Everything you Need to Know About Competitive Hill Climbing

Putting together a 'top ten' of anything is never easy, there are so many factors to consider and everyone rates different factors in order of importance. So when we decided to write a 'top ten climbs' article, we started to wonder just how we would go about defining them - our ten favourite, the steepest, the longest, the ones with the best views, where do you start?!

So for the moment we've come up with a list that is based on fact as much as possible and does what it says on the tin - a list of the 15 steepest climbs on the Chilterns Cycleway based on the Ordnance Survey gradient arrows. There are many more climbs and steeper climbs in the Chilterns, but this is where we've decided to start. More articles will follow, until we've covered every major hill in Chilterns, and then we might pick our top ten.

Dunsmore (west) - 1.44 miles, ascent 258ft, max. elevation 830ft

Well known by local cyclists and somewhat of a Chilterns classic, when approached from the west this is the only double-arrow climb on the Cycleway (1 in 5 or greater), made all the harder with a single arrow climb before you even get to that. The highest point comes on the corner before losing all your hard earned elevation with the vicious bit right at the end, just how we like it.

Dunsmore (east) - 0.5 miles, ascent 192ft, max. elevation 748ft

From the east it's just a single arrow but that's no consolation as it ramps up from the houses and maintains a stiff gradient all the way to the cross roads at the top. A few reps from the A413 over the top to Chequers and back will soon have the legs screaming.

Colstrope - 1 mile, ascent 347ft, max. elevation 520ft

One of many steep climbs on the eastern slopes of the Hambleden Valley and very similar to its Old Luxter's twin on the opposite side of the valley. The gradual climb starts just after you leave the road with a short kick just afterwards, but the sting in the tail comes nearer the top. Lots of tree cover so it's head down and keep pedalling until you reach the phone box.

Kop Hill - 0.7 miles, ascent 324ft, max. elevation 805ft

At just over 1km and 100m of ascent in new money this is very much a just grin and bear it climb. Remember to save a little something though as the steepest section comes right at the top. The sign says 10% but that's obviously an average gradient over the full length, it's much more than that in parts. This was also a King of the Mountains stage in the 2014 Friends Life Tour of Britain.

Luxters, Dudley Lane - 0.63 miles, ascent 311ft, max. elevation 536ft

The Hambleden Valley is steep on both sides, once you're in it there's no easy way out. It's a fairly constant steep gradient from the valley road but at least the Chiltern Valley Vineyard greets you at the top. It's an open climb but don't be fooled into thinking you can see the top! After the winery Dudley Lane continues to climb at a steadier rate, topping out at just over 600ft.

Radnage Lane - 0.96 miles, ascent 290ft, max. elevation 740ft

Just one way to climb out of Radnage up to Bledlow Ridge - the clue is in the name on that one. A little blip to get over, then it ramps up, and just as you think it can't get any worse, you turn the corner and it ramps up again to reach the top of the narrow Bledlow Ridge.

Lower Assendon - 0.54 miles, ascent 258ft, max. elevation 426ft

The flat run out on the Fair Mile from Henley-on-Thames comes to an abrupt end when you take a right off the B480 and start this climb. The lower section is a good warm up for the surprise around the corner. By the time you reach here you're almost on top of the ridge that then meanders along quiet lanes for many more miles.

The Hale - 0.74 miles, ascent 254ft, max. elevation 775ft

Possibly one of the sneakiest climbs we've come across and definitely caught us off guard when we stumbled upon it one day. The long drag out of Wendover gradually starts to go up and up and up and then, just when you think it can't get any worse, you turn the corner at the top and are faced with the steepest section of all. Sneaky!

[part title="15 of the Steepest Climbs on the Chilterns Cycleway Part 2"]


Sundon Hills - 0.54 miles, ascent 225ft, max. elevation 513ft

The only single arrow climb on the Chilterns Cycleway section east of the M1, this seemingly comes out of nowhere after miles and miles of rolling roads to ascend the Sharpenhoe Clappers ridge. Just go for it, the quicker you get to the picnic site, the quicker it's over and you can get on with enjoying the views and spinning the legs out in the big ring.

Garsons Hill - 0.52 miles, ascent 200ft, max. elevation 560ft

Pan flat from Ipsden this is the climb that takes you up and over the Chiltern Hills ridge to then drop you back down the other side into the Thames Valley and Henley-on-Thames. At the top it's worth a quick look back over your shoulder (and a good excuse for a breather) out towards the unmistakable Didcot Power Station.

Bower's Lane - 0.52 miles, ascent 197ft, max. elevation 621ft

Another little surprise that pops up from around the corner and just keeps going, and going, and going. But at least it takes you to the top of the Chiltern’s ridge, ready for the long descent back down to wherever it is you may be heading.

Small Dean Lane - 0.33 miles, ascent 185ft, max. elevation 660ft

We've got history with this one and it has defeated us at the end of a long ride. Technically it's just a single arrow (1 in 5 to 1 in 7) but feels harder and appears as a wall of tarmac as you approach it from a flat run in. Short and sharp, either accept defeat and drop into a low gear or grit your teeth and attack it, hoping it will be over before your legs notice.

Piper's Hill - 0.34 miles, ascent 140ft, max. elevation 524ft

A sharp right at Nettleden church will have you reaching for the gear levers with an appropriate amount of gear crunching, clattering and wincing soon to follow as you try to find something suitable to get you over this little beast. The steepest section is in the lower part but there's still quite a distance of climbing to go after that.

Speen Hairpin - 0.29 miles, ascent 127ft, max. elevation 642ft

Barely enough time to recover from Small Dean Lane before you're onto the hairpin just outside Speen. The steepest bit on the hairpin comes at the start and lulls you into a false sense of security thinking the climb is over as it levels out slightly, but turn the corner and it kicks again into the middle of the village.

Stony Lane - 0.15 miles (757ft), ascent 110ft, max. elevation 372ft

The shortest climb on the list but sitting at the junction waiting to cross the road, looking up at it is enough to make you take a deep breath and mutter "oh no". With no run up the climb starts as soon as you cross the road from Latimer village and ends when you turn off onto the bridleway in Lane Wood. And breathe...

For ideas of some cycle routes taking in these climbs, have a look at the Chiltern Cycles dedicated Cycle Routes.

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