepest at the bottom after leaving the car parks

I rode Cheddar Gorge in October, 2014 after racing Burrington Combe hill climb. There was a helpful S.E. tailwind making the climb relatively enjoyable. It would be a different proposition with an easterly climb. The wind seems to get funnelled down the gorge – making it strong in either direction.

2007 National Hill Climb Championship

In 2007, the national hill climb championship was organised on Cheddar Gorge. Somehow they managed to get the road closed and it made a great venue for the hill climb. A steep section and a long drag – a bit for everyone. James Dobbin won his second national hill climb championship in a time of 6-51.5. 2nd place was David Clarke (Blue Sky Cycles) Matt Clinton 7.08, (Mike Vaughan Cycles) was third. I was 6 seconds off the podium with 7.14

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Combe Gibbet


Combe Gibbet is number 25 in 100 greatest hills.  It is a  fairly short climb, averaging just under 10% to take you to the top of Combe Gibbet / Walbury hill.

I rode up Combe Gibbet on Sunday purely by accident. I was racing up Walbury hill which is an alternative ascent to the top of that hill. The weather was too hot to warm up on rollers so I preferred to warm up on roads instead. I took the road from Inkpen and went in any direction that was uphill and not on the race course. From Inkpen there is a gradual ascent, and then a bit of downhill before the short, sharp shock of Combe Gibbet. It averages 9% for 0.5 miles. But, towards the end of the climb, there is a good section of 16%. Pre race I was trying to ride up the climb, without going over 300 watts- which is a bit difficult to do without going at low cadence. I don’t like warming up too hard, I prefer to keep it fairly steady.

Photo Joolz

The weather was perfect so I enjoyed the climb and view from the top. The climb was quite quiet, very few cars, and the odd horserider. If I’d known I was riding Combe Gibbet I may have taken some photos. But, I also had a race to concentrate on.

Combe Gibbet

  • Distance 0.5 miles
  • Average gradient: 9%
  • Max Gradient: 16%
  • Summit Height of 889ft / 270m
  • Height gain 259ft / 79m
  • Strava segment – official 100 climbs of Combe Gibbet

After the race I went back up Combe Gibbet to do a bit more training. From the top of the hill, I headed south in the general direction of Andover. It was a strange descent, you kept thinking you would come to the bottom of the descent, but it kept on going down. One thing about hills in this part of the country is your never sure where the starting point is. It’s a great part of the country to cycle around. Quiet lanes, interesting roads, decent climbs, but nothing too taxing.

Combe Gibbet points of interest

Combe Gibbet is a popular tourist attraction. Wikipedia tells us a gibbet was erected in 1676 for the purpose of gibbeting the bodies of murderers – George Broomham and Dorothy Newman. The gibbet was placed in such a prominent location as a warning, to deter others from committing similar crimes. So if you want to see a replica of a Seventeenth Century Gibbet, there’s an added motivation to climb the hill.

Walbury hill is the highest point in Hampshire.

Combe Gibbet from the south

Combe Gibbet from the south is a good climb. If you want there is a several mile incline averaging about 1%. But, the climb proper only lasts for the last 1km.

The last 0.7 miles averages 7% and it gets steeper towards the top. The last half a mile averaging 10%

  • Distance 0.7 miles
  • Height gain: 240ft / 73 m
  • Max gradient: 12%


Steep hills

Even though I’ve done a lot of cycling around Yorkshire and Oxford, I still love to spend time looking at map trying to find the steepest possible hills. I know it’s probably more efficient to google and search Strava, but in my mind, it can’t beat the fun of looking at a real map and all those contour gradients. Any double arrow always raises a little excitement, especially if you haven’t been up that hill before.

At the moment, steep hills make great training for the hill climb season and the national championship in particular. But, even if I wasn’t training there is some attraction of battling against the steepest gradients. In one sense it doesn’t make sense to seek out the steepest hills, but there’s nothing like looking over your shoulder and seeing the road snaking below you.

