Riding the South Downs Way mountain biking route is not something to be taken lightly. Running from Winchester to Eastbourne, this 100-mile long trail has enough about it to challenge even serious riders and taking on its whole length is no mean feat.
This handy guide will break down the trail into manageable sections, and provide some valuable info about where to stay along the South Downs Way mountain biking route, as well as other equipment you might need.
Timescales and where to stay
Completing the 100 mile trail will take at least two days for normal people, and sometimes more depending on your fitness level. Some riders take on the 65 miles from Winchester to the Devils Dyke, just outside Brighton, in one day. But the further 35 miles from there to Eastbourne is too much for most people.
Therefore, if you’re planning on tackling the whole South Downs Way mountain biking route you’ll need some places to stay. There are a number of excellent B+Bs along the route, depending on how long you are allotting for the ride. The Sportsman Inn at Amberley is a good spot, as are The White House and Hobbs Cottage, both at Pyecombe. These places are used to accommodating cyclists but it’s best to let them know as the chances are you’ll be muddy.
The route can be loosely broken down into ten sections using the natural geography of the route. Winchester to Exton is roughly twelve miles with good gravel and grass tracks, finishing with a descent to the A32. Exton to the Queen Ellizabeth Country Park is around nine miles, with some tarmac and old railway line surfaces, with some undulating terrain.
QEP to Harting is only six miles, with a gradual gravel climb and good fast sections along a narrow path. Harting to Cocking (no sniggering at the back) is seven miles over grass downland, followed by Cocking to Bignor and seven more miles of flinty climbing.
Bignor to Amberley is five miles of bumpy stone and a long chalk descent. Amberley to Washington is seven miles starting with a climb on the tarmac with a fast middle section. Washington to the Devils Dyke is thirteen miles, complete with grass climbs and some short tarmac stretches and downland.
Devils Dyke to Southease is seventeen miles up and over the downs with only short climb. And lastly, the thirteen mile stretch from Southease to Eastbourne has three tough climbs over grassy ridges.
What you’ll need
A decent bike is an obvious advantage although the trail is suitable for most types of mountain bikes. Although you’re never too far from civilisation – this is the south east of England after all – it’s worth bringing some food just in case you run out of energy as to reach shops you will often have to go out of your way.
Of course, bring as much water as you can carry. Staying hydrated at all times is as essential on the South Downs Way mountain biking trail as it is on any other ride. Above all be sure to take stops to admire the beautiful views supplied by the newest national park in the UK.