With our lack of huge mountains, it’s easy to think the UK is short on truly brutal climbs. But think again, as there are plenty of insanely steep and often poorly-surfaced ascents that will challenge even the fittest cyclist.
Thanks to the help of Strava, we've selected the top five hardest climbs in the UK:
- Fford Penllech – Wales
- Hardknott Pass – England
- Bealach-na-Ba – Scotland
- Rosedale Chimney – England
- Trooper lane – England
Read on for more info…
1. Fford Penllech – Wales
Fford Penllech may be short – the Strava segment is just 0.3km – but what it lacks in distance it makes up for in gradient, being the steepest road in the UK. How steep you ask? How does 40% sound?
It’s actually a one-way street starting from the top, so you need to watch out for cars coming the other way, but we can’t imagine many drivers will fancy cooking their brakes down such a steep road. We’d recommend dropping some air out of your tyres before taking it on, as any wheel slip during the punishing 40% section could have you toppling over.
2. Hardknott Pass – England
Hardknott Pass is a real classic UK climb and features everything you need for a brutal ascent, with 30% gradients, poor surfaces, epic scenery and a decent length.
There’s no riding yourself into this one, as there’s a wall of 30% tarmac near the start. You might then snatch a few breaths of recovery before you’re back up to 30%, along with some tricky hairpins. The pass is also famous for featuring at the end of the Fred Whitton Challenge sportive, where riders will already have done around 100 miles of climbing. When you’re that tired, there’s no shame if you have to walk.
3. Bealach-na-Ba – Scotland
If the climb itself doesn’t wipe you out, then perhaps the weather around Bealach-na-Ba will. It can be biblically wet and windy up there so we recommend only tackling it on a fine day, where you’ll be rewarded with one of the most picturesque and difficult climbs in the UK.
It’s located in Wester Ross near the west coast of the Scottish Highlands, and whilst the 9.1km climb starts easy enough, there’s plenty of 20% sections to humble any rider. If you ever find yourself up in this beautiful part of the country, this climb is an absolute must.
4. Rosedale Chimney – England
Rosedale Chimney is another climb which delivers a sucker punch of toughness in steep gradients. The steepest sections are two hairpins just under halfway up, which will have you out of the saddle churning your lowest gear just to keep going. Make sure you save something for the final half, though – it may not be quite as steep, but it’s almost dead straight, so you know just how far you have to go. At this point many riders turn to zig zagging, in order lessen those punishing gradients.
5. Trooper lane – England
Our final climb is something a little different. It’s not the steepest, longest or windiest, but it does have a challenging surface in the form of cobblestones. This means the 19% average gradient is made doubly hard as you’re having to constantly concentrate on keeping traction. We can only imagine how difficult it would be to conquer this wall of cobbles in the wet.
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