Hilly Rides

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Battling up Mow Cop

I’ve had many conversations with fellow cyclists over the last couple of years about hills, and riding up (and down) them.  I guess they are a bit like marmite – most people either love them or hate them.  I’m not sure I love them but I’m definitely nearer the former than the latter.  I see climbs as a personal challenge, a goal to be conquered or an achievement to tick off (I’ve so far ticked off 14 from the 100 Greatest Climbs book by Simon Warren).  And I’ll be paying a visit to the French Alps in May with some mates in order to tick a few more famous ones off.  But I digress.  Hills are also great for training purposes – because if you can maintain a decent pace on a hilly ride then you’ll be surprised how much easier (and therefore quicker) a flatter ride will be.  In fact, if you are stuck for time and want to do a quickish ride but still get a lot of “bang for your buck” fitness-wise then a short route with a few stiff climbs could be just what you need.

What constitutes hilly is a subject of much debate.  Total climb is possibly one method.  Here’s a list of the top 10 rides I’ve done by total climb (as recorded by my Garmin GPS)

  1. Tan Hill 200 – 132 miles and 12,071ft
  2. Ryedale Rumble – 111 miles and 9,064ft
  3. Pistyll Packing Momma – 132 miles and 8,905ft
  4. Todmorden Loops – 72 miles and 8,900ft
  5. Goyt Peak – 69 miles and 8,530ft
  6. Northern Dales – 125 miles and 8,287ft
  7. Lejog Day 1 (Cornwall and Devon) – 111 miles and 8,259ft
  8. Season of Mists – 64 miles and 7,535ft
  9. Up and Down to West Riding – 78 miles and 7,463ft
  10. Macc Monster – 64 miles and 6,981ft

There are a few scientific methods for measuring how tough a climb is, such as the ClimbByBike-Index or the Fiets-Index, but I tend to use a very much simpler measure.  Basically, if a ride has anything over about 60ft of climbing per mile then I consider it hilly.  If it has around a 100ft of climbing per mile then I consider that to be very hilly.  Here’s a re-sorted list of the top 10 using ft climb per mile ridden as a measure

  1. Todmorden Loops – 124
  2. Goyt Peak – 124
  3. Season of Mists – 117
  4. Macc Monster – 109
  5. Up and Down to West Riding – 95.7
  6. Tan Hill 200 – 91
  7. Ryedale Rumble – 82
  8. Lejog Day 1 (Cornwall and Devon) – 74
  9. Pistyll Packing Momma – 67.5
  10. Northern Dales – 66

It’s not a perfect method by any stretch of the imagination but it’s something I’ve arrived at after riding a lot of hilly routes and events, and I can confirm that the two at the top were probably the toughest of the bunch on that list in terms of sheer climbing.

So if you are planning your training for the year, then have a go at a few hills.  I have a standard “quick” route that I use which is 32 miles and has just over 2,000ft of ascent, or a rating of about 63 – good enough for training purposes.  I also occasionally add The Rake into it for a quick burst of 25% challenge!  If you draw up a similar route for yourself and use it repeatedly to build up your hill-climbing ability then I suggest that your overall capabilities will improve, and your overall enjoyment of cycling too.


  1. Mike Tattersall · September 9, 2012

    Hi Ade, I was wondering if you had your gps route to share of the Pistyll Packing Momma Audax. Regards, Mike


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