This is a brilliant ride which offers a memorable variety of stunning scenery.
The chocolate box villages of rural Sussex.
A killer climb over Ditchling Beacon.
Spinning along the Brighton seafront amidst the eclectic cacophony of this vibrant city.
The serene beauty of the Devil’s Dyke.
Deserted bumpy roads through dense woods: therapeutic surroundings as you power back towards Dorking with weary legs but a smile on your face!
All metrics in this article are approximate.
Cycling to Brighton: highlights
Ditchling Beacon is a proper test of your legs; it breaks the back of the South Downs, with sweeping views north and south, before a long roll down to the seaside and Brighton Pier. All walks of life mingle on the seafront, and any glimpse of sun will add a holiday feel to your ride.
The return leg from Brighton sweeps through the Devil’s Dyke, before tracing the tiny roads through the fields and woods of Sussex, past the award-winning vineyard of the Bolney Estate. You won’t be ripping along on perfect tarmac, but we think these winding, quiet lanes make an awesome ride.
1. Dorking to Brighton Pier: 0: 67 km
From the A25, Punchbowl Lane takes you quickly into the bumpy lanes between hedgerows and fields, through Leigh and Norwood Hill.
Skirting the sprawling outskirts of Horley is a necessary evil, but once you’re over the M23 and heading south from Smallfield, the route is back in more picturesque surrounds. At this point, you will be following, more or less, the route of the annual London to Brighton bike ride.
Four kilometres after Smallfield, the route joins the B2128, climbing up gradually through Turner’s Hill then down to Ardingly. The road peels right past Ardingly College, then you zip onwards through Haywards Heath and Wivelsfield to Ditchling.
After Ditchling, the road starts to rise gently, but the South Downs loom large in front of you and the real climbing beckons! After a long straight approach, the road twists left, and suddenly you’re climbing Ditchling Beacon at more than 10%. The full climb of 1.5km averages 9% but the gradient changes, twisting left and right through long looping bends, before a 90 degree right turn and a finale of almost 15% gradient. As you approach the top, the magnificent vista north opens up over the flat lands of the Lower Weald that you have just crossed.
After you’ve crested the top, the views south are towards the coast. You cross the A27 and skirt round Hollingbury Park Golf Course on your left. It’s a long descent through the outskirts of Brighton, and onto the one-way system before you pop out on the seafront, directly opposite the iconic Brighton Pier.
2. Brighton Pier to Dorking: 67 – 127 km
Once you have cruised the seafront, enjoyed the view and refuelled, the route leaves the coast and climbs steadily through leafy residential Hove. A short section at 8% gradient takes you back onto Dyke Road Avenue, over a couple of roundabouts and the A27, and into the rolling hills of the Devil’s Dyke.
If you fancy, peel left on Devil’s Dyke Road 600m after the roundabout and take a detour to the Devil’s Dyke Hotel and viewpoint to see the longest, deepest and widest dry valley in Britain! You can rejoin the route 3km further down the road. Otherwise, follow the swooping road that passes between golf courses, with rolling green fields extending into the distance.
After a fast descent, cross the roundabout onto the A281 and after almost 2km turn off right into Shaves Wood Lane as the road peels left. From here you’re cutting north on small roads, flanked by hedgerows and farms. In this densely populated part of southern England, the route has long stretches in the solitude of tiny roads through villages, a calming antidote to the hustle and bustle of Brighton.
After crossing the A272, you pass the Bolney Wine Estate tucked away on Foxhole Lane. The café is a nice spot to refuel, especially if the sun is shining on the vineyard. After this, you’re zigzagging through woods for many kilometres before the roundabout over the A264 at Faygate jolts you back to reality. While the ride profile may not look too demanding, there are plenty of lumps and bumps to make your legs burn at this stage in the ride!
You’re now on the home straight, with the road undulating as you head north towards Dorking through Rusper and Newdigate. Both have village stores for any last-minute provisions, or for a sit-down coffee and cake roll into Tanhouse Farm Shop on the left at 116km. You finally pop back out on the A25 where you started and cruise back down to Dorking station.
What a ride!
67km: If you’re going to ride to Brighton, this is where you should stop! You will find just about anything to satisfy your hunger and thirst, but for the proper seaside feel, maybe go for fish and chips next to the pier?!
70km: Porteur is an excellent spot for coffee, lunch or a snack. They’ve even got a workshop! It’s on Church Road in Hove, shortly after turning off the seafront.
91km: Bolney Wine Estate café is a nice place for a stop, with decent food, coffee, cake and a viewing balcony over the vineyard.
116km: If you’re flagging or just fancy a coffee or snack in the late stages, Tanhouse Farm Shop is just off the route on the left. It’s a nice cycling friendly café with good coffee and cakes.
Take a look at our accommodation suggestions in our ultimate guide to the Surrey Hills for cyclists.
Read our tips for cycling Isle of Wight before you set out. You’re obviously not in the Isle of Wight, but the things to bear in mind are very similar!
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Don’t miss our other ride guides on the Surrey Hills: see the related rides section above and the articles below.
Check out our ultimate guide to cycling Surrey Hills.
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