Top 10 cycle climbs in Britain-Why to train @AthleteLabLDN this January
The below copy was written in Simon Warren’s ‘100 Greatest Cycle Climbs’. If you are looking for details on the other 90, you can purchase the book here: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/simon+warren/100+greatest+cycling+climbs/6991273/
Hardknott Pass, Eskdale, Cumbria
The king of climbs and arguably the hardest road in the land, the legendary Hardknott Pass is an amazing sliver of tarmac. First built in 2nd century by the Romans, the pass is unbelievably tough from both directions. To climb from the east, begin at the warning sign at Jubilee Bridge. It’s very steep into a small woodland, over a cattle grid and then you will see the enormity of your task. Enter the first of two sets of brutal switchbacks and wrench body and bike through the 25% corners. What follows is a brief levelling out but you can’t put off what lies ahead for long. The second set of switchbacks are steeper still, and these now 30% slopes will have you straining every sinew as your front wheel desperately searches for a kinder gradient and weaves all over the road fighting to stay upright. If you can ride this, you can ride anything. Just keep going, then head down the terrifying descent.
Where To find Hardknott Pass leave the A595 and head east towards Eskdale. Ride over Irton Pike and pass through Eskdale Green and Beckfoot to reach the base of the climb next to the warning sign at Jubilee Bridge. Grid Ref: NY 231 014 (OS96).
Height gain 298m
Approx climb time 15 mins
Wrynose Pass, Little Langdale, Cumbria
Where Leaving the A593 just south of Skelwith Bridge head west to Little Langdale. Continue on to Fell Foot Farm and start to climb as you turn past the buildings. Grid Ref: NY 277 027 (OS90)
Height gain 278m
Approx climb time 15 mins
Great Dun Fell, Knock, Cumbria
Where Leave the A66 in Appleby-in-Westmorland, head north past Brampton, and left through Dufton to arrive in Knock. The base of the climb is on the first right out of the village next to a farm gate. Grid ref: NY 710 321 (OS 91)
Height gain 638m
Approx climb time 40 mins
Rosedale Chimney, Rosedale Abbey, North York Moors
Where From the bottom left corner of Rosedale Abbey leave the main road and turn south east on to Gill Lane, pass the giant warning sign, and head up. Grid Ref: SE 720 945 (OS94)
Height gain 179m
Approx climb time 9 mins
Fleet Moss, Hawes, Yorkshire Dales
Fleet Moss, the highest road in Yorkshire, is a beast from either direction but the greater challenge lies in the route south from Hawes. Through Gayle, the road flat, hugging the river, soon rises sharply for a short 17% lung-opener. It then all but levels off as you pass various farm buildings, where the surface is broken and covered with the mud and debris from passing tractor tyres. After a few slight rises the road surface improves dramatically and stretches far into the distance, taking the shortest route over the featureless ridge. Populated by wandering sheep, the road steepens relentlessly, offering nowhere to hide as you click through the gears hoping to find a large enough sprocket just to keep moving. You are eventually rewarded with a blissful flat stretch, but it’s not over yet; round a left-hand bend is yet more 20% gradient, a final zig-zag and a few last kicks take you to what feels like the top of the world.
Where Leave the A684 that runs through Hawes and head south on Gayle Lane to Gayle. Pass through the village, over the river, turning right to find the base of Beggarmans Road and head for the sky. Grid ref: SD 862 843 (OS98)
Height gain 323m
Approx climb time 22 mins
Asterton Bank, Asterton, Shropshire
On the eastern edge of the Long Mynd lies the infamous Asterton Bank, also known by many other names that I could not print here. Without being too hysterical, this climb is nothing more than a joyless straight line of pain. Start opposite the old red telephone box, past the numerous warning signs, across the cattle grid then bend slightly left. You’re now face to face with the vicious 25% corner which delivers you on to the cruel slopes that cling to the side of the sheer bank. The surface, just wide enough for a single car, is smooth at the edges but little more than gravel and moss in the centre. It never relents, never lets up until you reach the bend in the shadow of a rocky outcrop, you’ve still got a fair bit of climbing to reach the top, but it’s not as hard now. You will, however, be able to reacquaint your backside with the saddle for the final push to summit on the approach to the gliding club.
Where To reach the base turn north away from the A489 at Plowden. Follow the base of the ridge until you reach Asterton then turn right past the post box and head up. Grid ref: SO 403 918 (OS 137)
Height gain 163m
Approx climb time 7 mins
Bushcombe Lane, Woodmancote, Gloucestershire
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to climbing Cleeve Hill. The three vicious ascents leaving Woodmancote all offer a fantastic challenge, and of the three it’s Bushcombe Lane that stands apart. From the junction with Station Road, exit the village past the first 25% sign then the road bends left at a second 25% warning – as if you need reminding, it’s going to be hard. Once the gradient kicks in it just gets steeper and steeper, 20% past the last of the houses, then the fun really starts. Banking right, the surface breaks up and 20% soon turns into 25%. This is one of the toughest bits of road anywhere in the UK and, through the next left-hand bend, it touches 30% at the apex. Heave yourself round this evil corner and you’re through the worst of it. There is still some way to go but you can click through the gears before finishing just after a gaping cattle grid adjacent to a small car park.
Where Head east from the A435 through the village of Bishop’s Cleeve on Finlay Way. Now on Station Road, take the third left after crossing the rail line on to Bushcombe Lane between the two 25% signs. Grid ref: SO 983 279 (OS 163)
Height gain 167m
Approx climb time 9 mins
Bwlch-y-Groes, Dinas Mawddwy, Gwynedd
Named Hellfire Pass by the English but better known by its Welsh name, Bwlch-y-Groes is the highest tarmacked pass in Wales. Climbing into the Aran Mountains on the edge of Snowdonia, its a road of outstanding beauty – rough, weathered and remorselessly steep. Leave the A470 at Dinas Mawddwy and head into the Afon Dyfi Valley. Once past an axle weight sign the climb begins. Passing farm buildings and trees, the road veers left, then a very sharp 25% right – a taste of what’s to come before easing as the last of the trees disappear beneath you. Now round to the right, the ever steepening, increasingly lumpy surface heads into arguably the hardest section of relentlessly steep tarmac in Britain. The sheer length of this steep section is what sets this climb apart, there’s just nowhere to recover. You’ll be counting each and every pedal rev as you slowly push your way up the scree-littered road to the summit.
Where Leave the A470 at Dinas Mawddwy and head north east towards Aber-Cywarch. Follow the road alongside the river to Llanymawddwy, pass through and begin the climb across the Pont y Pennant. Grid Ref: SH 913 232 (OS125)
Height gain 385m
Approx climb time 23 mins
The Lecht, Cock Bridge, Aberdeenshire
Where Head north into the mountains from Ballater on the A939. Pass Gairnshiel Lodge and Colnabaichin. Begin the climb across the bridge at Cock Bridge just past Corgarff Castle. Grid ref: NJ 252 118 (OS37)
Height gain 245m
Approx climb time 21 mins
Bealach-na-Ba, Applecross, Highlands
Where Turn off the A896 and head east just before Tornapress. Round the end of Loch Kishorn and follow the signs to Applecross, up and over Bealach-na-Ba. Grid Ref: NG 775 423 (OS24)
Height gain 623m
Approx climb time 37 mins