The summer months in Swains Lane and across the area see a rising number of red-faced MAMILs (Middle Aged Men In Lycra) puffing their way up the hills of Highgate.

I've no doubt the appearance of these folks is cause for hilarity for some residents, annoyance for others, bewilderment for many.

But here's why these folks and the cycling event that closes their season, London Cycling Campaign's Urban Hill Climb, is something to be celebrated – something I really hope every Highgate resident comes to not only support, but enjoy and attend.

Swain's Lane is one of London's toughest, steepest cycle climbs. It's the only London entry in author Simon Warren’s seminal guide 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs. It is a test for anyone – including the toughest Tour de France wannabe. But for one day, September 30 this year, the road is closed to motor traffic and anyone and everyone can have a go at London's legendary hill.

Ham & High: Simon Munk is getting exciting about September's Urban Hill ClimbSimon Munk is getting exciting about September's Urban Hill Climb (Image: Simon Munk)

So while the serious contenders in Lycra may look a bit alien to some, what they're doing is healthy for them, London and the planet, and with the crowds cheering them on and the effort etched on their faces, also immensely fun to watch – like a free slice of the Tour de France in your backyard. But Urban Hill Climb is not just for the fit and fast. The mix of entrants is increasingly wide, surprisingly and joyously so.

Since the LCC took over Urban Hill Climb, we've tried really hard to make it as inclusive as possible.

Come along and you'll see kids hooning it up the hill but also the herculean efforts of parents hoisting their kids uphill in cargo bikes, and grandparents solo too. And as well as all ages, with an e-bike category for the first time, all abilities too.

The fastest beat the hill in under 90 seconds, the slowest a lot longer, but all are welcome. And the cowbells and cheers make for a fantastic family festival vibe.

I really hope everyone in Highgate comes along to witness the spectacle this September. Allez allez!

For more information or to book a place and join in the fun in this year’s Urban Hill Climb, visit

  • Simon Munk is head of campaigns for the London Cycling Campaign (LCC).