Friday, 29 April 2011

Hill no 10 - 98 Rhigos, Rhondda Cynon Taff

Right - Rhigos, last climb of a big day of hill climbing. This got a 6/10 in the book, but I must admit I was not totally blown away by the initial description: "Start your ascent from the Hirwaun Industrial Estate to begin the straight featureless slog up onto Hirwaun Common". Words to inspire any rider. Especially at the end of a long day of hills. And little food.
I initially rode off down the wrong road too, but found a bunch of cyclists loading up their bikes into cars and they set me off straight (ie the road o/s the estate, NOT the road to Rhigos or the road the other way). Thanks guys.

The first ride was featureless and a bit of a slog - you could just see the hill looming up in front of you. A bike manufacturer has named one of the bikes in their line "Rhigos" and all I could think about was "why"? It was good at going in straight lines if you pushed quite hard?

But then, you got into these amazing hairpin turns, amongst pine trees and everything got properly beautiful.
Despite being a little on the tired side now, with the weak evening sun on my back, I hauled the bike up one final climb
This is what it is all about for me. Beautiful climb, hard on the legs, hard on the mind. Sense of achievement at the top, proper raggy breathing up, lots of time out of the seat, sweat in the eyes, all you want to do is give up and coast down the hill and pushing through it.

Garmin data here: Simon says 19 minutes and if you discount my wrong turn, 19 minutes was pretty spot on.

A long day done and dusted. I had another ice cream.

Amazing photos by Em here:
Video useless I'm afraid - 2 min of me going the wrong way

Hill no 9 - 99 The Bwlch, Bridgend

The Bwlch presented me with two problems.

1) How to pronounce it. I have been struggling through Wales with the names of places - having a Welsh roommate at work has obviously not prepared me for a week here. I even had the embarrassment of going into a pub and ordering a pint of C.W.R.W (see double you are double you) and being corrected with the right pronunciation (Cuh Roux apparently!)

2) Where to start (and where to end). Another candidate for those little signs.

Thankfully (as I was getting tired) the hill was a mere (ha!) 5/10. Unfortunately it was nearly 6 km long. There was a cattle grid on route though, so that was ok.

This is proper Valleys country - little towns surrounded by huge hills and beautiful vistas.
And yes - I am aware that these photos are so much better than the ones I take. That's because Em took them!

Garmin data here: - Simon says 21 minutes climbing time. I did it in about 21. Beautiful views down the valley.

Hill no 8 - 96 Bryn Du, Rhondda Cynon Taff

Bryn Du leaves from the village (town?) of Aberdare and is kind of a funny one - you are in a little place with shops and schools and suddenly you are riding up this steep slope. Of course, it being a Welsh climb, it is a 7/10 climb (just like the previous 2 I had done!) and you ride over a cattle grid...

Cattle grid riding on a road bike with skinny tyres is a bit of a leap of faith - you just point the wheels at the grid, perpendicular to the bars and cross your fingers that they won't twist! Generally I think that taking them at speed kind of makes you "skip" across them quicker - 2 problems are that going up hill, speed is rarely an option and the faster you go, the more it will hurt if you fall off!

Again, there was a distinct lack of traffic - one of the massive upsides about cycling round out here!

Garmin data here: - I was a lot slower than Simon anticipates - taking 17 minutes when his approx climb time is 13.5 minutes. I'm blaming the lack of lunch.....

This is one of those hills that you ride up, worried that you haven't reached the finish so keep going for a little while longer than you should do - just to make sure! I think that there ought to be some sort of campaign to put up little signposts so you know exactly where they start and finish! All this energy is precious stuff you know, not to be wasted!

Photos here:

No video I'm afraid - sorry, need to work my video cameras out better!

Hill no 7 - 94 Llangynidr Mountain, Powys

I had a lovely ride down here- although to be honest, getting down from these hills isn't always the most relaxing! Although you have just climbed up these hills, grinding up at an average of under 10mph is very different from descending down them at 30mph+! Even with my dodgy descending skills, I can well appreciate how the pro-riders go so fast and that cars/motorbikes struggle to keep up with them - it is quite gratifying to catch up cars on descents. Of course, the downside is you wear out brake pads a lot quicker!

This is my Garmin data for my ride from the Tumble to Llangynidr - I didn't take it fast by any stretch of the imagination, but averaged around 20mph - twice as fast as the climb uphill!

It was beautiful here too:
Beautiful little windy country lanes with the occasional massive hill looming out from behind green hedgerows.