Robin Hood climb near Silsden


Another kind of benefit of going up really steep hills is that you can get magnified power figures. For the life of me, I couldn’t do 450 watts on the flat, but when it’s 25% + it’s kind of hard not to!

The steepest hill I’ve been up is Hardknott Pass in the Lake District, a definite 30%, with the additional challenge of coming at the end of a pretty challenging hill in its own right.

Other really steep hills that have been quite memorable include Park Rash, Wrynose Pass, Bushcombe Lane to name but a few. I keep meaning to go over to the North York Moors, where 30% gradients seem to be a speciality.

Today I was in Menston, West Yorkshire, and there’s plenty of steep hills to choose from. I decided to go over the moors to Silsden. Where just a couple of months ago, I was one of millions lining the side of the road for Le Tour de France.

It’s hard to believe. But, yes this really did happen. Silsden closed down for the day to welcome Le Tour!

Le Tour didn’t go up the steepest hills in the district, the roads would have been too narrow and awkward for the Tour caravan.

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Everesting Great Dun Fell

In the latest Cycling Weekly, the main feature was on ‘Britain’s Latest Climbing Craze’ – Everesting. If you haven’t heard of Everesting, it is a challenge which involves cycling up and down a hill until you have completed the height gain of Mount Everest – 8.848 metres – that’s 14 times Great Dun Fell, 30* Hardknott Pass and 128* Swains Lane. Amongst other British riders, Laurie Lambeth was mentioned for everesting Great Dun Fell, and only a short while later, Everesting Hardknott Pass. Three weeks after Hardknott he managed his third Everest (an off road challenge) in 160 miles and 17 hours, which Laurie mentioned  ‘…it was a bit of a struggle’.


Great Dun Fell and Hardknott Pass are two of England’s most iconic climbs – and in their own way perhaps the hardest too. To Everest both is an impressive feat and just slightly mad into the bargain – just the kind of thing we like at

When I first heard of Everesting this summer, I nearly ditched all my plans to do the National 100 and plan carefully for the National Hill Climb. It just sounded such a cool thing to do. Well, there’s always time, but it seems British hills are going pretty quick – If you want to be the first to everest the hill of your choice, get training!

Thanks to Laurie for sharing his great report on the day of cycling up Great Dun Fell.

Everesting Great Dun Fell

by Laurie Lambeth

I first heard about “Everesting” on an internet forum around the beginning of June 2014. The idea instantly caught my imagination, 29,029ft of ascent in one single ride! Was this madness or genius? I decided either way I had to find out.

I live up in the North Pennines in a small village called Nenthead. Nenthead is an old mining village sitting at around 1,400ft, it is surrounded by hills, lots and lots of hills! It can be a cyclist’s heaven or maybe even hell depending on what you like? Luckily for me it’s the former.

I set about picking my Everesting hill. It didn’t take me long to decide I wanted to try and be the first to “Everest” Great Dun Fell and claim the highest road in England at 2,785ft. I’d ridden the fell once before, a tough experience in howling wind and so much fog I couldn’t even see the huge golf ball looking radar station that sits on the very top!


The hill climbs up 4.6 miles, it has an average gradient of 8% and in places kicks up to over 20%, by the time you reach the top you will have climbed around 2,070ft. For a successful Everest the hill would need to be climbed 15 times, this would total 140 miles and pass the 29,029ft target. This challenge would mean riding further, higher and for longer than anything I’d done before.

Whilst out on a Sunday training ride a few weeks after hearing about the challenge, I heard a rumour that I wasn’t the only one eyeing up Great Dun Fell for an Everest attempt. In fact I was told two people were attempting it that very same day! Thinking I might have missed my chance, I kept I close eye on the Everesting website for any new entries… two days passed but nothing appeared. The hill was still up for grabs, although with the extra interest, claiming it had now become a race against time.

