The best cycling books inspire readers to get out and ride more - that's exactly what Cycling Climbs Of South-East England does

We've reviewed Simon Warren's hillclimbs books before, covering the UK, Belgium, and France - they're all good. Very good. Now he zooms in on South East England, and the format continues to do the job. This is the first of eight UK region-specific guides that, once complete, could form the backbone of a decade's two-wheeled escapades.

The book covers everything within about a two-hour drive of the M25 but not immediately north of London - so including Essex, Kent, Sussex, Hampshire (Isle of Wight, for time-travellers), Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

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There's no index as such, each group of counties having its own section with a map page pointing out locations. This means if you are looking for a particular climb it can be a bit frustrating until you work out the system.

There are 60 climbs packed into 144 glossy pages, half of them new, half refreshed and updated from previous editions of the UK-wide 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs and its cunningly named follow-up, Another 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs.

While many will leap straight to page 39 and the pedestrian 3/10 Box Hill, page 29 takes you up the little-known Barhatch Lane, a 9/10 2.5km monster featuring repeated ramps over 20 per cent, with a 25 per cent kick at the end to finish off any thought of keeping breakfast in situ. Given that it's impossible to be above 297m in South East England without resorting to aviation of some sort, the fact that Barhatch Lane fits in 156m of climbing isn't bad.

My local Combe Gibbet on the North Hampshire Downs only manages a paltry 5/10 79m on its way to the South East's highest point (Walbury Hill), but the description is spot on and does make you want to get out and up.

At 176m, the award for greatest gain goes to Toy's Hill in Kent. The North Downs lingers eastward to challenge cyclists bored with Surrey, and at 7/10 with 18 per cent ramps it means you'll not be wanting for amusement.

At the back of the book there's a section to note the date ridden and time taken for each climb – like a personal, one-shot Strava if the internet didn't exist, and a great heirloom to pass on to future generations.

Throughout the book Simon Warren's prose whets the appetite for suffering, with a clear eye for the beauty of locations as well as the raw numbers. The best cycling books inspire readers to get out and ride more. I'm off to plan a club away day right now.


The best cycling books inspire readers to get out and ride more - that's exactly what Cycling Climbs Of South-East England does

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Simon Warren Cycling climbs of south east England - A road cyclist's guide

Size tested: n/a

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

It's for anyone wanting inspiration to get out and up on a bike, in the South East.

The author says:

"The first title in a series of eight regional Cycling Climbs guides, covering the South-East of England. Featuring the 60 greatest cycling climbs in London and the Home Counties, well over half of the hills are new to Simon Warren's books and all of the previously printed material has been refreshed and updated.

"From the rolling vistas of the Chilterns, through the twisting lanes of the Surrey Hills all the way to the rugged white cliffs of Dover, the South-East is littered with tough climbs. Many have now become household names such as the mighty Box Hill or Ditchling Beacon, but many others lie hidden, gems just waiting for you to discover. So whether you live in London Fields or the Kentish Weald there will be a climb inside this book, right on your doorstep, just waiting to be conquered."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

It's a book.

Format: Paperback / softback, 144 Pages

ISBN: 9780711237025

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Rate the product for quality of construction:

Looks like it will survive kicking about the glovebox or a kitbag okay.

Your performance or lack thereof is not the fault of the book.

The hills mentioned are likely to last a while.

Rate the product for weight, if applicable:

At 160g, it's no Encyclopedia Britannica.

Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:

I had no issues holding this book for up to 10 minutes at a time.

Rate the product for value:

A good way to get a local cyclist enthused.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Very well. Every hill visited was as described.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The prose and clarity of details.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

No index. A seemingly basic omission.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your score

If it had an index, it'd be 10 out of 10.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 42  Height: 183cm  Weight: 71kg

I usually ride: Charge Juicer  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: A few times a week  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: club rides, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, and Dutch bike pootling



Crimea03 [22 posts] 4 years ago

Got to love Chalkpit Lane

arckuk [113 posts] 4 years ago

My copy on order, and in looking forward to some new climbs, having tackled most of the ones in the south-east from "100..." and "another 100..." really good reads and sources of inspiration!

Scoob_84 [489 posts] 4 years ago

The one time I attempted chalk pit lane, two dear jumped out of the hedge in front of me, down a steep bank and nearly took me out.

SteppenHerring [382 posts] 4 years ago

Given the dismal showing of the Paragon in this year's inter-club TTs (on the lumpy Bletchingly course) I wonder how good Simon is  3

Saying that, Toys from the South is an interesting one. I hate Yorks but my son likes to do the Catford HC and the Bec.

Scoob_84: I hope you meant "deer".

FrankH [195 posts] 4 years ago
1 like
SteppenHerring wrote:

Scoob_84: I hope you meant "deer".

I hope not, it would spoil the vision of two of Monty Python's Hell's Grannies trying to knock him off his bike.  35

Yennings [237 posts] 4 years ago

Wot no Hertfordshire?

Oreos [12 posts] 4 years ago
1 like

So box hill isn't the hardest climb in England? I'm confused......

TeamExtreme [104 posts] 4 years ago
SteppenHerring wrote:

I hate Yorks but my son likes to do the Catford HC and the Bec.

Yorks Hill has got to be my favourite in the area. I saw it in the original "100 Climbs" book and the first time I went up there I really couldn't see what all the fuss was about; a farm road covered in mud and with a view that, for the most part, is pretty uninspiring and boring.

Having said that, every time I go up there I love it more and more. The challenge of pacing yourself on the lower easy slopes, knowing the 25% ramps to come. The steep dirt banks on either side as the road kicks up into the trees create a nice atmosphere and just as you think the road can't get any steeper, suddenly you're at the top and out in the sunshine again.

pj [147 posts] 4 years ago
1 like

Yorks Hill is all about the spectacle of the Catford event. Beyond that, it's just too short.

toddysax2 [5 posts] 4 years ago
1 like

For me, Barhatch Lane (also known as Winterfold) is easily the toughest climb in the region. For me it is a triple chainset climb. 28 x 30 - (I am age77). On Box hill I don't have to use the grannie ring at all. - 40 x 30. In the races that use Box Hill,
it's not the severity of the climb that gets you, but the number of times you have to do it!

Stratman [178 posts] 4 years ago
1 like


I think you're entitled to use a granny (or is it gramps) ring at 77

Chapeau, Sir!

andyp [1609 posts] 4 years ago

small book then?

antigee [576 posts] 4 years ago

looking forward to Peak/Yorks - not being a club/competitive rider the 100 UK climbs had some localish stuff that wasn't aware of and made for some good days out (plus holiday challenges) albeit spending most of the time thinking "people race up this!!!"

sm [409 posts] 4 years ago

Another edition for the wishlist. A great series to date, one of the real inspirations for getting me travelling around the UK and cycling in beautiful parts of the world (that's right, world!). Wales, Scotland, Dales, Moors, Lakes, Isles and Peaks. The hills were originally the reason for the visit, now they're just a place to enjoy the view.

My favourite climb in the South East? Difficult. Really enjoy (/ hate) White Down in the Surrey Hills, shaded and atmospheric. And tough.