I HAVE been chatting with writer Simon Warren, one of the UK’s leading experts in cycle climbs, about his new book Cycling Climbs of North East England

The Northern Echo:

Matt: For most cyclists, hills are a necessary evil. Where does your love for them come from?

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Simon: My love of hills came from my ability to climb them faster than my club mates, simple as that. Then from there I wanted to search out longer and steeper ones to challenge them on. I didn’t win every time and then when I went up against the best from other clubs I was never the quickest but I had found my calling.

Matt: What do you prefer and why – knowing you can conquer a hill or knowing it might conquer you?

Simon: I never approach a climb expecting it to conquer me, never, I will always be the victor that is the only way to think. I have been beaten by three climbs however, two of which I returned to a few days later to settle the score, but one, The Angliru in northern Spain still has the upper hand. I will be back though, that is for sure to show it who’s boss.

Matt: When it comes to tackling a climb, what approach do you take – and don’t say the bottom to the top – and does this differ depending on the situation?

Simon: This does vary depending on the climb, if it’s short and steep you want a run up to carry as much speed as you can into the lower slopes at the same time as being in the correct gear to tackle the gradient you will be facing. On a longer climb you want to start steady and measure your effort out across its length.

Matt: What has been your best and worst experience?

Simon: Whilst researching this book, my highlight was discovering Prospect Hill just south of Corbridge (page93), It become an instant favourite of mine and I can’t wait to ride it again. The worst will have been riding Chapel Fell out of St John’s Chapel into a savage headwind, It very nearly beat me and I have no plans to return!

Matt: When it came to this book, how did you choose the climbs that feature?

Simon: To choose the climbs I first pick the highest, steepest roads in the regions, I then look for hills that are used by cycling clubs for races, as these will be popular and resonate with the locals. After this I scan the maps, I pick up suggestions from friends, and then from a long list whittle it down to my final selection. Of course it’s never to the taste of everyone and I can’t include all climbs and this creates some healthy debate which is always fun.

Matt: How does the North-East compare with other regions you have climbed when it comes to ascents?

Simon: There are few better places to ride a bike than County Durham, either side of Weardale there isn’t a single flat road, and what goes up, goes up very steep, making it some of the most unforgiving terrain in Britain. Further North into Northumberland the hills aren’t as tough and are more spaced out, but the roads are so quiet it makes for great riding.

Matt: What was your most memorable experience while researching the book?

Simon: The most memorable experience was an early morning ride in the far north of Northumberland, it was so peaceful and fresh, it was just a joy to be on two wheels.

Matt: What do you hope people will get from your book?

Simon: I hope people will find new places to ride, new adventures to take and new challenges to conquer. I hope they will find hills on their doorstep they never new existed and travel to parts of the region they would never have thought to visit.

Matt: Finally, which hill, anywhere in the world, would you like to ride most?

Simon: At the top of my must ride list is Mont Zoncolan in the Dolomites, 7.5 kilometres of climbing with an average gradient of 13 per cent, I can’t wait to see it.

  • Cycling Climbs of North-East England is out on August 3 and details can be found by visiting http://amzn.to/2sPzhsm