Swains Lane 134M
Maximum Gradient: 18%
Height Gain: 87M
Swain’s Lane attracts cyclists from all over London in search of stiff gradients to grind up. Not all know that 24 ascents of this great road climb is equivalent to summiting the Giant of Provence, Mont Ventoux.
Shallow gradients to start
As you turn right off the Highgate Road the tarmac remains at a shallow gradient. You pass by a cluster of café’s which offer you a final chance of a coffee or something stronger (the Bedouin of Swain’s Lane?) to galvanise you for the road ahead.
The Victorian cemetery on the right comes in to view as the road curves to the left. The gradient remains slight but the profile of the cemetery wall indicates it does not remain so for long.
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A burst of 12 per cent.
All of a sudden the road appears to ramp up in front of you. You are hit with an initial short, sharp burst of 12% to break your rhythm and for the hill to remind you who is the boss. The gradient then recedes. This inconsistent gradient is a mixed blessing. At once offering a breather but also lulling you into a false sense of security. The worst is yet to come.
As you climb slowly up this one way street the monumental gates to the Highgate Cemetery (resting place of Karl Marx) momentarily distract from the suffering. However, as the road narrows it also straightens and heads upwards faster than before. No hairpin bends to alleviate the pain on Swains’ Lane.
Into Swain’s gorge
With the tall, buttressed brick wall on the left the road feels like a pyreneen gorge. Even on a bright day this section of the climb remains dark and somewhat eerie. If you’ve got gears, now is the time to use them. The gradient rockets to 18% and remains at this crushing level for too long.
Finally, after 75M, the summit can be seen as the road opens up a fraction and the gradient eases off. At this stage, with 1.2 KM of climbing under your belt and with your heart rate pulsing you might just be able to raise a smile at the positioning of an Osteopath at the summit with a sign calling you to “get back in shape”!
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