Tuesday 24th June, Forecast looks ok for Thursday, not perfect but hopefully good enough to have a go. Thursday 26th I’m up at 5am and on my way to Knock at the bottom of Great Dun Fell. I park up at the bottom of the hill and waste no time getting kitted up. 6.30am I start the Garmin and it’s time to go…

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Devil’s Chimney and Bushcombe lane

Despite the excitement of getting a new timetrial bike, it’s the time of the year when my thoughts move away from riding on dual carriageways and towards the hill climb season. Fortunately, it’s too early to worry about regimented intervals, August / late July is a great time for just riding around and trying to cycle up as many hills as possible. This is the kind of cycling I enjoy most – no pressure, just ride around for four to five hours and cycle as fast as you can whenever the road goes up. If there’s a better way to spend five hours on a summer day, I don’t think I’ve found it.

Oxford is ideally suited for a range of hills – we have both the Cotswolds and Chilterns within reach, but to be able to ride some new hills (without cycling 120 miles +) I drove to Burford and parked in a lay-by. I don’t really like driving, but it gives a bit of variety for the summer holidays.

Cycling towards Cheltenham on the back-roads parallel to the A40 was a nice warm up. The first climb of the day was Bushscombe lane – (100 hills #105)

Bushcombe Lane is a real beast of  a climb with prolonged 25% gradient. I stumbled across Bushcombe Lane in the middle of winter and, a bit unprepared, almost had to get off and walk. In my view, it’s the hardest climb in the South of England.

buschcombe lane
Bushcombe Lane in winter. I was in no mood for taking photos today.

With summer fitness and a lighter bike, I was a bit more confident than last time I rode up. It starts off reasonably enough. I was climbing nicely in a 39*25 and thought I’d be able to make it all the way in that gear. But as you start to turn a corner, the 20% turns in to 25% and it becomes a real fight to keep the bike moving. I was in my last sprocket 28 pretty quick. But, even that was a struggle. (so much for writing a post on a compact chainset) My cadence fell as low as 45 and it was a real struggle to get up last part. Yet again I seemed to under-estimate Bushcombe Lane and went too fast at the start. Anyway I made it up and enjoyed the great descent from Cleeve Hill. The road surface was reasonable, though my tyres were only 19″ I would have preferred fatter ones.


Next on the list was the suitably exotic sounding “Devil’s Chimney” – From south Cheltenham (Leckhampton) south (Not to be confused with the Devil’s Staircase in Wales – which was recently featured on the Cycle Show with Simon Warren riding up it.)

Devil’s Chimney

  • Length: 2 miles
  • Average gradient: 6%
  • Max gradient: 14%

The road is called the “Old Bath Road” and used to be a main A road, until they built something not quite as steep, you can imagine old lorries struggling up here.. It is really a climb in two parts. Going out of Cheltenham there is a testing 14% ramp before levelling off in the middle. This gives you a bit of recovery before a left turn (on a minor road) takes you up another 14% gradient to the top of the hill.

By comparison to the innocuous sounding “Bushcombe Lane”, ‘Devil’s Chimney” was a slight disappointment – it was nothing like the last climb. Still it’s a good hill and a nice wide road, though there wasn’t any view at the top.

I cycled back to Cheltenham and did a few more climbs around Cleeve Hill. There are three ascents of Cleeve Hill from Woomancote. I did them all – though none of the other two compare to Bushcombe Lane, they are real difficult 25% gradient hills. If they weren’t overshadowed by their noisier elder brother, they might get more visitors. If you’re ever in this part of the world it’s worth having a go at these climbs, though come prepared!

Last climb of the day was Round Hill from Winchcombe – a good 200 m of ascent with gradient reaching 20%

In total, 6,000 ft of climbing in just 70 miles. It was a good days cycling.


Oxenhope Moor

Oxenhope moor

Oxenhope Moor climb (Cock Hill) from Oxenhope – south towards Hebden Bridge.

