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 but one of the World’s Top 10 Bike climbs. This has been quite the adventure and will ultimately take us to four different continents to climb by bike. If all goes well, we will check off World #2, Wuling Pass North, on May 12, 2019 at the end of our Mt. Fuji, Doi Inthanon, Wuling Pass cycling adventure.
#1 OF 10
MAUNA KEA, BIG ISLAND, HAWAII
TOP RANKED CLIMB IN THE UNITED STATES AND WORLD
The hardest bike climb in the United States 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).
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.
View from our 13,842’ finish.
#2 OF 10
WULING PASS, TAIWAN
This climb has what you’d expect in the #2 Top World Bike climb: a 10% average grade for 25 kilometers (five kilometers at 16.5%!). If all goes as planned, PJAMM will personally document this (and the other two routes up to Wuling Pass) on May 11 and May 12, 2019.
#3 OF 10
LA MUERTE, ECUADOR
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.
#4 OF 10
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.
#5 OF 10
DEATH ROAD, BOLIVIA
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!
#6 OF 10
ALPE FUORI, ITALY
Alpe Fuori is in the Pennine Alps (also the home of the Matterhorn). This is one of three Top 10 World Bike Climbs situated in Italy. With a 13.7% average grade (23% for one kilometer), this climb deserves its high world ranking. We climbed this one in the summer of 2018 and there will be no rematch!
#7 OF 10
PICO DE VELETA, SPAIN
Pico de Veleta is the rock formation seen above the Virgen de Las Nieves altar.
This is another of our favorite world climbs. The first two kilometers are incredibly steep (our two wheel drive support vehicle was put to the test over this segment) while the full climb does not disappoint at an average 7.6% for 31 kilometers. The road above Hoya de la Mora (kilometer 19) is closed to public traffic which makes for a very pleasurable and peaceful climb (if you can ignore your screaming thighs).
Hairpins just above Hoya de la Mora.
#8 OF 10
A bit of a chore to get to (that’s an understatement) if you are not living in Bulgaria, this climb is an unbelievable 11% average grade for 15 kilometers along a desolate stretch of broken roadway to two beautiful reservoirs at the finish. The one caveat we submit is that the road is private and there are no guarantees a cyclist will be permitted to ride to the top, although it is certainly possible, as reported in our Climb Summary on the Rila page.
#9 OF 10
This is the only Top 10 World Bike Climb in the great climbing country of Switzerland. The climb is beautiful and there was no sign of life whatsoever for the last 10 kilometers -- it is as private and as peaceful as a double digit 13 kilometer climb can be. There are no visual obstructions to impede the distant views after climbing above tree line at about kilometer 11.
#10 OF 10
MOUNT ETNA, ITALY
This climb will take us to the top of that volcano.
This photo was taken along our route to Mt. Etna -- it is a LONG climb!
The Mighty Mount Etna: The third hardest bike climb in Italy (just behind the incomparable Scanuppia), is located in the east coast of Sicily, between the cities Messina and Catania. This is our second volcano in the World Top 10 after the incomparable Mauna Kea. The last 8.5 kilometers at 11.4% from Rifugio Giovanni Sapienza are dirt and volcanic dust better navigated by mountain bike (we used a cross bike with 40mm and that was a chore and barely manageable.