Cycling Box Hill: How to tackle the climb

Our top tips on how to climb Box Hill

Zig Zag Road, Box Hill
(Image credit: Roo Fowler)

Where is Box Hill?

Box Hill is located just outside Dorking, in Surrey. Its close proximity to London makes it a popular ride destination for city dwellers (see a great 85 mile route from London to Box Hill and back here (opens in new tab)) and it shot to fame when it featured in the Olympic road race of 2012 - with the men's peloton cresting the hill nine times, and the women's twice.

Each year the road forms part of the RideLondon sportive, it's usually the last climb before a fairly flat run back into London and features around 70 miles into the century ride. Contrary to popular belief is not the hardest climb on the route. Paced well it can be overcome in a reasonable time and leave plenty of energy for the fast final part of the route.

Several other sportives also use the climb, including the Box Hill Original Sportive, run by our sister company UK Cycling Events on Saturday October 5.

Routes vary from 33 to 99 miles, and riders will enjoy way marking, feed stations, mechanical support, chip timing and a free copy of Cycling Weekly. 

Box hill vital statistics

The climb itself is one of few to feature continental style hairpins, and it also boasts stunning views from either side - gaining it a National Trust status.

The climb itself is far from the hardest in the Surrey Hills - with Leith Hill and others nearby offering a more severe incline. However, it still represents a sizeable challenge - making it an achievable but still testing target for most riders.

  • Length: 2.5 km
  • Average gradient 5%
  • Maximum gradient: 8%
  • Height gain: 129 m

The Strava leaderboard for Box Hill's official climb contains over 73,000 attempts. The top men's time - at time of writing - was Ian Bibby's 4minutes 46 seconds, and the top women's time was 5minutes 48 seconds by 'Sophie P'.

How to ride Box Hill

In the video above we rode up and down Zig Zag Road to check out this famous climb so we could bring you the low down on how best to tackle it.

Psychologically, we think the hardest part comes on the first straight - the first section before the road bends to the right is fairly steep, and after that you're faced with a long stretch.

box hill cycling

Box Hill Box hroute, Ordnance Survey Aerial 3D
(Image credit: Ordnance Survey Aerial 3D)

However, the hairpin at 0.6km / 0.4miles offers respite - and it doesn't get much harder after that. After this point, you should aim to maintain momentum - there's no reason to back off to save energy here unless you're really struggling. You can maintain a steady cadence quite easily here and push over the incline.

box hill cycling

After the famous Box Hill hairpin you'll find some respite

The road does kick up as you disappear under the tree cover at the top, and there's one final bend which you can use to sprint out of if you're feeling fresh. This gives way to a National Trust car park and cafe - so with respite close - it's worth giving it everything you've got here.

If you're feeling particularly ambitious and want to repeat the loop, as per the Olympic road race, you can continue along Box Hill Road, before turning left to continue along Headley Common Road, then left again to Leech Lane to stay on the B2033. This road eventually becomes Mill Way, then Reigate Road, which takes you to a roundabout where you join the A24, left again the the next roundabout to join Dorking road then a final left to Old London Road which will take you, via Mickleham, to the foot of the Zig Zag once again.

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Michelle Arthurs-Brennan

Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper, where highlights included interviewing a very irate Freddie Star (and an even more irate theatre owner), as well as 'the one about the stolen chickens'.

Previous to joining the Cycling Weekly team, Michelle was Editor at Total Women's Cycling. She joined CW as an 'SEO Analyst', but couldn't keep her nose out of journalism and in the spreadsheets, eventually taking on the role of Tech Editor before her latest appointment as Digital Editor. 

Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.

Michelle is on maternity leave from July 8 2022, until April 2023.