Mention the Surrey Hills to a road cyclist, and they will soon be talking about the climbs.
This ride takes in our favourites in a challenging, but bitesize, package.
You’ll cover more than half a dozen testing climbs, including Leith Hill, Radnor Road, Barhatch Lane, Greensand Lane, White Down and Box Hill: it’s not for the novice or unfit. However, there are plenty of options to abort and cruise back down to Dorking if your legs pop on the way around!
All metrics in this article are approximate.
White Down has a special place in our hearts. It’s got a 18% max gradient, a 180-degree hairpin and agonising false summits.
Greensand Lane is a stretch of barely a mile, after the top of Barhatch Lane. A narrow, rolling road in Winterfold Forest, flanked by mountain bike trails. The surroundings and technical twists induce a Xen-like focus.
1. Cycling Leith Hill and south side of the downs – Dorking to Guildford Road: 0-43 km
Once you’ve navigated the Dorking one-way system, Coldharbour Lane gives the first test as you climb for several kilometres up a wooded gully, with high banks on either side. Beware the tight corners and farm traffic down Broomehall Road. From then on, you take on Leith Hill, Radnor Road and Barhatch Lane in quick succession. Each one individually is a challenge, so make sure you’re geared down and fuelled up!
Leith Hill starts gradually from the B2126 but soon ramps up steeply, the gradient easing a little around Leith Hill Place, the National Trust property. It then kicks up again to the road junction with Abinger Road on your right. After sweeping left, there’s a final steep section round to the right, before you finally crest the top.
Holmbury Road gets gradually steeper as you climb, before turning into Radnor Lane and Radnor Road after the Mullard Space Science Laboratory. At the top, there is a tough finale as the road curves sharply up to the right as Holmbury Hill looms above you and you finally pass the sandy car park high in the forest.
Barhatch Lane is perhaps the toughest climb of this ride, at almost 3km long and an advertised maximum gradient of 21%. This steepest section is saved for the end, punishing those who have ventured out overgeared or have been overzealous on the lower climb.
At the top, it’s an immediate left on the picturesque narrow forest road of Greensand Lane before descending steeply on Alderbrook Road.
2. High in the hills – Guildford Road To White Down: 43-69 km
After a short stretch on the Guildford Road to the picture-postcard village green at Shamley Green, follow the road up, down and up again to Little London, before looping gently up to Peaslake again.
We like the lung-busting solitude in the forest so much, we have retraced Radnor Road the other way, this time south from Peaslake. It’s testing, but well worth the repeat visit, climbing steeply out of Peaslake then steadily for several kilometres amidst the mountain bike trails.
The route then works its way through the beautiful lanes through Holmbury St Mary, Sutton Abinger, Friday Street, Broadmoor and Wotton.
If you’re short of time and energy, take a right on the A25 in Wotton and follow it back to Dorking.
3. The final flourish – White Down Lane to Dorking via Box Hill and Headley: 69-95 km
From the A25, you get a gradual approach to the main climb of White Down Lane and a brief respite down to the railway bridge, before the real action starts. The road kicks up and round the sharpest of right hairpins, and you’re onto the main climb. It’s always steep, but it ebbs and flows with several false summits before you finally crest the top.
From the top of Ranmore Common, Ranmore Common Road and Chapel Lane take you down past Box Hill and Westhumble station.
If you fancy including Box Hill in the cycle route, cross over the road, past the Burford Bridge Hotel and Ryka’s Cafe before hitting the famous Zig Zag Road. Many from around the world will have experienced this in virtual reality on Zwift!
You can cruise back down the zig zag road and along the bike path to Dorking station, or first complete the 8-mile loop of the famous Ballbuster Duathlon through Headley and down Lodgebottom Lane.
28kms and 54kms: Peaslake Village Stores is something of an institution in the local cycling fraternity – for both smooth and hairy legged cousins. Mugs of hot tea, a selection of homemade cakes and even meat-based snacks will fuel you through the second half of this ride.
33kms: Ewhurst has a village shop that would re-provision a hungry and thirsty cyclist.
64km: We hesitate to recommend a pub stop before tackling White Down, but the location of the Stephen Langton in Friday Street is so exquisite that it’s worth returning later. Food and beer are both excellent too.
83km: National Trust cafe at Box Hill. It’s not original, but it is a good stop for coffee, cake and shooting the breeze with other cyclists.
Take a look at our accommodation recommendations in our ultimate guide to Surrey for cyclists.
Read our tips for cycling on the Isle of Wight before you set out. It’s all very relevant to cycling in Surrey!
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Click here for our complete guide to planning a cycle trip in the Surrey Hills and other articles on the Surrey Hills, below.
Don’t miss our other ride guides on the Surrey Hills, see details above.
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