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.
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
Publisher: Frances Lincoln
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.
At 160g, it's no Encyclopedia Britannica.
I had no issues holding this book for up to 10 minutes at a time.
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.
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