Roads to Ride: The Devil’s Staircase

Roads to Ride: The Devil’s Staircase


There are a few words that come to mind when talking about The Devil’s Staircase; none of which are appropriate to repeat in present company.

The Devil's Staircase Cycling, Wales

It is a climb famous among cyclists across the UK, often voted as one of the best and most difficult. Stories of people getting off to push outnumber those that have been successful.

An average of 12% (getting up to above 25%), climbing nearly 500ft over the course of 0.7 miles, you’ll need your easiest granny gears and very best mountain legs to get safely to the summit.

Perhaps the most difficult stretch I’ve ever ridden, the mountain road connecting Beulah and Tregaron in West Wales is not to be trifled with. Even if you take The Devil’s Staircase out of the equation, the other climbs on the road provide a hefty challenge.

In the direction of Tregaron, there are two climbs of almost comparable difficulty to the Devil’s Staircase, in addition to plenty of other ascents besides.

But with difficult climbing comes exhilarating descents. And as each pedal stroke guides you further along your paths, you’ll realise that all the pain is worth it for the landscapes on offer.

This is one beautiful road, encompassing the impressive spectacle of bare mountains and the rock formations they have to offer, and areas of new and old forest, almost alpine in feel.

The beginning of the road is actually fairly straightforward, with stunning vistas the reward for shallow ascents. But before long you come across two low lying bridges. Across the other side? A gradient sign. Your day is about to get more difficult.

Cycling The Devil's Staircase

As you begin your ascent you begin to laugh inwardly as you realise that the climb is as hard as they say; most who attempt it have to walk to the summit.

And if that wasn’t confirmation enough, the strange looks and comical expressions from those slowly winding their way down in their motor vehicle of choice are telling. Looks of bewilderment are encouraging; you can make it, because you’re epic.

Once you’ve made it to the apogee, your Devil’s Staircase pain finally relieved, there isn’t much time for thought. The descent down the otherside matches in gradient the ascent you’ve just dragged yourself up. A 25% descent is never fun.

Don’t get complacent either; the remainder of the road is, it seems, designed to stretch you to your limit, not giving you time to recover at all. By the time you get to Tregaron you’ll need a good sit down and cup of coffee. But more on that soon.

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    Simon Bunegar

    Lovely piece, wish I’d read it before doing Tregaron – Abergwesyn – Tregaron recently…I’d assumed the other side of the Staircase was easier!

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