Simon Warren struggles to name his favourite hill climbs in Yorkshire. Ask him to name the ones he fears the most though and he quickly reels of a list. There’s the leg-burning ascent of Pea Royd Lane in Stocksbridge, the climb up Rosedale Chimney on the North York Moors where it’s almost impossible to stay upright and across to the west, the cobbles of Trooper Lane in Halifax will challenge even the most expert cyclist.
“It takes a lot for me to give a ride 10 out of 10 for difficulty, but that one is definitely one of the worst – or the best – depending on which way you look it,” says Warren, whose new book features 75 hill climbs across Yorkshire. “I’d probably already ridden a third of the climbs, but the rest were new to me and each of them are challenging in their own way.
“Climbs are what you go riding for. They are often short, taking just a few painful minutes to complete, but the sense of satisfaction when you get to the top is unequalled.
“Yorkshire is great cycling country as the Tour de France so ably proved. It also took a sport which had been seen as just a little bit geeky and brought it into the mainstream. With any big sporting event there is often talk of what the legacy will be and the Tour de Yorkshire is a great example of what can be achieved.
“It wouldn’t have existed without the Tour de France, but it is now a race in its own right and one which has been really embraced by the people of Yorkshire. The yellow bikes will be out again this weekend and once the race is complete I’d like to think that my book will get a whole lot of other people out on their bikes.”
1. THRUSSENDALE ROAD, ACKLAM, NEAR MALTON
• Where: Leave Acklam, heading due east up Thrussendale Road from the junction with Kirk Balk.
• Grid ref: SE 796 619 (OS106)
• Length: 1,030m
• Height: 95m
• Approximate climb time: Six minutes
• Difficulty rating: 5/10
• What to expect: The views from the top of this ridge – immortalised in David Hockney’s 1998 painting Garrowby Hill – are some of the best in Yorkshire. The painting famously features the A166 just to the south, a busy road that is best avoided, unlike this climb which is blissfully quiet and devilishly steep. There are plenty of 15 per cent and 16 per cent signs around these parts, but only a couple of 20 per cents and yes, you guessed it they adorn Thrussendale Road.
After a little kick out of Acklam, the road then eases, allowing you to focus on your target: the radio mast at the top of the ridge. Rearing up, it eases once again outside a solitary farmhouse and then rises hard: it’s a tough ride to where the road curves round to the right and the slope abates. Push on through, past the 20 per cent gradient sign on the right, then turn around to take in the view – on a clear day you’ll be able to see the whole county.
2. STOUPE BROW, RAVENSCAR
• Where: This is a dead end, so first you have to descend from Scarborough Road, which runs along the west of Ravenscar. Turn around to climb back up.
• Grid ref: NZ 970 012 (OS94)
• Length: 2,820m
• Height: 233m
• Approximate climb time: 14 minutes
• Difficulty rating: 8/10
• What to expect: What a find this climb was, an absolute belter hidden down a dead end road on the very edge of the Yorkshire coast. The only drawback is that you have to descend it first before you climb back up, that is unless you want to carry your bike across the beach, then up a flight of rugged steps to reach the base.
Setting off from a tiny car park, there’s a little lump up and then a drop down before you pass through a farmyard and see the climb in front of you. The sign at the top warns of a 33 per cent slope. It might not be quite that tough, but it’s close once you reach the final tangle of bends. Set between the high banks of gorse with spectacular views over the bay, it’s just as majestic as it rises up hard, across a mini stone bridge. The slope then backs off, then climbs a bit more and then eases again, settling into the solid slog to the top. If you are lucky, a breeze will come from the North Sea to push you along.
3. PEA ROYD LANE, STOCKSBRIDGE, NEAR SHEFFIELD
• Where: Leave the B6088 in Stocksbridge, heading north on Hunshelf Road. Drop down, cross the roundabout and then head left up the hill.
• Grid ref: SK 272 993 (OS110)
• Length: 1,180m
• Height: 134m
• Approximate climb time: Seven minutes
• Difficulty rating: 8/10
• What to expect: This unforgiving stretch of tarmac will take you from industrial valley to peaceful moorland in around seven lung busting, leg burning minutes. Leaving the B6088 and rising from the heart of Stocksbridge, the venue for the 2009 and 2014 National Hill Climb Championships is a varied and very tough test. Rough to begin with, as you head up past the foreboding factories, the road shallows slightly before turning right up Pea Royd Lane. Here you head up the first sector of 20 per cent – try not to overdo it here as there is much more to come .
Round the next left, crossing the bridge over the A616, the gradient shallows, allowing you a slight breather, but then it rises again with a vengeance. Here you take the 25 per cent left hander to hit the final stretch, twisting left, then right. You still have a substantial distance until the road finally peaks but it’ll soon come, framed by high stone walls either side.
4. TROOPER LANE, HALIFAX
• Where: The base lies where Water Lane joins Siddal New Road. Head east on the cobbles of Swan Bank Lane then take a right up Trooper Lane.
• Grid ref: SE 103 245 (OS104)
• Length: 810m
• Height: 127m
• Approximate climb time: 6.5 minutes
• Difficulty rating: 10/10
• What to expect: I can best describe Trooper Lane as a cobbled rock face, one that rises up from the industrial valley of Halifax to Bank Top in an unimaginably short distance. You begin on the large cobbles of Swan Bank Lane, then take the near vertical, thankfully tarmac turn that ramps up dramatically in front of you. You’ll have to ride wide round the first bend as it is a crazy 45 per cent at the inner apex so take care. Wind through the houses, right then left – all tarmac corner and all set close to 20 per cent – before you line up for what you came for – the cobbles. The stones are neat and well set, but they are perilously steep, initially just 25 per cent then hitting 30 per cent as the road kinks left. By the time you get to the next left hand bend under some trees and line up for the finish it is simply a matter of survival. Trooper Lane is insanity under your wheels, but it’ll have you grinning, maybe even laughing out loud, once you’ve crested the top.
5. PARK RASH, KETTLEWELL
• Where: Turn off the B6160 onto Middle Lane, then take the next left then right. Follow the road until you reach Cam Gill Road which leads you to the base.
• Grid ref: SD 987 758 (OS98)
• Length: 2,150m
• Height: 238m
• Approximate climb time: 12 minutes
• Difficulty rating: 9/10
• What to expect: Park Rash, a short distance from Kettlewell, resembles a tarmac ski-slope. Following a nasty little climb out of the village, you approach the base. Viewed in profile, it looks a good 45 degrees, but round the bottom and you realise it isn’t quite that steep. Nevertheless select your lowest gear and build the momentum necessary to take you through the initial, insanely steep left then right hand 25 per cent bends. You’ll have no chance to recover as you continue to fight the 18 per cent gradients on a very coarse surface. You’re granted a moment’s relief once past some farm buildings where the now smoother surface climbs sharply again. A reasonable levelling and then a slight dip means you can gather yourself before you head up the final wicked section of 20 per cent. This climb will push you to the limit as you drag your bones over the cattle grid towards the stone marker on your left and, finally, the summit.