Saturday, 21 May 2011

Hill no 17 - 41 Pea Royd Lane

Before getting to our next hill, for some reason, I decided the most direct route was to drive in through Sheffield. Whilst never living in Sheffield myself, my friends Jon and Helen lived here and I was delighted that our "most direct route" (or the easiest route to follow on the map) went right down the Eccleshall Rd (a main student area in Sheffield). I was very pleased to see that "Champs" and "the Nursery Tavern" were still there (I once had a rather odd night out with Jon at Champs the same time as Sheffield Utd were having their xmas party there and saw some professional sportsmen in rather "interesting" states!). Think the huge M&S is probably a little OTT for students though!

The next climb was a little outside of Sheffield, near Stocksbridge and Simon talks about the climb taking you from "industrial valley to peaceful moorland" and that it is an incredibly accurate way of putting it. You start your climb right at the bottom of this industrial valley
With all these massive rusty steel girders surrounding you,  you hop on the bike and hope that your legs will have the same resilience

Before hiking yourself up the steep, steep hill. I liked this hill a lot - Simon gives it an 8/10 and it starts fairly steep, as you exit the small town
and then you take a sharp right and the road is all choppy and it ramps up:

and finally I have found a photo that shows exactly how steep these climbs are:

This was strangely enjoyable - nice to start in a town, finish in the countryside, have a real stiff challenge and get up it and ready for the rest of the day!

Garmin data here: Simon says 7 minutes and I was back on track with about 7 minutes.
Youtube here:
Flickr here:

Hill no 16 - 35 Curbar Edge, Derbyshire

Big day today - Em and I planned to drive around the Peaks (and Yorkshire) and try to collect as many hills as possible. This does kind of go against (a bit), the ethos of the ride (ie, to enjoy riding from hill to hill and to see the country), but we needed to get as many done to tick them off as possible, we only had Sat and Sun in Derbyshire and it looked as though we could pick them off in a nice loop. I also thought that there probably would be a lot of riding if I was doing a LOT of hills anyway.

I kind of know this area a little - I spent time in Nottingham and Sheffield so I have been out into the Peaks, but not cycling - mostly just driving and stopping at little cafes and stuff (possibly a little walking too). Just driving out to Youlgreave where we were staying gave me an indication of the steep hills that awaited.

So Curbar Edge was my first Hill of the day - Simon gives it a 6/10 and I think that was a pretty fair reflection. Pretty easy to find (it is always good when you get a starting location such as a pub)!

I kind of regretted not "warming up" properly before getting underway - I think that I maybe got a little blase about it "just" being a 6/10 and not a problem - I certainly regretted this after about 100m or so!

There were some cool little shaggy haired cows in the fields
I like things like this - it keeps you keeps you interested. In fact most of these climbs have something - mostly beautiful vistas:

Anyway - a nice way to kick off the day - usual problems spotting the end, so carried on a little bit too far, but it was good to spin out the legs a little, especially with the rest of the day coming up. Simon suggests a climb time of around 8 minutes and I was a little slow out of the blocks today, coming home in about 9

Garmin details here: - as you can see, I couldn't resist a nice downhill (followed by the inevitable up hill!)
Youtube to go here: [to follow]
Flickr here:

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Hill no 15 - 14 Box Hill, Surrey

"The Alpe D'Huez of the South-East" is maybe stretching it somewhat, but much like all roads leading to Rome, all bike rides South of London invariably lead to the top of Box Hill. It will be part of the Olympic road race in 2012 too.

I don't know what it is - perhaps its the couple of alpine hair pins, perhaps its the National Trust coffee shop at the top which is always ram jammed with cyclists scoffing flapjacks, perhaps it is the admittedly stunning views, but cyclists love this hill.

There is a competition to see who can climb Box Hill the fastest. It certainly wasn't me today. People have done it in just over 6 minutes. Simon gives Box Hill a lowly 3/10. As a lot of cyclists do this as part of a loop out of London, it seems a little harsh. I certainly thought so after my ride!

