bikebritain News March 30, 2013

Greatest Cycling Climbs No.105 - Bushcombe Lane

The Bushcombe Lane Bruiser

“I still rate it as the hardest climb in the South [West],” Simon Warren, author of ‘Another 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs’ also known as @100Climbs

@bikebritain replied, simply, “It really hurt me.”

For a change, I’ll summarize the experience briefly below for those of you who don’t have another 5 minutes to read the expanded version. It goes something like this:-

Drive 56 miles with a hangover, then assemble bike.

  • 25% signs, found it. 
  • This is ok. 
  • Ah, it’s started.
  • This is quite steep.
  • Umm, time to get out of the saddle.
  • This is really steep.
  • This is…….Concentrate!
  • Got to keep going.
  • Car!
  • Bollocks!
  • Made it.
  • Bit disappointed.

The Detail

I thought I’d start the year tackling a 10/10 rated hill. Cocky, but might as well throw down a marker. I’d been doing some decent mileage (for me), and for once I was relatively close to a ‘real’ hill. My experience of the ‘Greatest Cycling Climbs’ so far basically stated that anything over 7/10 should be respected. I was certain this would be no different.

I drove 56 miles South of Rugby, the bike in pieces (by design) in the boot. I arrived just before 08.30 in the Bishops Cleeve Tesco car park and started assembling the bike. I was wearing shorts. It was very cold. Freezing in fact. And windy. Plus I had a Peroni hangover. And it was a school day. I needed to get on with it. 

iPhone to hand, I quickly located Station Road and headed towards the neighbouring village of Woodmancote. I cycled under the railway bridge. Bushcombe Lane should be on the left. It was, and so were the 25% warning signs. Hill – found! It didn’t look that steep……however you could see Cleeve Hill staring down at me and I reminded myself that this was 10/10 challenge. After taking a few quick photos I rode on. I past a few houses and the road started to incline. Nothing to be worried about though. A short time later, the road cut to the left and it started getting steeper, quicker. Apparentl,y this was the 20% section. That felt about right. 

I continued upwards, cycling more slowly past houses on the left and right. Water was running off the hills, spraying onto the road. I was breathing hard now, but still just about in the saddle. That soon changed. Head down, I needed to focus on pushing the pedals round. I had forgotten about my headache – I now had heartache! The gradient increased again, must be knocking on the door of 25% now. The road took a hard right and continued getting steeper. I was going very slowly now and on the other side of the road for the purposes of traction. The road was also becoming increasingly narrower, a factor that was soon to become a major issue. I had no idea how far I had to go. I remembered something about a 30% left hander and here I was, at an insanely steep left hander. I was practically at a stand-still on the top pedal stroke. Is there a speed slower than a crawl? If so, I was doing it. All I could hear was my heartbeat. Legs were going crazy. 

Don’t stop.

DON’T STOP!

I looked up. A car was making its way down the hill. NO! I was weaving all over the road. I did not have the energy to control the bike properly. There was no way I was going to manage to ride past the car without wobbling off into the hedgerow. I had to stop. Dammit. I pulled over into a very muddy layby, cursing. I didn’t even notice the car drive by. I spun the bike round, and surprisingly I managed to clip in immediately and continued to slowly climb the rest of the hill. What was even more annoying was that I was just 20 meters from the top. Well within touching distance of a ‘clean’ climb. But regardless of the reason I had stopped. 

I rode over the first cattle grid and then the other, spinning my way to what I regarded as the top. I got off, still out of breathe and took a few photos. The views were good, despite it being overcast. I rode carefully back downhill, studying the gradient. It was incredibly steep. Well worth the 10/10 score. Even as I free wheeled down the lane I was thinking to myself I would be back – with the purpose of a genuine non-stop ascent next time.

Now the list of hills that require a second attempt includes Bushcombe Lane.

Words, Thumbnail and Slider Image - bikebritain ltd

Postscript.

7th April. I've just gotten off the phone from Chirpy, who is Cheltenham born and bred. Other than his surprise to find me cycling round hills he used to ride up on his paper-round (hardcore), he imparted some additional local knowledge. Apparently, Stockwell Lane that runs adjacent to Bushcombe Lane is another path up the Cleeve 'killer' Hill (my insertion). Looks like not only have I got a rematch with Bushcombe on my hands, but another slog up the next lane along. More to follow.

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