Take a train straight to one of the seaside spots along the South Downs, such as Brighton or Seaford and cycle a coastal section of the South Downs, racing the oystercatchers, fulmars and widgeons that wheel overhead. This is part of the National Cycle Network and so much of it is on road, although there are sections such as between Saltdean and Cuckmere that are off road. This is Route 2 of the National Network and will take you between Brighton and Eastbourne within the South Downs boundaries and on up to Camber beyond that.
You can find details of other circular cycling routes around Sussex and the South Downs such as Seven Sisters Off Road Circular Route, which is 53km long. A good strenuous challenge, it takes you along the final miles of the South Downs Way, from the height of Firle Beacon and down towards Eastbourne before another climb up to Beachy Head and descent into the Cuckmere Valley. Even better, this circular route starts and finishes at Newhaven railway station, so no cars required here.
Always stick to bridleways (footpaths are for walkers only) when you are cycling, remember to give priority to walkers, wheelchair users and people on horseback, but when the coast is clear, you can zap on to the real coast in no time. However, it isn't downhill all the way and it is considered a serious mountain bike challenge to take on all of the South Downs Way. If you want to make the task a little easier, you can hire an electric bike
, which still makes you work the hills a little, but definitely gives more power to the thigh muscles. Or the more adventurous can go full on mountain biking, with a plethora of dedicated trails at Deers Leep Park, and plenty of training opportunities here too.
What isn't a challenge, however, is getting there by train. First step is to download a cycling guide from the National Trails website
and decide on your route. This is a very handy leaflet, with details of how the land lies in terms of ups and downs, and also distances between key points along the way. It even tells you where you can top up your water bottle. It has details of all bike hire locations, or you can just stick your own on the train and pedal straight out onto the hills. See our Walking page for details of trains.
Each rail company has a different policy on carrying bikes, but generally all of them will be happy to help, free of charge, if you are travelling outside peak travel hours, on a first come first served basis. For more details of individual bicycle policies, see Southern