  • Length 2.1 miles
  • average gradient – 6%
  • Max height – 432m
  • Height gain: 709ft (216m)
  • Category 3
  • Max gradient: 10%
  • Time: 9 mins
  • OS Map 104
Oxenhope moor
Oxenhope moor – Release your inner cyclist – route of stage 2

Oxenhope Moor is a long steady climb from the village of Oxenhope to the top of Oxenhope Moor. It sometimes goes by the less well known name ‘Cock Hill’. Though when the Tour de France came through town, they decided Côte d’ Oxenhope Moor had a better ring to it.

Oxenhope moor

I’ve been up Oxenhope moor a few times. There is some great hills around the Keighley and Worth Valley (e.g. Thwaites Brow and Hainworth Lane). Keighley has some of the best cobbled climbs this side of Belgium. But, Oxenhope Moor is less strenuous than some of those short steep climbs, but at over 2 miles, it makes a good test, and if the wind is blowing in the wrong direction, it can be really hard work on the exposed slopes.

Oxenhope moor looking towards Howarth

After leaving the village of Oxenhope (At the end of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway) It passes the Wagon & Horses Inn on the left. Also after a few hairpins, you can take a left turn to take a harder and steeper minor road over the moor past the Holline Hill wind farm. This takes you down to Luddenden. By the main A 6033 is probably a better route to take – it doesn’t get too busy.

The climb is hardest as you leave the village of Oxenhope, but eases off towards the top.

There is a great descent from the top of Oxenhope moor into Hebden Bridge. Long and sweeping, though parked cars on the road mean you have to take care. From Hebden Bridge you are spoilt for choice if you want to keep cycling uphill – you could take in Cragg Vale or if you want something very steep try Mytholm Steepes or Halifax Lane from Luddenden.

Oxenhope Moor Tour de France 2014

Oxenhope Moor is one of the many climbs on stage 2 of the Tour de France

Hebden Bridge to Oxenhope Moor (north to south)

Oxenhope moor
Oxenhope moor on descent to Hebden Bridge

From Hebden Bridge to Oxenhope Moor, the climb is even longer, with over 300 metres of climbing. It is steep at the bottom as you come out of Hebden Bridge but gets less steep the further up you go.

  • Length – 3.5mi
  • Average gradient: 5%
  • Height gain: 1,018ft (310m)

100 climbs of the Tour de France – Review

100 greatest cycling climbs of the Tour de France is the 4th book in the popular series of books by Simon Warren. This book includes 100 climbs which have featured in the Tour de France, including famous climbs of the Alps and Pyrenees, such as Alpe d’Huez and the col du Tourmalet.

A while back I saw a survey in Cycling Weekly that said something like 40% of all riders consider themselves ‘climbers’ – it was by far the most popular type of cyclist – (Perhaps this means we will be seeing bumper entries in the hill climb season this autumn…)

There is definitely an enduring fascination with climbing up hills. It is the thing we love to hate. Pictures of sweeping hairpin bends and looming vistas just make you want to go out and ride them. As a cyclist, there are few challenges as rewarding as conquering difficult hills. And it is the mountains of the Alps and Pyreenes which are the most iconic aspect of cycling.

Quite often you read a book – and that’s it. It sits on the bookshelf until you give it away to a charity shop to make more space. But the 100 Greatest climb books are the kind you want to keep going back to – Looking for a new hill to ride, looking at the hills you’ve just done.

I’ve probably looked at my 100 UK climbs books more than any other book in past few years (with notable exception of complete works of William Shakespeare, King James Bible e.t.c.)

The problem with 100 climbs of the Tour de France is that it make British hills look rather feeble in comparison. I know we have Great Dun Fell and Hardknott Pass, but the Tour de France is just littered with mind blowing climbs complete with beautiful hairpins and stunning scenery. I’m just jealous of all those hills and I haven’t ridden even one. Reading the book does gives me pangs of inadequacy – I haven’t conquered even one Pyrenean pass.

A while back I was researching climbs which would give maximum higher gain in minimum time frame. The magic gradient is a steady and consistent 10%. In the UK this is virtually impossible to find. But, in the Pyrenees, it seems every climb was perfectly engineered to give this magic gradient for a high Vertical Ascent per Meter.


col du Tourmalet. Photo Will J

  • Col du Tourmalet 1,404 metres of height gain over 19 km. Average gradient 9%

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Great Dun Fell

Another 100 climbs states that Great Dun Fell is the greatest climb in England’ “Our Mont Ventoux’ it  has no peers, there is no comparison.” The only surprising thing is that I hadn’t heard of the climb until quite recently. But, since finding out there was a Pyrannean style climb in England, it was definitely on my list of things to do. Since I was up in Kendal for Shap Fell hill climb, I thought it would be good to combine the two.


I’ve spent many years scouring OS maps, looking for the most difficult climbs, but you could quickly scan over Great Dun Fell (on OS 91), assuming it is nothing more than a farmyard track or glorified footpath. Ironically it has a pretty good road surface all the way to the top. The top half is closed to cars, but open to bicycles. It is definitely worth a visit and is a real epic climb.

The statistics of Great Dun Fell only tell half the story:

  • Length – 4.5 miles
  • Vertical ascent – 632 m
  • Average gradient – 9%
  • Max gradient – 20%
  • Height at top – 2,900 ft / 835 metres
  • Category of climb – 2
  • KOM time: 25:03 – 10.2mph
  • 100 climbs 11/10 (number 187)

Great Dun Fell from Long Marton


If you want to add an extra 100 metres on to the climb, you can start on the valley floor from Bolton and head towards Long Marton before going north to the village of Knock. This makes a 7 mile climb of 757 metres, which gives a category 1 rating. The rise from the valley is pretty steady, a nice leg loosener before the climb starts proper. The good thing about approaching from Bolton and Long Marton is that you can see the radar station looming on the horizon for quite a distance. At least you know where you are heading. The radar station dominates the skyline throughout this valley.



It would be easy to cycle past the turn up to Great Dun Fell. There are no 20% signs. Just a sign saying dead end, a sign for Knock Christian Centre, and a sign telling you to beware of red squirrels.

The song that came unconsciously into my mind as I was cycling through Knock was the old Guns and Roses classic ‘Knock, Knock, Knocking on heaven’s door‘. The village of Knock obviously. But, ‘heaven’s door?’ –  well the Christian centre, and perhaps the fact you are about to head up to the heavens. (or through hell)


In comparison to Alpine climbs, Great Dun Fell is shorter, and at a maximum heigh of 835 metres, it is well below some of the Alpine giants which stretch to over 2,000m. But, what Great Dun Fell my lack in absolute height, it makes up for in unrelenting steepness. When you are already tired, you will have to get out of the saddle as you battle up slopes of 20%. There’s no way just to sit in the saddle and pedal a nice high cadence on Great Dun Fell.

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Trapping hill

Trapping Hill

Trapping hill

  • Length 1.7 miles
  • Height gain = 248 metres
  • Average gradient = 9%
  • Max gradient = 17%
  • KOM time: 8.47
  • 100 climbs: #145


It’s a real tough hill. The gradient doesn’t get ridiculously steep; the max is about 17%. But, it stays close to this 16% gradient for quite a long time at the start of the climb. After a mile, the gradient eases off and there is a long drag to the finish. It is quite exposed near the top, so wind direction can make a difference.

It was used in the Tour de Yorkshire 2017. In the women’s race, Anna Van der Breggen and Lizzie Deignan used it as springboard for race winning move

Blog from 2012

For a change, my lowest gear of 39*25 didn’t feel too bad. But, I stayed in it for a long time, and it did get really hard work towards the end of the steep section because of the unremitting gradient – but it didn’t nearly kill me like last week’s Bushcombe Lane.

Apart from winning the Menston Cricket Club under 13 fielder of the year award (1989), my main claim to fame is suggesting Trapping Hill (Lofthouse to Masham ) as hill number 145 for Another 100 hill climbs.

