Although Mauna Kea may be rated as the hardest bike ride in the world, there are plenty of other hard cycling climbs worldwide to check out as well. The top 10 hardest cycling climbs around the globe, all of which we have personally documented, are:
World’s #1 Bike Climb -- Mauna Kea
Sign at the Visitor Center: Still 8.3 miles to go at 10.4% average grade to 13,712’.
PJAMM Cycling has personally documented all of the World’s Top 10 Bike climbs. This has been quite the adventure that has taken us to four different continents to document the world’s top 10 climbs, which we accomplished in May, 2019. In reverse order, the following is a summary of the Top Hardest World Bike Climbs as defined by the FIETS index (developed by the Dutch cycling magazine Fiets):
11 OF 10 (Bonus because it is so amazing)
DEATH ROAD, BOLIVIA
Cycling the Death Road, Bolivia
Ride 39 miles gaining 11,640’ to elevation 15,200’ at 5.5% average grade.
The Death Road is our all-time favorite climb by road bike. We included the Death Ride in our 2017 South American Cycling Adventure (also included were Alto de Letras, Colombia, Atacama, Chile and Uturuncu, Bolivia). We spent three days on the Death Road and enjoyed every minute of it -- this is the cycling adventure of all time!
Post Card Corner - Death Road
Atop one of the highest roads in the world.
#10 OF 10
Ride 4.5 miles gaining 4,200’ at 18% average grade.
Warning: The sign at beginning says no bikes.
This is a KILLER bike climb - extremely steep (although we believe the sign above may be overstated). Scanuppia averages 18 percent grade for its entire 7.3 kilometers. We have ridden this nearly impossible bike climb twice and even with a 28t chainring and 42t cassette on a high-end stiff cross bike, we barely managed it. On the steeper segments (steepest 500m is 24%; our Garmin read 30-32% in a couple of spots) it is very difficult to keep the front wheel from lifting off the pavement.
#9 OF 10
Ride 9.1 kilometers gaining 1,411 meters at 15.7% average grade.
Photo from Jiri Fikejz, Choceň, Pardubický kraj, Česká republika.
#8 OF 10
LA MUERTE, ECUADOR
Ride 45 miles gaining 14,670’ to elevation 13,595’ at 5.4% average grade.
This beast is 72.5 kilometers up to 4,144 meters at 5.4% average grade. Unfortunately, on the day we climbed this one by bike, the weather conditions were horrendous and we have no scenic shots from our ride.
#7 OF 10
EL TORNEADO, ECUADOR
Cycling El Torneado - World #9
Ride 32 kilometers gaining 2,716 meters at 8.4% average grade.
Some of the world’s hardest climbs are in the Andes Mountains of South America, and this is surely one of them. As with the other top 10 World Bike Climbs in Ecuador (3 in all), this climb is through extremely lush surroundings and finishing in foul weather - nice at the bottom, bad at the top!
#6 OF 10
LLANO DE LAS ANIMAS, SPAIN
Ride 15.6 kilometers (9.7 miles) gaining 2,000 meters (6,560’) at 12.6% average grade.
Dani Avila, Spain, tard0d lifestyle.
The gradient profile for this climb says it all - there are several segments of extraordinary steepness. Add the length and altitude of this climb and you have the legitimate runner up to Mauna Kea for World’s Top Bike Climb.
Start of the concrete.
Remaining: 2.9 km @18%.
#5 OF 10
BANIAMR AQUABAH PASS, SAUDI ARABIA
Ride 5.9 miles gaining 5,014’ at 16.3% average grade!!
This is an undiscovered climb in Saudi Arabia’s rugged Asir Mountains that is extremely challenging.
Any time you rank anything, there will always be a first and a last. Well, this one is a big time first for steep grades. Baniamr is home to the steepest five miles (18%), five (20.6%) and 10 kilometers (18%) on earth. Thus, the Asir Mountains are home to the steepest cycling segments in the world. Rdom to the south has steepest mile bragging rights, at 26% average grade (Top 10 Steepest Mile).
#4 OF 10
APAGUA PASS, ECUADOR
Ride 41 miles gaining 11,854’ at 5.4% average grade.
A World Top 20 Road Bike Climb.
This is the hardest climb in Ecuador and that is saying something - Ecuador has an unparalleled 3 climbs in the World Top 10 - more than any other country. After finishing the climb, be sure to continue on to the magnificent Laguna Quilotoa (a crater lake) 24 kilometers north of Apagua.
#3 OF 10
BABUSAR PASS, PAKISTAN
Ride 26 miles gaining 10,354’ to elevation 13,688’ at 7.5% average grade.
Pakistan’s hardest bike climb and the world’s #3. The Babusar pass is one of the highest paved road passes in Pakistan. The high-reaching pass is at an altitude of 4173m. The Babusar Valley comes on the road passing from Kaghan Valley. This road soars through Naran, Batakundi, Besal, to the Babusar top -- the highest point of the valley. The road goes down to Chilas (altitude 1265m), situated on the Indus Riverbank surrounded by barren high scale mountains. The temperature is pretty hot down there as well.
#2 OF 10
Al Jaadah Pass, SAUDI ARABIA
Ride 7.7 miles gaining 5,820’ at 14.5% average grade.
The first of 2 top 5 world bike climbs in the Asir Mountains. This climb is undiscovered by the cycling world (no Stava segments when we climbed it in November, 2021 (here is our segment - Al Jadaah (PJAMM World #2).
The climb is one of the most epic we have ever done - it is extraordinarily challenging, very scenic and untouched by cycling wheels.
We had the great honor of riding with Saudi Arabia’s first women's national cycling champion (2020; and reigning champ 2021), Ahlam Zaid (center of above photo).
#1 OF 10
MAUNA KEA, BIG ISLAND, HAWAII
TOP RANKED CLIMB IN THE UNITED STATES AND WORLD
40% less oxygen at 13,000’ than sea level . . .
. . . makes 12% feel like 20+.
The hardest bike climb in the World is Mauna Kea, Big Island, Hawaii, and is also by far the most difficult bike climb in the world. Mauna Kea has it all: length (42.5 miles), altitude (sea level to nearly 14,000’), and gradient (the last 10 miles are from 8,120’ to 13,779’ at 10.7% average grade).
Enough said 😟😟
The gradient ramps up at mile 30 and averages 10.4% for the final 12 miles from 7,200’ to 13,811’ at the finish.
We have climbed Mauna Kea 4 times - 2011, 2013, 2014, 2018.
Diving into the clouds at 13,700’
 This website is primarily about climbing by bike. We have chosen to use an objective index to quantify and rank climbs - The Fiets Index (developed by the Dutch cycling magazine Fiets).
The actual formula is: [H^2/D*10] + (T-1000:1000; but only if greater than 0)
H = ending elevation minus starting elevation in meters.
D = total distance traveled in meters.
T = Height in meters.
Note: Only add T-1000 if that number is greater than zero.