Addicted to Cycling John’s Way

This page will be following John McKendrick (ACC member) whilst he travels around the country exploring and talking about his adventures on his bike.


There’s no place like home…for hill repetitions.

I am a failure. Okay, so there won’t be many Sunday spins when 70 miles (113 kilometres) of moving forward and 7400 feet of climbing counts as failure, but when it involves pushing my bike up the killer pitches of three Lakeland passes (Honister, Newlands and Kirkstone) and bailing out of the rest of the Fred Whitton round, then it is time to face up to the facts … I need to factor in some hill climb training.

As with so much else in life, Plains has much to offer. Most locals will be familiar with Meadowhead Road, which offers a full 0.5 mile of pain (with 0.33 mile of pain at a steady gradient of 2.9o from the road bend before the junction with Annieshill View up to the road junction at the top). Less well known might be the longer drag to the same end point from the roundabout at the east of the village along Heatheryford Gardens and Ballochney Road; 0.6 miles of graft, involving a pitch of 3.9o between roundabouts near the start. On the downside, both are not devoid of traffic, there are mini-roundabouts present en route and end at a tricky blindspot in the road.

Perhaps a better alternative is Ardbuckle Road, which is not a through road and consequently has very little traffic. From the bridge at the bottom to the road junction across from the cottages at the top, it is a distance of 0.3 miles, including a steep pitch of around 6o in the early road bends.

However, if I am serious about getting around the Fred Whitton in 2018, then the road to Blackhill Transmitter needs to be visited more regularly. A return trip to Main Street in Plains presents ten short climbs in almost ten kilometres (six miles), with six climbs leading up to the mast and four climbs on the way back to Plains.  In order of climbs, you will be emptying yourself on

  1. Brownieside Road, Lower (from the corner after the old bridge up to the left hand bend as the road emerges from the tree cover – reaching 8.10 toward the top)
  2. Brownieside Upper (from the 90o bend to the road junction with Stepends Road -reaching 7.90 at the bottom)
  3. Loch Hill North (from the bridge to the 90o bend at the top before Lochhill cottage – reaching 8.00 at the very left hand bend)
  4. Duntilland Road Central (from the bridge to the right hand bend before the road changes direction toward Wester Bracco – with two pitches peaking at 4.90 and 5.50)
  5. Wester Bracco, North (from the gate at the passing place up the gate on the right hand side of the road beyond the farm – with maximum gradients around 7.00 on two pitches)
  6. Blackhill Transmitter (from the oversized fence posts up through four pitches to the corner at the entrance to the transmitter – with the final pitch peaking at a gradient of 8.90)
  7. Wester Bracco South (back up to gate from oversized fence posts – steepest at the start, peaking around 5.00)
  8. Loch Hill South (up to first roadside tree after the left hand bend at Lochside Cottage from the bridge – topping out at 7.50 on the final bend)
  9. Briarfield (up to the road junction with Stepends Road from right hand bend beyond the bridge – reaching 4.10 on the second bend)
  10. Between the Bridges (from the old bridge up to the start of the new railway bridge – a long, but more gentle climb that peaks at the start at a gradient of around 3.30)

For more information on each climb, click the hyperlink to its Strava segment. Next month, I’ll let you know how I got on …

As an aside, at least I managed to make it up the Matterdale Pass without getting off!

John McKendrick


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