CYCLING HILL CLIMBS OF SOUTH EAST ENGLAND
Author: Simon Warren
Publisher: Frances Lincoln
You have to be a certain type of cyclist to appreciate the pleasure to be gained from seeking out and conquering significant hills, and since 2010 Simon Warren has been making the first part of that task much easier with his ‘pocket-sized’ guides to Britain’s hills – and he is now recognised as a leading authority on such matters, often appearing on TV shows or in magazines.
After the success of the first book, 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, he came back with more of the same for Another 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs. However, it turns out that those were really his ‘Greatest Hits’ volumes one and two, because now he is back again with Cycling Climbs of South-East England, “the first of eight new regional guide books”.
There is a roughly even split between new climbs and those that have already featured in one of the previous two books of ‘Greatest Hits’. Not surprisingly the information about the climbs that are repeated is largely the same, with some minor updates to the text - and even amendments to the ‘height gain’. In one case he decided to alter his original ‘difficulty rating’, upping Quell Lane from a 4/10 to a 5/10. Another change is that you only get 60 climbs in this book, not 100 – but I suppose that makes the task of riding them all that bit easier.
Reviewed by Richard Peploe
You have to be a certain type of cyclist to appreciate the pleasure to be gained from seeking out and conquering significant hills
As before, each climb is accompanied by a basic map and description to help you locate it, and a pictorial representation of the percentage gradient. However, one thing that has changed is that the hills are no longer numbered, so you can’t go straight to them from the map of the region, nor can you use the log at the end as an index. Within each section neighbouring climbs are broadly grouped together, perhaps in an attempt to encourage you into tackling several at once if you want a tough day out.
Just as many people find that they are always near the edge of a map, and so need to work with multiple maps, so you can have the same experience with this guide: I live right on the Bucks and Herts border, and whilst the former is included, Warren decided to “redraw the nation’s geopolitical borders” and exclude the latter. I guess that I will just have to wait for a future guide to have the complete local picture.
For those of us who want a harder challenge, last year Warren applied the same treatment to his choice of the ‘100 Greatest Cycling Climbs of the Tour de France’. Those 100 climbs really are only the highlights of what is available, but when you read about how tough it was for him to do the research (i.e. ride them all) you will understand that he might not be so keen to do a more detailed follow up of each region.
Whilst there were books about the Tour de France climbs on the market already, I am not aware of anything so comprehensive for climbs in Britain. By having British and French climbs presented in the same format for the first time, direct comparison should now be made easier. However, although the same ‘difficulty rating’ system is used, which is “an amalgamation of gradient, length, the likely hostility of the riding conditions, and the condition of the surface”, in my experience they are very different beasts – even when they do sport the same rating.
I have made frequent use of these books when planning holidays and other trips, and I am always impressed by the number of different ways in which Warren can describe a hill and the effort required to ride it. I hope the result of reading these inspiring descriptions is that you are motivated to get out there yourself and ride up some of the climbs, which is exactly the result that Warren is hoping to achieve.
All images courtesy of the publisher www.quartoknows.com/Quarto-Plays/Cycling
PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 2016