Tuesday 21 September 2010

Higher education

College fees: one of London's earlier attempts
at the Congestion Charge
As with many things in life, what starts out as a lofty, worthy idea can often turn quite quickly into a ruddy millstone round your neck.

So it's proven so far with the hills challenge. I've compiled my list, put in place a plan of action and even cleaned my bike in preparation for the first tilt at the inclines.

But have I crossed any off yet? Alas no. My flat 3.5 mile commute is all the cycling I've done for the past three weeks.

I've thought a good game, mind. The number of times I've relived climbing the cols of the Alps in the recent past is uncanny. And both my bikes are now looking pristine. Yet still the ascents have failed miserably to get off the ground.

Until this evening, that is. A group of cyclists - players of the unspoken game of SCR - have instigated the College Road challenge. A simple, timed ascent of the upwardly immobile toll road in Dulwich, starting at the toll booth and finishing at the top of Fountain Drive. It's not quite a mile long and isn't particularly steep until you get to the top, but it's only a bit of fun.

So I had my first crack at it tonight. And didn't do too badly considering the only thing I've climbed of late is the stairs, recording a time of 3 minutes and 28 seconds. I think I can improve on that as well as I was stymied by a ponderous Volvo and one or two fellow cyclists who were weaving somewhat towards the peak.

And the bonus is, I get to put in 11 miles on my commute home, which is bound to help as I eventually get round to completing a few of the hills.

Next stop... the list.

Monday 6 September 2010

The hills are alive

Bone idle: Skeleton Hill in the Chilterns
might not make the list
Alive with all sorts of history. Of culture. Of tradition. And above all, of inclines that will sap muscles, strain sinews and possibly force confused lungs up through windpipes to see if this new perspective can help them work out what's going on for themselves.

There are hundreds of the things dotted about all over the place. Formed by glacial movements, ancient collisions of tectonic plates and even huge human excavations, hills have defined the British countryside by their beauty, stature and the views afforded by them once you've made the effort to scale them.

And having had a crack at a fair few in the last year or so while training for the Marmotte, I've decided my next challenge is to climb 100 of them in the south east of England in the next year. By bike.

It's taken just over a month to compile the list, which I realise is the easy bit. It's by no means a comprehensive one. Doubtless there will be some obvious omissions that I'm happy for people to point out in the comments section.

But these are the ones I've chosen. The criteria were that they are in the south east, so south of Watford Gap and east of the Solent. I know there are more impressive and challenging hills available in Wales, the north west, Yorkshire, the Peak District, Scotland and Cornwall. But all these places are too far away, so I'm not even going to try. Besides, someone's already listed the 100 best climbs by bike in the UK, so if that's what you want, buy that instead.

Other criteria were that they were around 100 metres or so in height gain, were conspicuous in some way, had a good pub nearby or had a daft enough name that it appealed. I've been helped in putting the list together by some kind people on the Bikeradar website and the Kent Cycling Association, so huge thanks to them for their assistance. They'll be credited as I go along.

Just got to pluck up the motivation to get started now, especially as the weather's on the turn. Time to head to the Downs for the first of the ups.