For all you Sussex based riders, South Downs cyclist (SDC) aka Dave Parsons has kindly put together a favourite route of his to share. Be warned, its not all fish and chips but more that rock candy you get from the sweet shops! (words by SDC):
I've called it 'A Sussex Taster', it's just under 70 miles, and includes Ditchling Beacon and Steyning Bostal from the 100 Greatest Climbs, and Bear Road in Brighton because the Tour of Britain went up there a few years ago.
I’ve picked Rusper as a start point which lies near Gatwick between the A24 and A23. For you city people, you could ride there from Boxhill going via Betchworth and Newdigate. I've also included some "interesting" sections because a bit unusual and I have a soft spot for them. A lot of the roads will be similar to those around the Octopus; mainly really quiet, but that means they can be narrow, badly repaired and awash with small streams and debris if the weather has been bad. A few short bits on main roads plus riding around Brighton and Shoreham.
Garmin can be a pain in the arse at some points, it doesn't always put you where you want to be but hopefully this review will give you some guidance if you ever get lost!
SDC Ride breakdown:
0-10 miles: Start in the quiet village of Rusper, there's a small free car park I used to use when I did the "commute" up to London. Heading south, watch the right fork by the pub, cars coming up from the left won't see you until the last minute. It's an easy start rolling through countryside and then just before Horsham you get a nice downhill, though the surface can be sketchy. Careful crossing the A264, a main road and then wiggle round the back of Horsham. As you leave Horsham, passing the rugby club, the roads go rural again and there's a nice section through the Hammerponds, relics from the Iron industry, but now beautiful peaceful places. Have your wits about you though because the bridges over the ponds are narrow enough to make a car v bike crossing a challenge, and you hit them at speed.
Maillot Vert Challenge: Hammerpond, Colgate, 0.2km.
10-20 miles: Continue rolling through the countryside on quiet lanes, heading towards Bolney where you cross the A23. (Garmin has put an extra loop in here, ignore it!). At mile 14 you get on to Picketts Lane which is downhill and narrow so take care. Cross the A2300 - the first bit can be a puddle/mud-bath but becomes road again soon - and carry on south to Hurstpierpoint, where you turn left into the narrow High Street. Lots of pubs and shops here for vital refreshments etc. As the houses thin out, bear right onto New Way Lane, can be a few horse riders along this part. If you haven’t eaten since the start of the ride, I’d have something now…
20-30 miles: At the end of the lane is the Jack & Jill pub, which is a nice spot if the sun is out. Turn right onto the main road and then second left onto Underhill Lane; the entry to this lane can be gravelly and the traffic can be fast moving so exercise caution. This is Under-Ditchling-Hill-Lane, so in a mile and a half you are at the bottom of the toughest climb on this route, and probably one of the top 3 in Sussex. There are a couple of places where the gradient eases off (I think from the days of horse-drawn carriages, but we can also use the breather!) and it is a long tough climb. Great views from the top. If you want to treat yourself to a 99' flake, there is an ice cream van there in the summer months!
Head on towards Brighton; if it is calm or the wind is behind you this next couple of miles is brilliant, but if the wind is against you it can feel like you are still climbing the Beacon! At the end of the road bear left, be careful as the sightlines aren't great and traffic coming up the hill from your right can be going fast, then there is a right turn just past this junction to complicate matters more. (If you want a slightly easier and shorter route, turn right here and go down into Brighton heading for the pier. You'll miss the descent of Coldean Lane which is fantastic, Bear Road and a couple of miles, but have more city traffic to contend with). You would also miss a Cycle Lane that is actually quite good - one of the few that is clean enough, long enough and marked out enough to make it better than mixing it on the road. This runs almost all the way to Bear Road...
Polka Dot Challenge: Ditchling Beacon, Hassocks, 1.5km, 16% max.
30-40 miles: Bear Road starts just before mile 30, I have missed this turning before, so look out for the "Bear Inn" on the corner. I think this is close to the controversial infrastructure, where the council thought it would be good to separate the cycle lane from the road with a low kerb that ran parallel to the direction of travel. It threw at least 3 riders off their bikes on the first morning so it had to be sorted. Bear Road is a toughie; the junction has lights and you turn back beyond 90 degrees, so you can't take any speed into it (unless you go at it from the right hand side and the lights are green...) and straight away it is 8-10% for about 500m. It then calms down to about 5% before kicking up again for another 300m or so.
Polka Dot Challenge: Bear Road, Brighton, 1.1km, 16% max.
