bikebritain News May 18, 2013

Greatest Cycling Climbs - The Dorking Devils

#116 Combe Lane, Shere, Surrey

#118 Coldharbour Lane, Dorking, Surrey

#120 Barhatch Lane, Cranleigh, Surrey

2013 had kicked off as far as the greatest cycling climbs challenge was concerned with a very testing ride up Bushcombe Lane, just outside Woodmancote in Gloucestershire. Having rediscovered my taste for the incline I suggested to Frank we take a long overdue trip to the Dorking area and climb some of the hills there. He agreed, and so we found ourselves parked up in the small village of Rudgewick with the bikes on the back of the car. 

You may recall my tactics at the Burgess Hill Sportive earlier this year was to wear shorts and I decided this was the way forward once again. It was, however, freezing cold. Biting wind. And it had started snowing. Shorts might been optimistic I mused as we set off, riding north-west to Cranleigh. Having studiously researched google maps I thought a 10 km warm up would be a good idea prior to reaching our first challenge, Barhatch Lane. It turned out to be slightly longer since we missed the critical turn right…….. Consulting maps again (I thought I'd better get used to this on this ride), we identified our error and rode back through Cranleigh and quickly found our first hill. By all accounts it was going to be quite long and very steep at the end. It did not disappoint. The incline grew fairly steadily until about half way when it really got going. I never felt we'd stop, but it was a decent work out. I was keen to ‘make a statement’ (though whom I’m not sure) and grind it out in the saddle. Meanwhile Frank was making steady progress edging ahead. 

I was soon out of the saddle. The incline increased. A couple of cars unconvincingly overtook us, stuttering their way up the hill. There was a whispy dusting of snow which made Barhatch Lane look very pretty. Eventually we reached the top, never in danger of stopping but breathing hard and pleased for the respite. A few photos and a piece to video later we were ready for the next challenge. Shere was our next target a picture postcard village on the edge of the A25 near Dorking. We spent most of the next 15 minutes or so hammering down-hill, weaving in and out of potholes and gravel. Great fun. Shere is a tiny, a 'blink and you miss it' kind of place. Combe Lane was our target and it was easily found doing a left/right over the A25. Again, it started gently, but you could predict with some confidence what was ahead. It was a strange hill, no real bite until the hard, double-back left hander which indicated we were nearly at the top. Nevertheless it was a 'grinder', the road dissecting the woodland as we rode upwards.  

Reaching the top we were faced with a choice. We could loop our way back to the A25 or enjoy the descent and make our way to Dorking 'proper'. Anyone who knows me, knows I hate going back on myself. However I needed to make an exception this time. Time was getting on and I wanted to fit in at least one other hill before we started our ride home. Time to get going. Naturally, the downhill was fun. Much more fun than the A25. However after a bit of 'head-down', we made good ground and found ourselves navigating the periphery of the heaving urban metropolis also known as 'Dorking on a Sunday'. Our route to Coldharbour Lane was made more challenging as the Gas/Water/Electricity board had decided to dig nearly all of the road up. Undeterred and after a number of mainly illegal moves (that were certainly not featured in the latest edition of the Highway Code), we found Coldharbour. Obligatory signs indicating steepness and narrowness. This must be it. It was. 

Steepish start, continuing on quite steeply, ending.........even more steeply. I was happy to get this hill done and dusted. It had started to snow and our bikes were not known for their handling in the snow. The last thing I wanted was a mechanical failure or otherwise when we were miles from the car, daylight failing with the temperature dropping. I was getting tired to. Frank was still riding strongly, I was content to reach the top in one piece and without a break. It looked like a Winter Wonderland at the summit. It looked beautiful. 

Having scaled three hills we decided to return ‘home’. There were more hills to scale but they would have to wait for next time. It was getting really chilly and my extremities were beginning to suffer. Cycling shorts had been a bad call. By my reckoning we were a good 15km, maybe 20km from the car. The return ride wasn't difficult; indeed there were a couple of very decent descents. However I had issues of another kind; my hands and fingers were unfeasibly cold. It was becoming hard to apply the brakes. I didn't get it. My hands never got this cold – but for some reason they were today though. Frank was ahead and I was now hanging on, feeling ragged. The kilometres clicked over slowly, despite us maintaining a healthy lick. Eventually the signpost for Rudgewick appeared; only a short distance to muster now. Fingers, hands and feet were completely numb. 

It took a generous 5 minutes to get any feeling back into my fingers. I sat in the car, blowing on them. Cannot remember the last time I had to do that. I was already committed to purchasing some new Winter gloves. Granted, it was nearly Spring. Granted, I would get limited use out of them this side of the year. However, I was not going to experience this again. It actually hurt. 

Other than dealing with the implications of wearing inappropriate clothing it had been a good ride. No such whinging from Frank who "Loved it". They'll be more to come from Dorking I'm sure; besides we still need to give Box Hill a proper going over.......might wait for Summer to arrive though.

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