We’ve all been transfixed by the likes of Peter Sagan and Tom Boonen bounce over the cobbles in Paris Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders on TV every Spring. But did you know that you don’t have to leave the UK to have your own awesome pavé experience. Across the UK are epic cobbled climbs to test yourself on.
Does watching the spring classics each spring give you the urge to one day try it for yourself? Or are you searching for a new cycling experience, one with a deep routed place in cycling history? Well right here at home in the UK are incredible lung-bursting cobbled ascents that will take you through some of the most breathtaking villages and landscapes on our island. Let’s take a look at the top 10.
1) GOLD HILL - SHAFTESBURY, DORSET
Length: 200m, Average Gradient: 16%
Gold Hill was made famous by the Hovis bread ad back in the 70’s. Once you hit the bottom you’ll soon see why the delivery boy had to push his bike up it. This one is vicious with an unrelenting 16% gradient for 200m.
As you approach the top, the street narrows as it kicks up for the final ascent. At the top you’ll be rewarded with a splendid view (if you can see through the sweat and tears). Reward yourself with a well-earned refreshment in a roadside cafe.
2) TROOPER LANE - HALIFAX, WEST YORKSHIRE
Length: 700m, Average Gradient: 19%
Starting off on tarmac, this one really ramps up once you hit the cobbles after the first couple of bends. The slope is relentless with an average gradient of 19%, peaking at 25% on the apexes.
The cobbled sections are well maintained which makes for smoother riding. Damp areas under the trees can make for low grip and wheel spin if you try and power up the climb out of the saddle. No trip to Yorkshire will be complete without it.
3) SHIBDEN WALL - HALIFAX, WEST YORKSHIRE
Length: 800m, Average Gradient: 15%
It’s not called a wall for nothing. Shibden certainly lives up to its reputation as one of the most revered punchy climbs in Yorkshire.
The climb was featured on the Tour de Yorkshire in 2017 where many a pro was seen grovelling as they made their way up and around the tight switchbacks. Interestingly, you’ll often make it up quicker by taking a wider line on the switchbacks, such is the difference in gradient. Even many of the pros were forced to take this route.
A quiet road with little traffic means that even the weavers among us should make it up intact. For the rest, it's the perfect climb to test yourself against the pros.
4) WALKTONBERG - HALESOWEN, WEST MIDLANDS
Length: 600m, Average Gradient: 14%
Waltonberg is one of the most revered cobbled climbs. It is a standard feature on the Tour of the Black Country every year.
A little off the beaten track, and reminiscent of Paris Roubaix in ways, it provides a slightly different cobble experience. The climb itself meanders 600 metres up through the forest where the gradient at times touches 20%.
Challenging enough on a warm mid-summers day, Waltonberg will really test you in the rain, where the muddy surface will demand the very best of your bike-handling skills.
5) OLD LANE - LUDDENDEN, WEST YORKSHIRE
Length: 200m, Average Gradient: 22%
A narrow cobbled path flanked by stone walls that meanders through the village of Luddenden, a hidden gem in West Yorkshire. Old Lane is short at 200 metres, but the punishing gradient means that if you stop, you may not be able to get back on. This is a punchy climb that requires you to dig deep and really test your anaerobic capacity.
For those who do make it up, you’ll never have cranked out so many watts in your smallest gear.
6) CONSTITUTION HILL - SWANSEA, WALES
Length: 300m, Average Gradient: 19%
Perhaps best known for its inclusion in the Tour of Britain in 2010, Constitution Hill will sap every ounce of energy from your legs.
Relatively short but with an unrelenting incline, you’ll feel the lactic acid burn in your leg muscles long before you reach the top. That being said, the cobbles are well maintained due to the traffic in central Swansea so a smoother ride can be expected.
7) THWAITES BROW - KEIGHLY, WEST YORKSHIRE
Length: 1200m, Average Gradient: 10%
Thwaites Brow with its inconsistent gradient averaging out at 10% will have you struggling to find your rhythm.
Longer than most cobbled climbs in the UK, your best bet is to tap out a steady pace from the get-go. Keep the power even. If you dip into the red too many times on the steeper sections, the length of the climb will punish you sooner rather than later.
8) SWISS LANE - ALDERLEY EDGE, CHESHIRE
Length: 500m, Average Gradient: 14%
One of the epic cobbled climbs, Swiss Hill will have you in your granny gear not long after its notoriously steep initial ramp.
Situated in the beautiful surroundings of rural Cheshire, the blooming flowers that line the climb are perhaps the only thing that will take your mind temporarily off the pain. Once over the initial hump, the narrow cobbled road reverts to a more manageable 14% average gradient as it meanders its way slowly upward.
9) MICHAELGATE - LINCOLN
Length: 300m, Average Gradient: 11%
Michaelgate has proven to be a decisive climb in many a road race over the years, including the National Road Championships in 2015. If you are a powerhouse of a rider, this climb is one for you.
The comparatively forgiving gradient and the smooth cobbles make this one slightly more manageable for most riders. However, only the best among us have the ability to challenge the current KOM at just under a minute. It’s the perfect climb to tax and train that neuromuscular power zone.
10) THE CORKSCREW - BOLLINGTON, CHESHIRE
Length: 200m, Average Gradient: 33%
We saved the toughest climb until the end. With a thigh-burning 33% average gradient, cobbled climbs don’t come much tougher than the Corkscrew. You’ll want to ensure your bike is equipped with a suitably low gear for this one as it ramps up to an incredible 45% in parts.
In truth, few can make it up without dismounting at some point, but bragging rights await, so why not dig deep and give it a go. You’ll be hard pushed to find a steeper gradient to tackle on a road bike.
So, there you have it, our top 10 cobbled climbs in the UK. Each one emulating the bergs of Flanders right here in our own backyard. It’s time to tax those anaerobic zones, pump those pedals and experience a part of cycling that many shy away from.
And remember, there’s magic in them stones.