Basically, after a week of sunshine, I woke up early (6.45am!) looking forward to a ride out to the Surrey Hills with some members of my club. Unfortunately I was greeted with a couple of no shows and more importantly, a rain sodden sky. I did manage to meet up with Charlie in Richmond Park who decided he had better ways of spending a Saturday morning that getting cold and wet. We rode around the Park once (about 7 miles) and he kindly showed me out of London on a route he had made up that picked up the Surrey Hills.

Leaving me alone after Hampton Bridge, I promptly took a wrong turn. Realising my mistake, I hoped that Charlie hadn't seen me and set off on the right road. I overtook a couple of cyclists who were also out in the rain and plugged on with my ride.

You can see the Garmin details here: Lap "2" was my climb up Box Hill - basically it was a lovely ride through the Surrey Hills. It got a bit lumpy, I got a bit fed up with the rain, but I plugged on through - which is for me one of the points of cycling. If you go out with friends, you pull each other along and you have an element of competition, it is also social, you catch up and chat whilst riding. If you go out alone, the battle is far more mental. You chose your own pace, you do all the work, you nod at other cyclists, but no-one helps you by allowing you to draft. Sunny at the top too!

I quite like going out and riding for myself - you feel as though you truly earn your rides, but sometimes, having someone there is also really nice! On the way home, I had a nice experience - a nice chat with a couple who I kept on meeting up with at traffic lights - a nice Cervelo to admire too and a not so nice experience - a driver who deliberately tried to left hook me. He basically waited until I was level with a junction on the left and then deliberately swerved into the turn in front of me. Mind you, the driver (white van man) who was waiting to come out couldn't believe it and through use of appropriate gestures gave me moral sympathy!

Not so many photos - but some comedy ones of my muddy legs here:
youtube taken a different day and still ran out here:

Monday, 2 May 2011

Hill no 14 - 6 Exmoor Forest, Devon

Having climbed up Porlock and hurt my legs in the process, I deserved a treat. And boy did I get it on the ride from Porlock to the start of Exmoor Forest. Just over 9 miles, I really should have cruised it gently, but - really - what is the fun in that?! Got my head down a bit and enjoyed some downhills: .
Basically you cruise along the North coast, from Somerset into Devon with views of sandy beaches and glorious views across to South Wales. Amazing. You've just climbed up Porlock so down to Lynmouth you have all these amazing descents - so even if you stop for a quick photo or two, you get back up to speed sharpish.
Seriously, with weather like we've had over the past week, I cannot imagine a better place to be on holiday than the UK - Wales/Somerset/Devon - all the match of anywhere you could possibly hope to go. And no passport needed!

Exmoor Forest itself gains a mere 3/10, which after the efforts of Porlock and Dunkery was fine by me.
 Again, though, much like Rhigos, I was a bit "meh" about the climb initially - it was fairly gentle, kept the bike in the big ring and tried to power through the ride. It was pretty enough, but nothing to really rock the boat, sheltered and in the shade, it was nice enough. But then you came out to a harder middle section that made you work a bit more and then finally you came out onto the moor properly and it was lovely. The gradient went down a little bit  - as a reward for the effort you had put in and "meh" was replaced with "yeah!"

So that was it for me today - garmin data here:
Youtube data to go here:
Flickr here: Went a bit crazy on nos here!

Weary legs back into the car for a couple of days R&R down in Cornwall (Challacombe was going to have to wait) - am pleased to have made a good start on my new project anyway. Think this one is genuinely going to be a tough one. The hills are hard and the logistics even harder.

Hill no 13 - 4 Porlock, Somerset

There are times where a car is superior to a bicycle. For example, driving down a motorway with a dog in the boot and your luggage on the back seat. Or when it is bucketing it down with rain on a major a-road. However, if you are commuting in that there London through solid traffic, or skipping down beautiful country lanes that are only one car wide in the sunshine, a bike is just amazing - and quicker than a car. I therefore spent some time waiting for Em in Porlock.
A very pretty place - but getting out of it is a bit different - Porlock in comparison to Dunkery Beacon is a mere 9/10, but actually the initial slopes are probably steeper. It is quite funny, you leave this picture postcard village, the slope ramps up fearsomely and there is this smell... Whether it is brakes, burnt out clutches or the smell of fear(!), it is pugent and doesn't help when you're gasping like a goldfish out of water trying to get oxygen into overworked lungs!

