Cycling in Bristol? Prepare To Climb

Cycling in Bristol? Prepare To Climb

We like a good hill here at le Bidon; there’s nothing like a bit of variety. But whether you’re in search of an ascent or two, or looking to avoid an uphill struggle, here’s a list of my Bristol favourites.

Park Street Cycling Bristol

Image Credit: Peter Hughes

Cycling in Bristol is surprisingly popular given that it’s a city famed for its hilly terrain. You often hear commuters and casual cyclists complain about the gradient of the (in)famous Park Street (10% for 200m), but in truth that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. In fact, if you think that’s tough for an inner-city hill, spare a thought for the good folks of Totterdown who have the pleasure of Vale Street, which boasts a gradient of somewhere in the region of 35%.

Still, generally speaking, most hills in the city of Bristol itself – though sometimes very sharp – are usually relatively short. However, take a short spin out of the city and you’ll find yourself faced with numerous devilish climbs, feared not only by commuters, but committed (addicted) road cyclists as well. Here are a few of my “favourites”:

Belmont Hill (0.9 miles, 11% max/7% av.) – let’s start with something “simple” and close to home. Hidden on the road between Long Ashton and Wraxall, Belmont Hill has in the past been known for its bad surface and unappealing climb. However, since being re-surfaced it is a pure joy to climb, but difficult all the same.

Covered entirely by trees, in the summer it’s a truly startling ascent, but with an average gradient of 7% it still poses enough of a challenge to make mincemeat of your legs. For a similar climb to the same point – albeit in a different direction – give Clarken Coombe a try.

Naish Hill (1.4 miles, 23% max/7% av.) – it’s difficult to express my hatred for Naish Hill. My first real taste of gradient on my road bike, Naish Hill conquered me well before I bested it. At 23% its steepest section is more-or-less bonkers, particularly if your rear wheel sports a 12-25 cassette.

Get to the top in one piece, however, and you’ll experience a serious feeling of elation; that is, until you realise that there’s nothing resembling a descent for at least another mile or so.

Chew Hill (1.8 miles, 16% max/5.6% av.) – though there are numerous tricky climbs up on to Dundry, Chew Hill makes it onto the list mainly because it has a sequel. The worst hills are the ones that repeat themselves…

The most direct route back into Bristol from Chew Magna, Chew Hill begins with a relatively steady climb, but gets steeper towards the halfway mark before offering a little respite in the form of a brief descent. All momentum lost as a result of a mid-climb junction, the second half of Chew Hill is trickier. Whether this is because it’s actually more difficult, or because there’s still more climbing to be done, I don’t know… The jury’s out. All I know is that it hurts.

Harptree Hill (0.7 miles, 18% max/10% av.) – a little further out, Harptree Hill is the most difficult climb on to the Mendips from their northern vista. Unlike most climbs on this list, Harptree Hill is difficult because of its very consistent gradient; its middle section is almost always above 12%. It may be relatively short, but that won’t make you feel any better once you’ve reached the summit.

Burrington Combe Bristol

Image Credit: James Stringer

Burrington Combe (2.5 miles, 10% max/5% av.) – the longest of the climbs and furthest afield, Burrington Combe’s average gradient isn’t particularly challenging, but after 2.5 miles with the odd bout of steepness your legs will really be feeling it.

Cheddar Gorge’s opposite number, the Combe is often hard done by when it comes to hill-climbing notoriety. But by virtue of being longer, steeper and less good-looking (though it is no ugly duckling) it is the harder climb.

*the gradients cited here are approximate, taken from Strava app data.

Still, whatever the length or gradient of any of Bristol’s many hills – inner city or further removed – each climb is as difficult as you choose to make it. Remember, it never gets easier; you just get faster.



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