“STOP, just stop”. “This hurts and you won’t make it to the top anyway”. “I don’t have the right setup for this, this just isn’t going to end well”. These are all common thoughts that pass through your mind when emptying yourself on a really tough climb. You just don’t expect it to be only 30 seconds into the ascent! That was Swiss Hill, number 71.
Fortunately there’s always another voice that says “just keep going” and usually it’s that little bit more persuasive. After all that voice doesn’t ask you to do anything you’re not already doing, so you just keep on turning the pedals and hope for the best.
Swiss Hill appears suddenly on your right as you ride up Mottram Road heading out of Alderley Edge. You recognise it instantly by the cobbles, which you knew were coming but are still not quite prepared for. Ah well, here we go, just keep the pace up nice and high and you’ll float over them. Not such bad advice really, but it’s advice that falls on it’s face when the gradient bites. The average of 13%, maximum of 17% and the cobbles conspire to make it simply a slog fest where all tactics or technique goes out of the window. You can try to keep the pace high, but when you are pushing yourself as hard as you can you cannot push any harder. And when you’re going as fast as you can, you just cannot go any faster.
The cobbles and the gradient are relentless but then the hill evens out for a moment before heading left. Don’t be lured into thinking that’s the top though, it’s just half way up and the top half is much the same gradient as the bottom half. The cobbles too, go pretty much all the way up to the top. The less steep section in the middle did however give me a chance to breathe, to steel myself for what was to come and to allow the pain in my legs to subside for at least a time. It’s still upward but it provides much needed relief.
The second half was much a repeat of the first. More steepness, more cobbles, more rattling around on the bike. More rattling of the bike too. Fortunately I was able to get up out of the saddle, maintain traction and eventually make it over the top, feeling somewhat sick. I then wondered whether I’d get enough recovery time on kinder roads before Blaze Hill and Pyms Chair appeared on the horizon. You know a big hill’s on the way when you can see trees ahead, over the trees.
I did. I didn’t find them easy, they are long tough hills in their own right and put together in such a short section of a ride makes the whole experience more of a challenge too. But at least the road is smooth and the scenery typical Peak District beauty. I do think that I should get a wider cassette now though, to go alongside my single 42 tooth chainring. It’s times like these that 1 extra gear would really be appreciated, maybe an 11-32, instead of my current 11-28. The view from the top of Pyms Chair is well worth stopping for and the rock at the top provide a good bike photographing opportunity.
The remaining part of the ride included one more significant climb but being the lesser of the lot, it was more of an annoyance than a challenge. The descents back down though are something else altogether, fairly smooth road with fewer pot holes than I’m use to and a continuous negative gradient that not only lets you to get up some real speed but allows you to keep it, plenty long enough to real have some fun. The scenery of course remains glorious and the roads twist and turn enough to be engaging but not so much that you ever need to scrub off any of that pace. It would be really nice to bring a high end bike up to these parts and really let loose, maybe something aero with disc brakes.
Unfortunately this wasn’t a day spent riding but rather a short stop on my way home from working in Manchester. So I soon got back to the car park on Holehouse Lane, packed my bike away and headed home.
See my ride on Strava – https://www.strava.com/activities/1617068734 and also the route – https://www.strava.com/routes/13519972