Not - caravans are "encouraged" to take the toll road. If you drove a caravan up this hill you would be full on barking. So, the hill is steep, is particularly nasty on the bends, it is steep and to be honest, it would be a lot easier in a car. But that is not an option here - and giving my self the lowest gear (highest? I can never remember!) I ground my way up it.

Hard work again - garmin data here: which makes it look as though I transported myself instantly from the top of Dunkery Beacon to the bottom of Porlock (I didn't by the way). Again - Simon says 22 minutes and I did it in about 20, so happy with that.

Youtube here: Crazy 2x speed I'm afraid.
Flickr here:

And the views from the top of Porlock - WOW!

Hill no 12 - 5 Dunkery Beacon, Somerset

Dunkery Beacon is a first for me. It is a genuine 10/10 ride in the book - so technically, if I can get up this, I should be able to get up anything. Well, apart from the 11/10 hill, but I'll come to that when I have to!

So before I started, Hobbs gave me a few tips on climbing technique:
Apparently, it would be much easier if I had 4 legs, rather than just 2. I should point out that it was another scorching day - so not much change from Wales although I had headed back into England.

Dunkery Beacon ramps up straight away - it starts at the signpost and you kind of ride through a forest a bit which is lovely. And hurrah - a cattle grid. Phew. These signs were on the way down, but imagine them the other way round:

You then come out of the trees and it is lovely gorse type moorland and hot hot sun and even in my suffering I could appreciate the beauty.

So, in conclusion, Dunkery Beacon is tough. It is beautiful and it is well worth a place in a list of 100 greatest cycling climbs. Well done you.
Garmin data here: Simon says 20 minutes, I did 18 odd minutes (hurrah!)
youtube footage here:
Flickr here:

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Hill no 11 - 100 Constitution Hill, Swansea

There is some great footage on Youtube of last year's Tour of Britain with the riders coming up Constitution Hill in Swansea in the rain. Here: you can see some of the strongest riders in the world inching up slopes in the pouring rain (including someone at 2.06 coming off of his bike (lhs of the screen)). That's reassuring then...

So it looks tough - it is a cobbled climb, it is bloody steep and it gives pro-riders a hard time. What rating does Mr Warren give it? 4/10. You nutter!

I can only assume that he gives it 4/10 because it is relatively short. But it is also steep, cobbled and nasty. There is no room to take any speed into the climb and whilst there is smooth paving to the side, Simon says that you mustn't ride it on the smooth paving - that you have to ride it on the cobbles to get the full "benefit".

For me a "hard" climb isn't a climb that leaves you drained and exhausted at the end of it, a "hard" climb is one that you are concerned that you are going to have to get off your bike and push - an ignominious way to get up a hill. Constitution Hill is the first climb in the book that I have been pretty concerned about having to "push" - when riding up the cobbles. Paving is fine, cobbles are hard. Must remember that next time I consider going out to ride Paris-Roubaix or the Tour of Flanders.

Fortunately for me, it was another cracking day in the sunshine, so I didn't have to worry about grip on the cobbles - I could just point the bike and go. Bill bailed out of this one (I think I had spoked him by showing him the above video before the ride), so no multi-coloured pants to keep me entertained.

I rode first from the place where we staying (which was a lovely ride again) - on this route: - a nice 23 mile ride to get my legs warm!

I then called to find out where the guys were - they hadn't arrived, so I had a quick run up the Hill using the paving:

They then arrived, did a couple of photos and then the climb (cobbles all the way): I forgot to press stop on my Garmin - but Simon says 2 minutes, I did about 2 min 30.

Phew - it was a relief to get to the top I can tell you! Em, Tom, Bill, Peggy and Hobbs walked up the hill and said that was more than enough for them...

My last Welsh hill (for now - I still have 7 to do in North Wales!!!). The riding has been amazing, drivers fantastic, hills tough and the weather incredible. Before I run out of superlatives.....

Youtube here:
Flickr here: