Friday, 13 November 2015

meeting myself coming back

When I devised my personal difficulty classification for hills a couple of years ago, it all seemed perfectly logical. The climbs over Saddle Pass on the journey to the west were the hardest in the area and were therefore category 1 in both directions. The climbs over the ridge between San Tin Barracks and Tam Mei Barracks, again in both directions, were quite stiff but were nowhere near as steep and were thus category 2. Every other hill was either category 3 or was too easy to bother classifying (good examples of the latter are the exit ramps from underground cycle track interchanges, where many local cyclists, perhaps even a majority, get off and push).

Regular readers will know that I can never resist the opportunity to find out where a road, track or path leads, even though in most cases the answer is: nowhere. However, last winter I found myself on Lau Shui Heung Road, which is a fairly quiet lane that leads from the busy artery of Sha Tau Kok Road to the Pat Sin Leng Country Park. Of course, I didn’t know this at the time. I was just following the road.

Eventually, I reached a bend in the road that coincided with a short but quite steep hill. However, the road levelled out, so I failed to heed the warning, and when within 100m the route began to climb alarmingly, I went at the hill with rather more enthusiasm than discretion given that I couldn’t see the top. I can handle all the climbs mentioned above on my middle chainring, but by the time I realized that I would need the small chainring this time, I’d run out of steam and needed a rest before continuing. That’s buggered my classification system, I remember thinking at the time.

Needless to say, though, I was back soon afterwards to prove to myself that I could do this hill in one go, and I’ve just been back for my first go of this winter. It doesn’t get any easier, but knowing what to expect does make a difference. And there is a reward for all the hard work. From the top of the climb, there is a long descent into the country park on which I probably clock 60km/hr, although at that speed I don’t dare take my eyes off the road to check.

But there is one slight problem. This road is a dead end, so it is necessary to go back the way you came. However, although the climb in the opposite direction is quite long, it is merely category 1. And I stopped to take a few photos of the main hill on the way down, so that anyone who fancies a challenge will know what to expect, or what to avoid.

As the first picture suggests, it is fatally easy to underrate what lies ahead. This section doesn’t look too bad—the gradient is probably only about 15 percent—which explains my original bull-in-a-china-shop approach.

The next picture looks down the initial section. The lamp-post seen in the first picture is the same as the one visible in the distance in this photo.

The next picture was taken from the same place as the previous photo but is looking uphill. You have to admire the vindictive sense of humour of someone who paints the word ‘SLOW’ on the road and erects a sign saying ‘REDUCE SPEED NOW’, although of course both are aimed at motor traffic. The gradient is now closer to 20 percent.

The following photo was taken from where the road disappears round the bend to the right in the previous picture and shows the approach to the only hairpin bend on the ascent. This is where I ran out of steam on my first attempt.

…and this is a view of that hairpin from above:

The hairpin is easily the steepest part of the ascent, even if an absence of traffic allows you to swing out wide to the right, but it doesn’t relent much between here and the top. The last photo, taken from the same vantage point as the previous one, is a view of this final section of the climb. Obviously, I have no inclination to ‘reduce speed now’, but by this point I’m more than happy that I still have a couple of gears in reserve.

I think I’ll find somewhere flat to cycle tomorrow.


  1. You can imagine that a car driver can simply push harder to the pedal to get more fuel from the car, while a cyclist keeps the head down to peddle at a persistent pace in order to reach to the plateau of the path...

    1. You get it spot on! Car drivers have no idea how hard this bloody hill is on a bike. They probably don’t even care!


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