2017 Goals

2016 was an epic cycling year for me. The main aim of the year was the completion of the inaugural running of the Tour of the Highlands Sportive, which is an awesome three day, 300+ mile event with a ton of climbing. I also aimed to hit my highest ever annual mileage cycling. I planned to commute on the bike 3-4 days a week, depending on weather to get 15 miles each commute day, plus a 100km+ ride every Sunday with the club. Unless the weather prevented it. At least 100 miles a week on average through the year.

I was doing great, right up until I did a ride to the coast with B&DCC. That ride was too flat. Not enough hills. I got bored of cycling. 120 miles in I’d had enough with another 20 to go. I had plenty of power left to ride. I was just fed up of actually riding. That led me to deciding to cut back the cycling for a week or two, then start training to do some hill climbs when the season started.

I love riding up hills. That’s my thing. I know that. A big long challenging flat ride is ok, but I’ve done the coast and back a few times so I knew I could do it. It wasn’t a new challenge. I’ve done a 200+ mile flat sportive. That was tough. But I’ve done 200 miles. I know I can just keep riding, if I fuel right. It’s boring. I need the hills!

So the idea was to hit the hill climbs. I know I’m not going to be competitive. I’m not interested in proper structured training, I just like to explore, enjoy and ride upwards. But I’ve done a couple of hill climbs before, they’re a bit of fun. It was something to aim for to get me excited about riding again.

Then I got knocked off my bike by a dog on my Commute the day before my family holiday. I broke my collar bone quite badly, requiring surgery. I did get back on the indoor trainer as soon as I could, to keep the fitness, but it was 4 months before I was fit to ride outside again. This kind of destroyed my cycling year, and got me banned from cycle commuting, as it’s the second time I’ve ended up in hospital as a result.

I need a goal for 2017, something to keep me motivated and excited to ride. I always ride year round, except in the dangerous weather. Rule #5 and Rule #9 are really important to me. So I generally keep going, but I just need something to look for to help that.

We’ve got another three day tour planned for the year, that’s going to be great, riding in Shropshire with most of the group I rode TOTH with and a couple of other good cycling friends. But that’s fairly early in the year (end of May) so I need something to keep me going all year.

I’ve been keen on Simon Warren’s book 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, and the follow up Another 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs for some time. I’ve now ridden 18 of them over the years I’ve been riding. As I live near the Peak District, there’s a good cluster I’ve ridden many times.

So my aim this year is to ride as many of the 100 Greatest Climbs I can in the year. Not just looking to ride ones I’ve never done, but to get as many in as I can. So, I am to complete all the Midlands climbs. That’s easy, I can ride to them all from home. There’s a few Yorkshire ones I can get to from home yet to tick off also. The trip to Shropshire includes a couple. So now I’m looking around to see which other hills I can get to in a day trip with the car. Some of the Lake District hills to revisit, and hopefully the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors could get a visit. I’m also looking at using the train to get from home to somewhere, then ride up some of the hills on the way back.

It’s got me dead excited!

Holme Moss

This has to be the most iconic climb I’ve done. It’s number 43 in the Hundred Greatest Climbs.

Now, there are harder climbs and longer climbs in the book. But I think this is so far the single greatest climb.

That said the book seems to just focus on the pure uphill bit of the climb. Which I think is wrong, I prefer the longer game.

Starting out of Holmefirth (last of the summer wine) and winding along the valley a little gradual up to warm the legs. Then it really stars with a vicious little up hill out of the saddle, just to make sure you’re hit hard to start with into Holme.

You’re rewarded with a short downhill before the real work begins and the book version of the climb starts.

As you’ve been approaching, you can see the road snaking up the hill. Usually with some poor sods struggling up on their bikes and the odd motorbike or car going past them.

The road surface is fantastic. The views, bends and gradient are cracking.

And best of all, there are distance markers on the road to show you how much more there is to go. The distance between the 3/4 of a mile marker and the 1/2 mile marker is the longest quarter mile I’ve ever ridden. But it’s great.

The Cat and Fiddle

Number 70 in the Hundred Greatest Climbs book, and this is a clear contender.

Starting in the middle of Macclesfield is not ideal, but, the road is a major route with a great surface. It’s never too steep. You never have to be out of the saddle on it. It even lets up with a couple of little downhill’s and a couple of “flattish” sections to let you recover and keep the push going.

It’s got bends. It’s got views.

It also has psychotic idiots on motorbikes (and I have gone over it on a motorbike, but not in a psychotic super-speed fit). This has eased since they “ruined” the road with the average speed cameras.

The biggest downside of the Cat, other than the start in Macc, is the fact it’s a 50 mile ride with some tough hills for me to get to the start 🙂

Gun Hill

Gun Hill is another climb in the 2nd book of climbs. Another 100 Greatest Climbs. It seems to be iconic with people we’ve passed on the road on that side of the Peak District. Not having the 2nd book, I’m not sure why.

I presume it’s used in the TOB a lot.

It’s an OK ascent, the surface is reasonable, it’s got a nice slow build up, then a steeper bit, then it levels off a little before a few more kicks and a bend and a bit of a “haha you didn’t save anything for this bit I hid round the corner” sadism.

Just not inspiring me.

As a descent though, it’s fantastic. The bends are just right for going down. The surface is good. It’s wide enough that you won’t get into too much trouble (slow a bit for the houses though!)

Definitely, for me, more of a hill to enjoy going down than an iconic uphill battle. I’d much rather go down it, then go up Thorncliffe Bank, which is a properly brilliant climb.

Slack Hill

Slack Hill is #139 in the 2nd book of Greatest Climbs.

Slack Hill is a great descent, catch it at the right time on a Sunday morning and it’s empty of traffic. It’s wide, good surface, straight and steep. At the bottom it ramps up the other side to slow down safely.

