Simon Warren's Strava totals must be astronomical, judging by the pace at which he's delivering his regional guides to his publishers. Right on the wheel of his guide to Yorkshire comes Cycling Climbs of Wales, with every bit as much to enjoy – and fear – as the previous volumes.
For those unfamiliar with the format, each climb takes a double-page, with a colour photograph on the left and the ride description, location map and 'Factfile' on the right. Into the factfile go statistics such as length, height gain (in metres, of course) and a handy OS grid reference. Warren also suggests a climb time, based on his own experiences but, as he says, a lot is down to the weather conditions on the day.
In Warren's case, weather conditions were pretty horrendous for many of his research trips, judging by the photographs. Also, in his introductory chapter, he describes almost abandoning the job after a tempestuous day on Llantysilio mountain. However, in true Welsh fashion, the sun came out and the rest of the week was spent under clear blue skies.
Warren admits Wales has too many hill climbs to do full justice, but he's done his best to root out some hidden gems. In my review of the Yorkshire volume, I got into trouble for referring to someone's favourite local hills as 'obscure' so I won't do that, but Warren says even finding some of these hills is a challenge in itself.
The guide is divided into four regional chapters, namely North, Mid, South East and South West Wales. This works fine for Snowdonia and the Clwyds, in particular, but the Brecon Beacons get a bit scattered between chapters. However, Warren is very fair to the south of Wales, where he finds plenty of obscure – er, I mean 'well-hidden' – climbs. I particularly want to ride The Blorenge, near Abergavenny, not only because it's meant to be tougher than The Tumble but because it rhymes with 'orange'. As usual, it's not only the longest climbs that qualify. Constitution Hill, in Swansea, is barely 300m in length but still earns a respectable 4/10.
In his introductory chapters, Warren describes the search for a hill climb in Wales that would stand alongside his two giants of England and Scotland: respectively, Great Dun Fell and Bealach na Bà. His choice, and you may disagree, is The Stwlan Dam at Blaenau Ffestiniog. Though he awards it only 8/10, he says, 'If this road were situated just north of Dorking, it would need a permanent police present to control the number of riders heading up it...'
Even with 75 climbs included, there are bound to be some that knowledgeable readers will regret are absent, and others they will argue should not be there. That's all part of the fun and perhaps you would like to add yours below.
It's another Festival of Pain from the irrepressible Simon Warren – a practical guide, or simply for browsing/dreaming
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Cycling Climbs Of Wales by Simon Warren
Size tested: Paperback
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?
This is the second in a series of eight regional guide books from the author of the "100 Greatest Cycling Climbs" series.
From the cover:
Countless incredible climbs span the entire length of Wales; peppered across the exposed peaks of Snowdonia and nestling among the tangled lanes of Denbighshire, reaching across the sparse wilderness of the stunning Brecon Beacons and diving deep into the congestion of the southern Valleys. Climbs such as the Devil' s Staircase, the Horseshoe Pass and Bwlch-Y-Groes are etched into cycling history, and there are many lesser known yet equally amazing ascents out there waiting to be unearthed. With scenery to rival anywhere on Earth and roads so quiet you could hear a pin drop, Wales, under clear blue skies, is cycling heaven.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Published by Frances Lincoln, London
Attractively bound and printed but not for carrying in your pocket in a Welsh deluge.
Lots of reading and riding, for a pocket-money price.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Inspiring and a fun read.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Better photographs would do the series justice...
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
This is a thorough revision and expansion of Warren's Welsh chapters in the 100 Best Climbs books, with masses more to go at. For the amount of work that goes in, and the potential for enjoyment to be taken out either in riding or armchair planning, it's great value.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking