It is no secret that I hate hills. Having grown up in the deepest darkest Fens hills were never a problem, infact if you came across even the smallest of hills you would stop and do a naked dance around your bike as some form of sacred worship to the hill gods. It got funny looks, but it did mean hills never came into it (unlike wind, but that’s a different story). My everyday ride into work is along the seafront, there are no hills there either. The worst is a slight gradient uphill which if you were to place a marble on the road it would roll slightly… and then come to a stop. Hills, they are not part of everyday life. This is a bit of problem if I want to leave the immediate area as we are surrounded by either the sea or the South Downs. I have the choice of getting wet or going up a hill.
I thought then I would get into a bit of hill practice on a short ride today. My aim is not to get to the top the first, but to actually get to the top. The Royal has plenty of gears and a lot of those are pretty low ones, touring bikes have both high gears (they are heavy roads bikes after all) and low gears (its expected that a tourer will be loaded up). With this, in theory it’s much like the weather (there is no such thing as bad weather….) in that there is no such thing as a steep hill, just the wrong gear. I thought I would put that to the test.
Just four miles down the road is Steyning, just the other side of the Downs. You can get to it via the old railway track (flat, but muddy/dusty), along the main road which makes its way through a gap in the hills (a bit busy, not that relaxing), a B road which skirts the side of the hill with one or two ups and downs but nothing too serious, or a B road that goes straight over the top. The circle route for today would take the slightly hilly road along the side and then turn back and take the B road that goes straight over the top.
The trip out was pretty nice, it has been some time since I have taken this road, opting for the rough railway track instead lately. There are some hills, smallish, with a number of pretty nasty ones as you come into Steyning. On this ride though, these would be just slight blips. Once at Steyning you are ready to turn back and you have the option to go up Bostal road or to wimp out slightly can go up Newham Lane. I decided to wimp out, leaving Bostal road for another day, although it’s not too much of wimping out as you are soon met by a 17% uphill gradiant sign telling you that you are on your way up. It is not long until to join Bostal road, thinking (hoping) you may have missed the worst but instead faced with hills and corners which cars have problems going up.
Last time I did this trip was about a year ago, on the Highway, at nighttime, in the wind and the rain. All practice for the London to Brighton night ride. I didn’t make it and ended up walking up the worst bits, a task which itself was probably just as hard as riding. This time I didn’t want to do that, and the initial part I was slow but doable. Joining Bostal road you think you must be mostly at the top, which in distance it probably right, but the gradient picks up and you are pushing hard just to make sure you don’t start going backwards! Cars pass you slowly, clutches and engines getting hot. I did stop briefly, but then carried on and was soon at the top. The views were great and so was the feeling that it was mostly downhill all the way home from here.
Maybe two or three more goes and I’ll get up without the short break halfway. Maybe next time I should take the Bostal road straight away, possibly it is not that bad, infact I feel the worst part is near the top anywhere after the two roads meet. Maybe I should try the circle the other way round, with a long slow uphill and a short steep downhill.
I still did the 12 miles in less than an hour which seeing as I was not trying to go fast I was quite surprised in. I think I’ll give it all another go.
It seems it is quite a “famous” hill, I have only thought of Devil’s Dyke or Ditchling Beacon, but searching on the name in Google you get quite a number of cycling hits. For example, http://100hillsforgeorge.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/hill-no-78-21-steyning-bostal.html