This is another 7/10 climb (which I now understand to mean "hard and long"). Mind you, it is described as "wild up here on the best of days", but I can safely say it was amazingly gorgeous - outstandingly so!

Youtube video here:

Unfortunately I ran out of video camera space ("oh no!" I hear you cry. Don't worry there are many more hills and much more raggedy breathing to enjoy!) so you don't get it all I'm afraid. Obviously climbing the bloody things too slow.

Garmin data here: - you can see a somewhat unlikely speed spurt at 17 minutes - there is a lovely little dip where you have a choice to either relax, or pedal as hard as you can to try and take some speed up the hill with you. I kind of half-heartedly did the latter - my legs needed a rest. This is where the video camera said "enough". Photos are here too:

22 minutes is what Simon estimates you should take to do the ride and that is what it took me roughly.

Instead of riding to the next hill, I popped the car on the roof and we headed off. It was just a bit TOO far away!

Hill no 6 - 97 The Tumble, Monmouthshire

It was a scorching day in Wales and I was ready for a big day of hill climbing. To ensure that we made the most of our time in this beautiful part of the world, I had to do 5 hills today - it was going to be tough. Well, it was one going to be made tougher when I got out of the car at our first hill and found out that Em had forgotten our packed lunch (and more importantly my water bottles for the bike!). I have to point out that Tom made me my sandwiches and I wasn't expecting Em to provide my food for me - she was responsible for relaying the bag from the house to the car though!

"One of the most feared and frequently raced climbs in Wales" - First up was the Tumble - I had heard of this hill - probably from reading about sportives in this neck of the woods that glory in the hardness of the climbs that they include (as if doing 100 miles in itself wasn't enough!) A 7/10 hill according to Simon Warren, it was also a fairly long one. A lot of the early part of the hill was in shade thankfully enough, but the later part you came out into sunshine and that made things hot and thirsty. Which I just had to suffer! As I got to the top, there was a beautiful large pond and I could see Hobbs was anxious to splash in it!

Garmin data here: says it took a shade over 20 minutes and was nearly 3 miles. Just to put it into perspective - I spend all of that time straining on the pedals, on a slope at over 8-9% all the way, without stopping. It is genuinely hard work and most of the slopes are so steep that you can't take any pace into the hill whatsoever. Simon says approx 22min, I think I beat it with about 19min.
Youtube video here:

And photos here:
Spectacular views from the top again
Next - Llangyidr Mountain (but I did have an ice cream first!)

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Hill no 5 - 95 Black Mountain, Carmarthernshire

Woken at 6am by Peggy and Hobbs "skirmishing", I didn't have the best preparation for hills today. Mind you, wine with Bill wasn't the best prep either. I tried to eat most of the contents of our fridge in an attempt to delay the inevitable "off". Just one hill today - and Black Mountain was pretty close to where we are and Bill agreed to accompany me.

It was another cracking day and the ride was gorgeous. On the way there we did this route: and Bill treated me to the sight of this ride's pants:

Green pants this ride!

The hill up to Black Mountain was another beauty - it had been relaid recently with lovely smooth black tarmac - when we rode the JOGLE last year, when we hit patches of road like this we would all cheer and love the smooth road - so much better than that tar bottom chip top stuff that is so often used. Again, lovely sweeping bends, a climb up the side of a beautiful hill and all the way to the top. Nothing that went too steep - between 5 and 10% all the way up and I did it all in the "big ring", but a lovely 6/10 ride.

Considering it was Easter Sunday, there was very little traffic on the road - a few motorcyclists having a lovely play, but not a lot else. Close to the top we went past an ice cream van (and we promised ourselves we would go back for one!), the road got a bit worse and Emily and Tom shouted at us that we were going the wrong way (which we weren't!)

Garmin from hill here:

Cool little Welsh ponies on the way up too!

Lovely road home (although Bill started having problems with his gears) and it was decidedly lumpy. Basically if you are a rider that likes hills - you should come here right away - it is paradise. I got a bit of a scary "speed wobble" on - where the front wheel starts to wobble and if you brake it just makes it worse - on one of the downhills which was "interesting".

Garmin from ride home:

Youtube video here:
And photos here:

Tomorrow a big day - Emily wants me to do LOADS of hills!!!!

ps - double cone with flake. £2. I bought Bill one too.

