Cycling in West Sussex
Sunny West Sussex has plenty of countryside to cycle around, and is traversed by the 100-mile South Downs way, a very scenic mountain biker’s challenge best done over three or even four days. It’s linked to the North Downs Way by the Downs Link, another off-road route of 37 scenic miles.
Worthing seafront has a fine promenade cycle route (part of NCN2) good for children and families. Between Crawley and East Grinstead, in the north of the county, the Worth Way runs 7 miles along a railpath – it’s good for families, too, though not so good for delicate road bikes. The 5-mile Centurion Way is another car-free railtrail option, north from Chichester to West Dean.
Gatwick Airport is a more convenient option than Heathrow for those flying with their bikes: there are plenty of trains, and a marked cycle route from London (NCN20 and 21, some bumpy off-road sections though).
West Sussex has plenty of delightful villages for the tourer to explore – Alfriston, Amberley, Arundel, to cover just the As – and Chichester, with its cathedral and historic centre, has some decent bike options. The Salterns Way runs from it 12 miles along paths, quiet roads and lanes to the sand dunes of East Head. Fishbourne, on Chichester’s western edge, has a Roman palace.
A curious wet-road cycling experience for the mildly adventurous is at Bosham Harbour, west of Chichester (just off NCN2). High tides regularly flood the bayfront lanes; you can bike around – at a judicious distance – and watch the waves steadily defeat part of the town, as they defeated Canute.
Cycling groups and clubs in West Sussex
Bognor Regis and Chichester Group (Bognor, Chichester)
Long rides every Sunday, shorter rides midweek
West Sussex (West Sussex)
Comprises Arun Adur, Bognor and Horsham groups
Horsham MTB Club (Horsham)
Weekly off-road explorations of West Sussex
Midhurst Cycling Club (Midhurst)
Like Your Bike BUG (Chichester)
Moulton Bicycle Club (Chichester)
Club for those who use and love Moultons. Annual event in Bradford, Wilts
George Ide LLP Solicitors (Chichester)
Arundel Agenda 21 (Arundel)
Sustainability campaign group advocating cycle use
Bognor Regis CC (Bognor)
Full calendar of Sunday runs, sportives, time trials and more
Arun Adur Group (Worthing)
Horsham Cycling Club (Horsham)
Welcomes all riders from leisure to competitive racers
East Grinstead Cycling Club (East Grinstead)
Worthing Excelsior CC (Worthing)
Rides and many other bike activities in and around Worthing
Crawley Wheelers (Crawley)
Weekend rides around the South East for all abilities
Tea Brakes (Shoreham)
Emsworth Community Cycle Club (Emsworth)
Proper Cycling Riders (Hassocks)
Forest Row Bike Club (Forest Row)
Wheels for Wellbeing Crawley (Crawley)
Horsham and Crawley CTC Member Group (Horsham and Crawley)
Chichester West Gate Triathlon Club (Chichester)
Action for A-T (West Sussex)
Ditcham Cycling Club (Ditcham)
Hammer Bottoms Cycling Group (West Sussex)
What to take with you on your ride
The only thing you really need for cycling is a bike. And maybe a phone, and credit card: in Britain you’re only a call away from any service you might need.
But unless money is no object, it’s wise to take a few things with you on a day ride. A saddlebag, panniers or bikepacking bags are best for carrying stuff. A front basket is second best. A rucksack is third best. Your sweaty back will soon tell you why.
Cycling short distances in jeans and t-shirt is fine, but on a long or strenuous ride – over ten miles say, or in hills – those jeans will rub and the t-shirt will get damp and clingy. Shorts or, yes, lycra leggings and padded shorts will be much comfier, and merino or polyester cycling tops wick away the sweat, keeping you dry and comfy. (They don’t have to be lurid colours.)
If rain’s in the air, pack a rainproof top. If it might turn chilly, take a fleece or warm top. But the thing you’re most likely to forget is the sunblock.
It’s remarkable how often you enjoy being out on the bike so much that you suddenly realise it’s getting dark. So take lights (which are legally required at night). They’re price of a sandwich, take no space, are easy to put on thanks to tool-free plastic clips, and the batteries last for ever.
Take a puncture repair kit (with tyre levers) and pump. Make sure it fits your valves, which will be either ‘Presta’ or ‘Schraeder’ – realising they don’t match is a very common roadside discovery! Carrying a spare inner tube (make sure it matches your tyre size) makes puncture repair much easier: mend the old one back at home. If you do get in trouble, some kindly passing cyclist will probably stop to help.
Using a helmet is a personal choice – they’re not legally required.
Cycling makes you thirsty, so take lots of water. Long-distance riders talk about ‘the bonk’ – a sudden loss of energy rendering you almost stationary. It’s miraculously and instantly cured by eating something sweet. On short rides you’re unlikely to run out of energy, but just in case, take a snack like flapjack, banana, chocolate or jelly babies.
Taking a packed lunch or picnic will save you money, though that hot drink and cake in a cosy cafe could yet prove very tempting!
Your phone GPS could be invaluable for showing where you are when lost; you can download free detailed UK maps and GPS software before your trip.
Paper maps are still useful, though, so take one: no power source or wifi signal required, and they’re great for suggesting possibilities or changes of plan.