bikebritain News July 20, 2011

Greatest Cycling Climbs - A Matlock Double Header

A few weeks ago I went to visit a dear friend of mine, Chirpy. Chirpy lives with his (lucky - bare with it, it's a long running joke) fiancé Phillippa, in a placed called Allestree located close to Derby. The location is important because Allestree is relatively near to Matlock - and there are 2 hills there I needed to climb. Earlier that day Simon Warren had tweeted that Riber Road (one of the hills in question), was infact his 'favourite' hill - and let's face it, he should know a thing or two about hills...... Matlock itself is set in a valley, and climbing either side presents a challenge to those powered by the pedal. 

I shoe-horned both the MTB and road bike into the car (honestly, a feat in itself) and drove North. I wasn't sure whether climbing ridiculously steep hills would float Chirpy's boat, so I casually mentioned I'd be going to Matlock first. He immediately saw through my ruse and announced he'd join me on his Mountain Bike. Fair enough. The MTB option might turn out to be a genius idea......

We arrived in Matlock. Well Sainsbury's car park in Matlock actually, and got the bikes ready. The plan was this; cycle up Bank Road first as Simon reckoned that was 'only' 8/10 - a warm up if you will, then head up the 9/10 Riber Road. We set off through town, feeling reasonably confident. Bank road was easy to locate and it started fairly gently. Just don't look ahead. The road disappeared into the heavens......

Bank Road

Apparently, Bank Road is one of the steepest residentual Rosfs on Britain. That fact was quickly lost on me...... I set off one gear off my lowest on the premise the objective was a successful ascent, not the gear I managed it (in). The road climbed quickly but I elected to grind it out in the seat. Chirpy was a little way behind but maintaining a steady pace. I hadn't been on the bike for a fortnight or so, bit I felt pretty good.

You know when a hill is getting steep when the cars go past you in second, slowly. This was exactly where I was. Breathing heavily, I plodded my way past parked houses and potentially dodgy ironwork, using lampposts as markers to the next section of 'ascent'. 

The toughest part of the hill is about 4/5ths of the way up. It caused me to climb out of the saddle and properly exert myself. Thereafter it levelled out and allowed me to get myself together. Chirpy was still going and I had previously agreed I would cycle onwards and do a piece to camera at the very top of the hill. I spun my way to the'summit,took a couple of photos and raced down to hook up with Chirpy who by now was waiting for me. Double thumbs! Bank Road conquered......

Riber Road

The issue with climbing Bank Road first was that it lulled us into a (very) false sense of confidence. We enjoyed an excilerating descent into Matlock and found the start of the Riber climb. Again, it began quite gently....and I realised this was literally the warm up. A signpost a few minutes later denoted Riber Road. It said it was narrow and very steep. Here goes.......

There was nothing else for it, I immediately dropped into my lowest gear. I had 5 bends to aim for, they would be my markers. Simon's description of the first bend was concerning; "insanely steep" was the phrase used. I attacked it with some gusto and was pleasantly surprised. It was ok. Yes, steep, but manageable. Next bend was closeby. I employed similar tactics to The Bank Road ascent; steady plod. I was still on the saddle, that bodes well too. Acceleratedtound the bend and drove the legs. A few houses were perched into the hill on the left and the view was getting steadily more impressive. 

It seemed like quite some distance between the second and third bends and I think this is where the legs started to feel the incessant grind. I climbed slowly, with every revolution getting hard than the last. The third and forth bend complex came close together. Approaching the third bend I was now out of the saddle and breathing hard. By the forth I was thinking to myself "How much further?" Lets face it; that's not a good sign. I am always amazed how quickly you can go from feeling ok to just about hanging on' keeping that precious forward momentum intact. It's not the leg burn that's the issue, it's the feeling I can't get enough Oxygen in to power the thighs. When this feeling is present I know I cannot sustain the climbing further.....

As with previous climbs, I dug in. One pedal stroke after another. I crawled to the final bend and returned to the saddle. Riber was levelling out. With my breathing getting back under control I could afford a look around. The view was impressive and the folly at the top of the hill could be seen on the left. Alittle further on the entrance to thd folly appeared, though unfortunately there was no public access. I waited for Chirpy to appear and shortly thereafter he did. Out of breath, he had also made a successful Riber Road ascent, even claiming to have enjoyed it, despite the gradient. 

The descent was fun, though we were constantly hanging off the brakes. After a few photos we returned to civilisation, satisfied with our afternoons work. Riding back through Matlock even the 'normal' hills were steep, so another mission there has definately been penciled in. The climb round the outskirts and ultimately out of the town looks particularly challenging. Maybe I should add that to my 100 climbs book....

It's too early to say if Riber Road will turn out to be my favourite. I think Porlock is still my favourite but that's probably because I want a rematch to show it whose there's the 11/10 rated climb in the West of Scotland. A mission for 2012 and guys from team bikebritain I suspect.....

Words, thumbnail and slider image - bikebritain Ltd

"Greatest Cycling Climbs", written by Simon Warren, Published by Frances Lincoln Ltd, 1st Edition, 2010

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