100 Greatest Cycling Climbs No.21 - Steyning Bostal Rd
When I 'returned' to cycling a some years ago now, I discovered a route that I subsequently called my 'round-the-block' - which I still use today. On my road bike it takes roughly an hour, is perfect if time is precious and is always challenging. It's a reliable route and one I can use to test how good or otherwise I'm feeling. The ride, a loop, lasts about 25 km, heads North out of Shoreham Airport past Lancing College through Coombes and ancient parish of Botolphs. It's an undulating country lane and gets you nicely warmed up for the climb ahead. Follow this road through Annington until you find the signpost for Steyning, turn left then sharp left again, taking the Bostal Road to Sompting. After a savage climb you enjoy a long and speedy descent ultimately to the A27 where you can cross and head down to the seafront, turning left for Shoreham. The footpath forms part of the National Cycle Network (Route 2) and takes you past Widewater nature reserve on the left and the shingle beach on the right.
Specifically though, the stiffest part of the loop is the infamous-in-these-parts Steyning 'Bostal Road'. This hill is used by Brighton Mitre for practice and every year it plays host to a Sussex Cyclists Association (SCA) hill climb event. In 2010 Pete Tadros of 'In-Gear Quickvit Trainsharp' won the competition, finishing in an impressive 4.13.3. Generally speaking, this is about half the time it takes me to toil my way to the top. According to Simon Warren, it should take about 6 minutes...so I still have some way to go in that case. The Bostal Road is found just off the A283 before you enter the village of Steyning. It begins steadily, then steepens switching from left to right. The road then flattens out for about 400 meters - just long enough for you to catch your breathe for the second phase. This section is much steeper. Again it climbs, twisting left. There is an alternative route and it's at this point it joins the road. From here it climbs right and and you pass a chalk face, also on your right. The summit is close. From here one more left/right complex and the coast is before you. You've made it! Views over looking mid Sussex behind you and Brighton and beyond to your left await on a clear day. But you probably won't care as your lungs have taken a pounding! You've just climbed 123 meters vertical over a distance of 1600 meters.
I started my 2011 cycling year by by towing my son up it, non-stop, in the AT2 trailer. It was fairly heavy-going but I managed it. I know every inch of that climb, and just plodded my way to the top. At it's steepest point, it's a 17% gradient. As far as the '100 Greatest Cycling Climbs' goes, it gets rated as 5/10. I'm not so sure - especially since the Beacon (another hill relatively speaking on my doorstep) is rated as 6/10. I think the Bostal Road is tougher. It's steeper than the Beacon and on the plus side has much less traffic on it. I must have ridden up it 100 if not 200 times - and there's never an easy run. It's also one hill I am not going to bother attempting on the single speed. Know your limits. A fellow cyclist I know managed 12 ascents/descents of the Bostal Road prior to riding the Etape. He said if he could manage that then he knew he would be able to complete it (the Etape). Last year I achieved 3 consecutive ascents - and that was tough enough. It just feels perverse once you've climbed to the top just to spin round, descend and do it all again. Hard on the mind. This year I'm going for 5. I'll let you know how I do.
100 Greatest Cycling Climbs by Simon Warren. Published by Frances Lincoln Ltd, 2010.
Thumbnail and Slider Photo Image - bikebritain ltd