Ten of the best cycling climbs in the Chilterns - Road Cycling UK

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Ten of the best cycling climbs in the Chilterns

Picturesque backdrops and gruelling climbs to tackle

Riding in an area of natural beauty has clear positive points, from the picturesque backdrops to the commonly secluded nature of the roads – ideal for cycling.

They can also offer some of the most challenging terrain available to cyclists, and the Chilterns has its fair share of tough climbs to tackle. These are climbs typical of the UK – short and often steep.

The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a stunning place to ride (Pic: Cycle Chilterns)

Situated to the northwest flank of London, it’s close to RCUK’s base, so is a popular destination for some weekend riding with many of the climbs attainable in just one ride as you skirt up and down the steep ridge.

Here’s our pick of the toughest on offer – or if you want to check out the best climbs in other parts of the UK, browse through the links below.

Whiteleaf

Whiteleaf actually finishes up in near enough the same point as Kop Hill, except this time you ride up Peters Lane from the A4010 junction near Monks Risborough.

You pass Whiteleaf on the way up, although you might be too exhausted to notice.

It’s a shorter climb than Kop Hill, at 1.3km in length, but the average gradient is nine per cent. That’s significant, and the climb gets steadily harder as you ride up it.

Starting at a relatively easy four per cent rising to around ten in the first 500m, there’s a slight easing before the road tilts upwards again. This is where the leg-destroying meat of the climb is, with easily 20 per cent gradients seen as the road meanders gently up the slope.

The top is a relatively easy eight per cent, and we never thought we’d say that.

Vital Statistics
Distance:  1.3km
Average gradient: nine per cent
Steepest gradient: 20 per cent

Kop Hill

Visited by the Tour of Britain in 2014, Kop Hill is a brute of a climb that actually begins before you join Kop Hill Road itself. Starting in the locale of Princes Risborough, you ride south along New Road, before making the left turn on the the road that gives the climb its name.

Rising up to the junction, you take a left and take all the speed you can get from the two per cent start, because the road gradually tips up to around 20 per cent.

Mark McNally feels the burn on Kop Hill at the 2014 Tour of Britain (pic – The Tour)

A quick time relies upon your legs being able to keep spinning and stay on top of a gear, so good selection is key.

At the top of this 1.9km segment, you’ll have gained 142m of elevation, and because the road is almost arrow straight from the junction, you’ll probably have felt every single one of those metres too.

Vital Statistics
Distance: 1.9 km
Average gradient: seven per cent
Steepest gradient: 20 per cent

Kingston Blount

Kingston Blount is a little hill climb gem that starts on the B4009, just south west of Chinnor.

It’s a little tease, because the first kilometre of the whole climb is effectively a false flat, barely averaging two per cent for the first kilometre.

However, the rub is the kicker that just keeps on kicking for the next kilometre. All the way up, you never see easier than six per cent, with the gradient reaching a prolonged peak of 18 per cent.

Of course, that’s not quite the end – after the hill proper finishes at 2km, there’s another 500m to go: a false flat that eventually fades into a slight downhill roll to the end of the segment.

The mentally strongest will excel as they push themselves all the way around the right-hand bend to the finish line just short junction with the A40.

Vital statistics
Distance: 2.5km
Average gradient: five per cent
Steepest gradient: 18 per cent

Bison Hill

Bison Hill, near Dunstable in Bedfordshire, is a short and sharp, steep little climb that will leave even strong riders gassed at the top.

The segment starts on the junction leading onto the B4540, leaving the B4506, and scales the ridge leading up to Whipsnade.

At the bottom it’s a steady 6-7 per cent, before rising steadily up to a peak of 17 per cent in one place. In that time, you’ll have travelled 500m in distance, and it’s not over.

The road then eases off, thankfully, but not enough for you to take it easy. There’s another 500m to go, initially up a shallow three per cent average gradient before it reheats your already cooked legs with a short rise of ten per cent before topping out. There’s nothing for it but to feel the burn.

Vital statistics
Distance: 1.0km
Average gradient: eight per cent
Steepest gradient: 17 per cent

Ivinghoe Beacon

Starting from the locale of Ivinghoe, first this oddly-shaped climb (from above) rises up north eastwards along the B489 towards Dunstable.

Keep your eyes peeled for a right turn just as you arrive at the foot of Beacon Hill, having already travelled 1.2km at an average of three per cent.

Ivinghoe Beacon will get the lactic acid building, but it’s worth it for the views (pic – Mibby23, via Flickr Creative Commons)

Watching out for traffic, make the right turn and bury yourself up the climb proper to the summit of Steps Hill, with a steady incline averaging around six per cent, and peaking at seven.

The road bends right, then arcs left, encouraging you to attack, before presenting a ninety degree right turn up to the viewing station.

You can’t stop here though – the segment isn’t over! That’s 400m away, and it’s a false flat measuring around two per cent average to the finish points, so flushing out that lactic acid is going to be key to a fast time.

Given it your all? Good – now you can go back and take in the view.

Vital statistics
Distance: 2.9km
Average gradient: four per cent
Steepest gradient: seven per cent

Wardrobes

Part of the Chiltern 100 sportive, Wardrobes is a one kilometre ascent that requires an all-out effort to stay on top of your gears.

At the bottom of Brimmers Road leading up to Parslow’s Hillock, the road is unforgiving as it steadily rises up at an average of eight per cent.

Then you hit the centerpiece of the climb, a sharp left-hand switchback in the road that bites as it turns around. However, the road returns to it’s eight per cent gradient for 200m, before giving it’s best in the final incline.

Approaching the top, you’ll experience a peak gradient of up to 14 per cent, before a steadying off back to the more reasonable angles of six and seven percent as you arrive at the end of the segment at the crossroads at Parslow’s Hillock.

Vital statistics
Distance: 1.0km
Average gradient: nine per cent
Steepest gradient: 14 per cent

Dunsmore

There are two inclines up to the hilltop locale of Dunsmore, and the western slope is the one we think is super challenging.

Fairly classic in its profile, it starts easy, then kicks up viciously until you reach a slight easing at the very top and roll over the finish line.

The western ascent of Dunsmore Hill is super-challenging

The bottom features pitches of four per cent for 300m, before the meat of the climb really hits home. The hill rises up to 14 per cent in spots, and doesn’t let up until the top.

The segment ends here, although if you want to carry on, you can keep up your effort and complete the ‘Small Dean up Dunsmore’ segment, which if you started from the London Road junction close to Wendover, carries on past High Scrubs and rolls, gradually rising up towards the plateau.

It’s 3.9km in length, with an overall average of 3 per cent, including the short declines.

Vital statistics
Distance: 0.8km
Average gradient: eight per cent
Steepest gradient: 14 per cent

Colstrope

Colstrope is a hill that begs you to ride quickly from the start, because the shallow 1-2 per cent gradient that starts the segment barely classes at all. That all changes as you turn left onto Dudley Lane.

Immediately after the turn, you see the road rise up in front of you like a wall, with gradient increasing sharply from 6-8-10-12 per cent until you reach a peak of 16. Luckily you don’t have to hold that pitch for long, though.

From then,. The road begins to ease off gradually, slowly giving back what it took out of your legs on the way up to that peak point.

Over the course of the 2.7km segment, you’ll have climbed 130m, but if that doesn’t sound so bad, remember that the vast majority happens in the middle section, over a period of 1km.

Vital statistics
Distance: 2.7km
Average gradient: five per cent
Steepest gradient: 16 per cent

Chinnor Hill

Another climb visited by the Tour of Britain in 2014, Chinnor Hill has an Alpine-esque quality in that it features a cutting left-hand switchback on the way to the summit. However, the truth is it’s tough the whole way up.

Starting from just southeast of the town of Chinnor, you proceed on the road that’s helpfully named ‘Chinnor Hill’.

Chinnor Hill also featured at the Tour of Britain in 2014 (pic – Tejvan Pettinger, via Flickr Creative Commons)

The road gradually arcs right and, as it does, reaches a constant grade of around ten per cent. At around the 1.1km mark, you make the aforementioned sharp left turn, and continue on up.

The gradient remains constant, so driving your legs around the bend is key to try to get a slingshot up the final 300m of the actual ascent. The segment ends 250m later on a pan-flat, then slightly dipping flat-out drive to the virtual finish line.

Vital statistics
Distance: 1.7km
Average gradient: six per cent
Steepest gradient: 11 per cent

The Hale

The Hale is one of those climbs that makes you think it’s never going to end, because of the way it’s draped on the hillside, hiding its very best until last.

Like many of our chosen climbs in this list, the bottom starts with a relatively easy gradient, in this case around four per cent over the first 300m.

After a very small easing off as the road bears to the right, it kicks up again towards 12 per cent eventually, then turning you round to the left. From then, you’ll need to tackle the ridge that’ll lead you to the top but, the thing is, you can’t see the prize.

Rolling straight up the ridge at an average of around ten per cent, with steeper and shallower berms, you encounter a slight easing as you think you reach the top. Don’t be fooled, though.

You’ll notice the road curve round to the right in the process pitching up to a leg-crunching 24 per cent – but what makes it harder is the fact you need to turn, adding the need to really bear down on the pedals and guide the front wheel round. It’s a real stinger of a summit.

Vital statistics
Distance: 1.0km
Average gradient: seven per cent
Steepest gradient: 24 per cent

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