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Shanklin to Wroxall via Luccombe and Ventnor

Adds another 4.7 km (2.9 miles), and 135 m (443 ft) extra ascent, 15 minutes or more

If you cannot get enough hill-climbing, the two long hauls on this variation will ensure that your legs are completely empty by the time that you return to Wroxall, along a picturesque coastal road.

Instead of turning right at the traffic lights in central Shanklin towards Whiteley Bank, go straight on, down a short hill into the middle of Shanklin Old Village, where you will be surrounded by thatched buildings, and in the summer dodging in and out of wandering pedestrians. The Old Village has a speed limit of 20 mph, but you are unlikely to exceed that unless you find it deserted. At the bottom of the hill is a small S bend to force you to slow (traffic coming towards you often using the middle of the road here). You are then at the foot of the first climb, which rises a total of more than 110 m over the next 1.7 km. At first the gradient is modest, 2-3%, but as you pass another small S bend with a church on your right, it steepens to 4-8%. You enter Cowleaze Hill proper after a left hand bend, and from here to the summit the gradient seldom falls below 10%, reaching a maximum of 12.3%. Thankfully there is no false summit: as the slope becomes more gradual, you round a right hander, and the first hill is behind you.

Next is the brisk and twisty descent to the west of Luccombe, ending in a tight left hand bend. Moderate your speed along here, lest you drop into the fields that fall away to your left. After that bend there is a slight rise to a right hand bend by an excellent viewpoint car park, at the eastern edge of Bonchurch.

From the viewpoint along the main A3055 there are two quite steep descents. The first varies from 6-10% and could be really fast were it not for the poor condition of the road surface. The second, complete with a warning that it is 1 in 8, ranges from 10-14% and demands good speed control. This is because you need to turn right before the foot of that hill, just after the road sweeps round to the left. Slow and move right into the central lane, watching for vehicles coming up the hill to your left. If you cannot manage that, the penalty is that you have to stay with the road as it winds down into Ventnor, then, after a short loop around the shops, climb the fearsome Spring Hill to rejoin the route. This is the same Spring Hill that broke the peloton up in a Milk Race over these roads back in the 1980s.

If you manage the turn properly, you have a brief respite to gather your strength before the road sweeps to the right (with Spring Hill joining it on that bend) and presents the start of the fierce hill out of Ventnor. The first flight is short, and steepest, briefly reaching 15.7% along Mitchell Avenue. If you manage to keep the pace going before reaching its foot, you will soon be up and trending left, onto a more leisurely rise, beside many parked cars.

Obviously there is more to come, but you next drop down a little, and until you have cleared the next S bend, you will not be able to see the main incline taking you up to the Fish and Chip shop (where you turned right towards Whitwell some hours ago). The gradient up this section ranges from 4-9% before you follow the road around the sharp right hander beside the shop.

As you clear that bend, you will appreciate a final twist: the last flight, short though it is, suddenly rears up to 11% as you follow a left hand bend to the crest. You have now climbed a total of 70 metres over the last 1.2 km.

In Upper Ventnor (Lowtherville) remain on the main road towards Wroxall, descending until Rew Lane peels to the left and you turn sharp right, ascend, and then curve left. The brow of this minor hill comes quite quickly, for the fast and steep descent into Wroxall. Speed control is again important as you reach the southern edge of the village and its pinch-point: you must give way to oncoming traffic and there is no ‘ride-through’ lane provided for cyclists. Pick your way through the village potholes, sweep left then right with the road, and St John’s Church will be ahead, at the top of a small rise.

This extends the likely time of the last leg to around an hour, assuming that you can ride up both its long hills. If your legs are running on empty when you reach Shanklin, you will not be able to complete the hills and would do much better to follow the main route via Whiteley Bank. If you are on the island for a couple of days or more, try this section of the route first so that you can appreciate the nature of its hills, then on a later day you will be better informed when you ride right around the Island.

This variation brings the overall total for the route to 98.3 km (61.1 miles), with a total ascent of 1369 m (4491 feet), making it a respectable Audax route. If you are riding a road bike with the smaller chainwheel a 39T, you will find the steeper sections quite tough, and you may need to stop during the ascents to regain your cadence. A triple chainset should allow most to remain on their bikes throughout. Check your gears, tyres and brakes before riding this variation: the last thing that you want is a missing granny gear, or locking wheels during a descent.



  © 2005-2007 EHN & DIJ Oakley