Brighton has long been a mecca for tourists visiting the UK. But what about the road cycling around Brighton? Is it worth checking out?
We caught up with local cyclist Dan Pullen, and picked his brains on the best Brighton cycle routes and places to drink coffee. Below you'll find the best cycling climbs in the Brighton area, a link to Dan's favourite ride and much more. Enjoy!
Part 1: Riding in your area
1. Where are you based and why should we visit?
Brighton, in Sussex in the south of England.
Brighton is famous for its beach, pier, nightlife and gay scene. It's less well known for the incredible road cycling from its doorstep, though the annual London to Brighton bike ride has put it on the map for those in the know. Brighton is a short train ride out of London and getting off the train with your bike here feels a million miles away from the big smoke. Cyclists should come to Brighton because the riding is fantastic and, once you've exhausted yourself in the hills, you've got the whole of Brighton to explore.
Map showing Brighton, Ditchling Beacon, Devil's Dyke and Kidd's Hill
2. What's the most famous climb/cycle route in the brighton area? What's it like?
There are quite a few: the riding around Sussex is generally spot on!
I guess the two most famous climbs are Devils Dyke and Ditching Beacon.
The Dyke has several different ways up but all take you to a high point that offers incredible views over Sussex, Brighton and the ocean! You can see the South Downs Way for miles to both the East and West. Stunning. And it's very tough too, especially if done as part of a big ride.
The Beacon is slightly further east from the Dyke and offers a great challenge. You have a straight flat run in from Ditchling and then it heads straight up for a mile at around 9% average with a few spikes. It twists and turns as it goes and for the most part, the view is obscured by trees and steep rocky chutes. It seems to go on and on, and no matter how many times you do it, it always catches you out. You think you're approaching the last corner finally but then you see it continuing on! Very cruel. The best part of the climb is seeing the triangular horse warning sign once you round the final bend. From then you have one final hard push up and over the top and once there, you're rewarded with wonderful 360 degree views.
However there are also loads of opportunities to get right off the beaten track, and the countryside is truly stunning. There are certainly plenty of hills to challenge yourself on. One of my favourites is Kidds Hill (aka The Wall). It’s a mile long. Dead straight with overhanging trees on both sides making it look like a tunnel. It averages 9% but there are sections of up to 14%. It’s lovely and quiet. Plus, once at the top you're right in the heart of Ashdown Forest and have a number of brilliant descents to enjoy. If you're a speed demon then going down Kidds Hill is about as fast as you can go on a bike and you're held back only by your nerve/stupidity!
3. What's your favourite climb/cycle route from brighton - and why?
They all have their own character, but I particularly like the Strava segment called Devils Dyke Proper which is a three kilometre test with some really juicy elevation spikes!
Alternatively, this is a great Strava route that showcases some of the best of Sussex.
4. What are your best tips for someone cycling in Brighton (and Sussex) for the first time?
Don’t be afraid to explore! So many people ride straight down the main road to Ditchling, up over Ditchling Beacon and into Brighton, but there are so many brilliant small roads in the area that do a similar job, just without the cars and people. The Strava route above for example!
If you do want to tackle Ditchling Beacon, unfortunately there’s only one road over it so it's best done early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Definitely not at rush hour during the week, and best avoided on Bank Holidays due to the high volume of traffic.
Finally, I'd suggest cyclists in the area carry two tubes. We have a lot of flint on our roads!
5. Are there any really good café stops in the area?
Yes, lots. There's a local importer and roaster based in Lindfield, West Sussex called Lindfield Coffee Works. It’s an excellent place to stop on the way down to Brighton or on the return.
We also love Stan’s Bike Shack in Partridge Green, Proper Cycling in Hassocks.
6. Is there anything that we shouldn't miss?
Don't miss cycling around the Ashdown Forest - it's absolutely stunning. You really need to come and explore. It was originally a deer hunting forest in Norman times and is now one of the largest free public access space in the South East.
The Forest is at the heart of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has national and international protection because of its wildlife. Nearly two thirds of its 6,500 acres (2,500 hectares) are heathland, amounting to 2.5% of the UK's extent of this rare habitat.
It's a great place for cycling and for enjoying spectacular views over the Sussex countryside. It's also known the world over as the 'home' of Winnie-the-Pooh!
And of course Brighton itself has so much to offer on every level. Beach, food, bars, coffee, great shopping in The Lanes which is full of quirky shops selling all sorts of things. It’s endless. A great place to spend the weekend.
7. What's the best village/town/city for us to stay in to explore the area?
Other than Brighton, perhaps check out Lewes, Ditchling and Forest Row.
8. What's the best time of year to visit?
Anytime! Rule #5 right?
For more detailed advice on the best time to visit, check out the "when to visit" section of our ultimate guide to cycling the Surrey Hills, here.
Part 2: Your shop
9. Why should people visit your bike shop?
[Update 2019: N+1 bike shop is sadly no longer open]
We are an awesome little café and workshop right in Brighton station. The café serves amazing single origin espresso based drinks, specialty teas, cold drinks, gluten and dairy free cakes, pastries, energy bars, recovery drinks and more. We can cater for large groups on arrangement by preparing lunch for you mid ride. We have a large outside seating area with benches and deck chairs and, of course, secure bike storage for up to 500 bikes (in the cycle hub)!
Aside from that we are a bike service centre, repair centre and can provide all the parts and accessories you could ever need.
We host regular ride outs for all levels of rider and even have our own race development team, lindfieldcoffee.team.
10. Where can people find you?
[Update 2019: N+1 bike shop is sadly no longer open]
N+1 Bike Shop & Cafe, The Cycle Hub, 109 Stroudley Road, Brighton BN1 4DJ
(A sneak peak at three of the toughest hills)
cycling Box Hill, Leith Hill and friends