This beguiling ride in lush countryside is no ‘southern softie’
When it comes to the Surrey Hills the famous zigzags of Box Hill, with its dramatic views over the North Downs, is the place to be. But, laughing in the face of popularity, the Cycling Weekly Surrey Hills Cyclone doesn’t take in this well-known climb and that’s no heartache. While it may be the most renowned, it’s also the easiest and, lets face it, you don’t go to the hills for an easy ride. You go for the pain and, hopefully, some glory.
We picked up a good pace as we left Pixham End. For a whole two miles. Then we hit Ranmore Common Road. It might not be classed as one of Surrey’s giants but on cold legs the 2.4km climb is transformed into a leg-burner. The gradual ramp that culminates in a 17 per cent hairpin saw our cadence fall slowly to a point where we joked that we probably could have walked faster.
Sailing over the undulations, cutting through Ranmore Common, give your brake levers a squeeze as you descend underneath the railway bridge; you’re picking up some fair speed now and the junction is only 200 metres away, concealed on a bend.
The three signature climbs on this cycling event require some serious grit to reach the top. Don’t expect an easy ride on the sections between, either; as you push towards Shere, the road rises to 10 per cent and while it’s only brief, it’s enough to keep you pushing and switching between those chainrings.
Relish a few rare miles of flat road from Blackheath, as once through the open plains of Smithwood Common you’re in the eye of the Cyclone and you need to ready both your mind and body for the serious assault of Barhatch Lane. Locals also know it as Horse Block Hollow. It etches through Winterfold Wood. It starts gradually, averaging only four per cent, but after a short downhill the climb begins in earnest and a wall-like block of tarmac could be your nemesis. Slumped over our handlebars at the top, we envisage walkers on event day.
After a blast through the charming village of Peaslake, the route drops south where those of you who fancy taking on the 87-mile epic route will travel south-west to brush the South Downs. Those extra 26 miles are relatively flat. We feel that makes the standard route more of a challenge as it affords you less recovery time.
Broomehall Road climb is one of eight legs up to Surrey’s highest point, Leith Hill. You’ll traverse Abinger Road and descend Leith Hill Lane, where you can steal a look over the Downs, one of the few places where the heavy foliage allows you to do so. Surrey is England’s most wooded county, so expect most of the lanes to be a tangle of branches.
From the Surrey Hills’ southernmost point you now head north back into the heartland and the eyewall of the Cyclone, White Down Lane. We can only imagine the 18 per cent average will feel much steeper come March, especially if your turbo has been gathering some dust.
If you’ve got fuel left in the tank then get out of the saddle and make your mark on this final climb. Choose your path and carve your way through then power on to the finish.
The Cyclone left our legs battered. We certainly felt the pain and, we like to think, imagined a touch of glory, too.
WHERE IS IT
South of London, just outside the M25, the event takes place in the depths of the Surrey Hills. Bridging between the North and South Downs, the route visits a few peaks and troughs of the area but makes use of the fast, flowing stretches of road too.
WHY RIDE IT
Don’t let this event catch you off guard. With some serious gradients so early in the year your legs could be screaming. Of course, this could make the ride all the more fun but staying on top of your winter training is advised as a couple of the climbs smash the 20 per cent barrier.
Now in its fourth year, the Surrey Cyclone has always been a popular event and was designed to follow in the footsteps of the Box Hill Original. Part of Cycling Weekly’s series of 10 rides, it attracts well over 1,000 riders to each edition.
The Aviva Centre is situated just off the A24, near Dorking; use jct9 of the M25. Parking is available on site with an overspill car park on Reigate Road. You can also park on Pixham Lane itself. The closest stations are Dorking and Dorking Deepdene.
WHERE TO STAY
There are a number of bed and breakfasts in Dorking including Chart House, Claremont Cottage and Fairdene Guesthouse. There is also a Travelodge only a mile from the start line. If you want to treat yourself check out Dorking Mercure Box Hill or Denbies Wine Estate.
WHERE TO EAT
Dorking High Street has it all, whether you’ve got a hankering for Indian or some gastro pub grub. Head to the Dorking Brasserie for a curry, Little Dudley House for Sunday lunch or dinner, or take a look at the Cricketers Inn or the Prince of Wales for traditional pub food. Viva is an Italian just off the High Street.
LOCAL BIKE SHOP
Head for the Hills on Westcott Road will come to your rescue should you forget anything.
1 Ranmore Common Road
Rearing up after only two miles of riding, this 2.4km pull will feel harder than its billed five per cent average
2 Broomehall Road
Where the trees form a canopy over the road is where the real climbing begins. Sit in and get into a good rhythm. It might only be a mile long but each bend reveals another increase in gradient.
3 White Down
The final climb of the day reaches 18 per cent but be prepared to push to 25 per cent on the hairpin. Get out of the saddle and power on through.
4 Barhatch Lane
It’s safe to say that this is one of the steepest climbs in the South-East. At 1.5 miles long the lane lures you in with its steady gradient of only three-four per cent as you pass a golf and country club on your left. It gradually rises, five, six, seven per cent until, like a bear rising on its hind legs to attack, the lane savagely rears up to 21 per cent. Save something. Slow and steady wins the race. Assume the position up out of the saddle to get you to the summit. You’ll be in your smallest gear and probably searching for more.