Love ‘em or hate ‘em, climbs are part and parcel of cycling, unless that is, you live within the confines of Lincolnshire or Cambridgeshire. But for the vast majority of us, at some point during your ride, you’ll have to change up a few cogs and battle the gravity. Whether you’re light or heavy, going uphill can often be difficult as it often requires a good level of fitness, technique, stamina and in some cases, mental resilience. The only thing that really changes is the speed at which you can ascend. I’ll be honest with you, climbing fast isn’t really my forte, but I always try and get some climbing in each ride as you soon build up a better level of fitness making your rides more enjoyable. Now then, before we get stuck in, I am well aware that there is a healthy North/South divide on what people class as a difficult climb, so don’t toast me too hard for some of my choices as I’m writing about the overall experience, not just severity, ok?!
Hardknott pass, Cumbria
The Hardknott pass is fabled as one of the UK’s toughest climbs and gives even the hardest riders nightmares. The first of two in a series of punishing switchbacks, which are the hardest from the east, is where you’ll find the 25% corners. After a brief flattening, the second set of switchbacks are reached. You’ll need to get your weight over the front wheel to avoid falling off as these now 30% grades will be detonating every last muscle fibre in your body. If you are considering riding the area, be sure to make sure your gear ratios are suitable or you’ll be pushing. Pure brutality, Thanks Cumbria!
Box hill, Surrey
I know what a lot of you are thinking, this isn’t really much of a climb, but for those living in or around London, Box hill is often a cornerstone of a good day out. Although it’s not the hardest climb in the area, averaging 5.2% gradient, for me it carries a certain level of nostalgia in that it formed part of the glorious 2012 London Olympic games. Box hill was resurfaced in preparation for the event making it ultra-smooth giving it true Euro vibes. Once you reach the top, you are greeted with a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding Surrey hills and the South Downs. The downside is that there are quite a few speedbumps on the way down so we do not recommend a fast descent.
The Tumble, Monmouthshire
The Tumble, one of Wales’ most feared and popular climbs, presents a significant test to any rider and served as the Tour of Britain’s mountain top finish in 2014. The ascent starts in the village of Govilon and climbs gradually through a residential area before making a sharp left turn where the route steepens through the trees. All seems fine for a few hundred meters until you arrive at the next sharp right hander and look up… The asphalt starts to deteriorate and you start the arduous climb ‘proper’ to the summit. If riding in the wet, save some energy to get over the cattle grid which greets you about half way up. Once you get past the steep stuff, you end up on some beautiful but exposed landscape overlooking the beautiful surrounding valleys.
Bealach-Na-Ba, Scottish Highlands
Located within the Applecross peninsula, in Wester Ross in the Scottish Highlands, Bealach-Na-Ba promises to take your breath away both literally and figuratively. Rising 626 metres from sea level in 9.1 kilometres. Ideally suited to the sadists amongst us, the savagery of this climb is hard to depict in words, but if you just keep in mind that 500 meters of the climb sits at 20%, you know you’re in for a real treat. Oh, and if the climb doesn’t sound quite daunting enough, you’ll likely be reminded that the weather systems in the Scottish Highlands can be, how shall we say, apocalyptic?!
Mow Cop, Staffordshire
Hey, it’s only 1.5km long. Can’t be that hard, right? Well, if I told you that the last part of Mow Cop is so steep that photographers like to set up shop during sportives to take pictures of riders falling sideways, perhaps you’d change your mind! Aptly dubbed, ‘The Killer Mile’ by those who know it, Mow Cop can proudly sit in our list of top climbs you have to ride. As with most climbs, cautious early pacing pays off. If you succumb to the desire to start out too hard, you’ll run out of oxygen and blow before you reach the course’s most challenging section of 100 meters at 21%
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Cheddar Gorge, Somerset
Arguably, one of the more pleasant climbs on our list, Cheddar Gorge is approximately 3.5 km of beautifully smooth tarmac cutting its way through the Mendip hills. Thankfully, as its gradient profile doesn’t resemble a brick wall, you can take in the views of the mighty rock faces that define the Gorge. For me, I love the fact that the worst of the climb is at the bottom so once you’re about half way up, you can gain some momentum and really enjoy it. Did you know that the Gorge is the site of the Cheddar show caves, where Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton, Cheddar Man, estimated to be 9,000 years old was found?
Buttertubs pass, Yorkshire
Featured on stage one of the 2014 Tour de France, the Butter Tubs pass offers just under 4km of grippy and exposed climbing. Nestled within the confines of the north Yorkshire Dales, Buttertubs pass offers what seems like a modest average gradient of 5.9% but as with many of these iconic climbs, that doesn’t tell the full story. Approximately half way up, the climb flattens off and actually descends a little before rising once again to a joyous 16.2% crescendo. If you fancy testing your legs and eyesight, Thwaite is only about 20 miles away from the beautiful Barnard castle via the Pennine way-Well worth a visit.
If you are thinking of taking on some of these climbs or participating in an event, its worth checking to see if you have the correct level of insurance in place. Pedalcover offer a combined home and bicycle policy, travel insurance and also bicycle only insurance policies to cover sportives, cycle racing and cycle touring. If you need any help, just give our friendly support staff a call on 0800 121 4424