Hill No 4 - 93 The Devil's Staircase, Powys

So on our drive down to Llandeilo, we just happened to notice that Hill no 93 - the Devil's Staircase was "on the way", so it had to be picked up. Again, it was a good 9/10 hill (gulp) and I knew from yesterday that it was important to get my legs warmed up a little before hitting the hill. Our drive down went through some beautiful scenery and we stopped for lunch in a little dirt trail/walking place in the forest just to the North of Beulah. Afterwards, I hopped on the bike, Hobbs looked very disapproving as he was levered back into the car and we set off. The roads were pretty narrow:

But the scenery was incredibly beautiful:
And I finally got to the bottom of the Devil's staircase which was confirmed by a helpful sign:

Simon Warren says of the Devil's Staircase: "There seems little reason to build a road out here, never mind one this steep". Again, Simon talks of 25% gradients and I was a little nervous. As I took off, I saw Em driving up the slope (in 1st gear!) which didn't bode well. I immediately got into my bottom gear and out of the saddle. It was a bloody hard slog - with sweeping hair pin bends going left and right. The pine forest around on both sides took some of the heat of the sun, but it was still very hard going.

My garmin data is here: - it was a toughy!!! Youtube (complete with raggy breathing) here: - relatively short so you get sound.

Afterwards, I went on for another bit of a ride - I must say around here was probably THE most gorgeous place I have ever ridden - it was spectacular ride in gorgeous weather and I LOVED it. This photo doesn't do it justice.

My garmin data should have where it is - if you want a beautiful holiday - go round here:

Hopefully Em's photos will do it justice

Oh - and if you're interested, here is some old footage of the pros doing the Devil's Staircase:

Hill No 3 - 39 The Burway, Church Stretton

I must confess, I was facing the Burway with a little trepidation. Simon Warren gives it a big 9/10 for difficulty and I remember climbing it from the other side very well on my JOGLE. On that day, Alex who I was riding with (and who was a strong rider) dismounted it with the words "not today" and it took every ounce of energy I had to get up it. Also known as the Longmynd, you can see the hill looming over Church Stretton, dominating the skyline - it is truly beautiful (but probably best appreciated from the top rather than the bottom!)

I had warmed up my legs on the 20 mile ride over from Ironbridge and the rolling Shropshire hills - some of the riding was beautiful and going though Much Wenlock and other villages was lovely (and a word for the incredibly courteous drivers - seriously, everyone gave me loads of room in passing, thank you - perhaps they knew what I was soon to be up against!)

As you ride through Church Stretton, you kind of cross 2 roads and then head up the hill - it is really beautiful stuff, but you do see various signs warning you of the fact that it is a single track road and is going to be incredibly steep!

They're not joking either - you hit a cattle grid and all of a sudden it is real out of the saddle, lowest gear, heart pumping stuff.

You can see it on the Garmin here: from about mile 19 - to mile 22 and if you look at the elevation curve you can see just how steep it is. The thing that got me was the fact that you look left into the valley and suddenly you realise just how high you have got in a short period of time!

Unlike Jiggers Bank - this is a PROPERLY beautiful climb - I passed a few cars coming the other way with the occupants shaking their heads at me (mouthing the word "nutter" no doubt!), the road is single track, but in pretty good nick. The other thing is that you aren't really sure where the climb ends and every time you get over one "peak", there seems to be another there. Lovely, incredible and very hard work.

Once I got to the top - there was the mere matter of getting down again. It sounds funny - but I remember this as being almost as difficult as the ascent. Basically, it started to rain which got my bike wheels/pads a bit wet and affected braking slightly. If you sit in the saddle and brake hard, you feel as though you are too far forward, so you need to sit right back on the bike with your bum hanging over the back of the saddle and squeezing the brakes all the way. It is a bit fraught as it is quite slippery and your hands start to ache after a while - goodness knows how the pros do it on long alpine descents. Presumably they just never brake!

A nice gentle ride back to Ragdon Manor warmed down my legs nicely - a lovely climb and a lovely day.

Youtube footage here: - as an experiment, I have uploaded it at 2x speed - so you don't have to hear the raggy breathing - take my word for it - it was hard work!

Lots of photos here:

Hill No 2 - 38 Jiggers Bank, Shropshire

On our "way" to South Wales, Em and I thought that we'd stop off at Shropshire and pick up a couple of hills here. We found a lovely little B&B just outside of Church Stretton  - where Wendy and Alan made us very welcome, Hobbs was amazed by the tortoise Edgar and made friends with the donkey Thistle.

Before I got too comfortable though, we headed back into the car to Ironbridge, which was a heaving mass of people enjoying the Easter sun. I had a quick cruise along the river front, before turning round and heading back for Jiggers Bank.

