Saturday, 31 March 2012

Hill no 100 - 26 Mott Street

So. On the final day of my "year" - running 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2012, I had just one more climb to do. Only one more climb after having ridden up hill after hill after hill after hill after (I'm sure you get the idea).

All things being equal, it should have been one of the epic climbs - a 10/10 monster that strained legs and mind. One that when conquered gave sweeping vistas and endless views, a climb that led up a mountain with the beauty to inspire poets and songwriters.

But my hill was called Mott Street. In Essex.

To be fair, this hill is in High Beaches - Epping Forest and it is not bad considering it is just inside the M25. Of course, it is not the steepest hill out there, nor the longest, nor (apologies to the good citizens of Loughton) the prettiest. But it is a hill in the book and my last hill.

So for one last time, I bundle the daughter, the dog and the wife into the car. I hoist my bike up onto the car roof (actually - when up there this time round it joined 2 other bikes and a tandem as we were heading back to Swain's Lane for a celebratory climb) and head off in the car.

Of course, we hit London traffic straight away and take 35 minutes to get to the North Circular. Once there however, things start moving quicker and a trawl up the M1 and across the M25 and back down and suddenly I realise why my clubmates are talking about how easy it is to get out of London when you ride out "North".

Headed off on the climb and the first thing I noticed was that the road had been resurfaced - it wasn't the smoothest in the world, but it wasn't too bad.

I don't think that it was the hardest climb in the world - didn't seem to get above 13% or so - in fact, I reckon Terrace Hill was probably harder, and I must admit that it kind of passed me by a little bit - my mind was replaying all the places we had seen and been and thinking of George too, how much we love and miss him.

This was quite a lot to think about in a relatively short period of time and before I knew it, I was at the top of the hill with the climb "done". Wow. All done.

100 climbs in exactly 1 year. Took advantage of it being a leap year I guess, but still wow. A JOGLE may be harder, but doing hill climbs has dominated the past year of not only my life, but that of my family (and probably my friends) too. Holidays have been based on the location of steep hills and now, well, perhaps a week in the Norfolk broads beckons!

Thank you for sticking with this blog and the climbs - much appreciated and I hope you enjoyed them.

Garmin here:
Flickr here:
Youtube here:

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Hill no 99 - 29 Terrace Hill

A surprising short hop away from Lincoln was Terrace Hill - very near Belvoir Castle.

It was an incredibly beautiful sunny day - it was just a shame that it was the last day of our holidays and that we were spending most of it in the car heading back to London!

Terrace Hill rates a measly 1/10 in Simon's book and he has obviously been asked WHY it is in there at all - it isn't terribly steep (although it does hit at least 13%), or terribly long. Well, I am informed that it is the first "proper" hill that Simon ever did AND he won his first race up it.

I have previously ridden Terrace Hill, although unlike Simon, I came third racing up it, not first. I therefore knew the hill and the surrounds. I had ridden it on a 100mile ride back last year, but had stupidly forgot to reset my Garmin for it/take any photos/wear a video camera, so I had to do it again.

And I was glad to do it again. Aside from the beautiful Leicestershire countryside all around - Terrace Hill is at the end of an arrow straight road. You then ride up through woodland curving to the right and then back round to the left.

I was determined to do the entire climb using the hardest gear possible (in a masochistic way), so did it a lot slower than I hoped, but I did really enjoy it - it is a pretty climb and I enjoyed it a lot.

Even more so when I was at the top and realised that I was 99 climbs down - and only one more to go!!!

Oh and Simon - if you are reading this, you should be happy to know that I saw more cyclists today around Terrace Hill than I have done anywhere else in the Country doing any of these climbs. So Terrace Hill may not be the hardest climbs, but it is certainly enjoyed a LOT.


Flickr here:
Garmin here:
Youtube here:

Hill no 98 - 28 Michalegate

Ha - this was the one where it all nearly went wrong!!!!

