Just a quick post. Rode to Hastings today. The Met Office radar showed showers all across Kent and Sussex but I took a chance and managed to get there dry! Every other time I have cycled there I have got wet. It was very windy though, and that added a bit to the time, although I did clock up a few PBs on Strava including one for Stonestile Lane. The data from my Garmin reported a top speed of over 50 mph! I do remember going very fast at one point but I’m not sure I would have been going that fast on that particular piece of road – I’ll have to compare with other trips.
Once again my Garmin had recorded bad elevation data and according to it I was frequently cycling at 150 feet below sea level! When I got home I researched this issue and found that you are supposed to switch the unit on and give it 5 minutes or so to calibrate before setting off. I tried that this evening and sure enough it did get more accurate after leaving it a while. I must remember to do this before every ride. I also found out that the altimeter is affected by temperature – which explains why, when I stop at a café and put it in my pocket, it seems to think I have ascended 150 feet while I have been drinking my coffee!
This is the first ride with my new pedals, which I fitted last night. They were great – I soon got used to the slightly different way of clipping in.
Reading something on the web about a year ago, someone suggested a route of this nature – ie. going up and down each consecutive hill along the Greensand Ridge starting at Yalding Hill and moving East. At the the time I thought it would be a killer, as I considered Yalding, Barn and Hunton Hills, Westerhill Road, Vanity Lane, etc, but really these are the worst ones – with one or two exceptions the hills get easier as you go East. I thought I’d give it a go. I designed the following route (43 miles, 3,340 feet ascent) : It was a hot day (26°C) with light winds. The first climb was Barn Hill. I’m very familiar with this short, sharp shock. The next ascent was Westerhill Road and that was really tough, certainly the steepest on this route – it’s up there with the toughest of all the Ridge hills and required out-of-the-saddle heavy breathing action to get up it! With that one done, the rest were easier.
During this ride I discovered some really nice country lanes around here that I had never ridden before, such as Loddington Lane. I think this route will become a favourite. I have designed another one that goes up the hills that this one goes down and vice versa. I tried something new on this ride, namely having an IsoGel every 7 or 8 miles. It seemed to work OK and I noticed no unpleasant side-effects, other than feeling more hungry than usual once I got home.
I remember this hill from my childhood. I guess there are not that many clear memories each of us have from our youth, but this is one of mine. Me and a couple of my friends and my brother were out cycling one day 40+ years ago. I remember whizzing down Jewels Hill really fast. There was no traffic back then. With the momentum gained from the fast descent I climbed straight to the top of Saltbox Hill. I saw that the others were struggling so I went back down and helped push one of them up while still riding my own bike! Oh to have that much energy now! More recently I climbed it as a part of this ride. The worst thing about this climb is the amount of traffic that uses Saltbox Hill nowadays; although, in a way, that distracts you from the pain of climbing it! There was a queue at the top waiting to pull out onto the main road – that must be a good test of clutch control. Being on a bike I just sailed past all of them!
All these are quite tough so I’m proud to have done them all in one ride. I was quite anxious at the start of the ride, wondering if I had bitten-off more than I could chew. It was a pretty hot day but not unbearably so. I took the whole ride fairly easy; so I was surprised to find, when I came to analyse the data later, that I had beaten my previous times up Carter’s Hill and Toys Hill and on various other segments. And I didn’t even do my usual trick of falling asleep when I got home! I feel a bit of a cheat because I cut-off the very steep top part of Toys Hill; it fitted my route better. Just at the point where I turned off Toys Hill there is a great view to the south. While I was taking in the view (and the photo above), a couple of other cyclists appeared – they had just come up Toys Hill too. We got chatting and ended up swapping hill stories! It sounds a bit sad; fishermen compare the size of fish they have caught; cyclists compare the severity of hills they have climbed or heard about. It’s better than talking about the weather I suppose!
White Lane nearly got the better of me – what a slog! As I was climbing it I was thinking that it’s the toughest hill I had recently climbed. So I was surprised that it only scored a 5/10 in Simon Warren’s book , compared with 7/10 for Toys Hill.
Once the main hills had been conquered I had a short break in a park in Cudham. I then had the small matter of riding 28 miles home. The rest of the ride was less extreme. The only negative thing about it was that I really could have done with more liquid on such a hot day. I had to ration the last half of my second bidon and I was pretty dehydrated by the time I got home. Also I had to take a two mile detour at the end of the ride because an off-road section I had planned was not navigable so I had to turn back and cycle around it. That’s not what you need when you’re so close to home and wanting the journey to be over!
I remember the first time I saw One Tree Hill. It was on a ride back from Ide Hill and as I passed near Underriver my route turned right but as I looked to the left I saw a large house on the top of a hill and I couldn’t believe how high it looked. You had to almost crane your neck up to see it. I made a note to check it out when I got home.
Well I did check it out and found that it was Carter’s Hill, although everyone seems to know it as One Tree Hill. It has enough of a reputation that I was able to find several cycling-based references to it on the web. I became intrigued. I had to try it.
There is a false start to this climb. In fact it even descends briefly before the good bit kicks in. And kick in it does, ramping up steadily getting ever steeper as it twists and turns its way up to Fawke Common. The section just before the end hits 17.5% gradient for about 600 ft, before it eases back to 10% to the finish.
It’s a good one. There is a sportive called the Circuit of Kent that features this hill at the end of a 80+ mile ride. That’s just cruel!
