The Seven Cols – the creator explains

Keri Williams explains all you need to know about:-

The 7 Cols

The idea behind the 7 Cols ride came from one of those conversations all cyclists have had with a non-cycling friend.

You know the one, let’s say you have been on a training spin to Warwick and back, you end up in the pub later talking about your day and you tell your friend you have been out on your bike and in their mind they think ok, bike ride, I wonder if they did 1 or 2 laps round Spiceball Park?

You then tell them where you actually rode to and after they establish it wasn’t just to the Warwick Road and back, they look at you as though you are either mental, deluded or a pathological liar!

Well my version of this conversation went something like this and it all turned around whether I could climb up Warmington Hill on my bike?

.. err.. yes!

Ok but you’d never get up Sun Rising

.. err .. well yes I would actually!

Ok, ok, Tysoe Hill .. no one could ride up Tysoe Hill.

.. look, I can climb up Warmington, Tysoe, Sunrising and bleedin Edge Hill if I have to, all in one ride even…

Well you are just being silly now, but go on then Mr Smart Arse do it!!

And so was born the idea of a 7 Cols ride.

The ride itself has evolved a little over the years but for those of you who have not done it yet, I will break down its constituent parts for you. It all starts and finishes in Drayton layby just to the side of Ludlow Drive, you head out towards the 13 TT start, turn right and descend down Hanwell Fields.

I love this descent, in my mind I fly down it, mentally jumping over the speed bumps like Franz Klamer tackling the Matterhorn ( younger people may need to use Google or go find an old person at this point!! ) although having seen a rider in a road race attempt this very feat only to land heavily puncturing both tyres, I do know that Fatlads shouldn’t fly and so I do keep my wheels firmly anchored to ground!

At the bottom roundabout you go left and onto ….

The Foothills

Not part of the original ride these were added by me later, in a vain attempt to impress a Lake District living girlfriend who accused me of living in The Flatlands and of only doing rides where a road crossing over the motorway, was considered a challenging climb!

Now to be fair, if you live in the Lake District, any ride containing less than 6000 ft of climbing probably means you have done the local 10 mile time trial but anyway, the rises up past the Crem and then left and up through Hanwell village got added, although my current single status, might give you an idea about quite how unimpressed the girlfriend was with this added elevation!!

Anyway, having completed the foothills successfully,  it is right at the junction above Hanwell village, follow the Warwick road turning right into Shotteswell and then descend past Mollington turn, go right to Dassett Village, left by the park and then left again along the main road heading back towards Banbury and to Col 1.

Col 1: Warmington Hill

A good start to the “proper” climbing and I’m always keen to test wind direction as I pass the garage at the bottom, headwind and it is going to be a long ol day in the saddle, tailwind and there is hope for the climbs yet to come!!

For me Warmington is a hill of 3 parts, sit in and spin until the tree cover, out of saddle and try to bounce up from the trees to the church junction and then sit back in and gasp my way to the top.

At the top its sharp right and along the tt course again to the top of the Knowle, down the Knowle, left at the bottom and then enjoy the flat and twisty road to the end where you go left at the T junction, join the Stratford Road and begin Col 2.

Col 2: Sunrising:

I always find this a bit of a pig, as I get carried away on the first draggy bit up to the house, look up, have a slight bout of mental tourettes, before engaging the 28 or 30 sprocket and desperately look for some rhythm as I climb in the saddle up to the final bend …. where I know I become as rhythmic as my Dad on the dance floor, and I force myself out of the saddle to drag myself over the summit!

Once you have recovered and got your breath back, then you take the first right and follow the road along to Shennington, turn right and descend down Tysoe Hill, take the sharp left at bottom, first left after 200 yards and on to Col 3.

Col 3: Lady Elizabeth

I shouldn’t like this one as it steepens at the top but it is more my sort of climb, you can engage a sensible gear and keep it turning steadily, really right up until about 300 yards from the summit.

