Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Hill no 82 - 8 Dartmeet

Dartmeet was on the same road as Rundlestone and I pinned my ears back and enjoyed being back on the bike for the first time in a while. The road was the definition of rolling – at one point you’d be hammering down a hill at 40mph (obeying the speed limit through Dartmoor – obviously!) and then you’d be trying to get up the other side of the hill, desperately trying to hold on to your momentum and not change gear!
I was thinking as I rolled along how fantastic a bike race would be through Dartmoor – then I realised that one of the reasons it was so enjoyable was that because the wind was behind me – so I was getting a nice helping hand! Also, even though it was a Saturday, it was early January and therefore not that many people were out – so not much traffic. All though I did see a fair few cyclists.
I reckon if you ride around Dartmoor, you’d end up a pretty strong rider pretty quickly – there isn’t much that it is flat round there – that’s for sure!
Dartmeet is a short and very sharp climb – staring (presumably?) on the river Dart at Badger’s Holt (where some crazy people were in kayaks), you start climbing up a steep hill straight away and keep going for 9 minutes and then get off your bike quite tired! I was regretting bombing along the road previously (should have saved some energy) right from the get go.

I was also paying for the amount of food I have been eating – I guess this is payback right now!
The climb was beautiful though – even I could look across the moor as I suffered and respect the beauty and wildness of it all – a really lovely landscape. It was incredibly windy when I got to the top of this climb – for the first time today I felt cold – although the dog had a lovely play chasing sticks I was throwing down the hill – easiest way to exercise him!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Hill no 81 - 11 Rundlestone

We came down to Cornwall on the 27th December for a holiday – the aim being that I would do a bit of riding and lots of lovely family time. I would then get over to Dartmoor and pick up the 4 Dartmoor climbs that I need to just live Sidmouth and Crowcombe as the outstanding South West climbs.

Unfortunately that plan had been scuppered by the weather. Last year it was snowy and bitterly cold. This of course you can legislate against – take it easy on the roads, wear lots of clothing. This year it was unseasonably mild (a good thing), but it was hammering it down with rain virtually all the time and the wind was something else. I don’t mind getting wet when I cycle, but there is something particularly depressing about fighting a constant wind in your face – and the wind was too strong really to cycle in as there was so much road debris about. On the narrow Cornish country lanes, it was a touch too dangerous and to be honest, I didn’t need any further invitation to sit at home, eat Quality Street and play with Mila and Hobbs.
Today though (6th Jan) was our second last day down here and I thought that I had better get these climbs done, so I had to get out there. I could consider myself either “well rested” or “completely under-done”, but I wouldn’t know until I did the first hill.

We drove out to Rundlestone on Mila’s morning sleep – just outside of Tavistock, I initially went wrong (my fault) failing to follow Simon’s clear instructions and headed up Violet Lane, rather than past it. A quick U-turn (well 3 or 4 U-turns as I circled whilst Em checked the book) and I headed back down the lane and up the correct road (the B3357).

Alternately steep and then slackening off to allow you a bit of a rest, this was a long climb, but the legs didn’t feel too bad. There were some steep sections, but nothing too offensive and after a good bit of climbing, it slackened off and allowed you to gather your thoughts and energy for the next section.

Lovely climb though – up through beautiful Dartmoor, with the obligatory ponies, sheep and cattle grids to keep you interested. Wasn’t feeling too bad and headed straight on for the next climb!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Hill no 80 - 24 Streatley Hill

Streatley vies with Whiteleaf for being my local hill – although I must admit I have never been up it on a bike. I tend to head off into the Chilterns and up round Brill way rather than following the course of the Thames and was looking forward to riding this hill. My friend James often climbs this – I think it is part of GS Henley training rides which is the club he belongs too.

As I was doing this on 27th December, I was wife, daughter and dog in tow – we needed to get this one ticked off, head back home, back up and head down to Cornwall to “start” our Christmas break. We therefore (shockingly) drove to Goring, parked up and I unloaded the bike, got the camera on and headed off. Only to stop straight away at the red lights that mark the junction that starts Streatley Hill.
Streatley and Goring themselves looked like pretty Thames-side towns/villages, a bit like miniature Henleys, but thoughts of the picturesque village were soon cleaned from my mind as the climbing started. Simon warned that it was a climb that got harder the further you went up – and he is right, but this is not to say that the climb is easy at any point!

It is only a short climb, but all at above 10% and it is a real grind. Especially when you are carrying around the excesses of Christmas Day and the follow up of Boxing Day. The climb will be much different in the beauty of the summer – it is flanked by banked woodland, but even in the winter, with the leaves off of the trees and everything brown and muddy it was still lovely.

I didn’t come across any other cyclists whilst climbing – but did see a group come up in dribs and drabs when I walked the dog afterwards – it was obvious the hill shattered the group and it was gratifying to see that everyone was blowing hard when they got up!

Cracking views from the top too - really lovely.
Garmin Data here: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/138861534
Flickr here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/100hillsforgeorge/sets/72157628779863745/
Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_oBweQQ1cs&list=UU_-Huk3Gbwz9QNbiVD1X_jw&index=1&feature=plcp

Hill no 79 - 23 Whiteleaf

I have been up Whiteleaf more times than I can remember – my Grandad lives just down the road in Princes Risborough and if I am feeling particularly leggy, I have a nice ride that involves Aston Hill, Chinnor Hill and Whiteleaf before heading back to my Mum’s.

I have also ridden the Chiltern 100 which goes up these hills – that is the only sportive I have done that made me feel as though I was still going up and down when I went to sleep that night! I’m sure it is nothing compared to the Fred Whitton which takes in the hardest Lakes climbs, but it was certainly hard enough for me!

I “knew” Whiteleaf then and it is a nice little climb – you come off a main road and start climbing immediately – it is fairly gradual at the start and you go through the outskirts of the village as you head up, but this is all a warm up for the main event. The road seems to narrow and then seems to shoot up – banked woodland on the side makes it seem even steeper than it is.

I was soon blowing hard and really ruing having had 2 roast dinners yesterday (although it WAS Christmas!) There was a cyclist up ahead of me, but I didn’t make any headway on him – my justification is that it is the winter and these are meant to be training rides where I keep my heart rate down!

One of the great bits about Whiteleaf is that once you have reached the top – if you turn right (where the hill ends), there is a lovely, smooth fast descent down into Princes Risborough - sometimes the descents are more awkward than the ascents for me, but this one is a real treat.

Again - fantastic views too...

Garmin Data here: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/138861511
Flickr here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/100hillsforgeorge/sets/72157628779033603/
Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9LwOgxqdOw&list=UU_-Huk3Gbwz9QNbiVD1X_jw&index=1&feature=plcp

Hill no 78 - 21 Steyning Bostal

Once getting into Brighton, we went to Simon and Emma's house (and Amelia's and Eliana's house too of course!). Emma has done a half marathon for us and Simon has ridden the South Downs Way (well most of it) for us too - so it was going to be really nice to go for a ride with Simon and pick up Steyning Bostal.

Simon plotted a route for us out there (apparently the route I had set up was ridiculous and took us through some not so nice roads, although I thought it would be a lovely "coastal" ride!) The road he took us on was lovely - up out of Brighton, round some really nice back country lanes - with some mean slopes on the way and to the foot of the climb.

Simon is probably more of a MTBer than a Roadie and he was telling me that the difference very much was that on a MTB - you chuck it in the granny ring and spin up the hills having a nice chat whilst you do so, whilst on a Road Bike - well, its not so convivial!
Anyway, the start of Steyning Bostal was easy to find and the climb itself was a really decent one - in fact, I probably preferred it to its more famous neighbour in Ditchling!

It felt more of a challenge - maybe a bit steeper and maybe a bit prettier with more character (to the extent that hills can have a character!)

Maybe it was the ride out there, maybe it was the company, but I had a really nice ride this afternoon over to Steyning - it made the trip down to Brighton more than worth while and I enjoyed it a lot. Thumbs up - and thank you Simon.

Garmin Data here: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/138861563
Flickr here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/100hillsforgeorge/sets/72157628775910789/
Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjCT_Y0ht_k&list=UU_-Huk3Gbwz9QNbiVD1X_jw&index=1&feature=plcp

Hill no 77 - 22 Ditchling Beacon

Ditchling was an odd climb. It is famed throughout the land (well the South east of England anyway) as a real killer on the London to Brighton charity ride. Apparently it has forced more cyclists off their bikes than any other hill in the country as it is the final sting in the tale of that climb. I have heard that a lot of cyclists have to get off because of the number of cyclists on the road though!

Funny, because I had heard so much about this climb, in my head I always pictured it as a wide straight road heading up, uncovered and unprotected over a large duney type lump into Brighton. Funnily enough, I was wrong and this wasn't how the climb was at all!

Rather you start on the outskirts of Ditchling and seem to skirt along the outside of a hill, banking left and climbing up, initially with a lot of trees covering the climb and then, over the level of tree cover, still skirting around the hill - climbing it with stealth rather than an all out attack.

You then get a view to the East, but you turn back into the hill and finish off the climb with a little bit more steepness and through more trees.

Again  - lovely views from the top, even if my ideal of climbing Ditchling on a blazing hot summers day, followed by a downhill wheel and a jump into the sea never came about!

One more hill to do and that was all the "out of the way" South East climbs done.

Garmin Data here: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/138861579
Flickr here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/100hillsforgeorge/sets/72157628767627747/
Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBAWO4YCvWs&list=UU_-Huk3Gbwz9QNbiVD1X_jw&index=1&feature=plcp

Hill no 76 - 19 The Wall

By this time I was running VERY VERY late for "xmas" dinner at my Dad's and I was slightly fearful of a very frosty reception by the time I got there!

This fear outweight the fear of the dreaded "Wall" - but I was somewhat concerned as I descended down Kidds Hill to get to "the Wall" as I knew I was going to have to get back up it once I had completed the climb.
At the bottom of the climb there was a bridge and a ford and I stopped briefly to set off the video, take a couple of photos and prepare myself. A couple of forestry guys pulled over in a truck and I was glad to see that I wasn't the only one out here working!

The start of the climb was pretty easy and consistent, but the best bit about it was when the road straightened and rose in a steep dead straight line ahead of me, with the trees growing over it to make a tunnel. It looked fantastic and the photo doesn't really do it justice.

A decent long steep gradient where you could see the top all the way through, but going to get shot out of the top (or hobble over it) - really nice and "different".

There is a climb like it pretty close to where I'm from going up from Tetsworth to Postcombe in Oxfordshire (although that is the A40 it is a pretty quiet road) and I really enjoyed it (even forgetting temporarily about how much trouble I was in!)

Garmin Data here: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/134994617
Flickr here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/100hillsforgeorge/sets/72157628748464639/
Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_aWQn41odQ&list=UU_-Huk3Gbwz9QNbiVD1X_jw&index=1&feature=plcp

Hill no 75 - 15 York's Hill

York's Hill was properly hilarious. Not too far away from the previous hill, I got to it by enjoying a really long downhill from the top of Ide Hill. A nice contrast to the climb I was going to have to do. Oh - be careful in the villages round here - a nice old gent pulled right across me as I was pootling along, despite me urging him not to!

York's Hill was pretty steep and sharp from the start - Simon only gives this climb a 6, so I wasn't really prepared for the horrors that would lie ahead! At the start it doesn't seem too bad - steep, with steep banks either side, it was really quite pretty!

I mean - definitely steep enough, but nothing too horrific - however Simon had mentioned that this was a climb where the road surface could prove challenging.

He wasn't wrong. At the top of the climb where the gradient was ramping up to 20%, not only was the road crumbling underneath, but the road was covered in mud, leaves and sticks. Trying to pick a clean path through was a nightmare,  as was stopping the bike wheels from slipping and sliding on the covered road.

All this at a 20% gradient - and, right at the very end with the added pressure of a car following me up. There was nowhere for him to overtake, there was noway I could pull over and let him pass, so he had the "pleasure" of watching me, very unsteadily, make my way to the top.
VERY hard work!

Garmin Data here: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/134994632
Flickr here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/100hillsforgeorge/sets/72157628748095713/
Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJBfWPxs3wI&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL

Hill no 74 - 20 Toy's Hill

Toy's Hill was one of those where I found it hard to ascertain exactly where the climb started - after ascending for a while, I realised that i must have missed the start, so I turned round, went back down again and then set up the video camera and Garmin.

There was a big for sale sign by the side of the road - Country House for sale. I thought a little bit about the episodes of Country House Rescue that I have watched and whether or not there would be a market for a Country House catering to cyclists who wanted to climb Toy's Hill....

With that thought idling in my head, I took off (again) up the hill and started to climb. The climb isn't initially too bad - it is a gentle rise that allows you to get your legs turning over without feeling too much of a burn.

However, at the end, it does ramp up pretty significantly and put together with the work that you have done at the early part of the ride, it makes it a bit tiring on the legs!

Nice to finish with a signpost indicating exactly where you are though!

Garmin Data here: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/134994648
Flickr here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/100hillsforgeorge/sets/72157628747649105/
Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvhHiAJLqSI&list=UU_-Huk3Gbwz9QNbiVD1X_jw&index=2&feature=plcp

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Hill no 73 - 16 White Lane

So, time for some more December climbing. In an effort to regain some of the lost ground (lost to general inactivity, work and lots of spending time with Mila), the idea was that I would cycle into Clapham, get the train out to Kent and do 4 hills that I needed to do before heading down to my Dad's and having Xmas dinner (a week early). This plan was scuppered by the fact that just as I was about to head it, it started bucketing down with sleet. Therefore very lazily, I got Em to drop me off in the car just off the M25 and set off from there. This of course, did put me a little bit behind in the grand scheme of timings....
I got to the bottom of what i thought was White Lane, only to realise (to my horror!) that actually White Lane started half way up a considerable hill! That means I was a little tired by the time I'd got to the start.

That's the view back down. It was off this more main road on a little side road, restricted width and quite pretty.
A pretty short climb - no wonder as you have already done most of it! It was made more interesting by the fact that there was snow on the ground still and that what hill there was, got to be pretty steep by the end.

As you can see, it really did ramp up a fair bit and make it a pretty tough challenge (although this was over fairly quickly).

Nice to have a bit of snow on the ground to show that I wasn't just cycling in beautiful sunshine!

Garmin Data here: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/134994660
Flickr here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/100hillsforgeorge/sets/72157628746860611/
Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WY3vs5bpMuk&list=UU_-Huk3Gbwz9QNbiVD1X_jw&index=2&feature=plcp

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Hill no 72 - 13 Dover's Hill

Apparently (according to my knowledgeable Father-in-law), Dover's Hill is the site of the Cotswold Olympick games and is also the site of the cheese rolling extravaganza.

The climb starts in Weston-sub-Edge - I had done a blast around the Cotswolds beforehand to enjoy some nice riding (starting in Chipping Campden) and had forgotten that the Cotswolds can be (in places) quite lumpy. Weston-sub-Edge was a really pretty little village - but there was a fairly new build house on the right hand side as you left the village. I think it must have been built out of Cotswold stone, but it was so new that it was kind of a fluorescent yellow! It looked very odd - I guess that it will probably "age", but look at the Flickr page to see how odd it looks!

The hill itself was really enjoyable - not too steep and just a plug up the hill - riding up through the woodland and fallen leaves of the winter wood. Once you get through the woodland, you just head up the final stretch.
14% was probably about right - i don't remember it getting much steeper than this - I know that there are steeper hills about (even in the Cotswolds), but this was certainly a very nice climb.
At the top, there was a little car park and a short walk away was a big stone urn with a (copper?) map type thing on the top of it. There were fantastic views and a lot of walkers out there, having a cup of tea, drinking in the views and catching up on last night's tv. It was clear to me that there was only going to be one winner of strictly come dancing given the support that Harry had in the Cotswolds!

Nice to have a climb with an easy to find end as well!

Garmin Data here: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/134868042
Flickr here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/100hillsforgeorge/sets/72157628736423047/
Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XzJycAKOGA&feature=g-upl&context=G26c2629AUAAAAAAAAAA

Hill no 71 - 25 Coombe Gibbet

So, on a mission, I headed out to find Streatley Hill and Coombe Gibbet. Unfortunately my map reading skills and my distance estimating skills combined with my working out how long it is going to take me to get there skills meant that I seriously underestimated the length of time that it was going to take me to get to Coombe Gibbet (although I drove up Streatley!) and therefore I only had time to do that hill.

A little bit of confusion as to where the climb actually was (it is hard to navigate yourself and drive sometimes!) But Simon said that the climb started by a ruined farm building and this certainly ticked the box!
In a rush, I put all my kit on, leapt out the car (having parked by said ruined farm building) and headed up the climb.
Apologies for the rather blurry photo - at the end of the climb, I drove up the hill and took photos - so they aren't of the best quality. I really need to take some taking photos on the move lessons - it was also dark so not the best time of day to be taking photos - especially on a blackberry!

The hill itself was (dare I say it), probably not the most memorable, or the toughest. Relatively short, it isn't offensively difficult, although I'm sure my video probably makes it look pretty hard! I plugged up it as soon as I could (at this stage, I hadn't given up hope of getting back to Streatley) and paused to drink in the views at the top - there was a lovely tribute to the RAF here.

The sun started to set rapidly and I hopped on the bike and incredibly foolishly didn't go back down the hill I had just ridden up - rather I rode down the other side and went in a big loop back to the car. It was a lovely ride with a beautiful view, but gave me the fear that I'd forget where the car was and took longer (again!) than I thought it would!

Both my Garmin and Youtube has the whole loop on it - the hill is just the first 5 minutes!
Garmin Data here: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/133842283
Flickr here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/100hillsforgeorge/sets/72157628735343013/
Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3G86d7IexRQ&feature=g-upl&context=G26c2629AUAAAAAAAAAA