XC / Gravel
Central Downs Explorer
From £48.00 inc. VAT
Scattered with Roman history, medieval castles, winding rivers and beautiful villages, the central area of the South Downs National Park is blessed with an unrivalled network of fabulous off-road trails. A mountain bike ride in this area combines panoramic sea views, challenging climbs and long flat-out descents and charming destinations.
Whether as a custom private experience or as part of a Marmalade open group ride, this guided ride combines the best of West Sussex’s countryside with expert support and assistance from an experienced local guide.
If you need to hire a bike, check availability first using the Bike Hire selector below.
It’s hard to pick our favourite part of the South Downs National Park, but this central area always makes for a fun ride. The sprawling country estates of Goodwood and Slindon, together with the Arundel seat of the Duke of Norfolk, all provide an amazing landscape for an enjoyable off-road cycling experience.
Our open group 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 yesteryear via the Monarch’s Way, through the ancient woodland of the delightful Slindon estate and on to our final downhill to the front door of the ‘Fox Goes Free’.
A route for regular mountain 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 a 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.
- Duration: We have all day, if we need it, but we usually take around 3 to 4 hours.
- Distance: 23 miles / 37 kilometres (approx.)
- Elevation gain: 3,220 ft / 980m (approx.)
- Technical Grade: Advanced Novice (But this ride is awesome for all levels)
(any questions, please contact us)
- Open group meet time: 9.30 am | 10.00 am on bikes
- Open group ride meet point: The Fox Goes Free, Charlton, West Sussex
- Private experience meet point: Riverside South Downs, Houghton Bridge, West Sussex
(this is the location of the bike hire)
- Open group size: 4-8 (max.)
- Fully guided by a professional MTB leader
- If you’ve enjoyed other Marmalade rides like the Devil’s Punch Bowl, Cheesefoot Head or the Tour de Rings then this ride could 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 bike in the correct manner.
- The trails will include features such as roots, small rollable steps and loose stones – all of which are rollable.
- Your bike (whether your own, or hired) must be a suitable quality mountain bike. Road, hybrid and budget bicycles are not suitable for this ride. Gravel bikes may be suitable for skilled riders who are confident in their bike-handling.
- 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, so we can help you choose the right option.
Equipment, kit and clothing
- Suitable mountain bike in good working order*
- Gloves and glasses
- 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
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
Booking this ride as a custom experience
Base price of £240 is for one to four people for this full day ride. Add more riders for a group of five to eight using the ‘Extras’ drop down menu.
If you want a completely bespoke guided ride, then choose the ‘Custom Half or Full Day’ option from the ‘Experiences’ drop down menu.
Still not sure what experience is for you or have a question? Then please send Sean an email here.
Need to hire a bike? Then after you have booked your guided ride, scroll down or click here to reserve your bike with our friends at Riverside South Downs.
(All prices include VAT)
Bike hire selection
- From the system below choose the date to match our open group or your custom ride
- We recommend the ‘full day’ option as a minimum
- Select normal mountain bike or electric mountain bike
- Choose the size of bike, based on your height
- Go to checkout and complete the bike hire reservation
- Book your place on the open group ride from the ‘Group ride dates‘ drop down menu above
The bike hire system below can sometimes have a delay before it has fully loaded. If it fails to show, then visit Riverside South Downs direct to reserve your bike. Then return to this page to confirm your place on our guided ride.
(** Marmalade MTB is not responsible for the provision of these bikes. By using the system below you are booking direct with Riverside South Downs)