‘This year has been a particularly challenging, but also exciting year for Paria and having Rapid Rich join the Paria family is one of our highlights. Our hearts are with grass roots racing, and nothing says grass roots more than the hill climbing scene.’ – Sam (Founder).
As a brief introduction; “I’m Rapid Rich, I’m a Hill Climber. There I’ve said it, that’s the first step to address my cycling addiction”.
October 2012 was a turning point in my life, and one I wish I had made many years ago.
That date marked the arrival of my new bike, but not just a new bike... a push bike.
I was involved in Motorsport, but running out of cash, I was getting overweight, I was lethargic and unfit. With a history of heart disease in my family - I had to do something.
Little did I know after my first maiden voyage of just 6 miles and falling off after failing to un-clip (yep, I went for cleats straight away on my first bike) that I had been stung with the addiction of adrenalin, freedom, and endorphins as I pushed those pedals round and round.
I also didn’t know about ‘hills’, I knew nothing about racing, time trials or hill climbs but this was the start of my cycling journey.
Within the first two years I had ridden 200 miles solo, raced a bunch of cycling road races, and organised one of the biggest and best road cycling criteriums in the UK - Tickhill Grand Prix - boasting a whopping £10,000 prize fund. The cycling race attracted over 150 women riders being early supporter of equal prize money for female cyclists, something I am still a passionate supporter of. More importantly I had found that what I lacked in real overall ability, I made up in sheer determination and effort up short sharp hills - with Strava being the golden carrot to this aging (but powerful) donkey. A nearby club organised a hill climb and I was immediately hooked, this was not just local Strava, this was people of all ability travelling to a hill, pinning on a number and properly competing.
For those not familiar with hill climbing - it’s simply a time-trial up a hill. The gradient and length vary and that’s what makes it such a special and pure discipline.
It’s simply you and your machine versus the hill and a stopwatch.
We are not talking a ‘half-arsed effort’ here, or ‘just going well’, we are talking a full on, core wrenching, lung busting, muscle trashing, heart peaking assault.
Your 150% maximum effort will take you to the darkest edges of unconsciousness as you refuse to give in, as your body stretches every fibre, drains every last drop of energy in order to beat no one but yourself and your competitive ego. This is hill climbing.
For me, my love of hill climbing is simply the fact that each competitor and peer, whilst may not be equal in speed, are totally equal in the amount of effort they put in.
The other beauty is the total lack of prima donnas in the scene, with the top-level riders actively cheering on competitors further down the field and the respect that they show to everyone, giving them support and advice. This is because whoever pins on a number in a hill climb, they deserve respect, there is nowhere to hide, no wheel to suck, no sticky bottle, no team support or tactics - just you and a stupidly steep hill.
The other fantastic thing about Hill Climbing is the family, the camaraderie, the support and the friendships. Maybe it’s because each rider knows exactly what you are going though, but when you ride through a wall of supporters screaming your name, willing you to go on and extract every final ounce of effort (even if that means you beat them). The noise of cowbells, banging saucepans, whistles and even a harmonica played with gusto by the 5 year old daughter of a rival... It’s simply amazing.
Hill Climbing is normally held in September and October culminating in the National Championship on the last weekend in October which is a huge event for both competitors and spectators, but such is the growing popularity of the discipline that many Clubs are organising ‘summer’ hill climbs which simply due to the weather and late evening light are a great social event too. You don’t need a special bike, just take off your bottle cages, saddle bags, and wear minimal clothing (ditch the helmet).
More and more riders are building bespoke hill climb bikes. This is what makes it even more interesting – no limits on weight, and the lengths riders go to, to save a couple of grams is crazy!
I myself went down this route and ended up with a weapon I call ‘The Dream Crusher’ (all hill climb bikes have nicknames) which comes in at an amazing 4.85kg including pedals and 11 speed Sram E Tap. With a lighter frame I am confident I could get it down to sub 4.5kg.
Ok, its actually easier to lose weight yourself... But where is the fun in that, we all love a few beers and a kebab. Jokes aside, it’s so light its actually quite hard to ride, but no matter how light your bike is – you still need to be able to ride it and maintain power over the duration of the race. To give you an idea of the top Riders, there is a Rider who can put out 1100 w for over 1 minute! Think about that… and the National was won with about 750w for 2 minutes!
TRIGON RQC29 The Dream Crusher
Hill climbs are organised by CTT (Cycling Time Trials) and you need to be a member of a CTT affiliated Club, however, if you just want to give it a go and try one, then www.myhillcycling.co.uk will allow you to enter via their organisation if you are not a specific club member.
I simply love racing up hills, and this year I’ve partnered up with Paria and Truesapien to create a truly light-weight and unique bespoke kit. I’m no spring chicken and I’m no athlete, I turn 60 in March, but with the backing of my fantastic partners and the roar of the fans - I guarantee I will improve my PB in 2021.
Come on! What’s stopping you? Come and race up hills with us.
COVER PHOTO: Craig Zad