I stupidly left my Garmin running for the whole of the ride - so you can see where I rode afterwards - but the data for Jiggers Bank is first up here:

Youtube video here: again in 2x speed...
The Author gives this hill a 3/10, so it wasn't TOO tough and I headed up the slope. I must say that it didn't really "do it" for me, the hill wasn't particularly tough (ha - didn't think I'd be moaning about that!), wasn't particularly scenic and wasn't one that I'll rush back to do again! But done it was and I then cruised on, back through Much Wenlock and headed to the Burway (see next post!). There was a pretty nice looking power station in Ironbridge though:

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Hill No: 1 - 27 Swain's Lane, London

On a beautiful day in London, I kicked off my cycling challenge. My "kick off" hill was Swain's Lane in Highgate, London. A "gentle 4/10" ride, Simon Warren describes it as: "one of the city's best secrets - for cyclists that is".

The idea was to ride up the hill with Bill and then go with Tom and Emily for a nice walk with the dogs on Hampstead Heath. As per usual, I worried about being late and rushed off. Hopped on the bike, cycled through Hammersmith, Kensington High St, Hyde Park, past Madame Tussaud's up through Regent's Park and through Camden, ending up by the East side of Hampstead Heath. Once I go there (a little early), I had a quick run up Swain's Lane to see what it was like. If you click on this link: it will take you to my Garmin data which shows all sorts of "interesting" things like my route and my speed.

Emily had got caught in traffic so when Tom & Bill arrived, we sat down and had a coffee (with Bill eating a full veggy breakfast), Tom's friend Daniel walked by (as did Noel Fielding). Bill looked decidedly better after breakfast (counteracting a heavy night) and we decided to go for the hill. Again - Garmin data here: and Youtube video here: [To be completed when I work out how to do it!]

I then decided to give it one more go, just to make sure - Garmin here: and video here:

Simon's predicted time for the hill is 3.5min - which is exactly (almost) what I did on my last run (although I did a little extra) - so it looks like I'm going to have to try and meet these targets too!

Well - that is the first one done (and done to death - sorry about that, I promise not to make the rest of them as bad/long winded as this one!) - only 99 more to go!

Lovely walk with the dogs who were much more impressed with the walk than the cycling. Thanks Bill for coming along - and showing off your orange pants!

100 hills for George - the Hills....

I thought it might help to set out all the hills that I will be attempting this year from the "100 Greatest Cycling Climbs". As the author says, he started with the basis of including the most famous hill climb courses and then went from there. Some of these look truly fearsome...

