Ride local - a south of London adventure

Posted By Gravel Union On 27 February 2020
Event Title:

Ride local - a south of London adventure

Location:

Sussex

Country:

UK

Bike Ridden:

Mason ISO

Tyre Width:

WTB Ranger 29 x 2.4”

When we think about amazing locations to ride your gravel bike, its often exotic, sun-drenched ones that spring to the top of our bucket lists. But what it we told you the riding might be just as good in your back yard, if only you knew where to look? With the ease of access of online route guides, digital mapping and downloadable GPX files you could probably find the trails by yourself, but what about the ‘secret’ riding that only a local guide can show you? We asked Nick Miles from RPM90 to tell us about the riding on his doorstep.

The two counties of East and West Sussex are often thought of as fairly flat south coast regions that sit in some over-populated London commuter territory. Aren’t the only famous ‘challenging’ bike features either the South Downs Way or the infamous ‘Ditchling Beacon’ climb on the annual London to Brighton charity bike ride?

Luckily this preconception isn’t right - there’s some seriously good riding here, but you need some local knowledge to find the best bits. I grew up here and have spent most of my riding life hunting out the interconnecting trails, alleyways, bridlepaths, single track and forest gravel roads and then mentally mapping them all together for the regular rides with friends.
I always love it when a friend rides our Sussex routes for the first time. Quite often they are shocked at how hilly and technical it is, but also amazed at the diversity of the riding and beauty of the area. We’re good to our friends and we always carry some spare energy food as we know how they feel - we have limped home from many an exploration ride having been given a good beating by the local hills and woodland!

For London based riders it’s a quick train ride south from Victoria or London Bridge to Sussex and there are plenty of stations to get off at to connect you with the backcountry. It won’t be long before your off road, away from people and into nature.

Sussex is also a land rich with history. Many of the trails are old Roman roads and downland hilltops have been old Iron Age forts. There’s beautiful old castles and old pubs famous for harbouring smugglers and their contraband. Its proximity to the English Channel means that there’s still plenty of evidence of its importance in offering a defence to the nation during WW2. Old airfield look-out points, secret military bunkers and bomb craters frequent the land. Cal Nicklin, another local rider from nearby Mason Cycles, has uncovered tales from a section of woodland in West Sussex that has a strong connections with ghosts, dragons and highwaymen. He says these woods definitely have an interesting energy to them- we always enjoy a subtle increase in pace through here on a night ride!

The South Downs encompass an area rich with nature and a population with a strong passion for conservation of the land, the sea and the hills. There’s rare wild orchids and butterflies to be seen on the Downs, deer in the Sussex weald and some rare kingfishers in the wetlands. For the gravel biking foodies there’s some amazing local produce to be sampled. There are environmentally conscious farmers producing great Sussex meat and vegetables, there’s award winning cheese makers, village bakers and some excellent breweries to purchase a beer for the evening’s campfire or the train ride back to London.

If you’d like to join Nick, Cal and the rest of the RPM90 team to discover their local trails, check out this link or click here if you’d like them to plan something bespoke for you.

All photos by Further

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