I went for my third club run with the San Fairy Ann (SFA) cycling club. The day started off cloudy and cool, but by the time we got to Rye Harbour it was 25°C with a cloudless sky. Thankfully the temperature and the average speed were lower than on last week’s ride. There were five of us riding down to Rye and we met another rider there, so there were six of us on the way back. I got to meet a couple more members of the group. In fact I’m the only rider who has been consistently for the past three runs – not bad for a non-member!
We averaged 16 mph on the way down there. The route consisted mainly of quiet country lanes and a couple of steep (15%) descents, one of which had a dangerously tight bend halfway down. I wasn’t looking forward to climbing these hills on the return journey – luckily we came back using a different route! Rye Harbour wasn’t as characterful as I had imagined – in fact it was really just a place for people to launch their boats. We sat outside a café in the sunshine, sharing the available tables with some other bikers; when I say ‘bikers’ I mean the sort with leather jackets, beards, tattoos and Harleys, in somewhat stark contrast to us in our colourful lycra and silly cycling shoes. Luckily there wasn’t a stand-off!
The route back was less lumpy and started off dead flat as it followed the Military Canal for about 6 miles to Appledore. Quite a bit of the ride back was on busier roads, which are not as enjoyable as the lanes, but you do tend to get further, quicker. We averaged 15.4 mph back to Marden and had covered 58 miles in total. All in all this was a much easier ride than last week’s, and I had survived on just the piece of flapjack that I’d had at the café!
I was chatting to someone about the steep hills on the Greensand Ridge and I said that I thought East Hall Hill might be the steepest. “But surely Vanity Lane is steeper” they said. Needless to say, my next ride included Vanity Lane. I had never climbed this hill but had been down it a couple of times about ten years before. I was always amused by a sign about halfway down warning drivers to be careful of “Free Range Children”.
By the time I came to climb it yesterday I had already ridden 55 miles in 28°C heat, so probably not at my best. The first few hundred metres seemed easy. I looked down at my gears and saw that I was in fourth. “This is going to be easy” I thought to myself. Vanity Lane is one of those hills, like so many around here, that gently twists as it rises, so you can never see that far ahead.
Around one bend it ramps up, and in the distance you can see that it’s getting steeper. In all it has three distinctly separate and progressively steeper segments. The third, and steepest, section starts just before you ride under a strange footbridge spanning the steep-sided (or ‘sunken’ as I have heard it called) lane.
By the time I got to that part I had run out of gears, but I still managed to maintain a steady pace because now I could see the gradient easing up ahead.
Accurately calculating gradients is difficult, it seems. While most internet sites agree when it comes to distances, they vary wildly when it comes to gradients. Strava reports that the steepest gradient in Vanity Lane is over 20%, whereas Cob Lane only reaches 18%. Instinctively I feel that Cob Lane is much steeper than Vanity Lane. My own calculations for Vanity lane show the steep section as being about 15%. Suffice to say that it’s bloody steep. But it’s not as steep as East Hall Hill which is not only steeper, but sustains a steeper gradient for longer.
I planned another ride around the lovely lanes in the Smarden / Pluckley area. But, as has happened before, I hadn’t checked that all of the route was actually on roads! The weather was beautiful – sunny and warm. Shortly into the journey my Garmin told me to turn right here: The sign next to the gate says “PRIVATE DRIVE”. I had a quick look at the Garmin to see if there was a way around, but there wasn’t a short alternative. I couldn’t believe that the mapping software would lead me up someone’s ‘garden path’! I was more inclined to believe that it was a public right of way and the sign was just there as a deterrent. So I rode up it anyway. The path led me past a huge country house (which I later discovered was Godinton House) and then through what seemed like a country park. I was soon travelling on a rough path and over cattle grids.
I still didn’t really know if I was allowed to be there, but it was a lovely ride so I carried on.
Soon I came to a nice spot by a river (The River Spinney), so I sat there for a while in the sun and spotted some interesting wildlife, including a grass snake swimming up to the bank and a frog leaping for its life. I also saw lots of beautiful flying insects that I subsequently discovered were darters, a type of dragonfly.
I met several dog-walkers who confirmed that it was a public right of way.About half a mile later I was back on public roads for the remaining 15 miles of my journey. It had been another interesting unplanned off-road excursion.
Hollingbourne Hill is a long (by Kent standards), ever-steepening slog. It starts just as you pass Hollingbourne Manor on your left. It’s already quite steep as you ride through the village and past The Dirty Habit pub on your right. As you exit the village it gets steeper.
The high banks on either side of the road offer no views to inform you how high you are and there is never any sign of where the top of the hill is. It just keeps climbing remorselessly towards the next bend up ahead. And it keeps getting steeper! After about six and a half minutes you finally see the gradient easing up ahead; the road takes on a convex profile, indicating that it’s becoming less steep. You’re nearly there. The worst bit is over. You can change up a couple of cogs now and ease off the gas as you approach the summit.
I went on another club run with the San Fairy Ann CC. This time I drove to Marden with the bike in the car. And I’m glad I did. The only stats you need to describe this ride are:
16.8 mph avg.
Very hot and sweaty!
I still enjoyed it though. The pace was fast considering the temperature, but it was a flat route. Stopped at a cafe in Wye for coffee. There were eight riders today so I got a chance to meet more of the group.