1. Cheddar Gorge, Somerset 3/1010/6/11 51. Tan Hill, Yorkshire 3/10 4/6/11
2. Weston Hill, Bath 4/10 12/6/11         52. Greenhow Hill, Yorkshire 6/10 5/6/11
3.Crowcombe Combe, Somerset 8/10 18/2/12 53. Norwood Edge, Yorkshire 5/10 5/6/11
4. Porlock, Somerset 9/10  28/3/11       54. Boltby Bank, Yorkshire 7/10 19/3/12
5. Dunkery Beacon, Somerset 10/1028/3/11 55. Rosedale Chimney, Yorks 10/10
6. Exmoor Forest, Devon 3/10 28/3/11 56. Whitehorse Bank, Yorkshire 7/10 19/3/12
7. Challacombe, Devon 6/10  27/11/11 57. The Stang, Yorkshire 7/10 4/6/11
8. Dartmeet, Devon 6/10 7/1/12    58. Carlton Bank, Yorkshire 7/10 19/3/12
9. Haytor Vale 5/10 7/1/12     59. Crawleyside, Durham 7/10 3/6/11
10. Widecombe, Devon 7/10 7/1/12    60. Peth Bank, Durham 4/10 3/6/11
11. Rundleston, Devon 7/10 7/1/12 61. Winters Gibbet, Northumberland 5/10 3/6/11
12. Salcombe Hill, Devon 5/10 19/2/12   62. Chapel Fell, Durham 9/10 3/6/11
13. Dover's Hill, Gloucestershire 5/1011/12/11 63. Mennock Pass, Dumfries 5/1030/5/11
14. Box Hill, Surrey 3/10  7/5/11           64. Cairn O'Mount, Aberdeenshire 7/10 1/6/11
15. York's Hill, Kent 6/10 17/12/11   65. The Cairn Well, Perth & Kinross 6/10 2/6/11
16. White Lane, Surrey 5/10 17/12/11     66. The Lecht, Aberdeenshire 10/10 1/6/11
17. Leith Hill, Surrey 6/10 26/6/11         67. Cairn Gorm, Highlands 6/10 1/6/11
18. White Downs, Surrey 8/10 26/6/11  68. Rest+Be Thankful, Argyll & Bute 6/10 30/5/11
19. The Wall, East Sussex 5/10 17/12/11 69. Bealach-na-ba, Highlands 11/10 31/5/11
20. Toy's Hill, Kent 7/10 17/12/11         70. Cat and Fiddle, Cheshire 4/10 15/5/11
21. Steyning Bostal, West Sussex 5/10 18/12/11 71. Swiss Hill, Cheshire 5/10 27/5/11
22. Ditchling Beacon, East Sussex 6/10 18/12/11 72. The Rake, Lancashire 8/10 27/5/11
23. Whiteleaf, Buckinghamshire 6/10 26/12/11  73. Garsdale Head, Cumbria 7/10  4/6/11
24. Streatley Hill, W Berkshire 5/10 27/12/11 74. Nick of Pendle, Lancashire 6/10 27/5/11
25. Coombe Gibbet, W Berkshire 5/10 10/12/11 75. Trough of Bowland, Lancashire 4/10 28/5/11
26. Mott Street, Essex 3/10 31/3/12           76. Jubilee Tower, Lancashire 6/10 28/5/11
27. Swain's Lane, London 4/10 16/4/11  77. Hartside, Cumbria 5/10 30/5/11
28. Michaelgate, Lincolnshire 4/10 25/3/12    78. Lamps Moss, Cumbria 7/10 4/6/11
29. Terrace Hill, Leicestershire 1/10 25/3/12   79. Cross of Greet, Lancashire 6/10 28/5/11
30. Monsall Head, Derbyshire 3/10 14/5/11  80. Honnister Pass, Cumbria 9/10 29/5/11
31. Bank Road, Derbyshire 8/10 15/5/11 81. Newland's Hause, Cumbria 8/10 29/5/11
32. Riber, Derbyshire 9/10 15/5/11         82. Whinlatter Pass, Cumbria 5/10  29/5/11
33. Winnat's Pass, Derbyshire 8/10 14/5/11 83. Kirkstone Pass, Cumbria 7/10  30/5/11
34. Rowsley Bar, Derbyshire 6/10 15/5/11 84. Hardknott Pass, Cumbria 10/10 29/5/11
35. Curbar Edge, Derbyshire 6/10 14/5/11 85. Wrynose Pass, Cumbria 10/10 29/5/11
36. Mow Cop, Staffordshire 9/10 27/5/11  86. The Shelf, Denbighshire 6/10 14/3/12
37. Peaslows, Derbyshire 4/10 14/5/11  87. Moel Arthur, Denbighshire 7/10 15/3/12
38. Jigger's Bank, Shropshire 3/10 22/4/11  88. Penbarra, Denbighshire 9/10 15/3/12
39. The Burway, Shropshire 9/10 22/4/11  89. The Road To Hell, D'shire 8/10 12/3/12
40. Shibden Wall, West Yorkshire 9/10 5/6/11 90. Horseshoe Pass, D'shire 7/10 14/3/12
41. Pea Royd Lane, Yorkshire 8/10 14/5/11 91. Bwlch-y-groes, Gwynedd 10/10 12/3/12
42. Jackson Bridge, Yorkshire 8/10 14/5/11 92. Ffordd Penllech, Gwynedd 9/10 13/3/12
43. Holme Moss, Yorkshire 5/10 14/5/11  93. Devil's Staircase, Powys 9/10 23/4/11
44. Halifax Lane, Yorkshire 8/10 5/6/11     94. Llangynidr Mountain, Powys 7/10 25/3/11
45. Park Rash, Yorkshire 9/10 5/6/11    95. Black Mountain, Carmathenshire 6/10 24/3/11
46. Oxnop Scar, Yorkshire 7/10 5/6/11 96. Byrn Du, Rhondda Cynon Taff 7/10 25/3/11
47. Malham Cove, Yorkshire 7/10 28/5/11 97. The Tumble, Monmouthshire 7/10 25/3/11
48. Langcliffe Scar, Yorkshire 7/10 28/5/11 98. Rhigos, Rhondda Cynon Taff 6/10 25/3/11
49. Buttertubs Pass, Yorkshire 8/10 5/6/11  99. The Bwlch, Bridgend 5/10 25/3/11
50. Fleet Moss, Yorkshire 9/10 4/6/11      100. Constitution Hill, Swansea 4/10 27/3/11

COMPLETED 31/3/2012!!!!!!!!!!
Hopefully I can come back to this post and "cross" them off as I do them!!!!! Oh - and if you'd like to donate - please look at our website or my justgiving page here