Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Ride report: Downs Link

Posted by Colin | February 18, 2013 | 11 comments so far

Typical Downs Link riding

There’s plenty of commentary out there about the Downs Link, mostly of a very anorak-ish nature, so let me just start at the end – GO RIDE IT!

My target was simple for my first epic ride in ages – ride 100k. Bramley to Shoreham and back fitted the bill perfectly. The cross bike seemed the ideal weapon and I was right as the trail is 90% off road, gnar-free with long stretches of consistent effort required.

Other than a fairly rude but short-lived climb and descent near Rudgwick, the trail climbs and falls stealthily, allowing you to just get in the zone and focus on whatever you want to. In my case, I always have these great illusions about being able to think and put the world to rights when I’m out for a solo ride, but other than fleeting moments, this doesn’t happen (thankfully) and I end up just clearing my mind and riding – nice.


Despite the foul, hideous, disgusting weather we have endured since forever, the trail was in fantastic shape and a testimony to the foundations (being an old railway line on the whole). It was muddy and wet in places and yes, I did get absolutely caked, but it was only surface mud, if there is such a concept?

The only real blight was a field about 15k from Shoreham that was almost impossible to cross. So bad it was, that my Garmin kept going on ‘Auto Pause’ mode, even though I was still pedalling! Hey, this was a tiny part of the journey so it didn’t ruin my day.

If I remember rightly, Rough Guide have failed to publish a book on Shoreham, so I decided that as soon as I had done 50k on the outbound leg AND had a good view of Lancing Chapel, I would turn around and that’s just what I did, deciding to skip Shoreham’s major tourist attractions and a view of the sea and head back to Southwater for a very late lunch.

Shoreham Somme

By the time I got there, I only had an hour or so of light left and half that again to ride as I had just completely not considered needing lights so this was a lightning stop for some welcome calories and I was quickly on my way, forgetting to resume my Garmin and missing a shade over 4km before I realised.

The last 5k were very dark ones so my pace slowed a bit, which by then was quite welcome and I rolled back into Bramley at 17:45, feeling a real sense of accomplishment, despite the Garmin showing 98.9km, how very annoying.

I can highly recommend this trail to anyone. If you’re training for an epic event or race, its ideal as you can’t train anywhere else I can think of at such a constant and uninterrupted pace (no traffic lights or junctions) or in such pleasant surroundings. However, if you just want an epic ride in as long as it takes, its ideal. There are plenty of bridges, nice views and café’s or pubs en route too.

Unlike some reports I have read, I found the scenery varies plenty, with lots of very long, tunnel-like stretches of trail through the trees but also some lovely open vistas across the Weald and then the South Downs.

Finally, a word of warning. Without exception, every one of the many walkers I encountered was completely oblivious to my bell, diligently fitted and used for the occasion. I shall be dusting off the famous Duck Whistle for my next visit.

If you liked this, you might also find Jez’s experience on the Downs Link interesting.

More of photos are also available on Flickr

Filed under Rides in February 2013


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There are 11 comments on ‘Ride report: Downs Link’

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  1. Lee says:

    Colin, nice write-up and great achievement. I like the Downs Link and looking forward to a few family rides when the kids are older. I attempted to get to Ferring from home via the Link last May and had to be picked up at Southwater suffering from mild hypothermia…roll on summer!

  2. Andrew AKAK says:

    Nice – I fancy a ride to the beach when the bike has summer tyres on!

  3. LordOnOne says:

    I ride on the Downs Link regularly, although I haven’t attempted the double yet. In fact, Thursdays ride went along there from Horsham to Brighton marina. It’s well worth riding but also worth picking somewhen less crowded to do it.

    That short but steep climb heading north out of Rudgwick is a PITA on a singlespeed…nothing stealthy about it!

  4. ajkiwi says:

    I ride the Downs link alot in summer as its good way to rack up the miles. I do a few favourites from home in Dorking often on weekends follow the north downs link all the way to the south downs track and back for a short blast then if i need a long one will hook onto the south downs and head to either eastborne and back or for a real long one head to winchester. The downs link is a good way to get the miles in.

  5. Matt says:

    I quite fancy a ride out on this in a few weeks time. It does sounds nice mind-in-neutral sort of ride.

    Last time I was at Shoreham was riding on the South Downs Way on the day of the Shoreham airshow, getting buzzed by a Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster flying overhead at 50′ !!


  6. stevend says:

    Nice write up Colin, If I lived within bike riding distance of this then I would do it once a month as I love riding old railway routes (ideally with some ST mixed in somewhere). I must try this some time in 2013.

  7. Jez says:

    Ahh happy days. The fatigue, the endless hills, hours of energy gels and torture with only a Subway ‘sandwich’ as reward….

    But enough of the South Downs. The Downs Link is good too. Might have to do it there and back now.

  8. Tony says:

    Nice write up. Barrie and I did a couple of rides from Leatherhead heading out to the Wey Navigation and SDL. I hadn’t considered heading on south to Shoreham but that would be a great little epic ride. Must be approaching 100miles. Hmmmm starts planning…

    That Shoreham SDWIAD stop with the airshow fly past was one of the highlights of last summer. What a memory 🙂

  9. Karl says:

    I’ve walked some of the Downs Link with the family, and in the olden days had several pints at the Thurlow Arms in Rudgwick. (Is it still open)?

    I’d love to do this with the Moles, so count me in when all is decided. 🙂

  10. DaveW says:

    There must be scope for an epic weekend loop here – Amanda/Darren’s training run from Bocketts to Guildford and onto the Downs link – Down to Shorham, picking up the SDW to Winchester on the way back – but how would you get from Winchester back home (without getting the train)?

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