This past weekend saw us make an early start to join the good people of WLondon Cycling blog for a guided tour of London’s playground, the Surrey Hills. Our route for the day we were told is one of WLondoncycling's favourites. Entitled "The One (version two)" it takes in 15 of the best climbs in the area including Box Hill, Leith Hill and Whitedown to name a few and is supposed to be 65 miles long and include 7000ft of climbing, if you finish the whole course! So, with a flask of coffee and a pocket full of rice cakes we set off from the Duckhouse at some ungodly hour to do half a lap of the M25 for the meet at just past 8am somewhere on the A25.
Big days require a route card and a strong one.
Those of you not local to the Surrey Hills will more than likely be familiar with the area from either the RideLondon event or the Olympics. The most celebrated climb from both of those is Box Hill. It formed the repeated loop during the Olympic road race in 2012 and has since kept the graffiti on the surface and now acts as Londons cycling treadmill for at least 6 days of the week (although saying that I’m not sure which day it has off, it certainly isn’t Sunday as the good Lord intended). It even has at least one sportive named after it, much to the local residents delight I'm sure! And so Box Hill was naturally one of the first destinations for us. Not the steepest, not the longest, but certainly the busiest and most famed. It has excellent views, a super coffee stop, some terrific road graffiti and actual, like real, hairpins, so that’s pretty cool. Scribe stuck in a PB, crept into the top 9 million of the 98 million people that rode up it that day alone, we had a coffee and then we went went to find some of the lesser famed but tougher climbs in the area.
Our profile before setting off looked a bit toothy. A man on twitter suggested we have compressed it to make it spikier, well that was just a screen shot and certainly not a deliberate ploy and if it appeared so I apologise but what I can say is that our ride was really hilly. It took us over up and down the downs, quite a few times, through busy high streets and quiet country lanes, crossing the main roads that serve as the counties arteries and stopped by in Peaslake, the top of Box and at a very well stocked cafe/cake van in a car park near to the top of Staple Lane (I think). It is always a pleasure to meet people through a shared love and it was great to put a few faces to twitter handles and meet some new guys and girls. The relentless climbing really took its toll towards the end of the day. Of the planned 15 climbs 13 were completed as our guide fell out the back of the group never to be seen again and the remainder of us ploughed on and made a B line back to the start without a route map to guide us! I think we were just going by scent at one point!
Narrow, tight and littered with seasonal debris. Welcome to Surrey!
So the highlights of what was essentially quite a brutal day? I suppose roads are going to be lesser known if you aren’t local, but it was the lesser known ones that were the highlights for us. We know Box Hill, and Leith from RideLondon. Pitch Hill is pretty familiar as is Radnor but Combe Road was a bit of a brute, right at the end of the ride, 1.5km, 7% average with a max of 19% and that was pretty cool. The stats for Sheephouse Lane and Whitedown do not lie either 10%/25% and 6%/24% respectively. Box Hill is of course always great, anywhere where major races have passed through is always impressive.
The roads in Surrey are often a joy to cycle, they can however not be as well. Beautifully paved they are not and one fears that sympathetic residents are becoming less and less common so it is best to ride here with due care. The roads can twist in a glance and narrow in an instant. Couple with the stretches of steep banked lanes and the accompanying debris mean you have to have your wits about you and have to choose where and when you can really go full bore. The route itself was a bit of a novelty of sorts and could be chopped about depending on your preference. 15 climbs in 60 miles is essentially just going out looking for trouble and other routes are available! In fact coupled with some flatter miles in the northern parts of Sussex you really would see England’s green and pleasant land in the flesh, but that wasn’t really what today was about. We had an excellent day in the company of guys and girls who were all great folk from around the South East and happy to be out on their bikes on a fine autumnal day
Our route, a couple of Col's short of our original target! (the official route and detailed review of it available here)
It leaves us really to say thanks to the Ben and the guys at www.wlondoncycling.co.uk, they run a site which hosts a series of blogs and routes for you especially if you are based in the West London area or fancy planning a visit, they will give you some great ideas (all the routes are downloadable and so on). Also thanks to Nick, Howard and the guys of @ukcyclechat who we’ve been in contact with on and off during the year and who helped organise the ride. It’s always great to put faces to names and twitter handles so we’ll hopefully we'll cross paths again (for the octopus) soon.