Your summer of cycling starts here

Freedom, fresh air, fitness or fun. There are many reasons why people choose to see the South Downs by saddle and we have something for everyone – from new or nervous riders to mountain bikers.

We asked South Downs Cycling officer, Alister Linton-Crook for his recommendations.

Best place for beginners

Riders on the Meon Valley Trail

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 new route linking Petersfield to Queen Elizabeth Country Park, both in Hampshire.

Best place to venture out on the roads

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. Bespoke Biking will be running a series of short guided South Downs Discovery Rides out from Winchester this summer, perfect if you want to go a bit further afield but might need a hand fixing a puncture.

South Downs Discovery Ride – Chilcomb

South Downs Discovery Ride – Twyford

South Downs Discovery Ride – Introducing the South Downs Way

Find more organised rides and cycle events at

Best mountain biking

Seeking more adrenaline? You can find dedicated bike parks with graded trails at Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Rogate Downhill, Stoughton Forest, Steyning MTB and Friston Forest.

You can also find and download plenty of off-road routes in the South Downs on the View Ranger app.

Best bike challenge

From its new official start/end point at Winchester City Mill, the 160km South Downs Way follows the chalk ridge across the entire length of the National Park all the way to Eastbourne.

This is one of only two National Trails that can be cycled in full and along the way you’ll pass through farmland, ancient woods, butterfly-rich grassland and finish by the chalk cliffs of Beachy Head at Eastbourne. Or reverse the route to finish in Winchester, the Saxon capital of England.

The crazy people will do it in a day but we prefer to take two or three and stop to smell the flowers along the way. Find accommodation on the South Downs Way National Trail site.

Best place to find out what you’re made of

You’ve been cycling for a while and are feeling confident on the road, but how do you measure up against other cyclists? Ditchling Beacon, north of Brighton, with a height gain of 143m in 1.45km and a top gradient of 16% is the place to test your mettle. In the 2014 Tour of Britain, Michael Kwiatowski completed it in 4 minutes and 5 seconds but just getting to the top in your lowest gear for the first time will make you feel like a King of the Mountain.

Best place to watch cycle racing

On Sunday 11 June the streets of Winchester will close for a day devoted to cycling at the Criterium, a 1km circuit race around the city.

If you’re quick there may still be time to register for our own South Downs National Park Family ride first thing in the morning around the closed street circuit, although places are limited. After that races will run throughout the day. We’ll be based in the Abbey Gardens with pond dipping, fun and games, face-painting and crafts to get our younger riders in the spirit of thing so please come and ask us any questions about exploring the National Park – by bike or other means.

Other cycling to watch this summer include the Tour of Sussex stage race from 6 to 9 July  which takes in Ditchling Beacon, Goodwood and Beachy Head

Find out more about cycling in the National Park