The five greatest cycling climbs in the UK

March 25, 2024 3 min read

The five greatest cycling climbs in the UK

Author Simon Warren cherry picks his top five ascents from Another 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs.

1. Asterton bank 

Climb number 134

Lunacy. My first sight of this road was driving down it with my wife beside me screaming it’s too steep, it’s too narrow, we’re all going to die! Thankfully we did make it to the bottom, only for me to grab my bike out of the boot and head right back up. This is what it’s all about. This is the challenge. A stupidly steep road. You, your bike and whatever strength you can muster to make it to the top. From base to summit it is an onslaught on your legs, barely relenting from its 20% gradient and so narrow that if you are unfortunate enough to meet an oncoming vehicle you may have no option to stop. On the plus side, the views out to your left are worth every drop of sweat as are those that great you across the Long Mynd when you finally reach them. 

2. Thwaites Brow.

Climb number 140

THE best cobbled climb in the UK. There are many cobbled climbs in and around this part of west Yorkshire but none quite have the character of Thwaites Brow. Most simply rise up in a straight line, or maybe have a single bend but this one has multiple turns on the most diabolical surface you could imagine. In fact it has been deteriorating so much over the years that plans are now in place to give it a full makeover, to reset the stones and return it to its original glory. This may take some of the edge off the challenge needed to navigate it as it stands but hopefully it will preserve it so generations of cyclists can sample its delights going forward. 

3. Talland Hill. 

Climb number 114

Of all the climbs in the South West of England this is the one that sticks in my mind the most. Ramping up out of the tiny fishing village of Polperro this one-way street to suffering will have you breathing out of your ears to keep forward momentum as you pass the doorsteps of the houses that line it. This proximity to buildings either side simply accentuates the severity of the gradient but as tough as it is, it’s never a chore such is the quality of the surface. I was so taken by it in fact I ended up doing two ascents, just to further imprint the memory in my mind. 

4. The Struggle. 

Climb number 181

A climb that really should have been in volume one but missed the cut, the perfectly named ‘Struggle’ out of Ambleside is one hell of a road and one I came to know in intimate detail as it was used as the venue for the national hill climb in 2023. Up until this point I’d never ridden it in anger as it’s such a long climb that any effort needs to be paced to perfection to avoid total collapse on the final 20% ramps. The year was spent visualising, planning, reconnaissance trips were made to make sure I was ready to execute my ride perfectly on the day. Breaking it down into three parts, if you do want to ride it hard you just ride within yourself up the long initial climb out of the town, then when you reach the mid-climb hiatus, keep the chain tight but recover slightly before going all in at the finish of this utterly stunning, yet brutal road.

5. Great Dunn Fell.

Climb number 186

HOW on earth could this not have been in the first 100 climbs!! Well, you have to leave some good content for the sequel, right? And if you are going to leave something behind then you might as well make it the biggest baddest climb in the whole of England, our very own Mont Ventoux, Great Dunn Fell. You’ll spy the ‘golf ball’ radar that crowns this giant Pennine peak from miles away, a beacon drawing you closer, drawing you to the pain needed to reach it. Climbing 620 metres up to a dizzy altitude of 838 metres, the road up to the summit of this monster is 7.5 kilometres long and packs in multiple stretches of 20% gradient before it arrives at its weather beaten apex. If I had a fiver for every photo I’ve been sent over the years of the summit shrouded in cloud and the unhappy face of a weary warrior I’d be a rich man, so if you do head out to take on this road, make sure it’s on a clear day.