Coastal cycle ride
Try my fave bike ride from Worthing to Brighton with plenty of diversions and cafe stops en route
A fortnight ago I did the London to Brighton bike ride. Yes, I know it’s not till June, this was a private tribute event, in Italy, kindly organised by my husband when his spectacular navigational error led to us pedalling 60 miles instead of the scary enough 40 we were supposed to do on the first day of our self-guided cycling holiday.
To put in in context, the most I’d cycled in one day before was 20 miles. The real London to Brighton is 54 miles and you get a medal. I nearly got a divorce.
Anyway, we made it and with the help of Nurofen gel and Google maps and a lot of pasta, the following days were shorter and we spent more time looking at the scenery and less time in blind panic about night and mosquitos descending before we’d found our hotel.
Though I’d consider myself reasonably fit, I’m certainly not sporty so this err ‘holiday’ was a bit of a departure for me and required training of sorts. I spent the summer doing various cycle rides in Sussex, around (though not up) the South Downs and along the coast.
The roughly 12 mile run between Brighton and Worthing, passing through Lancing and Shoreham Harbour proved my favourite as it’s mostly all seaside cycle path, there’s plenty to look at and some good cafe stops.
So, with the swanky new public hire bikes just arrived on the coast, the weather not turned properly cold yet and half term on the horizon (it’s a relatively family friendly route). I thought I’d share the highlights with you.
This is a stretch of National Cycle Route 2 fact fans. Because of the direction of the prevailing wind, and the fact there’s a slight but lengthy uphill part of the way, if it’s a blowy day Brighton to Worthing can be a bit of a slog. It’s far nicer to do the route starting from Worthing direction but you can choose to join it by train at Worthing, Lancing, Shoreham, Hove or Brighton.
My version starts at Worthing pier and heads east. You soon past the quirky Coast cafe and Crabshack with its wonderful seafood platters which makes a good reward if you’ve just done a long ride from the opposite direction.
There are some attractive rows of beach huts and homes with creative gardens on your way along the seafront from here to Lancing and I’ve made a few photo stops on my trips.
Further along you can covet some waterside houses at Widewater Lagoon Nature Reserve where you may spot herons and other birdlife.
Lancing is a great place to break your journey (and it’s definitely reward distance if you’ve cycled the other direction, from Brighton station). Perch on the seafront here has plenty of attractive outdoor seating for warmer days and big picture windows if you’re taking a warm-up break inside instead.
Menu temptations include moules frites but for a shorter pit stop the cake display is always good and they advertise discounted Magnums too (the lolly, not of champagne!)
I like the way that a lot of the beach on this section of the coast, particularly as you get around Shoreham is left pretty natural with plants growing across the pebbles. You also get a fantastic sweeping view to Brighton on a clear day and back to Worthing’s pier.
At Shoreham, before you take the bridge across the water, you can get a closer look at the famously creative houseboats on the riverbank, which include a converted bus and part of a German minesweeper.
Once you’ve gone over the bridge into Shoreham-by-sea itself you unfortunately have to continue on the road for a busy, uninteresting stretch before dropping in to visit Shoreham lifeboat station (I caught the boat launching as I cycled past once), then cutting into the harbour where, if you’re lucky (or unlucky, depending on your point of view), you may have to wait and watch as the lock fills to allow boats through.
The next point of interest is a couple of wind turbines with a sign explaining a little of how they work, which gives you a close up idea of what’s going up in the huge farm off shore.
There’s a cheap cafe for a pit stop nearby should you wish, otherwise you rejoin the coastal path again just after the row of swanky beachfront houses where Fatboy Slim lives. The Big Beach Cafe, which he owns, a little further on at Hove Lagoon is always good for a stop and there’s a popular playground alongside. Though, if you’re cycling the route with kids they’ll more likely want to rest and watch youngsters in the skatepark the other side. If you’ve got the kit with you can also stop and catch a few crabs in the lagoon.
Onwards from here is Hove Lawns, then the i360 (good loos if you need a wee stop!) and Brighton’s seafront. If you go on past the pier you can continue right up to Brighton Marina and Rottingdean (there’s a popular little suntrap cafe kiosk and chairs under the cliff just before). If you’re stopping near the pier however my recommended cafe stop is at the Yellowave beach volleyball courts where you can sit and watch other people being energetic for a while.
Looking for something more inland? Amber up at Muddy Surrey recommends leafy Worth Way which you can do a chunk of between Three Bridges and East Grinstead. Though, having failed to follow the route properly myself, I do recommend back up maps beyond the basic route on the website.