Words by Katherine Moore
100 Greatest Cycling Climbs is a book treasured by the cycling community across Britain. Here Katherine Moore explores the collection, speaking to the author Simon Warren, and explains why you too should aspire to conquer them all.
The ‘100 Greatest Cycling Climbs’ is a jersey pocket-sized book and guide to 100 of the UK’s best climbs by bicycle. Compiled and tested by experienced competitive hill climber Simon Warren, it’s a book that truly deserves a place on the bookshelf of every road cyclist.
Criteria for inclusion in the top 100 British climbs was not only the steepest and toughest, but also well-known ascents such as Box Hill, made famous by the London 2012 Olympics, and historic hill climb courses like Bank Road in Matlock. Spanning the breadth of England, Scotland and Wales, there are both local hills to seek for everyone and suggestions for hills to seek in some of the most spectacular landscapes that our island has to offer.
With a page dedicated to each climb, there’s plenty of information to prepare you for the ride ahead. A full description of the climbing experience, from the road surface to the gradient and landmarks en route is accompanied by the elevation profile of the segment. Statistics such as the length, height gain and approximate climbing time are featured, and all count towards the difficulty rating marked out of 10. A map for the location and direction of the climb will help you to find it accurately too. There are also official Strava segments for each climb, so you can compare your times to everyone else who’s had a bash, and the checklist pages in the back of the book are perfect for ticking off the climbs you’ve defeated.
Simon Warren, hill climbing enthusiast
Simon Warren, a designer by trade and dedicated hill climber by hobby, explains that he had always thought that a publication celebrating the best of British inclines was a good idea, but had no idea just how successful it would turn out to be. He aimed simply to create ‘100 reasons for people to get out there’, inspiring people to ride by empowering them with knowledge of where they can ride. The book can be interpreted and used in different ways; for some, it will be about thrashing themselves to get the best time of the official Strava segments, whilst for others, it may be the victory of reaching the top of the hill at all.
The first edition proved so popular that the sequel soon followed, ‘Another 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs’, along with ‘Hellingen’, a collection of Belgian climbs, climbs of the Tour de France, and most recently a series of 8 books covering the best regional climbs in the UK. For those less fond of the paper format, the new app has been launched, where you can find the climbs and keep track of your progress online. If that’s not enough, then you can also get caps, bidons, mugs and more online - a great gift idea for the hill climbing fanatic in your life!
What will be your favourite? For Simon narrowing it down to just one was impossible; he opted for the remote, spectacular beauty of Newlands Hause in the Lake District, and the ‘brutal’ Riber Castle in the Peaks. So why should you be tempted to pick up the copy and give them a go?
Five reasons why you should try the 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs
Practice makes perfect
When, I was new to cycling, trying desperately to keep up on club rides and inevitably getting dropped on every incline, I was given a very good nugget of advice; ‘if you wanna be good at hills, ride more hills’. Having discovered this book and set off in search of my nearest climbs to tick off, I soon discovered that the hills I feared on club rides were mere molehills compared to some of the monsters in 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, like the cruelly steep Winnats Pass in the Peak District. With more hill practice comes greater strength and confidence. Sure, I do still get dropped occasionally on these hills after a few years of practice, but the pace is probably double what it used to be!
The road less travelled
You’ll find many of the 100 Climbs tucked away on the undiscovered roads of the UK; in sleepy rural villages or remote landscapes, otherwise missed by the unknowing cyclist. By selecting these hidden gems, Simon Warren invites you to discover undoubtedly the best cycling roads in the UK. The Abergwesyn Valley, for example, is a breathtakingly beautiful and quiet area of Mid Wales, with silk smooth tarmac on traffic free lanes, and spectacular views earnt only by tackling the hellish Devil’s Staircase climb.
There seems to be no other feeling quite like it, that sense of elation when you finally reach the crest of that almost impossible hill; heart pounding, lungs bursting, legs on fire and almost ready to collapse. That rush of endorphins and sense of achievement will keep a beaming grin plastered across your face for a while, with a sense of achievement that’ll last forever.
What goes up…
All that climbing sound like a lot of hard work? Be assured it’ll all be worth it for some of the best descents going. Enjoy the long, open roads and sweeping bends as you fly down, exhilaratingly fast and free. If descending isn’t your bag, remember that the views from the top are always the best too.
Now commonplace on cyclist’s coffee tables UK-wide, this collection of climbs is now more discussed and more loved (or feared) than ever before. Mention any of these climbs over your post-club ride flat white and you’re likely to get quite a response; those who’ve tried, who’ve conquered, and those who are simply in awe of you having a go. You can even make it into a competition between friends; who has ticked off the most, or is the first to conquer them all!
For more tips on hill climbing, check out: