Cycling the South Downs Way

Cycling is an excellent way to enjoy the South Downs National Park, with its vast array of wildlife and scenery from rolling hills to sea views and woodlands. The South Downs Way is 100 miles long running from Winchester to Eastbourne and takes anywhere from 2 to 4 days for most cyclists, although we know that some of the fitter riders have done it in a day! We recommend using a mountain bike to cycle the South Downs Way due to the terrain.

There are a few guidelines that people should do their very best to follow when cycling the South Downs Way, and those are –

• Only ride on bridleways & byways
• Respect other users such as walkers, horse riders and others cycling the South Downs Way. Make sure you let them know you’re approaching and pass with care.
• Try to cycle in smaller groups of 3 to 4 to minimise disruption to others – especially when using country lanes.
• Try to avoid lumps and bumps off the trail as they are most likely historic sites or ancient burial mounds.
• Remember to leave gates as you find them, protect local plants and wildlife and take any litter home.
• Keep yourself safe with a well-maintained bike. We have listed some repair shops along the route just in case they are required!

 

What to Bring

For your safety when cycling the South Downs Way, we recommend you try to make space and pack a few things in case of emergencies! Like a lot of places in the UK, the weather can change suddenly, and accidents do happen, so make sure you have a few provisions to hand.

We recommend trying to take with you –

• A lightweight rucksack
• Lightweight waterproofs
• A mobile phone
• High-calorie snack bar
• Plenty to drink
• A map
• Small first aid kit

Accidents can, and often, happen to cyclists due to the sometimes rutted or slippery nature of some of the paths and the speed of travel. The reason we include a small first aid kit is so that should you fall off your bike whilst cycling the South Downs Way, you’re able to quickly treat a minor injury and carry on your way. A mobile phone is another important addition, especially if you’re on your own and find yourself needing help. There are areas where it’s difficult to get a signal, so we also recommend letting someone know where you’ll be and roughly what time you’re expected at your endpoint.

The South Downs is a beautiful place to be and as tempting, as it is to whiz around on your bike, we do recommend stopping often and simply enjoying the views! The Seven Sisters is particularly enjoyable with its chalky cliffs, as are some of the views from the downs near Amberley or Cocking. You’ll find some beautiful little villages on the way with plenty of history to enjoy, so make the most of it!

 

Hiring bikes & Repair Shops

For cycling along The South Downs Way, it is recommendable to take a mountain bike, to easily navigate bumps or uneven paths. For those looking to hire a bike, there are a few places in Winchester which you can hire from. Bespoke Biking has a good selection of bikes for hire and even offer to collect them from Eastbourne for a surcharge.

Repair Shops

Hargroves Cycles Ltd – Winchester – 01962 840707
Peter Hansford Cycles – Winchester – 01962 877555
Owens Cycles – Petersfield – 01730 260446
South Downs Bikes – Storrington – 01903 745534
Giant Shoreham – 01273 463579
M’s Cycles – Shoreham – 01273 567591
Freedom Bikes – Brighton – 01273 681698
Cycle Shack – Lewes – 01273 479688
Evolution Cycles – Eastbourne – 01323 737320
The Tri Store – Eastbourne – 01323 417071

 

Route Sections

When cycling the South Downs Way, the typical duration can range from 2-5 days depending on how often you cycle. For those with a high level of fitness, 2-3 days will be ideal for anyone who is short on time. For those wanting to explore the area of the South Downs Way, you can choose to cycle slightly less miles in a day and take your time to visit the beautiful countryside around you. You may also want to take days off so you can plan accordingly to length the route to your needs.

Below are some suggested itineraries in 2, 3 and 4 days, but you can alter these routes to suit you.

 

Cycling Sections

2 Days

As an experienced cyclist you can cycle the South Downs Way in 2 days with a stop over near Storrington.

3 Days

For most fit cyclists it is manageable to cycle in 3 days with stops near Cocking and Lewes.

4 Days

To really enjoy the surroundings and take a little bit more time, why not cycle the SDW in 4 days.

FAQs

How long does it take to cycle the South Downs Way?

It really depends how fit you are and what you want to get out of your experience. Take a look at our sections above to see typical route ideas, but very fast is 2 days and a more leisurely pace would be 4 days. Some people have even cycled it in a day!

What is the terrain like?

The South Downs Way is a mixture of grass and chalky terrain and is fairly dry all year around but the chalk can be slippery in wet weather, particularly on steep descents such as between Harting Down and Cocking and near Amberley.

What should I bring?

See our helpful checklist above for details on what you should take with you!

Walking

If you would rather walk than cycle the South Downs Way, there are hundreds of potential paths available to you. As one of the UK's most challenging National Trails the South Downs Way is enjoyed by a huge cross-section of walkers of various abilities. Take a Look at our recommended walks.

Riding

The stunning scenery and fantastic bridleways spanning across the National Park are not only fantastic when cycling the South Downs Way, but mean that the trail is also ideal for horse riders of all levels. Whether you are out for a leisurely hack or prefer to use the downs for fitness work, there is something for everyone.