Shred with the gnar! Where to go mountain biking in Sussex
Put the Muddy in Muddy Sussex with some offroad action at these great mountain biking hotspots. Plenty for beginners, heaps for the more experienced too.
If you’re dying to get out on your bike but don’t fancy playing Russian Roulette with cars out on the roads, why not give mountain biking a go? It’s great for families as little ones will love the excuse to razz around getting mucky, and it’ll bring out the big kid in you and the other half too. Just brace yourself for serious mud!
You don’t need a high-tech mountain bike to get started, although you will need a bike with decent grippy offroad tyres – ask at your local bike shop if you’re not sure if yours are up to the task. Decent brakes are also a must, so get new pads or blocks fitted if yours are looking a bit worse for wear. Other than that, the only real kit you need to get started is a helmet, and some trainers that you don’t mind getting a bit mucky. Most decent kids bikes will handle entry-level offroading, but make sure their brakes are up to scratch too.
BEGINNERS AND FAMILIES
Beginning near Guildford, the Downslink follows the route of a disused railway and passes through West Sussex in various places, ending at Shoreham-by-Sea where it joins the South Downs Way. The gravel surface is almost completely flat, making it great for kids and the less experienced and it’s a really lovely gentle, accessible introduction to offroading. There’s plenty of pit-stops en route too. You can access the Downslink at various points around Sussex, popular places to join include Southwater Country Park (ideal for parking), West Grinstead, Partridge Green and from Shoreham-by-Sea. Unless you live nearby you’ll need to drive to your nearest access point if you’re not confident on roads or are taking little ones with you.
Whiteways, Bury Hill, near Arundel
Known as a popular pit-stop for motorcyclists, Whiteways Cafe at the top of Bury Hill backs onto Houghton Forest and is a great spot for mountain biking. You’ll have to nose out the gnarlier trails, but families with young children can enjoy meandering through the woods on the various fire roads and woodland paths, most of which have fairly decent surfaces. A great destination for a family with ‘mixed abilities’ – ie, one of you can pootle around with the kids while the other goes a bit wilder on some of the more technical singletrack.
St Leonard’s Forest, Horsham
Another great spot for offroading with little ones, that also has plenty of more technical trails for those wanting a bit more of a challenge. There are plenty of forest tracks to meander down – park on Hammerpond Road and have an explore. The Roosthole area is a good spot for singletrack.
Friston Forest, Seaford
There are endless paths and trails through Friston, the largest area of recently-planted woodland in Sussex. By ‘recently’, we mean about 80 years. Yet another one that’s great for all levels, with plenty of paths suitable for smaller or less confident cyclists and equally, heaps of lovely, flowy, twisty woodland singletrack. Just mind those roots!
Stanmer Park, Brighton
Stanmer has acres of space – literally – and a great network of fire roads but be warned, there are plenty of hills, so this isn’t an ideal spot for cycling with very little ones. Venture further off the beaten track, however, and you’ll find an amazing network of singletrack that features in one of the UK’s best-loved mountain bike races, the Brighton Big Dog. With steep and technical descents, twisty-turny trails and some of the most revered (aka horrific) climbs in Sussex, it’s a great spot for honing your mad skillz.
Although there’s very little actual singletrack (narrow technical trails) on the 100-mile South Downs Way, the amount of challenging climbs and the chalk/gravel/mud service makes it the ideal playground for mountain bikers. Not one for little legs though – those loooong, chalky climbs are savage, as Muddy can attest *exhausted face*.
Located on the side of Chanctonbury Hill, below the famous ring, the Steyning trails occupy their own little world of intense steepness. At times the gradient is positively terrifying – and then you’ve got to get yourself all the way back up the top again. Advanced shredders will adore this spot which also boasts plenty of death-defying gap jumps, and the less gnarly can just about manage some of the lower-down trails, but overall, it’s definitely one for the more experienced. And fit! Accessed from the bridleways adjacent to Chanctonbury Ring, or from the bridleways on Mouse Lane in Steyning.