Our outdoors writer Oliver Chesher talks all things cycling…
The Snake Pass – the iconic winding mountainous road that crosses the Pennines to link our beautiful region with equally stunning South Yorkshire – was recently closed to all traffic because of landslips.
Briefly, however, it was closed to motor traffic only, which set corks flying in the sport of cycling. Every cycling club in the region, including my own – Stockport Clarion CC – scampered out in search of the holy grail: a winding mountain climb and scary fast descent with no cars!
This got me thinking just how rare a privilege that is. Even mass participation road cycling events, called sportives, are very rarely closed-road events in this part of the world because of the disruption that causes. However, we do have the luxury of plenty more serious hills in this part of the world – and if you’re into cycling or even just giving it some thought, it’s hills that really add spice. While these may not be free of motor traffic, you can certainly time your trips to have these roads almost to yourself:
1. Swiss Hill. A gnarly cobbled road climb up to the Wizard at Alderley Edge. On damp days it’s so steep and slippery it’s almost impossible to ride up without wheel-spinning.
2. The Cat & Fiddle. Definitely the longest – it can take even a fit rider almost an hour to get up from Macclesfield to the summit – but a lovely gradual climb you can enjoy at your own pace.
3. Pym Chair. Another Cheshire classic in the Goyt Valley – very few cars so you can challenge yourself up its relentless ramps.
4. Winnats Pass. Surely the hardest challenge of them all. Just west of Castleton in the Peak District, it’s a nice ride out to get there from Cheshire, but getting up it is an entirely different matter. Gradients hit 20% and it feels like it goes on forever!
If you want more recommendations with stats, such as mileages, gradients and grid references, I highly recommend the book Cycling Climbs of North-West England by Simon Warren, RRP £8.99 in paperback.