The pocket-sized 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs is a must for every hill loving cyclist, and arguably for anyone who enjoys time on two wheels. Compiled by hill climbing guru Simon Warren, it lists not only the most gruelling climbs in the UK, but also a selection of the best known hill climb courses and some of the most spectacular ascents that our island has to offer.
Whether you’re a seasoned hill climbing champ or an inexperienced cyclist looking to conquer your local peak, there are many reasons for everyone to start exploring these challenging roads.
1. Know what you’re letting yourself in for
Each climb is listed with a difficulty rating out of 10, so you can start off with some of the easier ascents (such as #14 Box Hill, Surrey, rating 3 or #82 Whinlatter Pass, Lake District, rating 5) before tackling some of the greater beasts (think #84 Hardknott Pass, Lake District, rating 10 or #69 Bealach-Na-Ba, Scottish Highlands, 11/10). You’ll be guided through the climb with a detailed turn-by-turn description of the stretch of road as well as essential stats like the gradient, length and total ascent. So now it’s just down to your legs to get you up there.
2. Take your time
Some goals and challenges can be time-bound, for example a sportive on a certain date or completing a certain yearly mileage. Given the geographical spread of these climbs across the UK, it is unlikely that you’ll want to do them all at once (unless you want to in 13 days like Steve Benton did ). Take a year, or make it an unlimited challenge, so you can tag a few on when you’re nearby, whether that’s hopping on your bike whilst on holiday and scouting out the nearest hills or travelling with work looking for a little two-wheeled relief.
3. Discover breathtaking landscapes
Planning a route in unknown territory can be a little daunting, whether its a quick 20 miler or a whole day’s ride. By using the 100 Climbs as a guide, not only will you be able to include some challenging sections into your route, but you will be led to some of the most spectacular countryside that the UK has to offer. Take #93 The Devil’s Staircase for example, a torturous short climb with 25% switchbacks. Located in the Abergwesyn Valley, Powys, a completely remote part of Wales that you wouldn’t naturally think of exploring. Yet the roads approaching the climb are some of the most beautiful that you’ll ever experience without the hassle of jetting off to the continent, especially as the isolated location means that you’ll barely come across any other people, let alone traffic to share the roads with.
4. Practice makes perfect
You may not be the best or the biggest fan of hill climbing, but there’s only one way to get better. A common cyclist’s anecdote ‘it doesn’t get easier, you just get faster’ seems pretty apt, and you can use these climbs to measure your progress, especially if using a ride recording app such as Strava. For some, simply getting to the summit is glory enough, for others an all-out effort to see how high they’ll rank on the Strava leaderboard is the greater challenge. Plus you’ll get that fabulous rush of endorphins every time you conquer that testing stretch of tarmac – much more than you’ll ever get sitting in the bunch on a flat club run.
5. What goes up…
After the lung bursting effort of heaving up some of the steepest and most relentless stretches of tarmac that can be found, there’s no better reward than the thrill of the descent. Whether it’s a short, steep descent where you’ll reach terrifying adrenaline releasing speeds or a long, effortless downhill, it makes the climb all the more worthwhile. The only scary thing is comparing how long it takes you to get up before flying down again!
6. Conquer them all
With a handy little checklist in the back of the book, you can easily keep tabs on your progress. A well-known read in the cycling world, you can compare notes or even compete on the number of climbs with your friends and clubmates. But that’s not all – once you’ve ticked off the 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, you guessed it, there’s the sequel Another 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs to get your teeth, or rather legs, into.
Also read Tejvan’s Blog for a full list of the 100 Climbs