TAKING ON THE LEITH HILL OCTOPUS

Posted On Sep 15, 2023 |

Discover how our riders fared against the Leith Hill Octopus

The Leith Hill Octopus is always going to be a challenge for any rider taking it on. For the Njinga riders who took it on this September, starting out at 8:30 AM in Dorking and already at 25 degrees we knew the unseasonable heatwave was going to make it even harder...

Read on below to see how our riders got on.

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For those who are not familiar with the gruelling challenge - The Leith Hill Octopus takes on 8 heart-pounding ascents of the hill: over 90 kilometres and 2000+ meters of climbing.

Leith Hill (well the tower actually) is the highest point in south-east England at 1,029ft (313m) and its challenging gradients and relentless climbs have earned it a bit of a reputation among London and Surrey-based cyclists. 

© Photo from Strava



The group at the start of the Leith Hill Octopus

This is our third year of taking on the challenge as part of our cycling club, The Njinga Collective, so we know it well!

It was great to see a number of new faces joining us this year as well as non-Collective members ready to have a go and see how many of the 8 they could do.

The first ascent up Cold Harbour Lane is the perfect opportunity for the riders to warm up their legs, and as they started the challenge I dashed off (in the car) to beat them to the summit and to set up the feed station.

And so began the day of ascending and descending.

Profile of the Leith Hill Octopus from Veloviewer



For any challenge like this, proper fuelling and hydrating is important but given the heat, even more so with electrolytes being an absolute necessity.

Seeing riders cresting the top and then committing to yet another tentacle despite the heat was really impressive, while I struggled with the mental challenge of not eating all the jelly babies while they battled it out on the road.

Despite how tough an event this is, we love it at Njinga as it doesn’t matter how many climbs you do or how fast you do it, it’s just a remarkable challenge for riders of all levels to test out their endurance.

There is always respite at the top when the riders cross over and the camaraderie is amazing with everyone encouraging each other and offering words of motivation to just keep going and to watch out for the terrible road surfaces on descents three and four. 

Riders refuelling at our feed station at the top of Leith Hill



The little red ambulances came out to refuel our riders after their eighth ascent of Leith Hill

The final ascent is possibly the hardest, Tanhurst Lane with an average 7% gradient and a max of 20%, just when the legs are starting to scream.

By the time a number of riders completed the eighth ascent, the sun was at its peak, and I felt it was only fair to bring out the little red ambulances - an ice-cold coke. #donttelltogo

The late-night potato boiling session was also well worth the effort and the salty snacks were once again a firm favourite amongst the riders.



CONGRATS to all our riders, a massive achievement for everyone who took part - whether you did 6, 7 or 8.

Well done to Simon Hamblin, Paul New, Chris Lodge, Matt Drake, Otso Huovinen and Sam Anstee for taking on the challenge for the second or third time.

To Kate Hochfeld and Sally Gouttebroze for giving the guys a run for their money.

And finally, chapeau to those riders who still managed to ride back to base after completing the full 8; Chris Lodge, Otso Huovinen, Paul New, Stephen Pallister, Richard Wilding and Mark Palmer, making it a long 162km, and over 2240 m of climbing.

So, who's in for next year? 


Scroll down to hear what some of our riders thought about this year's Leith Hill Octopus.

Some of the riders who joined us to take on the Leith Hill Octopus


Stephen Pallister taking on the Leith Hill Octopus

"Had a great day out doing the Leith Hill Octopus. Conditions were very hot for the time of year, 30deg+ and if were not for the excellent support from Leigh at Njinga Cycling I don’t think I would have made all 8.

The superbly stocked feed station (cold drinks/water/fruit and plenty of cakes and sweets) gave you a great incentive to get up each of the hills and complete the full set.

Will definitely be back for more of these very friendly and good value events (I definitely ate more than £5 worth of food on the day!), thanks to all the team."

Stephen Pallister 



"I absolutely loved the Njinga Octopus challenge on Saturday. It’s a beautiful area and thankfully there was good shade given how hot it was.

It was great to link up so many climbs in one morning, each time stopping at a most excellent food station for salted potatoes or to talk about the directions of the next route down and up again!

It was so nice to do it with other riders. A very friendly and fun day in all!"

Kate Hochfeld

Kate Hochfeld taking on the Leith Hill Octopus



Group of Njinga riders during the Leith Hill Octopus

"My second tussle with the eight tentacles was another big day of pure octopus pleasure.

The self-discipline and wisdom to give Team Fast five minutes at the start meant I kept it slow and steady, racking up 155K and >2,300m by the time I got home.

A wonderful, well-supported event, and an enormous thank you to Leigh for keeping us fed and watered. I’ll be back."

Paul New 



"Taking part in the Leith Hill Octopus event from Njinga I enjoyed great organisation, fellow rider support helping each other up the hills and best of all discovered the rare six-legged octopus.

The feed stop and encouragement from Leigh kept me going and I can't wait for the next event.

Will need to train harder (best to take part in one of their many indoor programmes) to make the 8 hills next time."

Felix Bullinger

Felix and Stephen at the top of Leith Hill


Ready to try out the Octopus yourself or have a challenge you want to take on? Set up a free 15 minute coach call and we will help you get ready to smash it.



Need help preparing for your upcoming event?

Check out our structured and progressive 8-week Live Group Training Programmes.

Or why not build up your climbing-specific strength and endurance with our 8, 12 and 20-week plans in the Njinga Cycling Academy?

The Academy will help you to unlock a wealth of nutrition resources and recipes. You will also gain access to immersive on-bike training sessions, progressive training plans, off-bike training sessions plus bonuses.


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