The South Downs Way is a classic MTB trail that provides a wonderful sense of achievement for riders of all abilities. Cycling the trail is a challenge as it is almost entirely off-road and when travelling between Winchester and Eastbourne you will climb more than 12,500 feet (3800 metres).
Cyclists fall into two broad categories:
Endurance riders: those seeking to complete the trail as fast as they can as part of a fitness challenge. Expect long days in the saddle.
Pleasure cyclists: people wanting to experience the South Downs National Park at a leisurely pace, stopping for lunch in cafes and country pubs and visiting local attractions.
Endurance riders will cycle the trail in 1-3 days depending on conditions. Two days can be achieved when the trail is dry but it's still gruelling and you need to be a fit and experienced cyclist. Plan on being out on your bike for 12 hours each day.
As a gauge to times, in good conditions fit cyclists will ride at an average speed of 5 mph taking into account the occassional puncture. In the wet speeds can drop to 2-3 mph.
It is much more enjoyable to cycle the trail in 5 days, giving you time to enjoy the ride and visit the region. An example schedule is:
- Day 1 - Cycle from Winchester to East Meon - 17.5 miles / 28 kilometres
- Day 2 - Cycle from East Meon to Graffham - 23 miles / 37 kilometres
- Day 3 - Cycle from Graffham to Steyning - 22.5 miles / 36 kilometres
- Day 4 - Cycle from Steyning to Lewes - 20 miles / 32 kilometres
- Day 5 - Cycle from Lewes to Eastbourne - 25 miles / 40 kilometres
If you do not have the time to cycle the whole trail in one go you could divide it into two sections, Winchester to Amberley and Amberley to Eastbourne.
For more information on these trips see our South Downs Way holidays.
If you have mechanical problems with your bike you will either need to be able to repair the bike yourself, travel a long way from the trail to reach a cycle shop or use a rescue service. Walk & Cycle provides a specialist Cycle Rescue service along the South Downs Way.
Cycle the South Downs Way on one of our mountain bikes. We deliver the bicycles to you at the start of your holiday and collect them at the end.
We use the fabulous Atom Explorer 21 and 27 speed hard-tail mountain bikes. Built with quality components throughout they are perfect for exploring the South Downs.
Walk & Cycle offers a unique service for cyclists. We can collect you, your bicycles and your bags from Eastbourne and transport them back to Arundel or Winchester.
For prices and availability of seats please call 0844 870 8648 (outside the UK telephone +44 844 870 8648) or send us a message.
A simple and secure daily luggage transfer service along the entire length of the South Downs Way.
We move your bags between hotels, inns, B&Bs, campsites and hostels leaving you to enjoy each day without a heavy pack or cycle panniers.
Tips for Cyclists
During the summer there are several large events organised, endurance runs and charity walks for example. When planning your trip it is best to avoid the events as large groups on the path tend to hold you up.
If you are attempting to ride the South Downs Way over 2 days or less you need to be strict with time keeping as regular stops can add hours to each day. The larger the group the more frequent and longer the stops become.
For cyclists riding against the clock, check with you accommodation provider the times of breakfast as a late start can prevent you finishing the ride.
There are few bicycle shops near the trail so take spares with you during the day and pay for your bags, spare tyres and repair tools to be moved by a specialist bag transfer company. Having the parts and equipment on hand may be the difference between finishing the trail or not.
During the hot summer months start the day with two litres of water and fill-up whenever you pass a tap.
The flinty sections around the Hampshire / Sussex border often cause punctures although they can of course occur anywhere along the uneven bridleway. Consider using gel in your tyres and / or lining the tyres with puncture resistant tape.
Cycle with as little extra weight on you as possible. The trail is really not suitable for cycling with panniers so either carry a tiny backpack or use a small handlebar bag or saddlebag that hug the bike's frame.