A grand day out at CTC South West London's Hilly 50

Steve Winder, first rider home in the Hilly 50, on top of Box Hill with event organiser Mike Morley
A total of 71 riders – most of them Cycling UK members – tackled 3,000 feet of climbing in CTC South West London’s popular Hilly 50 on Saturday (4 March).

Although heavy rain earlier in the week left the 50km road route muddy in places, riders enjoyed a gloriously bright, sunny morning – and thankfully no repeat of the 2016 snow storm on White Down!

While the Hilly 50 is a sportive rather than a race, it is worth noting that Epsom CC’s Steve Winder was the first home for the third year running, in a time of 1hr 53min.

CTC South West London Chair Dave Vine was among many riders from the Cycling UK Member Group who took part, while VC-Londres provided their usual magnificent turnout, with members going on to attend the club’s annual dinner in the evening – the first function to be held at the new pavilion constructed at the famous Herne Hill Velodrome.

Other clubs supported the Hilly 50, such as Addiscombe and Epsom CC, with the efforts of all participants raising over £750 for St Raphael’s Hospice in North Cheam. Donations on the line raised £495, while 70-year-old Cycling UK member Eric Flint from Mickleham raised over £250 through Just Giving to add to the total.

The event was a great early-season warm-up for the Cycling UK Challenge Ride Series 2017, which opens with Cycle Stevenage’s Start of Summertime Special on Sunday 26 March.

The Hilly 50 started from Ryka’s Café in Burford Bridge, the famous cyclists’ haunt at the foot of Box Hill near Dorking. The route then took in a selection of ups and downs in a loop through the Surrey Hills before finishing at the top of the iconic London 2012 road race climb.

Organiser Mike Morley thanked all participants, plus those whose work before the event and on the day helped things run smoothly, including Geoffrey Shields, Terry Lowe, Tim Court and one of CTC South West London’s oldest members, 90-year-old Ray Dare, who did a magnificent job marshalling and directing down muddy Logmore Lane.

Among those taking part in the Hilly 50 was Surrey cyclist Roland Seber, husband of Cycling UK’s Member Group Coordinator Julie Rand who works at our National Office in Guildford. Here’s his take on the day...

Losing my usual knack for attention to detail (?!) I set off to do the ‘Hilly 50’ not actually being sure it was 50 kilometres or 50 miles. I know the area pretty well having lived in Surrey all my life and knew that when they said hilly they really meant it. There’s nothing over 1,000ft in Surrey (Leith Hill being the highest at 965ft) and the Hilly 50 didn’t even go over that!

There were, however, plenty of other hills and practically no flat – but what a way to see some of the most spectacular scenery in the south of England, ride many of Surrey’s trademark ‘sunken’ lanes and, of course, follow in the tyre tracks of our Team GB cycling team heroes up and down the world famous Zig Zag Road at Box Hill.

The start point of the ride was at the bottom of Box Hill (getting its name from the relatively rare Box trees found there) at Ryka’s Café. There seemed to be 50-plus riders milling around and some had already left by 9.30am.

I had a chat to Mike, the main organiser, about the numbers on the ride and its history. He told me that some years they get race teams from some of the London clubs coming down for early-season training. I handed over my £7 (all of which goes to charity) and collected my route sheet and map. I was relieved to find out that it was 50km, not miles, and the search party would get sent out around four hours after the official start time of 10am – so even I should be OK, shouldn’t I?

Ten o’clock found me gulping down the last mouthfuls of coffee and jumping on my bike to catch the tail-enders leaving the car park. We headed up towards Ranmore Common, past Pilgrim Cycles, but there was no time for a browse at its array of touring/trekking/gravel and cross bikes because soon we hit the first climb. I’d already attempted to visit Pilgrim Cycles, having arrived on the train at nearby Box Hill & Westhumble Station with time to kill ahead of the ride, only to discover the shop didn’t open until 10am.

