Thursday, 23 June 2011

Hill no 34 – 75 Trough of Bowland

Ah, a dead nice climb. Just a really beautiful hike up through the hills.
Picture postcard stuff – with a stream running alongside the road and every so often switching over from right to left to right hand side.
The initial slope wasn’t that bad – around 4/5% - I know – almost downhill! I therefore spent most of the early part of the climb enjoying the scenery and trying to make good time.

Then, when your legs were nice and warm, the slope went further up and it proved to be a good test of the legs.
Climb also ended over a cattle grid – you can’t ask for more than that (well, maybe a pub!)
Just a really nice, pretty climb, never too hard, but there are plenty of these that are THAT hard and this was one to kind of savour and enjoy a little.

Nice little monument to a couple of cyclists at the top as well. Hope you're riding happily Bill and Jack.

Youtube here:
Garmin data here:
Flickr to go here:

Hill no 33 – 79 Cross of Greet, Lancashire

The Cross of Greet was a bit of a change from the previous climbs - it was a bit blowy (you can hear it whipping around on the camera) nad it was straight up and away, up through the moors(?) if that's what they are. Not as "rocky" or spectacular as the past two climbs, but the wind added a whole new experience to it.

The dog was a little confused as to where I was going and why

It wasn't the toughest climb - there were bits that went up and down and you had a rest every now and then, but the hills where you can see the road stretching out in front of you are often quite challenging mentally if not as physically concerning!

The wind was probably the biggest challenge - but the road was a little single track road - luckily nothing coming the other way.

There was a nice little valley on the LHS with a small stream running through it which was a nice thing to distract, but whilst the climb was longer than previous ones, it wasn't too hard. The wind made it a bit interminable though!

A good few cattle grids, some sheep on the road as well, tried to make the most of the downs, but was a bit conscious that when I was out of the saddle that I was just making myself a much bigger target for the wind to blow backwards!

Felt very rough and ready this climb - can imagine it being properly wild in bad weather!

Youtube here:
Garmin data here:
Flickr here:

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Hill no 32 – 48 Langcliffe Scar, Yorkshire Dales

Langcliffe Scar is just over the dale and kind of on the other side of Malham Cove. As a result, I cycled straight over and got a good look at it on the way down.
Again, another really pretty little village – there was a wedding going on I think in the village hall and people were turning up in their finery.
This very much was the mirror glass climb to Malham Cove – similar scenery (unsurprisingly), similar hikes in gradient and a similar challenge in many ways.
One of the things I found most amusing about this climb was the sign warning “Beware of Lambs!” There were lambs on the road (which I am sure what the sign alludes to), but my lactic acid addled brain got on to thinking about what I would do if a deadly lamb leapt out and attacked me.
I was cheered/bleated up by sheep all the way. And some took the mickey by raising me up slopes. And beating me. Grrr. Pesky sheep. Think they own the road too
Nice round here though - green, lovely rocks, lots of people out walking - very pleasant!

Youtube here:
Garmin here:
Flickr here:

Hill no 31 – 47 Malham Cove, Yorkshire Dales

We camped in a beautiful campsite and went to sleep in a lovely idyllic country scene
Well, after a less than peaceful night in the Spaceship (we parked under a tree that dripped on our roof like a clock amplified through a megaphone, it blew a gale, Em said I snored – I NEVER snore, so I blame the dog), we awoke to a much different landscape from that which we went to sleep in.
Basically it was grey and wild – the river at the bottom of the campsite which had been a babbling brook where children splashed happily the day before was now a raging torrent of brown “white water”.
Sounds like a perfect day for climbing hills! Certainly, once the kids on the campsite had lost the first of Hobbs’ balls by throwing it into the hedge and the second by, well, just swiping it, there was nothing to keep us at the campsite.
Malham Cove started in this cutesy little village – quite bustly with bank holidaymakers traipsing around – with a rather odd wicker ostrich in the middle.
The climb ramps up out of the village, past a little campsite that we were planning on staying at the previous night (it was full) and up the hill.
There were amazing views of the Dales and these incredible rock formations – it looked as though giants had carved through the rock leaving great slabs exposed. Always amusing to see the gradient signs blown down though!
The climb was flanked by dry stone walls all the way up and was though at around 20% in places, the wind had got up a bit too, but it wasn’t a horrible climb and the scenery was lovely.

