Monday 14 May 2018

5 Great Places to Mountain Bike as a Family in Sussex

mountain bike header
Image thanks to Jonty Wilde

Mountain Biking can be an immense amount of fun and it is a superb way to get or stay fit. My husband loves to go out with our kids for bike rides and I admit that I'm tempted to join them. It's therefore perfect that Halfords have created a comprehensive but super easy to navigate Beginners guide to Mountain Biking and now I can get myself kitted out and on the tracks with them.

Getting Kitted Out
Of course as a newbie I need to head off to my nearest Halfords to check out what mountain bike will suit me. There really isn't a standard bike that fits everyone, so you do need to go in and try them out. All our family's bikes have been bought from Halfords and we've found their staff to be knowledgeable and helpful. I also like the fact you can take your bike back in for a six week check after purchase and if anything needs adjusting they do this free of charge for you.

Once I've sorted the bike then I need to ensure I have the proper kit to wear as nothing is more important that personal safety. A well-fitting helmet is a must, comfortable trainers that are not too hard, gloves to help with my grip and some anti-glare sunglasses will be my first purchases.

Learning the Skills
Let's be honest I don't expect to be massively good or adventurous at MTB any time soon. I realise I need to learn the basics and to have good body positioning and confidence to ensure a fun and safe ride but I'll leave all the super speed and tricks to my kids! Have a look at this short video with MTB Coach Sam Fowler as it is really informative -

Where to go?
I have a friend Jonty who is a biking pro, he'd tell you that all his friends are more skilled and that he's slowed down due to some injuries but this is a man who travels the world to find the best trails and to enjoy mountain biking. Below is him riding in Spain. Now as a new biker I'm not quite ready to tackle what Jonty does but I want to share with you some of my families favourite places to go mountain bike riding in East and West Sussex, here in the South of England.

man on a mountain bike
Image thanks to Jonty Wilde

1.  The Cuckoo Trail - East Sussex (No cost)
This 14 mile surfaces trail is perfect for a newbie like me. It runs along the old Cuckoo train line and has everything you need for a fun family time out. There is plenty of countryside to admire, wildflower beds, picnic benches and sculptures. Its the perfect place for me to build my stamina and skills generally, ready for a more adventurous ride.

There isn't any cafes or toilets actually on the trail but it goes close to many towns and it is easy to locate the facilities you need. There is car parking: at Heathfield, Horam, Hellingly, Hailsham, Polegate and Hampden Park, Eastbourne.

2. Bedgebury - Kent (Cost: from £10 - £13 for a car depending on the time of year)
OK Bedgebury Pinetum is officially in Kent but its right on the cusp of East Sussex and was just too good to miss out. This Forestry commission site is over 2000 acres and some something for every cyclist. There is a 4 km and a 9km family cycle route and also a 13km singletrack mountain bike red route that has everything any adrenaline junkie could want including challenging climbs, tricky decents, berms, drop-offs and large rocks. (and if you're new to the sport like me check out the Halfords guide for what the colour routes mean and also for a glossary to the language of MTB).

Bedgebury also has a super restaurant and cafe, lake walk, Go Ape and loads of children's play opportunities, so it really is a full day out for the family.

children at bedgebury

3.  Deers Leap Park - West Sussex (£5 entry fee each)
Deers Leap Park is 240 acres of mountain bike trails. Their main one is around three miles and is suitable for all the family. For the more adventurous there are plenty of smaller trails in the wooded areas and for the kids there is an awesome skills area, where they can join the instructors and practise going over contours, taking bends and making jumps.

As well as ‘Skills Tracks’, ‘Pump Tracks’ and general skills areas, there are areas of wooden bike track and bridges which are generically known in mountain biking as ‘North Shore' and are a lot of fun.

You can enjoy a coffee, walk the lake area, go pond dipping, use the outdoor exercise equipment an see the wildlife too whilst at Deers Leap Park.

4.  Rogate Downhill Bike Park - West Sussex (£5 entry fee each or memberships available)
Rogate Downhill caters for a large range of riders from beginners to the more advanced rider with 8+ tracks full of berms, doubles, tables and drops. The site is also host to several British Cycling sanctioned races held through out the year by both the Rogate Downhill Committee and the Gravity Project. Just watching some of the skilled riders as they navigate the tougher trails at Rogate is an amazing sight in itself.

The park has also been closed just recently as they have been improving and remodelling some of the areas

south downs way at seven sisters

5.  South Downs Way - All through Sussex (No cost)
The South Downs Way is a 100 mile path from Eastbourne to Winchester. There are so many different parts you can cycle that you'd never get bored. Plan an epic journey and do the whole thing with some stops a log he way or just tackle a part of it. There is every kind of terrain possible as you go along the trail making it fun for everyone.

One of our favourite parts to explore is the Seven Sisters near Beachy Head, Eastbourne. Due to the massive ups and downs of the hills this won't be for the new cyclist like me but if you've been at it a few years and have the stamina then where else will you get views like this as you cycle by?

As you can imagine with 100 miles there are so many places to park, stop and take comfort breaks, so check out the full information, including suggested cycle routes on the South Downs site.

I hope you like our ideas for great places to go mountain biking. If you are in our local area do check one or more of them out as they are all really worth a visit.

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mountain bike pin

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