Going Going Bike

Apr 072011
Highgate West Hill road veering up

Highgate West Hill 134M

Length: 3KM
Height Gain: 96M
Maximum Gradient: 11%

To experience the whole of the Highgate West Hill climb you need to undertake the full approach and begin amongst the fruit stalls, Evening Standard sellers and other street traders that gather around Kentish Town underground station.

At this point the gradient is even and the environs are overbearingly urban. The route heads off toward the North and at the traffic lights you spear left. In the distance to the North East you can see the lush, wooded hills of Hampstead. However, as you enter a short section of downhill by the HMV Forum you are aware that you are remain within the City.

Initially flat approach

The road remains flat but, once you pass an LA Fitness on the left (perhaps reminding you of the training you should have done), you can now see the road veering up in the distance.

As you pass under the railway bridge everything becomes more leafy and green. If ever there was a physical representation of the phrase “the other side of the railway line”, this is it. A slight incline can be felt, but as you come towards the end of this long approach it becomes clear the suffering has yet to begin.

Pass the chapel and get in the right gear

Straight over the roundabout, leaving the Swain’s Lane climb for another day, the road narrows and the climb begins in earnest. When you pass the Church of St Anne you know (and can feel) that you are entering the business section of this 3km climb.

At this stage you are out of the saddle and grinding the gears. The grandness of the houses on this road increase up the hill in the same way your heart rate does. The gradient remains at a steady and bearable 8.5% until the final section.

At this stage the road curves to the right and rages up to 11%. A bench is placed at the steepest section to lure you off the bike, but you will continue past the property called “Summit” from which point the gradient eases and the worst of the climb is over.

At this point you can look over your shoulder from the highest point in the capital and look back at the steepness of the road behind you. As you look back round the road has opened up into a villagey green and you can reward your efforts with a pint at the Flask public house.

See also:

The Great Road Climbs of London 1: Richmond Park

Can a bike shed beat a bike thief + video

  9 Responses to “The Great Road Climbs of London 2: Highgate West Hill”

  1. OMG you climbed “the bastard” – well done!!!

  2. Love that pub when the weather’s nice

  3. Err why not Swain’s Lane, much better than West Hill! 4–6 reps about right for midweek training.

  4. West Hill is part of my daily commute, but it never seems to get any easier. Still makes my legs ache just thinking about it!

  5. Nice piece and no disrespect to other commentators, but let’s not over-egg the pudding, shall we? Highgate West is a good little hill be the standards of inner London but wouldn’t even register elsewhere. ‘In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king,’ as they say.

    I’m never going to give Chris Hoy any sleepless nights but I managed 5 x laps of (more evil) Swains Lane followed by 5 x laps of Highgate West this morning, without too much pain.

    It’s one of those climbs, like Box Hill, which has achieved cult status more for its convenient location than for being particularly tough. An iconic little climb in its own way, but a little climb all the same.

  6. @Tom: We know it’s not Alpe d’Huez.
    Why do you have to tell us all you climbed it 5 times – are you nine years of age?

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