To help build excitement in advance of Thursday’s Rollapaluza Urban Hill Climb, here’s a re-run of a great piece Simon Warren, author of 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, did for the Speak Media-produced UHC event programme in 2011. If you ride in London, let us know your favourite climbs – and times – and we’ll see you on Thursday!
Swain’s lane, Highgate N6
Swain’s Lane is my primary training hill as it’s the toughest climb I can fit into my hour’s commute to the office. I was overjoyed when I found it but there are plenty of days I wish I hadn’t, which is why I only tend to ride it between May and October. Outside these months I use the longer and gentler Highgate West Hill, if I rode Swains Lane all year round, I’d be a) a wreck and b) bored to death of it. I usually attack it on my old fixed wheel bike (69-inch gear ratio) which makes it a real grind, and I have a strict routine I stick to each time I go up. I stay in the saddle to the plateau outside the cemetery and then out of the saddle to the finish, which, unlike the official race distance, means going all the way to the brow.
Height gain 71m
100 Climbs rating 4/10
Quickest time (over the UHC race distance) 1.42.1 minutes
College Road, Dulwich SE21
The second of my London training hills is College Road in Dulwich. What makes this road special is the fact that it’s a toll road – there’s a booth with barriers at the base and cars have to pay £1 for the privilege of using it. This of course makes it much quieter than the other ways up to Crystal Palace and therefore perfect for hill intervals. Again, as with Swains lane, I always ride it on my fixed wheel. I start my watch at the first lamppost past the ticket booth, accelerate, and then sit back down. The slope is reasonably steep then you’re rewarded with an easing past the station where you can spin before the gradient bites again. Then it’s hard to the top, so I stay seated until the road bends left, and from here it’s out of the saddle and 100% to stop the watch at the roundabout. Under three minutes and I’m happy.
Height gain 58m
100 Climbs rating 3/10
Quickest time (for my measured distance) 2.51 minutes
Avey Lane, High Beech, IG10
This insignificant stretch of road is my testing hill, and I’ve been coming here for over six years to see how my body is working. It didn’t get a mention in 100 Climbs as it’s overshadowed by it’s more substantial neighbour, Mott Street, but it’s the perfect hill to get up to speed, hold that speed, but not really hurt yourself. I have a very precise starting point for my effort and it’s already half way up the hill, just after the junction with Pynest Green Lane, and I finish at the second speed bump following the narrowing at the top. The routine is ride out for 45 minutes, head to the bottom, take my brain out and give it 110%, no mercy, no holding back. If it’s a good day I will sneak under the minute, if it’s not a good day I will spend 45 minutes riding home trying to work out what went wrong.
Height gain 37m
100 Climbs rating n/a
Quickest time (for my measured distance) 56 seconds.
Yorks Hill, Kent
Strange that I should include this in my five favourite climbs close to London as I make the point of only riding it once a year during the Catford CC hill climb. As soon as the leaves start to fall and the temperature drops, this is the hill I see when I close my eyes. I have no need to revisit it in-between events as every inch of its gnarled surface is etched on my brain, imprinted on my lungs and chiselled into my legs. It’s the best race to ride anywhere in the country as the last 100 meters of the course are lined four deep with spectators all screaming you on. For just a few fleeting moments, and in total agony, you get to live the dream, to feel what it’s like to be a Pro heading up to the summit of an Alpine pass.
Height gain 92m
100 Climbs rating 6/10
Quickest time 2.08.5 minutes
Chalkpit Lane, Surrey
My favourite climb in the South East, it was a tough call to leave this road out of the first 100 Climbs book but it was top of the list for the second volume due out next May. Unremarkable up to the tight right hand corner but from here on it’s brilliant; wrench your bike round the 25% bend and you’re faced with an achingly uniform 20% slog on the perfectly surfaced road. Dead straight, you’re offered no respite for over 200 meters but it’s just a fraction under the point where it becomes impossible. Whenever I’m in this area I try and fit it into my ride. Although very steep, it’s deceptively easy to ride, maybe due to that beautiful surface so I always reach the top feeling good.
Height gain 138m
100 Climbs rating 6/10
Quickest time. N/A
Simon’s follow-up book, Another 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, is out now