I had dragged my Dad up to Scunthorpe (where our family were originally from) the previous day and we'd had a really good day meeting up with old family members and friends. We were kind of remembering my Grandma - she was a really lovely lady who used to keep in contact with all our friends and family for us and we didn't really appreciate her until it was too late.

As I type this, I can look over my shoulder and there is a photo of her on our bookshelves and I know that if such a thing exists, she would have been with us all day and particularly enjoyed the good old chin wag at Eric and Frieda's.

Leaving Scunthorpe, we then "overnighted" at a Travelodge in Lincoln (or just outside) - top tip, for a £20 supplement, your dog can stay in the room with you - and the staff there were brilliant. What was slightly less brilliant was trying to find an open pub at 10.30 within walking distance of the A46 Travelodge. We failed.

So the next morning, we passed the test of remembering the clocks went forward an hour and Em and I left Mila with my Dad, grabbed Hobbs and headed into the centre of Lincoln to find Michaelgate. The one problem was the traffic was HORRENDOUS. Completely stationary, gridlock everywhere.

We abandoned the car and Em walked, whilst I freewheeled to the start of Michaelgate. Here, horror of horrors, there was a big sign at the bottom saying "Road Closed". Now, I want to make it clear, I am a very law abiding cyclist. I stop at red lights - all red lights. I have so many lights on my bike I look like a Christmas tree, but there was no way that I was coming back to Lincoln before the 31st March to do Michaelgate another time.

So I hopped on the bike, rode past the barriers and squeezed past further barriers up the road. As I cycled up (cobbled road, actually not that steep), I noticed more and more people on the street. Eventually they were all in front of me and conscious of the fact that I wasn't supposed to be on the road, instead of politely asking them to move, I just crept up behind them.

It transpired that we had picked the morning of the Lincoln 10k to do Michaelgate and the start was just at the top of the road that I needed to cycle up!

Anyway - I got there, it wasn't the most impressive time (due to pedestrians on the road), but I did it.


BTW - Lincoln (old city centre) is gorgeous - totally picturesque. Em wanted to stay and take photos, but we also wanted to get back and save Mila from her Grandad (before he had her reading the Telegraph, in a Man U kit...)

Flickr here:
Garmin here:
Youtube here:

Friday, 23 March 2012

Hill no 97 - 55 Rosedale Chimney

Well, we had no option but to drive down this one before getting back up it on the bike - if only because there was a big warning sign at the top of the climb warning all cyclists to dismount before going down the hill. I thought that this was probably a bit of overkill, but looking at the views as we went down the hill, I was pretty apprehensive about coming back up the hill.

To put it into perspective, Simon Warren had talked about snapping his chain not once, but twice on this hill trying to conquer it. To me that says two things. Mr Warren should replace his chain more often(!) and also that the power required to get you up the blinking thing was probably pretty large!

The "usual" warning signs are ramped up here - 1 in 3 slope, avoid in coaches, heavy goods vehicles, anything bigger than a white van, do not ride in winter, or unless the sun is shining!

The hill starts innocuously enough - a nice gentle slope at about 10% initially, rising to about 15% as you pass a pub on the left. Advice has been to get off at this point and have a drink before continuing up the hill - but that would be "cheating" and my Garmin wouldn't allow for it! I was already out of the saddle at this point.

The signs advising me to "engage a low gear" were not needed as I was already in my lowest gear - I was going to have to grind this one out.

You then head over a cattle grid and things change for the worse. For about 600m, life gets very, very tricky indeed. Basically the hill is massively steep, with hairpin turns where the gradient is whatever adjective comes after "massively". Probably massively +1.
I had an incredibly nasty shock when it felt as though someone had dragged my back wheel away - I think that I put it on top of a stone and when the stone spat away, my wheel span as well. That was the last thing I needed to do as I had front wheel lift and my legs were aching already!

