Vigo Hill

 Date climbed  29th October 2013
 Elevation gain  244 feet
 Length  0.39 mile
 Duration  4.5 minutes

This hill is so steep that, even in a car, it is scary going down. In fact most drivers seem to take it quite slowly. I have only included figures here for Vigo Hill itself. Before you reach the beginning of the Vigo Hill bit, you have already climbed a comparatively easy 270 feet in 1.3 miles along Taylors Lane.

Vigo Hill
You can just see the bridge here and you can see that the gradient eases after the bridge because the white car is below the ‘horizon’

The sign at the bottom states 1:6, which is just under 17%, but the section just before you go under the bridge is at least 19% by all my calculations. If you believe the accuracy of the contour lines on the ordnance survey 1:25000 map, then it measures 25%! Whatever the true figure is, this hill ‘looks’ really steep, compared with, say, Lockyer’s Hill which doesn’t look that steep and yet is 25%. And I found riding up Vigo very very tough, much more so than Lockyer’s.

I climbed it on this ride, and I felt sick with the exertion, but that may have been due to other circumstances. I can’t wait to try it again to see how I do next time.

Vigo profile




Faversham (SFA) or “The Day Before the Storm”

Distance: 60 miles. Elevation: 3179 ft.

Only an as yet unwritten history will reveal how accurate that alternative title is. As I write this, Britain is bracing itself in deference to a severe weather warning foretelling of the impending doom due to be wreaked by ‘what could possibly be the worst storm since 1987’.

Being ‘pre-storm’ day, it was very windy – 22 mph south-westerly with gusts of 40mph. There were just three of us out today braving the conditions. I had fitted my mudguards for the first time since last winter and had my rain jacket, but it was so mild I was still in shorts.

Shortly after we set off we were straight into some rain. It was enough to ensure that my goggles got so wet that it was difficult to see where I was going. It didn’t last long though and, despite what looked like heavy rain in the distance, the rest of the journey to Faversham was made in glorious sunshine. It was a very mild (17°C) day and with that strong wind directly behind us all the way there it felt great. We were able to get some good speeds going with virtually no effort. Most of the roads and lanes were wet and muddy from last night’s rain and were already strewn with lots of debris from trees and hedgerow. So it wasn’t too much of a surprise when I got a puncture in my rear tyre. The sound it made was unmistakable and it’s the only time I’ve had a flat with such a loud release of pressure. 12 minutes later we were back on our way. (see here for post-mortem!)


We had brunch at the Moonlight Café in Faversham. Very nice it was too. I had been riding ‘in the fasted state’, having had nothing to eat up until that point. It was a new thing I was trying out – supposedly you burn more fat under those conditions.

We had been fully aware that the trailing wind of the outward journey would turn into a strong headwind for the return. And it didn’t disappoint! Battling directly into that stiff south-westerly must have added the equivalent of 5 or 6 miles to the journey. It felt like we were constantly going uphill. Our average speed of over 14 mph from Marden to Faversham turned into 12.7 for the return! We experienced some strong sideways gusts that had me instinctively gripping the bike harder and crouching down to try to keep control. But it wasn’t all bad. In fact it wasn’t as severe as I had been dreading. To a certain extent the return leg felt like one of those rides that never seems to end. But eventually it did. As we arrived in Marden I saw that we had covered 59.6 miles – that was so close to 60 that I decided to ride straight past the car park and turn around further up the road to add a bit more to the journey to round it up to 60, which seems a more fitting number, considering the effort!

Of Cassettes and Spacers

I recently ordered a pair of Campag Shamal Ultra wheels for my Colnago. When I got home from work last Tuesday they had arrived. I rushed to fit tubes, tyres and cassette to them to go out for a quick test ride before it got dark. According to the advert, the rear was fitted with a Shimano 9/10-speed compatible hub; that meant that I needed to fit a 1 mm spacer behind the cassette. So that’s what I did, but the cassette felt slightly loose. When I went out for my test ride I had to cut it short after just a mile or so because there was a terrible (yet familiar) rattling coming from the cassette every time I rode over a bump in the road. It even slipped a gear as I was returning up Barn Hill. I didn’t have time to investigate it fully for a couple of days, but I did quite a bit of research on the web to no avail; it all confirmed what I already knew – i.e. a 1 mm spacer was all that was required.

When the weekend arrived I decided that I would take the cassette off and measure the length of the hub and compare it to the length of the hub that the cassette originally came from (supposedly the same Shimano 9/10-speed). I took the cassette off and while I was measuring it I noticed the words “11-SPEED” printed on the hub. 11speed
Aha! So it wasn’t a 9/10-speed hub – it was 11-speed. I immediately consulted this goldmine of information and saw that I needed a 1.85 mm spacer in addition to the 1 mm I already had. Further research revealed that this spacer should have been supplied with the wheels, so I was a bit peeved that it hadn’t been. Even worse: they didn’t seem that easy to get hold of either; someone on eBay was selling them for £6 each!  I wasn’t going to pay that much, so I called a couple of local bike shops to see if they had any. The first one said no. The second one, after a lengthy discussion, during which I convinced the so-called ‘expert’ that 11-speed hubs were longer than 9/10-speed hubs, said no, but they did have plenty of 1 mm spacers in stock; maybe I could use two of those?

So I decided to ride to the said LBS to get a couple of 1 mm spacers (£1 each). However, I still really wanted to try out my new wheels. But I didn’t have the required 1.85 mm spacer – but I remembered that there was a 1.75 mm spacer on my Mavic wheels; surely that would be close enough! So I proceeded to take the cassette off the Mavics to borrow the 1.75 mm spacer from there. By this time the kitchen table had 3 rear wheels and various cassettes and bike tools all over the place – it looked like a bike workshop! I next refitted the cassette to my new wheels using the borrowed Mavic spacer and the 1 mm spacer. It was fine – totally secure, with no wobble.

I rode to the bike shop (the new wheels felt great) and asked about the spacers. A mechanic emerged from the workshop with 2 spacers in hand and said “there you go”. I said “so they should be the same as this one”, as I pulled from my back pocket a 1 mm spacer that I had taken along for comparison. He took it from me and lined it up next to one of his and said “these are slightly thicker than your one”. “Aha, that could be even more useful”, I said, knowing that I was actually after 1.85 mm, and at the same time thinking “I won’t be bringing my bike here for any work; they don’t even know that a 1 mm spacer should actually measure 1mm!” I bought the spacers and was on my way.

As soon as I got home I measured the new spacers using a micrometer. They were 1.6 mm! After further experimentation, the details of which I won’t go into here, I decided that the 1.6 mm spacer seemed to work fine, as a substitute for the more correct 1.85 mm one.

Anyone who has actually read this post to this point must either be

  1. trying to fit a Shimano 10-speed cassette to an 11-speed hub, and finding the information in this post quite useful, or
  2. seriously in need of ‘getting a life’!

Either way, here’s a diagram to help explain (notice they specify 1.8 mm, not 1.85):

hub diagI now know much more than I ever wanted to about cassette/hub/spacer compatibility! I am also an expert in changing cassettes, having done it about 20 times during the course of this exercise.


Challock (SFA)

Distance: 59.5 miles. Elevation: 2699 ft.

Another ride with the Sunday Intermediates. It was a chilly, misty morning with the promise of sunshine later. As I cycled down into the Vale of Kent on my way to Marden the mist got thicker, enough to get me and the bike wet. My fingers were also cold for the first time since last Winter. The upside was that the misty landscape provided plenty of evocative scenery.

I met the others at Marden as usual. There were seven of us on the ride. As we made our way to Challock Glider Club, the mist gradually cleared and the sun did indeed come out. It turned into a lovely morning. A couple of miles before Challock, the group split to take two different routes. Two of the guys were on fixies and wanted to take a less steep, off-road route. The rest of us took the longer, steeper, on-road route. This caused a bit of confusion in the numbers and when the group I was in arrived at the glider club, we realised that a rider had gone missing (we had become quite stretched out on a steep hill about a mile beforehand). Two of the guys went back to search for him but returned about 20 minutes later empty-handed. Luckily, the missing rider turned up about five minutes after that. So we all sat in the sunshine watching the gliders being launched into the blue sky as we scoffed our grub.

Some Fairies (not today's ride) at the glider club
Some Fairies (not today’s ride) at the glider club

On the way back, I left the group to take a more direct route home, instead of going to Marden. About three miles into my solo journey, I took a wrong turning. I realised that I was heading too far to the South, so I turned around to retrace my steps back to a turn-off I had missed. As I was making my way back, lo and behold, the rest of the group came up the road behind me! I rode with them for another couple of miles and peeled-off again, for a more direct route home. Joking, one of them shouted after me “see you in 5 minutes!”. But they didn’t. This time I didn’t get lost.

I was really flagging over the last few miles. I struggled up Barn Hill, recording one of my slowest times for ages! Maybe it was yesterday’s hilly ride that had worn me out.