Cycling FFordd Penlech – The UK’s ‘Steepest’ Road

by | Dec 14, 2016


FFordd Penlech Start

Yep – 40%

To climb FFordd Penlech, you have to tackle a 40% hairpin and ride the wrong way up a one way street.  What could be more Unhinged than that? The climb is in Harlech, North Wales and, handily, there is a castle on the top of it which gives the family something do whilst you tackle it.

So.. I was a little nervous about taking on this climb.  I mean, it is officially the steepest road in the UK.  Sure, in reality this means that a bit of the steepest hairpin is 36.6% (rounded up to 40% for road sign purposes).  But official is official (according to the internet) so I approached it with a degree of trepidation.

Cyclist Magazine talks a good game about how steep a hill is too steep.  It basically comes down to gearing, power, climbing position and traction.   They reckon that you can get to about 60% without falling over so we are operating way within the realms of what is possible here.

Lets have a look at how I got on with the help of a Garmin VIRB (and credit where credit is due – it performed flawlessly)


Climbing Ffordd Penlech – view from the VIRB


The video is much better with the beats of Dr Dre’s “The Next Episode” playing but You Tube was not so happy with me using that.  You can find it here if you are using a desktop and are lucky.


Climbing Ffordd Penlech – view from the iPhone


I actually tackled it twice.  The first time I had planned to go up it nice and steady to check it out. Instead I went up it at pretty much full gas as I simply could not help myself.  Only the fact that my gears slipped a few times meant that I thought it was worthy of a second attempt.  At the end, I was spent.


A spent force


Now lets have a look at what the Strava file has to say:


FFordd Penlech

Strava Analysis


Yep, this is the usual story where the Unhinged Cyclist and Hill Climbs are concerned – very poor pacing.  You can see that from the downward trajectory of the power line.  However, it was good enough to get me joint 16th.  Better pacing would have got me in the top 10.  The truth of the matter is that this climb is not all that difficult. Sure it is steep but it is all over before Snoop Dogg can finish his verse. Something like the Hardknott Pass or Rosedale Chimney are much tougher (not that I have yet had the pleasure). However, It does have a good Unhinged Factor in that you do need to be moderately aware of cars coming down in the correct direction of travel.


The Steepest Street in the World

Baldwin Street Dunedin

Baldwin Street


This honour ‘officially’ goes to in Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand.  This beauty of a hill averages 35% and goes straight up.  There are a few amusing videos on YouTube of people attempting this one.  I would suggest that you would wanna get the gearing right if giving it a go.


Baldwin Street House

Check out that slope!


Spare a thought for student Ana Louise North, aged 19, who died instantly after the collision on Baldwin Street, when the wheelie bin she had climbed into to race down the world’s steepest street crashed into a trailer. Tragically Unhinged.


What can we learn from all of this?

My big take away is that we should not fear any hill.  Respect them?  Certainly.  But take them on?  Definitely..  If I happen to find myself in Dunedin at any point I will certainly make a point of getting up Baldwin Street.  Once I have conquered it, should I have an overwhelming urge to ride back down in a wheelie bin I will make sure to keep my helmet on.


1 Comment

  1. Matt

    Presumably the extra F in Fford stands for something? As in OMFG. Or are they just being Welsh?


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