You're now on the eastern edge of Brighton, houses to your right, open Downsland to your left and the sea in front of you, with a mile and half descent to the marina. Good hill for training this, but the wind can make a huge difference here. There is a cycle route/footpath tunnel under the main road that brings you out on Madeira Drive, home of the Brighton Speed Trials. You now have about 10 miles of dead flat road and cycle path but you better hope the wind is with you...
Madeira Drive can be shut for events, and it can be very busy with pedestrians and others who have no bike-awareness, but if not it is a great stretch. As you get nearer the pier, and then through towards the ruins of the west pier, slow down and take it easy. The path can zig zag a bit, sometimes you are next to the beach, sometimes it is a block away. There is a nice coffee/restaurant at about mile 35, called Marrocco's, but you are spoiled for choice along the sea front. At Mile 37, you won't be the only one spinning as you pass Fatboy Slim's place, and you are into the decks I mean docks! The surface here can be bad and there are speed bumps (which bikes can avoid the worst of to the left) and if you have a tail wind this is a real blast of a section. You'll probably see surfers near the power station and Carot's cafe is good too. I think the surfers like the warm water coming out of the power station, although it may also be mixed with other products of society... The last part is Shoreham locks, you can lose 20 minutes here if the boats are faffing about coming in and out, and crossing the lock gates with a bike is a squeeze when others come the other way, but it is worth it. Bit of main road into Shoreham, but it is wide and restricted to 30 mph.
TT Challenge: Basin Rd, Hove, 2.4km.
40-50 miles: Cross the river after Shoreham and turn right into the airport. It says no through road but that is to deter rat-running, it's fine on a bike. Watch the tunnel/bridge under the railway, it's narrow, sightlines are poor and the road has a couple of steel plates which can be a problem when wet. The terminal building is a lovely old art deco thing, has a restaurant inside and some memorabilia, worth a stop if you have time. They filmed a TV series to do with WW2 there a year or so ago, and the building stood in for an airport in Nazi Germany, complete with huge swastikas hanging down both sides. These were still up on the anniversary of D-Day, much to many local people's disgust. At the end of the airport you cross the A27, scene of the very tragic Hawker Hunter disaster last summer. Coombes Road is a quiet road with a couple of lumps as you near Steyning and the Bostal. I'd be having a gel or something to eat as you cross the A27. Steyning Bostal is the second of today's 100 Greatest Climbs, and is another 3 parter. You might see 21% on your Garmin screen as you climb away from Steyning, with a caravan site on your left. You then get a couple of hundred metres of flat before it goes again, this time you should see 25%. There are s-bend wiggles on both steep parts and you will be suffering, so watch your position on the road as anything coming down will be on you before you know it. Be warned, if it is cold and wet they shut the road.
Polka Dot Challenge: Bostal Rd, Steyning, 1.4km, 25% max.
Once over, carry on round Steyning Bowl, and you can see your exit route going back down the hill. This is Sopers Lane aka the concrete road, and is a farm road but fine on a road bike. Watch out through the farm, as well as tractors and dogs and farmers there are stables there too so usually people around. Before you get to the farm, there is a slight bend to the left at the bottom, which has caught me out before. You almost don't know it is there but at 40-50 mph you have to brake to get through it. If you don’t fancy this, you could carry along the top road but that ends up almost in Worthing and that means the A24 back, which I would avoid. Back through Steyning with its shops pubs and cafes for you to refresh at.
*Alternative Steyning Bostal route – if you pass the turn for the Official Bostal climb and head into the village there is another route up the Bostal, via Newham Lane. This route is shorter but more consistent as it does without the middle flat section of the official route. It’s even narrower and less busy than the official route, so if you meet a car one of you will have to give way.
50-60 miles: Nothing major in terms of climbing along here, just quiet country roads, but around mile 55 look out for Stan’s café, orange signs on your right just before Partridge Green. Really nice coffee, home cooked cakes, and the bacon sarnies looked good too. They also have inner tubes and other spares etc. The challenge below is a local club (“On the Rivet”) sprint so is a tough one. Also, it finishes AFTER the entrance for Stan’s café so if you are trying for it, keep on pedalling!
60-70 miles: Around mile 64 you retrace your outbound steps back to Rusper. Watch the level crossing at Littlehaven, it’s downhill as you approach so the bumpy surface is made worse. Cross the main road and then at mile 67 you have the last climb of the route Rusper Road which spikes up to 14% briefly, not great after nearly 70 miles!
Polka Dot Challenge: Rusper Road, Rusper, 1.4km, 14% max.