Do you remember receiving your first bike? Do you remember the thrill of riding down hill without a care in the world?
Cycling can be a relaxing pastime or an exhilarating adventure. From gentle and leafy bike rides along disused railway lines to high speed, hardcore mountain biking, the South Downs National Park is a cycling wonderland.
Alister Linton-Crook, South Downs Cycling Officer, shares some of this ideas on having a top cycling summer, regardless of whether you’re a new or nervous rider, or someone looking to get in some serious mountain biking.
Where to get started
If you’re new to cycling or haven’t ridden for a while you’ll be looking for a wide, flat surface well away from traffic where you can build up your confidence.
There are a number of trails following old railway lines across the National Park which fit your needs, open to cyclists, walkers and horse riders, many of which start and end at current railway stations. Try the Downs Link from Shoreham, Centurion Way which starts in Chichester, the Meon Valley Trail and the route linking Petersfield to Queen Elizabeth Country Park, both in Hampshire.
There are a number of ‘Cycle the Downs’ guided rides during the summer from Peacehaven, Newhaven and Seaford as part of the East Sussex Active Access for Growth Programme. They will be ideal for beginners and returning cyclists wanting to experience some gentle, social rides and learn about landscapes and heritage of the National Park.
Ready to find some company?
If you’re feeling ready to explore further, but would like a bit of support or company, it’s time to join a group ride or perhaps a sportive.
Cycling UK have a list of organised rides and cycle events running over summer and autumn as part of their Big Bike Revival
Most cycling clubs are accredited to Cycling UK or British Cycling and have regular organised rides catering for cyclists of all levels. Find your local club at www.cyclinguk.org/go-cycling and www.letsride.co.uk/social
You may wish to enjoy one of the many cycle sportives or mountain bike events in the National Park which are hosted by a range of organisations including charity rides, cycling clubs and commercial bodies. More information is available on this website
Seeking more adrenaline?
You can also find and download plenty of off-road routes in the South Downs on the View Ranger app
Where to watch cycle racing
The Winchester Criterium and Cycle Fest takes place on Sunday 9th June. This circuit race sees a host of riders across age groups compete in different categories in the 1km road race. If attending, you can also take part in the big Family Ride, starting at 10am.
Cycling to watch this summer include the Men’s Tour of Sussex stage race from 4 to 7 July which takes in a time trial up Ditchling Beacon, Goodwood and Beachy Head.
Evidence from similar races shows that these events can be a huge boost for the local economy with cyclists and their families not only spending in local shops and accommodation on the day but returning at other times of year – so get out and cheer those riders on!