bikebritain News July 19, 2012

Greatest Cycling Climbs - A 4 Hill Howler

'7 Climbs in 7 Days' Part 1 of 3 - 

Greatest Cycling Climbs; 'A 4 Hill Howler'

#20 - Toys Hill

#15 - York's Hill

#16 - White Lane aka 'Titsey Hill'

#19 - Kidds Hill aka 'The Wall'

Much can happen in a month and it's fair to say that June's activity was dominated by our exploits in RIDE24. However, during the week of the Jubilee celebrations, I managed to ride 7 of the climbs featured in Simon Warren's Greatest Cycling Climbs book. I thought 7 climbs in 7 days had a good ring to it. I thought that was quite good going until I spotted someone on Twitter complete all 100 climbs in a week! Anyway, here's how those rides went.

Having studied google maps and the 100 Climbs book intently for some time I figured we could 'comfortably' manage 4 hills all located in the North Downs, in the vicinity of the picturesque town of Edenbridge in Kent. I shared the plan with Swazy, who was signed up without much hesitation. Should be fun. 

We convoyed our way to Kidds Hill, our start/finish point. I suggested climbing that first, but Swazy reckoned we should keep that one up our sleeve. Let's finish with it he said. OK. This meant we had about a 10 mile ride to Edenbridge where the first (longest and "arduous" according to the book, steepest) climb was. It was Toys Hill to be precise. Book time 8 minutes and 170 meters height gain. You can be sure it took us longer. We were fooled by the start. It began quite gently and I wondered if this going to be all that. We were nicely warmed up and ready for almost anything. That changed. The breathing got deeper. The hill got steeper. We continued upwards and I saw a cluster of houses to the left and right. That mus be the end I thought to myself. Wrong! Mr Warren reckons there's another 500 meters to go from here. I wasn't sure but it's where it got tasty. For once the road was smooth but this only concentrated the mind on the incline. It peaked at about 18% but the challenge of this hill is in its length; at nearly 3km it is definitely a relief to reach the top! 

Our second quarry was York's Hill, situated near Sevenoaks. It was a brief ride from Toys Hill and on reflection my favourite of the day. Short but not sweet, it constituted a 92 meter slog up a road that was barely more than a tarmac track! We arrived at the top, giving us some indication of what was ahead. Steep. 20% at least I'd say. But it wasn't the gradient that was the challenge - it was the amount of flotsam on the road. I have never seen so many rocks (!), stones, grit and chalk on a road before. As a consequence we weaved our way up to the top, wheel spinning and dodging the random obstacles as we went. I felt sure one of us would get a puncture. As was quickly becoming a theme, the top was most demanding. The tree lined banks loomed over us as we clawed our way to the summit. We did it - but that was a tough one. 6/10 to be more precise. That felt about right.

The next hill took us further North, underneath the M25 close to Clacketts Lane services and beyond. Frankly, the climb before the hill was worthy of being in the book! A very steep incline, clocking 17% on the Garmin greeted us. Indeed, for a moment I thought it was it! However, as we plodded our way up the top I spotted a small country lane to the right. This was it; White Lane or known by the locals as Titsey Hill. Actually it was a bit of a relief to begin with. It was not as steep as our previous climb. However the respite did not last long; round one bend and another, White Lane then got properly steep. Like 'stand out of the saddle' steep. We were in ok shape and slowly ground out our progress towards the top. The road surface was poor; not as bad as York's Hill but still not ideal. The hill forms the second part of an annual race in October organised by the Catford and Bec CC (the first being York's Hill). I would not fancy racing up it. Eventually we reached the summit, out of breathe once more, a combination of sweat and rain combining down our necks. We sheltered for a while in a bus stop across the main road assessing our route options for the ride home. Basically it was back the way we came, give or take; we were at least 30km from the car.

During the descent I decided to take some footage use the Muvi camera. Wrong choice. Somehow it freed itself from the fixing and dropped on the floor. I retrieved it, but it didn't look very well. It had taken a proper clunk and now the start/stop button didn't seem to work. Irritating, but not the end if the world. I had never been entirely happy with its performance. Potential upgrade time! (I managed to rescue the footage that had already been shot by swapping the micro SD card with the one in an old Blackberry and getting to the data that way. I used some of it in the film of the same name, now on the website). 3 decent hills in and it was clear British Summertime was doing its level best to make us as wet as possible. As is typically the challenge with these sorts of rides, our navigation home was not something to be admired. Countless Iphone map checks and a couple of wrong turns later we found ourselves in the vicinity of the final hill. 

4 hours after starting, we reached the signpost that denoted Kidds Hill, aka, 'The Wall'. This scored 5/10 in the book, luckily, because we were both fatiguing now. The photo in the book shows a leafy, sunny road, disappearing towards the sky. It didn't look like that now. With nothing to eat and a longer than expected ride, the route was beginning to take taking its toll. I was really hungry. We free-wheeled down the first section by the pub and then started climbing. It was steady, not too savage. I recalled the false summits that Simon Warren mentioned and just concentrated on the light at the end of the tunnel rather than anything else. Sure enough they came and went. I was feeling ok, focussed, I needed to get home now. I pushed through the last section and gratefully coasted to a halt at the car park at the top of the hill. Done it! A final piece of video later, we looked about as good as we felt! Time for home and to face the music........

On a ride a few weeks later myself and Swazy joked how neither of us where flavour of the month with our respective wives that day. We had misjudged pretty much everything; timing, distance, elevation, food and weather. Indeed, the only reason our wives tempers had not reached boiling point was that we were so late it was considered a relief when we finally turned up! In summary, I'm not sure we can really claim that day to be a 'family day'.........

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