The Embankment (3.2km, 106m, 3.3%)

Map and Elevation Profile of the Embankment climb


The Embankment only barely qualifies as a categorised climb, requiring judicious choice of start and end points to make the grade. It’s a rather featureless climb, three kilometers at a very steady 3–4% gradient along the N81. Despite being an N-road, the N81 is fairly narrow, with little in the way of hard shoulder to hide in as the HGVs thunder past. There’s nothing much in the way of scenery.

So why mention it? Because it has the cardinal virtue of being the only easy route out of the city towards Blessington — the fallback option when you can’t face another grind up Ballinascorney or Mount Seskin. Buckled after a hard ride yesterday? Crippled with a hangover? Recovering from yet another dose of Covid? The Embankment is your friend. During the winter when other roads are slick with frost, the N81 sees enough traffic to melt it off. The surface is uniformly good, with barely a pothole in sight. It’s sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds.

And, of course, it’s perfect for riding fixed gear — if you have any legs at all, you can storm up it in a single out-of-the-saddle effort, humming “The Ride of the Valkyries” to yourself as you go. I’ve crawled up Seskin on fixed and it’s not an experience I’d care to repeat. I can’t imagine making it over Ballinascorney on a single cog. But the Embankment gives easy access to the gentler roads of west Wicklow, and after a couple of bleak months riding around Kildare and north county Dublin, you’ll be very glad it’s there.

Wet road between tree-lined verges under slate grey sky
The top of the Embankment…as you can see, it’s all charm

Thoughts, hopes, exhortations?