Grade: Challenging. Starting in Macclesfield, Cheshire, at the traffic lights where the famous Arighi Bianchi department store is located, this is one of the Peak District’s most famous hill climbs.
The 6.8 mile / 11 km climb is a steady one, in fact there is even a short downhill respite at one point. It is never very steep, the average gradient is 3.7%. The start of the climb is one of the toughest parts you will encounter, as you climb out of Macclesfield from a height of 140m, along the ‘new’ Buxton Road, the A523.
The road is very winding, with tight bends as you leave behind the town centre and head on to the open Peak District moors towards the top. The total ascent is around 375m, with the summit at the Cat and Fiddle pub at 515m.
If you take it steady then most cyclists with a bit of climbing in their legs have a chance of reaching the top, but do keep an eye on the weather, particularly the wind direction and speed. It is very open country once you leave Macclesfield behind, and a headwind can turn this into a significant challenge. The road surface is mostly good, but bear in mind that conditions can change very quickly around the Cat and Fiddle, it can be sunny in Macclesfield, whilst snowing, icy, or thick fog on the top.
The road used to be the most dangerous in Britain, but those statistics were skewed by some using it as a race track, there are now safety cameras along the route, and the speed limit has been reduced to 50mph. That does seem to help, although it is one I would avoid at busy periods if you are a nervous rider, as a lot of HGVs use the link from Macclesfield to Buxton.