Sunday 3 September 2023

One Day One Photo - 3: Surrey Hills ride up Pebble Hill - a steep challenge

Top of Pebble Hill - a lesser ridden killer climb in the Surrey Hills

My bike recent bike rides have tended to be in the local Kent and Surrey lanes. On the Kent side they have tended to be around Chislehurst, Petts Wood, or out to the village of Downe, the home of Charles Darwin. On the Surrey side I go out to Warlingham. Time has tended not to allow me to do long rides.

Today I decided to venture further out. My intention had been to do Box Hill, Ranmore Common and maybe Coldharbour. However, I started my ride too late and wanted to get home early enough to rest up before going out and meeting my friend Rachel. So on checking the time when I reached Reigate I decided to change plan, and would head homeward once I reached the roundabout in Betchworth. This involved going up Pebble Hill, a hill which I hardly ever ride up. 

It's a hill that I see when I leave Box Hill village. As I turn left to head towards Walton-on-the-Hill I see the top of Pebble Hill to my right. It seems to drop down quite steeply and doesn't look a particularly appealing road to ride up.

I only ever recall riding up it once. I remember having to make quite an effort to get up it, and things were complicated further by the fact that there's a level crossing so you ride up it from a standing start if you have to stop to let through the Redhill-to-Guildford train.

Between it being a Sunday, and also the aftermath of a train strike there were no trains so I had a clear run up Pebble Hill. The early part of the ride was not so bad, and I could just twiddle up in a low gear as I nodded to the numerous club cyclists and motorbikers flying down the road.

Then there was a right-hand bend in the road as the gradient suddenly ramped up significantly and it was impossible to twiddle in the saddle. Over the 200 or so metres I was forced to make a number of out of the saddle efforts and use every bit of energy to winch myself upwards. I could only look at a short strip of tarmac in front of me, and no longer noticed anyone on the opposite side of the road. I just had to hold a straight line as the various cars sped past me, probably wondering why in God's name anyone would choose to climb up this road without some mechanical assistance!

Finally, the gradient became manageable and I felt like I was able to use my senses to do other things like appreciate my surroundings and acknowledge the guy on the other side of the road who gave me a large thumbs up at my achievement. It certainly felt like an achievement when I looked behind me and saw the sign that said "16% - Low gear for half a mile"

At the top of the hill a breather definitely was de rigueur. That was my moment to replenish my energy stores with a bit of banana and take a few photos. Plenty of cyclists came through the junction - many of them either turned left from Box Hill to go to Walton or Tadworth, while others were coming from Walton to and turning right to go to Headley or Box Hill. No one was riding up from Betchworth.

I then headed home via Walton, Kingswood and Chipstead, feeling happy at what felt like a win. To some, riding the Surrey Hills without doing Box Hill may seem like eating a sandwich with no butter or margarine, but I must say I more than made up for it by using Pebble Hill as the filler.

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