Hill climbing

I’ve always liked the idea of hill climb racing but frankly never been fit enough or a member of an affiliated cycling club to allow me to indulge once a year at the Cleveland Wheelers event held on Carlton Bank.

I rode over and up in 2007 to take photos of the event on an overgeared fixed wheel but didn’t return to ride up again until August this year.


By the time I finally got around to joining Cleveland Wheelers it was the deadline for entries to the 2013 event. Due to dwindling competitor numbers the event moved a few miles along the moor edge to Clay Bank. A much easier gradient, still plenty enough to put yourself in misery, with about 50m less height gain but iconic in terms of the local road cycling as it’s a pass to the South Western moors not to mention the opportunity for 3 different climbs to the top.

Training for 2013 didn’t happen but it was a year I put in a lot of flat commuting miles and not a lot of climbing metres even on the MTB. The Ferrous got rebuilt with my Level fixed hub and squeezed in one test ride up the Cart Track a couple of times to check the gear ratio suitability. 35:18 as the only other choice would have been to flip it to the 16 or some serious faff taking a 32 chainring off another bike. I also drove up Clay Bank one morning to make sure I had at least some idea of the climb and then promptly got ill so didn’t make it to the start line.

2014 and I’m entered again. Same bike same gear but I’m better prepared. I’ve even ridden up it, twice, this year. In August I started doing some early morning hill sessions on the Ferrous on the way to work. Drive to hills, get out, smash oneself up the moors, get back in car and drive to work before 8am. Funish but they didn’t last and September didn’t go to plan including getting a cold.

I at least made it to the race and I think I was first (only) fixed but more importantly I beat my self imposed target of 9 minutes, just, and kept ahead of my 3 minute man, Harry Tanfield, who was one of the favourites.

So of course this leads onto 2015 and Carlton is back on the menu as Stockton Wheelers are running that in the afternoon after Clay, but this post is about Clay and now I’ve got new targets. Progress set out at the start of the year via Strava. Sub 8 minutes up the Hill Climb segment before Summer. 7minutes 30 seconds for the actual event in October which equates to about 7 minutes 20 seconds on the segment. The 8 minutes seemed doable but the race time looks hard so I had a few things to over analyze. Basic steps

    1.  Lose weight – check consistently lost weight this year
    2.  Get a lighter bike – check sold the Fat Bike to buy a new road bike
    3.  Get a bike with gears – check see 2. but it’s not necessarily faster
    4.  Use a more aero position than a pair of 685mm MTB bars – check see 2.
    5.  Get more power – Hmm let’s investigate to see if this has worked.

Of course this being the internet there’s a website to see what gains you’ve made from weight loss and other people who have already found it and more before you.

Pre summer aim was sub 8 minutes and training went poorly up to May due to house decorating. My first effort fell short by 18 seconds, 24 seconds faster than 2014, but was part of a ride somewhere rather than an all out effort. Last gasp of Spring with a slight tail wind and a dedicated, leave it all on the hill sprint, ride got me in by 3 seconds but a tad concerned about achieving the race time target.

So what did I gain? Ignoring the flatter run in from the start line there is a mile at a reasonably consistent 8% which I’d gained 38 seconds on. Sticking that through the calculator with the following data 7kg weight loss combined 1600m of 8% at 300watts (guestimate) gives a time saving of 28.99 seconds. So 9 seconds gained due to power increase or possibly more favourable conditions. Ah!

I’d also gained 11 seconds on that flat, 2%, bit before the main hill and the calculator reckons the weight loss is only good for 2.38 seconds which makes me feel a bit better except I had some nice bigger gears rather than spinning quite fast on the Ferrous and a better position on the bike.

Since then I’ve done a lot more hill riding including a fair few iconic climbs around the local area, surprising myself a bit, and I’m now back on doing hill reps and early morning hill raids on the way to work. Having also lost another 2kg I’m now looking at a time saving of 37.2 seconds over the mile segment leaving me to find about 30-40 seconds from me (or a nice strong tailwind) on the main body of the climb.

Oakley Walls

Mind you whatever I manage I’m still miles off the best times!

2 thoughts on “Hill climbing”

  1. It’s complicated.
    Road and TT = Cleveland Wheelers
    Enduro and DH = Traildivas
    Cyclocross and MTB XC = Velocake

    Mind you I’m racing mini downhill on Sunday in VC top for Traildivas as I haven’t got anything suitable to race i yet.
    I don’t race on the road, yet, and I have to do Hill Climbs and TTs, not that I do TTs either, for the Wheelers as Velocake aren’t RTTC members.

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