bikebritain News August 4, 2012

Greatest Cycling Climbs #24 - 'The Streatley Hill Scuttle'

7 Climbs in 7 Days' Part 2 of 3

I had made a good start to my '7 hills in 7 days'. 4 done, 3 to go. My next challenge was further away at a place called Streately, West Berkshire. 

To be truthful, prior to my visit, I would not have been able to locate Streatley on a map. It transpires that this very small town is not very far away from the A34 making it almost on the way to a couple of meetings for work. As is typically the case now I consult the Cycling Climbs book prior to any drive around the UK to see if I can make an assault on any nearby and featured incline. Streatley fitted that bill. After 90 minutes of driving I rolled into Streatley and promptly drove straight out of it, trying to look for a suitable parking space. I'd set aside an hour for this venture but success hinged on me being able to park up and take the bike from the back of the car! As is becoming the norm now I found a lay-by a couple of miles outside the town and did a 'Westmoorland', which is short for changing into your gear in the street with no cover. For once there was no one around to offend by an exhibition of clumsy, bicycle-riding induced nudity. 

I returned to Streately and clocked a pub with a car park. Bingo! After the usual faffing about, specifically making sure that the Zipps would not rub on the wheel stays, I was ready. By my reckoning the hill should be out of the car park and turn left. I was right. The book reckoned the hill began immediately and sure enough I could see the road wonder ahead, lined with trees. It was cool since it had been recently raining. That said, it  was pleasant and I was bathed in early evening sunshine. Time to gear down. Heart and lungs were working immediately, I hadn't really done anything that might constitute a warm up. The road got steeper, the locals hammering past seemingly oblivious to me being there. The hill was roughly in 3 sections. I had cycled through the first where the road gained height and incline. A couple of bends characterised the second section. Here the road quality also deteriorated, with plenty of pot holes lining the way. The final section was the steepest and the tree cover was the densest. 

I was working harder now, carefully avoiding the detritus left by precious showers. The Garmin showed 14% so nothing too savage, but enough to make the legs work. I passed by a driveway that was noted in 'the book' and knew the final push was ahead. It had not been too bad at all. Aiming for the burst of light at the top of the hill, I ground out the last 100 meters. The climb had taken not much more than 4 minutes but it was safe to say I was warmed up. Infact it had probably taken me longer to get ready than ascend the hill! 

I rode past the National Trust vista point at the top of the hill and continued on. Having studied the map, there was a 10 mile loop or so that leant itself to cycling in this part of the world. With traffic at a minimum it gave my the opportunity to look about and savour the countryside. With rolling hills before me it was a truly glorious evening. A few miles down the road I turned left (after initially missing the junction), heading back in the vague direction of Streately. I thought to myself the climb hadn't taken very long. I won't be here again for a while. Maybe I should climb it again? Might enjoy it more the next time around? So that was it, decided. I would do it again. Making the occasional piece of video and avoiding random pieces of farm machinery left in the road, I rode back into Streatley. 

Unsurprisingly, experience makes a big difference. I rode the first section harder, kept it steady through the bends and then pushed it hard up the final section. I rolled into the National Trust car park and committed my last thoughts to camera. It had been a perfect way to break up a car journey. The hill itself reminded me of Combe Gibbet - decent, but not a real test like Riber Road (Matlock) or even the Bostal Road (at Steyning). Nevertheless, another hill completed and I had seen a part of the country I previously knew nothing about. (This is one of the additional benefits of this challenge). There would be steeper hills ahead, but for now it was mission accomplished. 12 hours later I would be back in the saddle again.......

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