The gradient here on these slopes apparently gets up to 33% - I have no idea of course because my eyes were firmly set on the slope in front of me, worried that if I looked down then I too would topple over! It is hard with the gradients, because the temptation is to run "wide" on these, using the width of the road to make the climb easier.
The road was so steep that at one point I sat down for a "rest". The gradient at that point was 26%! Watching the video back, I appear to be going agonisingly slowly. I think that is probably a good reflection of things.
Thankfully once that bit was over and done with, the hill got "better" at only about 15% and I did my best to spin up it with my legs still in a bit of shock at what they had to do. Got a couple of quizzical looks from the sheep as well who obviously thought I was some sort of lunatic as I was grunting and groaning up the hill.

A mis-timed sprint finish meant I had to grit my teeth and go for a little bit longer - but it was a real feeling of "phew" when I did finally get to the top!

Nice at the top as well, a couple out for a walk gave me a bit of a cheer - thank you very much - appreciate it!

Garmin here:
Flickr here:
Youtube here:

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Hill no 96 - 58 Carlton Bank

My final hill of today (and my third 7/10 hill in a row, with only the nerve inducing 10/10 Rosedale Chimney to go) and I actually was pleasantly surprised at how I was feeling - we had stopped and had a lovely lunch in a nice tearooms (which was also very reasonably priced), the dog had had a good run, the daughter was asleep and as I was map reading, we had managed to find the hills prettily easily (although I'm sure Em would point out that we missed the turn to Carlton Bank and had to go the "scenic route" - which to be fair was pretty scenic!)

I started the climb at Busby Hall - again, a little bit early, but it made for a good photo opportunity! There were however some pretty large stones in the road that had come out of the drive - and the condition of the road itself was pretty "iffy" - with some big gouges/pot holes in the road.
Another factor which was unexpected was the wind - the other two climbs had been in beautiful conditions - sunny, crisp, dry and still. It was a bit odd to suddenly have the wind whistling around my ears! Not that it was going to prove to be too challenging - but it shows that weather conditions can change pretty quickly.

As I started the climb proper, the gradient was jumping up over 10% - but under 15% which was just sapping the energy nicely. I had the usual moment of concentration riding over a cattle grid - a car came the other way and I did have a panic for a moment that we would meet on the grid as the driver didn't look like stopping!
I had to pick my way through the rough road surface a little bit and then it got steep - heading around to the left, I was hopping in and out of the saddle to try and get my legs spinning up the steeper slopes to get it over and done with.

The hill rose up to the right hand side to a really high peak, but on the left hand side, it just feel away, a bit like the shelf with incredible views over to Middlesbrough (I think).
The climb was getting tricky by throwing in some steep ramps of over 20%, but kindly allowing you a short break in between and dropping the gradient to around 10% briefly.

A MTBer came past halfway down the hill and he was shifting it big style - which gave me an idea of how steep it was coming down. I kept on wanting to crane my head left to get the view in, but also needed to concentrate on getting up the blinking hill!
I kept on thinking that I had got to the brow of the hill, but in fact, it seemed to be just one corner away for a while! Thankfully I go there in the end, dismounted, bunged the bike back on the car and enjoyed the thought that I only had one more "hard" hill to do in my challenge...

Hill no 95 - 54 Boltby Bank

Probably didn't start this climb from the right place as it was too tempting to start it down by the (thankfully) relatively dry ford. That allowed me to turn my legs over and get some speed up which was about the only time that I did get some speed up.
There is a nice bit at the start where you can see the road just ramping up and snaking ahead of you a little bit - the climb isn't too steep at this point, but it is still enough to get the legs working hard and to get you blowing a little bit, in fact, I think this is probably shown by the fact that I got a rather sympathetic "hello" from a couple of walkers!

The slope doesn't look too hard on the video - but actually it was a lot harder than it appears - I was continuously surprised to look down at my Garmin and find out that the slope was pretty steep - my head was lolling from side to side and I was really struggling up at points.

