Cycling up Hardknott Pass

Hardknott pass snakes its way up for 1.6 miles

Hardknott pass snakes its way up for 1.6 miles

On the forthcoming Coast to Coast the most challenging climb appears to be cycling up Hardknott Pass which I have mixed feelings about.  Having said that, I can’t wait!

Hardknott Pass is rated as one of the hardest climbs in the UK and amongst those “must do” great rides.  I’m pleased it is in the first half of the event and probably far enough in to be fairly well warmed up and performing well.  It’s actually the climbing which concerns me the most about the Coast to Coast ride, rather than the distance of 150 miles.

As far as the Hardknott Pass is concerned, the statistics are:

Distance climbing: 1.6 miles

Average gradient: 12%

Total climb: 1,033 feet

Steepest gradient: 33% (1 in 3)

Current King of the Mountains: Tejvan Pettinger

As for Tejvan, I know him only as a fellow blogger (Cycling Uphill) having left comments from time to time on our respective blogs and I have come to admire him.  No more so than to see his impressive time and speed in August 2013 by completed the ascent in just 11 minutes 51 seconds.  This is an average speed of 8.2mph (some cars might struggle to go much faster).

I can tell you I am pleased I have a triple chain set on my bike and I’m not planning to change this at all until after the event.  This gives me a 1:1 drive which I will find useful.  I imagine the majority of other cyclists taking part will be using compact chain sets (50 & 34T) with a 28T cassette at the back.  This isn’t a bad ratio to run on but some may find Hardknott a struggle nevertheless.  I can tell you, I’ll find it very hard going, even with my 1:1 ratio.

There are a few switchback or hairpin bends which should add some interest and almost single track most of the way up.  I can’t help but wonder what it will be like, mixing so many cyclists in with the usual tourist traffic on such a narrow and difficult road with few passing places.  I wonder indeed what it will be like on the other side as it is unlikely going to be a straight downward slope of freewheeling freedom for a few miles.  No, it will be pretty much the same and one where the dependence will shift from bottom gear to both brakes working hard.

While Hardknott is one of the really steep climbs in the UK, the nearest I have had is Kirkstone Pass, still in Cumbria and not far away.  I did that a couple of years ago, thorough enjoyed it going both up and down – click here.  I was fortunate to have some excellent weather for that climb as I think a day’s ride can be made or broken according to the weather and how cycle-friendly it is.

Why the attraction?  Simple – sense of achievement, stunning scenery, the challenge, because it is there and to do it while I can and have the opportunity.  Can’t wait!

Have you cycled up Hardknott Pass?  Tell me more….


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4 Responses to Cycling up Hardknott Pass

  1. Dee J Harmon says:

    There are several climbs around Lake Tahoe ride as you ride in and out of California and Nevada to make a hundred miles and they close the road to traffic at the first big climb and if you can make that you should be able to make it all the way. This year will be my 14th time coming June 1st. Dee.

  2. Dee J Harmon says:

    Go to and check it out.

  3. doug says:

    Thanks Dee, that looks a really great ride, beautiful countryside and I can see why you like it.
    If you know the Bike the West people, please put them in touch with me if they’d like an English cyclist to come and write about the experience of doing the ride you mention. I could do that in 2015.

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