Trapping Hill
I didn’t stop to take photos today. This is from a few years ago.

Trapping Hill has a personal significance because it was my first major climb that I conquered, aged about 13. (perhaps even the same glorious sporting year as winning that prestigious fielding award). In those days, I hadn’t even joined Otley CC or started a weekly club run. But every year, I’d go with a friend camping to How Stean Gorge in Nidderdale. We would take our bikes, and completely untrained, we would go out for 50-70 mile rides on the bike. When we came back, we were absolutely wasted and couldn’t walk for 3 days. It was all tremendous fun, though I think the illicit bottles of Belgian beer hidden in the sleeping bags helped quite a lot.

As a youngster, I never thought I had any natural talent for sport, but looking back, I did always manage to cycle to the top of these epic hills (like Trapping hill and Greenhow hill) – even if completely untrained; my friend Peter Joanes, poor chap, was soon reduced to walking. He really suffered. I used to have to either wait for 10 minutes at the top or go back down the hill and go up a second time.

In those days, Trapping Hill seemed an almost impossibly steep and long hill; it was a major adventure to tackle it.

Today, it’s not quite as difficult as I remembered, but it was still good to go back and relieve those early cycling holidays.

Guise edge
From Guise edge looking towards Pateley Bridge. I raced up here earlier in the year. today it was just a nice descent.

From Menston, it’s quite hilly to get to Nidderdale. I went over Norwood Edge and up the back of Greenhow hill before dropping into Pateley Bridge, down Guise Edge. From Pateley Bridge, there is a nice 7 mile road towards Lofthouse, before you turn right up Trapping Hill, towards Masham.


At the top of Trapping Hill, the plan was to do a u-turn and head back. But, it was a beautiful day, and a rush of blood inspired me to end on towards Masham. I don’t really know these roads too well, but I got an idea to head over towards Masham and Middleham before coming back through Coverdale and Park Rash.

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Cleeve Hill and Bushcombe Lane

After a few days in Yorkshire, I was back down south. After getting a taste for a few winter hills, I was looking for something to aim for down south. Bushcombe Lane  looked suitably menacing on the OS map, plenty of double arrows. Checking up Another 100 Climbs, (no. 105) and I saw it gets a rare 10/10 rating. Lots of 20 and 25%. gradients.

buschcombe lane

Quite often I like to amble around the Cotswolds with no particular target, just taking whichever road appeals. But, this was a ride with a clear target – get to Woodmancote and then climb Bushcombe Lane. It’s quite a trek from Oxford – perhaps 50 miles taking the back lanes of the Cotswolds. The 50 miles out west were quite pleasant. The roads weren’t quite as isolated as Yorkshire, but they were quiet enough. Another balmy December day – 10 degrees and the odd bit of sun, made it quite an enjoyable ride. Despite trying to get there by the shortest route, I took a few wrong turns and added another 7 miles on to the outward journey. I was starting to worry I might not have enough daylight, but I was quite committed to checking out the climb.

First from Winchcombe, I had to climb Cleeve hill. Cleeve hill is a substantial climb itself; though from Winchcombe it is more of a long drag – nothing too steep. Cleeve hill from Cheltenham is much more of a hard test. I enjoyed doing that last winter.


The top of Cleeve hill affords a great view; it was a little on the murky side but still worth the climb. I then took the descent down Bushcombe Lane to see what I would be climbing. I kept stopping to take photos – I wouldn’t be stopping on way up – and you can’t help but notice – this is really steep!

buschcombe lane

In Woodmancote, I did a u-turn and with a certain degree of trepidation began the climb. It starts off innocuously enough, but seems to get steeper and steeper as you go. The middle section is really testing. After a prolonged 20% section, it got even steeper and the gradient hits 25%. As you can see the road surface was wet and muddy. I was wheel spinning quite vigorously which made it even more difficult. I think I put 95psi in rear tyre

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