It is a main road from Chesterfield to Matlock though, so catch it at the wrong time and it’s not great.

Descending, I’ve done over 50mph on the bike. Felt great.

We rode up it. And it’s a rubbish climb.

It’s long and straight and a main road. I can’t see anything to recommend it at all to be honest. I’d never bother again. Just a boring slog with traffic going by. I don’t have the 2nd book, so I don’t know why it’s in.


Next on my list was Riber, #32 in the 100 Greatest Climbs. I actually hit it right after doing Bank Road. And you’re still in Matlock, and it starts climbing up through a residential area, is less than ideal.

Until you turn off onto the Riber itself, when it’s still a bit residential but then it’s hairpins, steep and evil.

The surface isn’t great, but it’s not totally awful either.

It scores 9/10, making it one louder than Winnats Pass. However, I think it’s not actually as tough as Winnats. It seemed to be easier to me. Not a lot. Just a bit.

It also seemed short. Winnats seems to keep going. There’s always a bit more that I forgot about. It’s always a bit steeper than I thought. The Riber was tough, and a hill is always tougher the first time you go up it. And there was one moment I wasn’t sure I’d make it up, but then I saw the top and knew I would.

So I’d not give it 9/10, I’d swap the score with Winnats.

It was a good climb though, views, toughness, no traffic. Enjoyable. And brings you out in a good place to drop down to Cromford and head off up Via Gellia or on for a ride elsewhere.

So I’ll do this one again.

Bank Road

Bank Road is #31 in the 100 Greatest Climbs book. It’s in there because it’s the venue for a famous hill climb race. Like quite a lot of the climbs seem to be.

Being in the book for being an iconic hill climb might be great for people who’ve followed cycling for years, keeping up with HC championships.

But I’ve got the book because I’m looking for great climbs to push myself up.

Now, being in Matlock, the buildings that line the climb are quite nice to look at as you go. And being in Matlock and on a hill, the surface is excellent. But you’re in Matlock. There are cars parked on both sides, buildings all the way up both sides. Traffic. Pedestrians. No view.

The climb was quite nice. In and out of the saddle. A nice gradient, tough, but not killing me.

Just don’t think it’s one of the hundred most enjoyable climbs to ride in the country. It’s just in there for it’s heritage as an HC ride. So, I won’t be bothering again.

Rowsley Bank

The first time I hit Rowsley Bank, I’d been hunting around the climbs in the area for something that might be like the dreaded Hardknott Pass that was coming up on the C2C in a Day.

It’s not Hardknott.

But those hairpins are tough. The worst thing for me, is that after the nasty bit at the bottom it just keeps on going for ages after. However, seems the official 100 Greatest Climbs version ignores that part and concentrates on the steepest area.

It starts off not too bad. It’s a harder lead in than Winnats, but not as much as Curbar. Then it nips through a farm/cottage and hits the hair pins.

That’s the hard bit. They’re vicious and nasty. The inside of them is sheer and painful.

And I know this, because today the entire Mazda MX5 owners club decided to drive up it as I hit the hairpins. Forcing me to stay on the inside of the 1st and 3rd instead of taking the outside where the gradient is not so vicious. It was the third nasty hill today, and the driest, but the only one I lost traction on the rear wheel out of the saddle.

But I got up it both times I’ve tried, and I plan to get out again as the first hill in a ride (like it was the first time, not the third as it was today) and take the outside on all the hairpins and smash my PR.

Check out the 3D profile on veloviewer. vicious.


Curbar Edge

The first time I hit Curbar Edge was after I’d done the Coast to Coast mountain bike route over two days. I thought I’d ridden some tough hills on that. This was a Sunday ride with some non-C2C friends. And we hit Curbar, and it hit me back hard.

For a long time since then, I considered it the toughest hill I’d ridden. It had a special place in my mind as being a bastard. And that mental image made it one.

Nothing else in Derbyshire, not Mam Nick, not Winnats Pass, not Rowsley was worse than Curbar.

Today I rode three of the 100 Greatest Climbs, and this was the 2nd I hit and it was the easiest.

It’s not the tough bastard I thought it was.

Oh it’s tough.

Just not as tough as it was in my head. Today I slayed that beast of my imagination. I didn’t even PR it. It just got put into perspective more.

It starts hard, a big, steep imposing ramp, then levels off a bit (if you can call it levelling off) through the village before some nasty hair pins and an endless ride to a blind corner that hides a last little sting.

It’s hard work, but I now love it instead of hating it. Which is nice. Good training. I plan to hit it on some evening rides when the day gets longer. Fresher legs and smash my PR I think.

Winnats Pass

I’ve always loved Winnats Pass, and the area around it. There’s just something stunning about how it looks.

As it’s reasonably local, famous and obvious, I’d already ridden it a few times before getting the 100 Greatest Climbs book, and I wasn’t surprised it was in there.

Much as I love how the place it looks, I didn’t love riding up it. It’s seriously tough.

The lead in, which looks nice and flat as you approach, quickly jumps up to nearly 10%. Then you hit the first cattle grid and it gets silly.

Twisting and turning up through the pass, it’s epic in its beauty. Not that you can admire that as you’re head down, giving it everything to keep going. It’s a really tough climb.

Personally, I don’t think it finishes until the road junction at the top, but, given the number of segments on Strava there is some dispute as to what makes the Winnats climb!

Check out the interactive 3D profile on Veloviewer.

There are three of the 100 Greatest Climbs which are close to home for me. Winnats being the furthest, and the 2nd most ridden (by me). And it’s the toughest. I rode three of them today in one ride. Winnats was the first, and still harder than Rowsley Bank at the end of the ride.