On the 7th of July I started a week off work by driving up to ‘that there London’ to ride Swains Lane. The plan was simple really; spend the Sunday and Monday finishing off the South Eastern climbs and then on the Thursday and Friday finally lay the remaining climbs in Wales to rest.
The drive up to London from North Devon went OK but the weather was very dry and hot and marked the start of a heat wave that is still in place as I write this. I have no idea what the temperature was on the 7th of July (figures from the Wimbledon final suggest it was nearly 30oC in the shade and as much as 45oC in direct sunlight) but I do know that a 4 ½ hour drive in an un-airconditioned car was a fairly sticky affair and when I finally managed to park up near to the start of the climb the water I had in the car felt and tasted like it hadn’t long been boiled in a kettle! Needless to say I was feeling a bit washed out by the time I got the bike together and started riding to the bottom of Swains Lane. I don’t generally ride well in very hot conditions and as the week went on the weather was set to get hotter.
Because Swains Lane is located in a very popular and busy area of London I ended up parking halfway down Highgate West Hill. It would at least give me a chance to get warmed up on my way to the hill I intended to ride. One thing I didn’t realise before starting to ride down Swains Lane to the start is that the upper section is one way only. Thankfully there weren’t too many cars or cyclists travelling up it as I sped down. Could have been messy otherwise.
Swains Lane is a fairly short ride and the lower flattish section is through what I can only imagine is a very expensive area of housing. As the road starts to pass by Highgate Cemetery the gradient slowly ramps up before entering into a shaded single track section where the 20% slope lurks. This steep section isn’t very long and it would have been nice to attack it flat out and dispatch the climb with a bit of style. Unfortunately I had started the ride feeling drained and it was all too easy to choose a low gear and spin my way up. It is not a stylish approach to riding and has no panache but as I seem to lack either quality in other areas of my life it worked just fine on a day where I just wanted to finish the climb and find a cold drink. After much hot huffing and puffing at low speed I emerged back out into the sunlight at the top of the climb.
Once back in the car it was time to head to my overnight stop where I think I consumed about 3 litres of ice cold drinks over the course of the evening. My next ride would be up Mott Street and I decided that the only way to tackle it without the heat being a major limiting factor would be to ride it as early in the morning as I possibly could. The footage of that climb will be on the blog shortly.
Time to take a break for the summer
The six climbs I completed over the course of the week are the last ones I will be riding until September. In September I will make a start on the remaining 33 climbs by riding the Scottish hills, which is something I’m looking forward to doing. In the meantime the school summer holidays are now upon us and I don’t fancy having to deal with busy roads, over priced accommodation or the heat. In fact the heat was to be a major and unpleasant feature of the rides in Wales; By the time I got to Bwlch-y-Groes on the 12th July a heat wave warning was about to be put in place across several parts of the UK and I suffered badly in the conditions. Lets just say that the footage from the three Welsh climbs I tackled isn’t pretty viewing and leave it at that for now. Over the next week or so all of the climbs will be appearing on the blog and on you tube so stayed tuned…