Six of the best

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If you think the climb up Mount Baw Baw is epic, check there out, you may change your mind.

Haleakala, Hawaii

The 58.9km long 3.032m Haleakala in Maui is often claimed as the longest paved road climb in the world – but all be it a beast it’s neither the longest or the highest.

Starting out from Pala Maui the road climbs at an average of 5%, but hits 12% in some short sections, making it a relentless killer of a ride.

There is an annual race up the mountain, which tales place at the end of June. Check out www.cycletothesun.com

Taroku Gorge, Taiwan

This climb has long since been staking a credible claim to the titles of both the longest climb and the highest paved altitude gain in the world is the 103-km ascent to the summit of the Hehuan Mountain in Taiwan, although in fact there is another longer and higher climb, all be it less bike friendly (see bellow).

Starting from the island’s east coast at Hualien the road climbs through the very impressive Taroku Gorge to the 3,275-meter high summit at Wuiling Pass, the highest point reached by a highway in Taiwan.

It’s a spectacular and relentless ride to the summit, which offers up some superb vistas over the mountainous spine of Taiwan, and down onto the twisted road that climbs over it.

It’s just as impressive, and slightly easier to climb from the west of the island (Taichung). Gradient varies, with 8-10% being a fairly average slope, although it hits 15% in places. Road surfaces are good, and traffic not heavy.

There is an annual massed start race up the climb each November, with some big Euro names lining up against regular weekend racers.

Alto de Letras, Colombia

Colombian climbers have long since been considered as the best in the world, and with good reason – they have huge great mountain facing them in just about every rideable direction; climbs that are longer and higher than just about anything they’re likely to face in Europe.

When the Colombians first came to race in Europe it took them a while to get used to racing up climbs as short as 20km a time, at home they race on beasts of up to 80km in length.

Starting out at just 468-meters above sea level the Alto de Letras climbs on for a staggering 80-km to its summit at 3,187-meters high, making it amongst the longest paved road climbs on Earth.

The average gradient is just 3.95%, but in places it hits the 11% mark. The climb has featured in almost every edition of the Vuelta a’ Colombia.

The “non-Strava” record for the climb was set in the 2007 Vuelta a’ Colombia, by Santiago Botero with 2-hours 52 minutes.

Khunjerab Pass, Pakistan-China

The mighty Karakurram Highway is one of the most famous roads in the world, and has long since been a target for adventurous cyclists.

The high spot of the KKH in the 4,683-meter high Khunjerab Pass, which is where the route crosses from Pakistan to China, this is the highest international paved road border crossing in the world.

This really is big sky country; and the KKH passes right through the very heart of the high Himalaya, and there are snow capped 7-8,000-meter peaks to be seen in every direction.

Gilgit, a bustling tribal market town in the Hunza provides the easiest fly-in access to the climb. From here it’s 270-km to the Khunjerab. The climb its self starts from the Khunjerab National Park checkpoint at Dih; from there it’s a 50-km gentle but spectacular and airless slog to the summit, which is in Pakistan.

This may not be the toughest and steepest of climbs, but its elevation and scenery make it something extra special, although this area has been prone to security issues in recent years, so you really do need to check out the lie of the land before venturing into the region.

Ticlio Pass, Peru

They really don’t come much longer or higher than the Ticlio Pass in the Peruvian Andes. Starting from sea level in the capital city of Lima the road climbs upwards for a staggering 150-kilometers, with almost no respite along the way.

At the summit the sign reads 4,818-meters above sea level, making it the biggest fully-paved road climb there is - we think (there are higher passes in the both Himalaya and Andes, but they are not fully surfaced well enough for a standard road bike to handle).

The problem with this road is the traffic, which can be very heavy, especially with trucks and busses, making it not the most comfortable or rides but still an intriguing challenge.

Paso Alto de Agua Negra, Chile

There are a number of very high paved road passes crossing the Andean border between Chile and Argentina, but most are really not much fun to ride because of very heavy traffic. One that is a treat to ride is the Paso Alto de Agua Negra, although it is mostly unpaved and is amongst the highest.

Running between La Serena (at sea-level) in Chile and Jachal (at 1,300-meters) in Argentina is the 383-km road that passes over the 4,775-meter high. The hardcore stops after 146-km at Aduana (at 2,100-meters), white the summit comes at 230-km, and the hardcore returns 50-km after the pass.

It’s a gentle and very scenic climb for the whole way, and is possible for a road bike if you’re suited up for riding on dirt and gravel, as the pass is well surfaced; but a cyclo cross bike is better suited, especially if you plan to carry luggage. The pass is only open from November- late May due to snow.