Ended on a cattle grid too – bonus!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Hill no 30 – 74 Nick Of Pendle, Sabden

Finally, to round off the day, I was faced with the challenge of the Nick Of Pendle, heading out of Sabden up onto the moors.
I had got quite excited as I had seen a fellow bike rider, fully kitted out in Sky gear on the road and I had visions of impressing Wiggins or Thomas with my hill climbing ability. Unfortunately they turned the other way, so I’ll never know if it was a team rider, or someone who had invested in all the gear!
The climb starts in a pretty uninspiring way – its just a long drag out of the village with parked cars on one side.

The residential area ends and then you’re out into a bit of “transitional land” before suddenly hitting open moorland.
To end it all off, there are a couple of bends and you can kind of look back on what you’ve done and you crest the hill to look over and it is beautiful.

Glad that the day is finished and we went to a campsite to try sleeping in our people carrier!

Youtube video here:
Garmin data here:
Flickr to go here:

Hill no 29 – 72 The Rake, Ramsbottom

It could just be the child in me, or it could be distant memories of Northern TV programmes, but I do love the work “Ramsbottom”! It envokes images of flat caps, warm beer and (probably) whippets.
It seemed a lovely little town too and the climb starts from right opposite the village hall and a big pub. It soon gets going though, passing another pub (pubs are proving to be a constant theme of these climbs!) kicking up through a narrow little village lane.
A relatively short climb (phew!) it still had me puffing and blowing hard especially as I tiptoed past parked car after parked car. I was worried that a foot down moment may result from having to let cars past, but generally I have found most drivers to be very sympathetic to someone struggling up the hills!
We have hired this campervan type affair from this company called spaceships rental – they are basically reconditioned Japanese people carriers with a bed that extends out underneath the boot when it lifts up and a tent “extension” fits on the end. They are quite a bit bigger than our Focus, so Em was a bit nervous about the one way street and ended up letting me go past her so as not to hold me up.
At the top, not only did the road ramp up to a steep gradient, but the tarmac was in pretty bad condition – as bumpy as cobbles, but not with the romantic associations!!! But climb was completed and there was only one more to go today - which was just as well!

Youtube here:
Garmin data here: (ignore the bit that shows me magically transported 30 miles north)
Flickr photos here:

Hill no 28 – 71 Swiss Hill, Aldersley Edge

I know of Aldersley Edge – this is the area of more millionaires per acre than anywhere but Mayfair, of WAGs and Range Rovers. I’d never been here before, my knowledge of Cheshire was of the slightly less posh areas, but I was anticipating this hill a lot.

Like Constitution Hill, Swiss Hill is a proper cobbled hill. Unlike Constitution Hill, it is a lot more enclosed – by houses and trees. The cobbles are smaller and slicker – I was worried that my wheels would slip more. It is also less straight up, with curves and grass and moss growing amongst the cobbles.
Cobbles are swine – I know of the wisdom in relation to cobbles – the harder the gear you have it in, the more your bum lifts of the seat and the more comfortable it is, if you hit them at speed you skip from cobble top to cobble top and actually on cobbles weighing a bit more is helpful as you get thrown around less.
To be honest though – I just gritted my teeth and did what I do on all of these hills – try and get up them as quickly as possible and get them over and done with.
The top of Swiss Hill goes into tarmac and you think – “lovely smooth tarmac”, but it is pitted and scarred badly. Millionaires may reside in Aldersley Edge (and it appears lovely), but that doesn’t make them immune to the charms of a pot-hole!

A very "cute" little hill though - in a little residential area and the sort of road that you would drive past every day for years without ever knowing it existed.

Youtube here: and the video captures the "judder" of the cobbles nicely!
Garmin data here:
Flickr photos here:

Hill no 27 - 36 Mow Cop, Staffordshire

With many apologies for the delay - here, hopefully, finally are a load of climbs that Em and I did on a 9 day orgy of hills and travel. I started with Mow Cop:

I knew Mow Cop was going to be toughy. Not just from Simon’s description of how drinkers congregate outside the Cheshire View pub on the hill during sportives to watch determined, but foolish riders topple gently sideways as the climb proves too much for them.

No, I knew it was going to be tough thanks to mentioning the fact I was going there to people who corrected my pronunciation (apparently not Mow as in 10 men went to mow a meadow), but Mow (as in M-OW! This climb hurts!!!)
The start of my climb was delayed somewhat as our dog decided to lodge a dirty protest at having been in the car since London. He found a fresh cow pat and with great relish rolled around it before we could possibly stop him. At this point it was cycleshoes back off, trainers on and the spaceship’s water reserve (more on this later) used up.
One clean(ish) dog later, I waited for the train line at the bottom of the hill to clear and started my ascent. The road starts with a good slope, steepens a little and then opens out so you can see the pub on the left and a straight and fearsome 25% slope which you need to get out of the saddle and haul yourself up.

Phew! A real toughy for my first ride of our 10 day hill mission and my legs were singing in protest already! Amazing views from the top though. And well worth the drive to get there. The steep slope is wide open and I can imagine on a sportive with loads of cyclists pulling themselves up there, it must be quite a sight.

When I was there, there was no-one around apart from the wife and a slightly damp, disgruntled dog. Even the pub was shut!

Video here:
Garmin Data here: (I think I went a bit wrong at the end - but I didn't want to risk being short!)
Flickr Photos here:

Monday, 6 June 2011

Hill no 26 - 32 Riber, Matlock

Riber was my last ride of our Derbyshire trip. The car was packed full of our stuff, the dog was in the back (thankful to be leaving the small, but perfectly formed Thimble Cottage). Only one hill remained and somewhat ominously it was Simon Warren's "favourite" hill.

I scooted down Bank Rd (you can see from the link here: how easy it is going down compared to going up), over a couple of roundabouts and saw Riber Castle towering over me ahead. A turn right and it was a quick wait for Emily to catch up with me, a reset of the video camera and off I went.

The first bit of the climb isn't "that" impressive, you are just climbing up through a little residential area, the blood gets flowing and the heart pumping. But to continue the climb you have to turn off onto Riber Rd and virtually straight away things get "interesting".

The real killer of this climb is the corners. They really ramp up steeply - I normally like this, because being a big kid at heart, there is something about going round corners - it just FEELS as though you're going faster than you really are. So I see these big steep corners, get out of the seat and pound for 5 secs just to try and get up enough speed to carry you round, up through the steeper gradients.

Generally this tactic works, but there is a happy medium here - basically, if the hill is too steep and you are standing on your pedals, your bum isn't putting weight on the back wheel and especially if its wet, the wheel can "slip" on the road. Of course, if the road is too steep and you don't stand, the front wheel can come off the ground in a wheely.

Here, I was slipping around and had to be very careful not to try and put too much power through the pedals  (but enough not to make me fall off!). Em said that she struggled getting the fully laden car up in first gear some of the time, so it wasn't just me being a wimp.

Beautiful at the top - but we were sad that we couldn't go to Riber Castle and have a look around. A quick stretch of Hobbs' legs and we headed for London - a fairly succesful weekend all in.

Video here:
Garmin data here:
Flickr here:

Hill no 25 - 31 Bank Rd, Matlock

Whilst trying to find our way to Youlgreave, we had accidentally driven up Bank Rd - I had remarked to Emily at the time "wow, this is steep - this should be in the book" - and it is. Gaining an 8/10 and described as one of the steepest residential roads in Britain, it is a short, but steep drag from the town centre straight up and out.

I did my prep just off Bank Rd (getting kit together, checking where hill starts and finishes, checking video camera etc) and this was just by a public swimming pool. There is something about that chloriney smell - it is incredibly nostalgic - takes me right back to when I was little and swimming at Bicester/Handy Cross with the Andrews boys. Nice.

All of which diversion managed to make me forget about the dead straight long steep road ahead of me. It felt a bit strange to be riding up a steep hill actually all in a town - and it must be interesting to live on such a steep hill - you literally wouldn't want to drop something and have it roll away from you - the road is that steep.

The road carries on at the top of this steep incline and is just as steep round the corner - no rest at all - just a little extra teaser!

Looks and is steep from both directions

Garmin data here:
Youtube here:
Flickr here:

Hill no 24 - 34 Rowsley Bar, Derbyshire

Rowsley Bar started from a little side road off of the village and went into nice countryside almost straight away.

It didn't take long for the road to ramp up quite a lot and it was pretty hard work from the get go, but it was a pretty peaceful, nice climb

Simon mentions in his book that there is a thin sliver of repaired road all the way up the climb and I dilligently followed his instructions to follow the repaired tarmac all the way up.

As he also says, the road ramps up around a couple of bends - I quite like it when the road does that - it gives you a target to go round, but it was hard work and pretty challenging -

A nice little climb - but another of those that I wasn't 100% of where it finished, so I kept on for a bit - certainly for a lot longer than the 6 minutes that Simon suggests it should take!
Garmin data here:
Youtube here:
Flickr here:

Hill no 23 - 70 Cat and Fiddle, Macclesfield

The Cat and Fiddle is a long climb - a good 30 minutes or so. But fortunately, it isn't really climbing ALL the way.

It also isn't the "nicest" of climbs as there is a fair amount of traffic on there - but fair play, everyone gave me plenty of room - good courteous driving. There are also "average speed cameras", big warning signs, markings on the roads etc everywhere. I can only assume from this that Motorbikers try and ride this stretch of road too quick and get into trouble accordingly.

Basically, you start in Macclesfield and have a good long gentle climb to get out of the town - mostly all housing/residential and not too busy. You then start your climb up "proper" after about 2 minutes, head through a little wooded area and then you're into the countryside.

The climb is never "tough, tough", it is more just a matter of getting your legs in a rhythm, turning them over and settling down for a 1/2 hour climb. There are moments of respite on the climb and indeed there are even a coule of very welcome dips.

The weather was closing in though at the top - and it started to get VERY misty!

and by the time I reached the top, top, I was wishing that I had attached lights to my bike!

The Cat and Fiddle Inn was doing a roaring trade in motorcyclists, cyclists and car drivers - presumably all glad to get in out of the weather. I had more hills to climb however....

Garmin Data here:
Youtube video here (at comedy double speed):
Flickr here:

Hill no 22 - 30 Monsal Head, Bakewell

"Just one more Mark".

Bloody hills. Had enough of them today. I'm tired and slightly soggy. Hang on - what's this? One more hill - grah?! Hang on - climb time 2.5 minutes, that's not too bad! Rating of 3/10? No problem!

And the book also gives you the record time of 1 minute 14.2 seconds for getting up it? Well, I know its been a long day, I'm a little bit tired and I'm not a professional cyclist, but I must be in with a shout of the record surely?

So I lined the bike up, got on my pedals, pressed start on my Garmin - and bang! Away I went.

Head down, legs pumping, pedals whirring, here comes the slope - and yes, keep the cadence (no of time you turn your pedals) high, get out of the saddle, throw the bike from side to side to get every inch of power out of your body, through the cranks and into the road.

Aaaagh - legs burning, lungs burning, getting tired, energy depleting got to keep going, can't get enough air into my lungs - still more hill to do - what time have I done so far?

30seconds. Ah. Collapse back into the seat and grovel up the rest of the hill.

Illusions of grandeur shattered. Malcolm Elliot - your record is safe.

Cafe at the top was called Hobbs though - like our dog. That was nice.

Youtube video (largely of only the start I'm afraid) here:
Garmin Data here:
Flickr here:

Hill no 21 - 33 Winnats Pass, Castleton

Winnats Pass was awesome.

One of the most beautiful climbs I have done yet, you start on a little country lane, faced by these big green hills. You head along a road and turn left, and suddenly you see these massive green rocky mounds looming up ahead of you with this little path that you're supposed to climb up.

Oh I forgot - you start from the Devil's Arse as well (I'm pretty sure that's it and I'm not hallucinating!)

The road was a little busier - this is obviously a big tourist destination and I'm not surprised, so that was a "hazard".

There was another hazard as well - hurrah a cattle grid.

And the wind was blowing me full in the face - it was really hard work. A combination of all the things you don't want - wind in your face, tired legs from a long day of rides and a wet slippery surface.

And a further hazard - Em pulled up in front of me to take pictures and "failed" to move in time which meant I had to pull out (very slowly) and go round her (very slowly). My grumpy yell "that doesn't help you know" was born far more out of fear that I wouldn't get up the hill (and perhaps have to start over!) than of true crossness that she was in my way!

I should point out that despite my moaning, even in the depths of my burning legs, I could still pop my head up and see the amazing beauty all around me. Seriously incredible it was. Shame that my video camera gave up the ghost - I think it was feeling my tiredness. Really cross about this as it doesn't give you the lovely slopes OR the vicious head wind.

Garmin data here:
and youtube video before I lost battery here:
Flickr here:

Hill no 20 - 37 Peaslows, Chapel-en-le-Frith

Peaslows was again a bit of a wet climb - at least I was getting my money's worth out of my rain jacket. With no-where to really pull over, we parked the car at the side of a little lane incurring the wrath of a couple of cars who passed us as I pulled my kit together.

The rain was running down the road as I climbed out of a green, lush little valley, up through a steep, but not brutal hill to finish, slightly soggy at the top. I think (and was thinking as I climbed it, slightly soggy and a bit cold) that it was very quintessentially British. I have had some amazing weather for this challenge so far, but this was "more like it"!

Not complaining though, more appreciative of the good conditions that I've had so far!

Didn't see much of the reservoir that I was meant to finish on, but I did feel the wind. Which was ominous as I felt the climb was pretty steep and I think the wind was blowing me up it.

Perhaps that's why I didn't mind it that much - normally I prefer a bit of steep, steep, shallow, steep, but here I was probably being blown up like a piece of paper.

Garmin data here:
Youtube video here:
Flickr here:

Hill no 19 - 43 Holme Moss, Holmfirth

Holme Moss was an interesting climb - everything else had been done in beautiful sunshine - I have been very lucky with the weather. Holme Moss was a bit different - it started drizzling (and by the time I got to the top it was full on raining). It was also on an A road - a "major route through the Pennines" and as I got ready at the beginning a couple of large trucks haired past which was slightly different from the other hills I had done to date!

Holme Moss is one of those hills that I don't really think I am built for - it isn't especially HARD, but it is a consistent 10% plus. I find it really hard to get into a consistent rhythym on these hills. I kind of much prefer them undulating with steep stuff where I can get in and out of and break up the grind a little bit.

Also - the climbs that you can see exactly where you're going appear to be tougher than you might otherwise think - whilst you can see the end approaching, it never seems to approach quite quickly enough. Those climbs where you have trees around you to start and you pull your way up through the tree line and look down and suddenly realise how far up you have got are much more motivating!

Having had a moan about traffic - actually it wasn't that bad at all and getting a bit wet is par for the course - Simon gives this hill a 5/10 and I think that is about right - slog and grind your way up to the top.

Not a hill that makes you think "oh god, I'm never going to get up this", in fact, probably not a hill that makes you think "uh-oh, could be in trouble here", but more a "come on, come on, is there still MORE to come??!!" type of hill.

Probably good for me I guess! The other "nice thing about this climb was that people have very considerately marked on the road how far it is to the top on the road which I'm not sure is helpful, but certainly lets you know where you are!

Garmin Data here:
Youtube here:
Flickr here: