1. Dante’s View
It’s for good reason that this ride is named after Dante – a character that journeyed through hell. America’s Death Valley is a place where cars often struggle to drive up and over hills for fear of overheating. It doesn’t really sound like a place for a wee bike ride does it? But, where in the world can you ride from below sea level to almost 1,700m above sea level? The 65km ride begins in the dry salt flats, and rises steadily throughout, with the final few kilometres offering a 13% gradient – if you’re still alive and kicking by then that is…
2. Le Mauna Kea
You’ll be pleased to know that this Hawaiian-based ride is often described as the hardest climb in the world…are you tempted yet? You should be. You begin at sea level, and 68km later, you end up (if you make it) at 4191 metres. Yikes indeed. Apparently, the trail is somewhat doable up until the visitor centre, but from here until the summit it’s nothing but pure torture. If that doesn’t sell it to you then nothing will…
3. Hardknott Pass
The toughest climbs don’t have to be the longest. At just 2.6km, you may think this one’s a doddle. Think again. Yes, England may be small, but it doesn’t mean the hills aren’t steep, and we’re talking 33% steep. You read that correctly, at its steepest, this short ride offers a 33% gradient, with continuous switchbacks measuring over 30% on the apex. Oh, and the road is fairly exposed as well, so you’ll be battered by that good old English wind and rain. What more could you want?
Another short one here, but there’s a reason this 620m stretch is the Tour of Flanders’ most iconic climb…it has a maximum gradient of 22%, and, believe it or not, is cobbled. Yes, the Netherlands is notoriously flat, perhaps this is the steepest hill in the country. But for those of you that haven’t perhaps ridden a racing bike, going over even the smallest of bumps has a serious impact on the crown jewels, as well as the rest of the body (but mostly the crown jewels). So, heading up 620m of steep, uneven cobble, that offers literally no traction at all in the wet, is a challenge not to be laughed at!
5. Mont Ventoux
We’re finishing off with a classic. If we didn’t include a French climb it wouldn’t be true to cycling would it? Mont Ventoux is known as ‘the Giant of Provence’. Standing alone at 1,912m high, it’s a long, arduous slog, up a constant 10% gradient. If you’re looking to go down in history as a cycling martyr, this could be one for you. If indeed you can fight the strong winds, and the gruelling 22km ascent, then well, buy yourself a crown because you deserve one.
Well, it’s tiring even thinking of these death-defying, quad-destroying, heart-thumping climbs, let alone doing them. They’re not for the faint hearted, but if it is indeed your version of fun, then there are plenty of these monstrous routes situated in some of the most amazing locations. Might as well make a holiday out of it? After all, you’ll probably need the rest of the week for your legs to recover…