One of the funniest moments I have had on a bike occurred on this climb though, when out riding with my mate Dan.

As we began the climb, we spotted a cyclist about 300 yards in front of us and so thought we’d show off our climbing talents and blast past them … after some considerable effort we had gained a little ground but not that much and it was obvious that the cyclist we were chasing was elderly, female and not on a racing bike!

In full chase mode now, we finally caught her up by the bend, only to discover that she was very definitely a lady of a certain age but was riding an electric bike!

Better than that, as we pulled alongside, she promptly got out of the saddle, sprinted like Chris Hoy on EPO enhanced Bran Flakes and called out to us that if she beat us to the top, then Dan had to give her a kiss!

Now I have no idea what the Strava KOM segment time is for Lady Elizabeth but I am pretty sure Dan beat it that day!!

After the summit, the ride carries on to the 1st crossroads, turns right, up the slight rise and then begins the descent of what to me, will always be Mad Mullah Mullins Hill.

Sadly you only get to do half the descent, as the 7 Cols will take you left into Winderton but if you get chance …. do attempt the full downhill and see if you can meet Shaun’s golden rule by going fast enough through the top part of the descent, to allow you to freewheel all the way to the  T junction at the bottom and no, I have never been able to get enough speed up to do it!

So back to the 7 cols, you go through Winderton to T junction at bottom, go right, up and down to the next junction where you will hit Col 4.

Col 4: Compton Wynyates or the Mad Mullah Mullins reverse, whichever you prefer!

Probably my fave of the 7 Cols, not too steep, tree lined, nice surface, bendy ol road and even better  .. you are now over half way and once you hit the top, only have 3 Cols to go!

The route back is a simple reverse of the route out so to stop this blog becoming totally a totally unmanageable War n Peace type document and you all losing the will to live,  I will simply list the remaining 3 cols for you:-

Col 5: Tysoe Hill

Worst climb of the ride for me, only short I know but it is seriously steep and you can see it grinning at you as you turn off the main road and look up ( top tip here … Do NOT look up!! ), it is always lowest gear possible for me and although the road surface is good, the overhanging trees and steep banks either side mean the road is always slippery and wheel spin when dragging my lardy backside up here is never helpful!

Col 6: Edge Hill or The Knowle

Much anticipated, always a drag and the climb most people say is the worst of the 7 but I actually quite like this one. In my head I divide it into 3 which seems to help, so it is up to the bend in a sensible gear but out of the saddle, from the bend to the trees its down a cog, sit in and pedal, before then the final effort through the trees to get to the sign …. sadly I always forget the sign is actually not the top and so die an horrible death in the last 40 yards from the sign to the summit but it is a great feeling when you cross the top!

If your lungs, legs and head are blowing at the top, well spare a thought to all who ride our Road Race and who race up this climb 3 times!!

Once over the top though, then the end is in sight, you are homeward bound and the route takes you back to top of Warmington, half way only down the hill before you turn right, through Warmigton village and back through the lanes to your final col of the day.

Col 7: Shotteswell

Only a short one and on a normal ride not one which would cause too much difficulty but at the end of a 7 Cols, well I always find the S bend a killer for cramping legs and then the final draggy bit out of the village a total … well not very nice, he says having deleted his original end of sentence! 😉

And that, as they say, is that. 7 Cols completed.

I always feel hugely satisfied with the ride, it is a ride I have done many times now, sometimes with the fast, the medium paced or the positively slow, (sometimes I am in all 3 groups in just 1 ride!! ) but with a regroup taking place at every summit, it allows us all to climb at our own pace and in a mixed group.

It has something for everyone and is a ride which allows us all to push ourselves to the limits, I try to ride it once a month during the summer and am due to ride it for the first time this year very soon but do go try it people, you will not be disappointed!!

Bloggers note. Further details and Strava and Garmin information can be found on the Club Rides section of the website.