Just as buying a house is all about location, a cycling route can be all about direction, direction direction. Go one way and you’re stamping on the pedals attacking every contour line, the other way and you simply cruise up the gradient. Both get you to the same place, but in very different ways.
A recent planned ride using the Chilterns Cycleway around Amersham posed one such dilemma. A quick scan of the map the night before, some previous local knowledge and heavy legs in the morning were enough to convince us that anti-clockwise was the way to go.
We started in the public car park just off Rickmansworth Road in Amersham, but the route can just as easily be joined from Amersham train station using the Chilterns Cycleway linking signage to join the Cycleway route on Chesham Road. And being on ‘skinny tyres’ we opted out of the offroad section just outside of Amersham and headed steeply down into the valley onto Latimer Road instead, passing the imposing Latimer House up on the hill and rejoining the Cycleway just outside Latimer.
It’s by no means flat from Latimer to Ashley Green but it’s all ‘spinnable’ in a low gear. From Ashley Green we made a short hop across to the northern section of the Cycleway and rejoined it just outside Champneys. Soon we were benefitting from our ‘go right out of Amersham’ decision and the descent down The Hale towards Wendover was over in a flash.
Next up, Dunsmore. This isn’t an easy hill whichever way you approach it and is often circumvented through Wendover; not today. At least from the east it’s just a single-arrow climb, from the west you have to tackle a single-arrow at the bottom with a double-arrow sting in the tail at the very top. Flip that round and the descent to Chequers is grin inducing on a dry day but can get a bit hairy under the tree cover on a wet day.
Still on the Cycleway and it’s a long drag up through Great Hampden to the top of Whiteleaf Hill; rather that than Whiteleaf or Kop Hill on anything but a great leg day though. The 10% warning sign at the top of Kop Hill is just at the point where you feel like you’re about to drop off the edge of the world.
A short, sharp climb up to Loosley Row quickly follows. Just outside Loosley Row we took another shortcut through Lacey Green and back onto the Cycleway near Speen. If you want a slightly longer route with some more climbing you can carry on up through Bledlow Ridge or Radnage and then drop down towards West Wycombe. This also means you have to conquer the wall of tarmac that is Small Dean lane. Not for us today although we do have scores to settle on that one!
Apart from the single-arrow hairpin on the way into Speen and a bit of a kicker out of Little Missenden, the route undulates all the way back to Amersham; 42 miles completed, a good 2,700 ft in the legs and only 2 single-arrows climbed. Of course, if you do the route clockwise it’s still 42 miles and 2,700ft of climbing, but you’ll have to conquer 3 single-arrows and a double. Good luck with that.
What do the arrows mean?
Black arrows are used by Ordnance Survey to indicate the gradient of a hill. The direction of the arrow points down hill. A single arrow represents a gradient of 1 in 7 to 1 in 5. A double arrow represents a gradient of 1 in 5 or steeper.