Difficulty: 4

MTB Ride Level 4


23 miles

Ride Type

XC / Gravel



3,220 ft

Central Downs Explorer

£48.00 inc. VAT

(1 customer review)

Steeped in Roman history and home to dukes, the middle of the South Downs National Park is blessed with an unrivalled network of fabulous off-road trails that link ancient woodland with the Arun Valley. This brilliant cross-country ride ticks all the boxes: panoramic vistas with sea views, castles, challenging climbs and long flat-out descents!

It’s hard to pick our favourite part of the South Downs National Park, but we love this central area that includes the sprawling estates of Goodwood, Norfolk and Slindon: in our opinion, the best cross-country mountain biking in the UK!

Our ride begins in the quintessential hamlet of Charlton at the amazing ‘Fox Goes Free’ pub. We pick up the West Sussex Literary Trail towards our first amazing descent from Heyshott Down. As we skirt east along the foot of the north face we enter Roman territory at Bignor. From here it’s one of the best descents on the South Downs Way to the foot of the Arun Valley. At Houghton we might stop and enjoy refreshments at a riverside tea room or an 800-year-old pub.

The last leg of this central loop has us riding on the prime, fast-flowing Roman roads of yester-year via the Monarch’s Way, through the ancient woodland of the delightful Slindon estate and on to our final injection of downhill to the front door of the ‘Fox Goes Free’.

A route for regular bikes or e-bikes

This route is a traditional cross-country mountain bike ride. There will be fun bumpy descents, rooty forest trails and wide-open pastures. So a hardtail or short travel full suspension mountain bike would be perfect. Big travel bikes are welcome – just be prepared for some extra effort.

This ride can be enjoyed on a conventional mountain bike or an e-bike. If this ride is right for your level of experience and fitness, then bring your choice of bike! Marmalade rides have a friendly welcoming atmosphere, and e-bike riders who find themselves first up the hill are always patient and understanding of those relying on human-power alone. 

Ensure your e-bike is maintained and ready to ride, and please pack your spare mech hanger with your usual trail pack spares. Consider bringing a spare battery if you feel your power consumption may call for one.

Riding with Marmalade

A vital part of the ride is the special Marmalade MTB ingredient: fun. Marmalade rides and trips are known for their friendly, sociable and welcoming buzz. We ride and we laugh.

Bike hire

Visiting family and friends without your bike? Your own bike not quite right? Or maybe you’d like to treat yourself to an experience on a really nice bike? We have used these excellent hire bike providers, and can recommend them to you:

  • Duration: We have all day, if we need it!
  • Distance: 23 miles (approx.)
  • Elevation gain: 3,220 ft (approx.)
  • Technical Grade: Advanced Novice (But this ride is awesome for all levels)
    (any questions, please contact us)
  • Meet time: 9.30 am | 10.00 am on bikes
  • Meet point: The Fox Goes Free, Charlton, West Sussex
  • Group size: 5-8 (max.)

What’s included

  • Fully guided by a professional MTB leader
  • If you have attended our other rides such as the Devils Punch Bowl, Cheesefoot Head or the Tour de Rings then this ride would be perfect for you
  • You will need reasonable fitness, happy to cycle for around 4 hours, with breaks
  • You will be confident in mountain bike handling skills and proficient with operating your bicycle in the correct manner
  • The trails will include features such as roots, small rollable steps and loose stones. All of which are rollable
  • You have your own suitable mountain bike (Road, hybrid and budget bicycles are not suitable for this ride)
  • The ride does contain a number of undulating and in places challenging climbs
  • Riders must be aged 18 or over unless accompanied by an adult also participating on this ride

If this sounds a little beyond your current skill and fitness level, please contact us for other options

Equipment, kit and clothing

  • Suitable mountain bike in good working order*
  • Helmet*
  • Gloves and glasses
  • Backpack
  • Spare inner tube
  • Puncture repair kit and bicycle pump
  • Clothing & shoes appropriate for cycling and weather conditions on the day
  • Padded cycling shorts for comfort
  • Personal choice of drink and ride snacks

* without these you will not be able to take part in the guided ride Our guides carry an extensive kit to assist with trail-side repairs

(IMPORTANT: your helmet must be within the warranty period from the date of manufacture to take part in any of our guided rides. See the warranties table tab. You will be asked to submit this information via our riders consent form).

What’s not included

  • Bike hire
  • Personal clothing & equipment
  • Overnight accommodation
  • Pre, during or post activity refreshments
  • Transfers to & from location
  • Personal travel/activity Insurance

MTB Helmet Warranties

1 review for Central Downs Explorer

  1. Jeff Grimes

    Beautiful scenery, beautiful weather, beautiful route, beautiful companions, beautiful day…..all expertly led by Paul. Highly recommended

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