Basically, I think once it gets above 15% then it starts to really challenge the legs - this climb did that regularly and didn't seem to give you those little flat bits that allow you to take a rest. In fact, whilst Boltby Bank does not have the warning signs of White Horse Bank, I'm pretty sure that it is at least as steep - with 25% gradients and long periods of over 20%.

Also, as a climb, it really kicks you in the teeth, it starts of gentle and then gets tougher and tougher, only really giving you a break right at the very top.

Simon ranked this at the same rating as White Horse Bank - again a 7/10 climb, but I thought that this was a lot harder than White Horse Bank - I'd give it maybe at least an 8/10 and if it went on for any longer it would be right up there with some of the toughest climbs in the book. Maybe Simon was having a very strong day when he did this one!

Hill no 94 - 56 White Horse Bank

A beautiful day in the North York Moors. In an effort to allow the family some holiday that does not involve following me around whilst I ride my bike up steep hills, we decided that I would make a concerted effort to knock three hills off today, leaving one only in North Yorkshire.

We are staying near a really lovely little village called Hutton Le Hole and the valley in which we are staying at has a steep slope going from both sides - basically if I want to ride my bike out of the house, I have to go up a big hill at over 20% straight away!
As I turned and looked up at the hill at the start of the climb, you can see a chalk outline of the white horse that must give its name to the bank through the tree line - a pretty sight (more of that later).

The climb starts out pretty gently and you can keep the legs just turning over and powering through - it isn't too bad here, but then it really ramps up - and starts to justify the plentiful 25% warning signs that you see both on the way up and the way down!

My drive train hasn't been changing that slickly and I have been incredibly lazy and not sorted it out properly - I almost paid the price for that when I missed a gear badly and almost came to a complete stop! It would have served me right if I had stitched myself up by being lazy.

About halfway up the hill, things aren't too bad in relation to gradient - and then, as you look up, you see the amazing sight of the white horse carved into the hillside looming over you - an incredible view. It just seems massive and I have checked the video and it comes out really clearly (which is fantastic).

I can imagine that this climb would be very different in the summer as the trees are all bare at the moment - it was still pretty beautiful climbing up though and I guess I was getting the benefit of not being in the height of summer as there were very few people about. That helped as Em was able to coast up behind me and get some great photos.

There was a great bit about two thirds of the way up the hill where there were two pheasants in the road having a scrap. They were really pecking at each other and almost oblivious to me huffing and puffing my way slowly towards them. They only got out of the way when I was literally almost upon them and I could hear them carrying on the scrap as I wheezed past.

Simon gave this a 7/10 rating and whilst there were some pretty horrible ramps on these climbs - you did get a break every now and then from the climbing - which was definitely appreciated!

Really nice finish to the hill though as you head up over the brow you get a great view of the airfield which is home to the Yorkshire Gliding Club. There were a load of planes and gliders lined up ready to go out and it was a lovely end to the climb - White Horse Bank is a great place to launch gliders!

Garmin here:
Youtube here:

Hill no 93 - 88 Penbarra

My last hill in Wales. This felt like a bit of an achievement to be honest - Wales was back where we started last year, our dog was still a puppy, Mila was just a bump, my legs were a lot fresher and unaware of the challenges that lay ahead.

The climb starts innocuously enough through the village, past houses and up a steepish slope - nothing too brutal though, but still healthy enough to get me breathing hard.
The road calming measures that Simon mentioned were just paint/rough lines on the road - they gave you a bit of a judder as you went over them, but weren't too bad.

I remembered to turn left at the junction (I hate it when you have to do turns on a climb as the paranoia that you have gone wrong is massive) and enjoyed a flattish section, before it got hard again and you can hear me clicking through the gears to find one that I could climb up.
The road ramped up to 19% and rose straight ahead of me for a bit - I had the classic front wheel lifting when I was in the saddle so again, I was in and out just to keep the legs working hard. The road was pretty narrow, but when a car came the other way, he very kindly pulled over and let me go through.