The Hilly 50 route sheet has a clear map on one side and directions on the other. I chose to follow the map and had no problems as it was clear and easy to read. The route skirted past the top of the Denbies Wine Estate, then St Barnabas Church, the ‘church on the North Downs Way’, then along the top of Ranmore Common, the only relatively flat two or three miles on the entire route.

There was definitely a feel of spring in the air, and of early-season enthusiasm and promise. The well thought-out route uses almost exclusively quiet back lanes and minor roads and takes in the picturesque Surrey Hills villages.

Roland Seber, Hilly 50 rider

The weather was bright, the roads pretty well-surfaced, mostly, and the snowdrops are giving way to daffodils on the verges. There was definitely a feel of spring in the air, and of early-season enthusiasm and promise. The well thought-out route uses almost exclusively quiet back lanes and minor roads and takes in the picturesque Surrey Hills villages of Peaslake, Holmbury St Mary, Abinger Common, Wotton and Westcott.

As I rode on, one thing that struck me was the sheer number of cyclists out that morning – many of whom were going in the opposite direction, which made me wonder if I had taken a wrong turn! This thought is compounded by the fact that one of the riders who passed me going the other way is a chap with a striking white ‘aero’ helmet and large saddlebag - an odd combination I thought - who I had definitely seen at the start. Anyway, I hadn't gone the wrong way, it was just that it is such a popular area for rides it seemed there were more bikes than cars by a factor of about three to one that morning.

I had faffed around at the start of the ride, taking far too many photos, so had left a bit late. I thought I might catch up with more riders but didn’t until about halfway round, where I caught a small group that I recognised, or thought I did, from the start line and pulled alongside introducing myself as Julie’s husband, only to find that they had never heard of the Hilly 50. OK, I’ll just quietly ride on and try to catch someone else.

Pedalling onwards past cosy-looking country pubs such as the King's Head in Holmbury St Mary and the Abinger Hatch in Abinger Common, I managed to resist the temptation of a quick lunch break for beer and chips. I did console myself when a table with jars of jam and homemade flapjacks hoved into view. My half a pack of Chocolate Hobnobs and banana had long since gone so this roadside oasis was very welcome. Weirdly, I had exactly 75p in change to drop into the honesty box. I had to leave the jam this time.

Logmore Lane from Westcott up towards South Holmwood was a challenge as it was covered in a layer of slimy mud, as well as being a bit potholey. I pitied anyone with narrower tyres than my 28mm Continental touring items. It was all uphill so not too bad, but pretty tricky going down I imagine. Luckily, my descent back into Dorking was on a similar narrow lane but without the slime, so it was great fun.

The route then went back up to Ranmore, a bit of a slog but amazing views across Dorking and over to Leith Hill to the west.

Roland Seber, Hilly 50 rider

The route then went back up to Ranmore, a bit of a slog but amazing views across Dorking and over to Leith Hill to the west. I then joined the outbound route past the church and back past Pilgrim Cycles. Drat, there was still no time to visit as broomwagon embarrassment loomed. Then it was back past Ryka’s and on to the Zig Zag Road.

I used my last bit of phone battery power to get some pictures going up the Zig Zag. After the road was resurfaced for the 2012 Olympics, the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty office had the AONB logo painted in a continuous loop on one part of the road (see picture above).

Perfect timing, I got back just as a shower of rain starts. Mike told me that the fastest rider did the route in 1hr 53min. Crumbs! It had taken me three-and-a-bit hours at an average speed of just over 10mph. I bet he (a guy called Steve) didn’t stop to buy flapjacks. I thanked Mike and found I have half an hour to kill before my train so guess what I do? A visit to Pilgrim Cycles at last, where I arrived to find the owner Dave talking to a customer about a handsome touring bike he has hanging up  - the very one we borrowed to do Land's End to John o'Groats on last year!

All in all, it was a grand day out on the bike and I'm looking forward to taking part in the Challenge Ride Series when it starts on Sunday 26 March with Cycle Stevenage's Start of Summertime rides.

Above: Hilly 50 organiser Mike Morely, second from left