25 March 2013

Hills of Hong Kong: The Beast

As the second part in the series looking at the Hills of Hong Kong, here is "The Beast" on Lantau Island.

Probably only second to The Peak in notoriety amongst the lycra fraternity, this aptly named climb is found at the centre of Lantau Island, connecting the north and the south coasts of the island.

For most it means jumping on the MTR or grabbing a 'man with a van' to travelling out to Lantau Island, the largest island in Hong Kong. Lantau Island primarily consists of mountainous terrain and is often referred to as "the lungs of Hong Kong", because of its abundance of indigenous forest and relative scarcity of skyscrappers and infrastructure (despite being home to Hong Kong's international airport).

Tung Chung Road weaving its way up past Lantau and Sunset Peaks

The Route

Leaving the airport town of Tung Chung you quickly hit Tung Chung Road, heading south along a pass bisecting Lantau Peak (at 934m the second highest peak in Hong Kong) and Sunset Peak (at 869m the third highest).

The road rolls along gently for a brief time before hitting a small roundabout that signifies the start of the climb to the other side of Lantau, cresting at 295 metres above sea-level before plummeting down an exhilarating decent to Cheung Sha Beach on the south coast.

There are more 'hidden' black sections to this climb than it appears.... honest

The climb is a relatively short 2.6km with an average gradient of 10.2%, but that doesn't tell the full story, the last 1.5km rarely dips below 14% with numerous ramps hitting between 16 and 18%. There really is no let up.

The Climb

There are few roads in Hong Kong that I enjoy cycling up less than the Beast. It looms over every trip to Lantau. Despite arguably not really being the worse climb on Lantau, it is invariably the first climb of the day and is a brutal way to wake up your legs.

A gentle first 500m to 1km gives no clue as to the leg burning gradients that follow. A brief ramp flattens out before the true climbing begins at 1km with the gradients constantly flicking between 14-16%. With the road carved into the mountainside there is not much to distract your eye from the asphalt wall in front of you and the concrete slopes to your left.

Looking back to Tung Chung having tamed the Beast
A brief hairpin to the right at 500m to the summit provides a slight flattening of the road (still not below 12% though...) and a mental milestone allowing you to power the final steep ramp to the top.

The climb is unrelenting and, in all but the winter month(s), is exposed to the baking sun and humidty of Hong Kong. The climbing is difficult, but cooling yourself down and keeping your heart rate out of the red can be just as challenging.


In spite of its diminutive length and deceptive average gradient the Beast is a climb not to be taken lightly; even experienced cyclists have underestimated the demands, been found wanting and needed to unclip. It is a classic example of the short, wall like climbs that are Hong Kong's forte. It deserves its reputation and name!

Its Strava leaderboard can be found here.

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