Just before the cattle grid, you can hear my phone ringing. Entirely reasonably, I ignored it as I remembered that after the cattle grid there was going to be a steep left hand turn and the gradient would ramp up. It was at 20% approaching the corner and going round it, the gradient bit in and caused my legs some pain (apologies for the bellowing as I went round!)
The cloud hadn't lifted unfortunately, so we were unable to get really good views going down - but it was pretty special even with the cloud present. Took my mind off the painful climb anyway! A little flat stretch then preceded the final effort to the top - which you could see clearly stretching in front of you.

A nice, tough climb and a good way to round off the Wales hills.

Youtube here:

Hill no 92 - 87 Moel Arthur

Having "done" all the rides a distance away from our cycling base in Ruthin (and I should put a strong word in for where we stayed - with Tony and Helen at Hengoed Farm - this really was probably the best holiday cottage that we have EVER stayed in - truly exceptional, beautiful, spacious and really well done), today was the day that we would "finish" Wales, pick up the final 2 climbs which were more "local" and hopefully spend some time chilling out!

The day was a bit greyer than it had been previously - we have been blessed with amazing weather again in Wales and to be honest, any day that I am climbing hills that isn't raining or blowing a gale, I'm happy with!
Em and I had a "discussion" about which hill we were going to do first - the hill closer or further away (by about 10min). The far away hill won as the hope was that Mila would stay asleep for longer and that I might get up the hill before she woke up. This also meant that I did the "easier" hill first - either as a warm up or as a legbreaker!

The hill itself was beautiful - really lovely country riding - up steep slopes with rough road surfaces, high hedges and stunning views - when you got a chance to look over your shoulder at them - that is one of the hard bits about these climbs, generally, the only view you get is when you get off the bike and look back at what you've just done!

Again - a "classic" finish over a cattle grid and some lovely walking for the dog when we got to the top - he's started hating getting back in the car when its time to move onto the next climb - think he thinks we're mad!

Garmin here:
Youtube here:
Flickr here:

Hill no 91 - 86 The Shelf

Incredible weather as we headed back from a lunchtime in Llangollen, so we decided to pick up one of the 3 climbs in Ruthin on our way back to make life easier for ourselves. After a little bit of "discussion" over where exactly the climb started (life would be SO much easier with little 100 climbs start and finish signs) - we worked out where we thought it would start and Em headed off on the car to find the top.

I got myself together and rather than basking in the sun headed off.
The initial part of the climb was pretty friendly - managed to get a decent speed up in places, despite the potholes that had been filled with press tarmac and chips and had spread across the road (and my tyres).

Apart from the road surface, I was able to bomb along the road, trying to cover as much as I could at a decent speed, whilst appreciating the remote nature of the road and the pretty houses alongside me!
A little bit confusing when I got to a choice of roads where a few houses were gathered, but the one that headed up left (and was the steeper of the 2) said no through road - so I headed up along the one that I thought I was right.

The road had water trickling down it (and mud and cow/sheep pats on it), so I tried to dodge them as much as possible. Still here the road was at a friendly 6-8% slope so it wasn't too bad at all and I only had my muddy backside to worry about!
The sides of the road were steeply hedged so I didn't get the full benefit of the sun, but it was making for an incredibly pleasant ride anyway! As I went along a bit, the hill dropped away to the right - and I understood why the climb was called "The Shelf" - it was just stuck onto the side of the hill!

As I climbed, I could see the sheep in the fields, rabbits legging it around, bumble bees coming out to gather pollen - all the sights and smells of nature. It was fantastic! Again though, the climb went on and on a bit - although you can't complain about that when you are chasing your shadow up the hill.

Again - the slope wasn't too fearful - it was more stamina sapping than leg-defying (or maybe i was just spoilt by yesterday's hills. It did ramp up in places, but was never anything that was too threatening. Having said that, I was a lot slower than Simon's "recommended" pace - so maybe it just isn't "my" sort of hill. Having said that, the view from the top (and on the way up) defo made it "my" sort of climb.

Youtube here: