Central Downs Explorer

From £58.00 inc. VAT

(3 customer reviews)

Ride info

Location: South Downs
Duration: 4-6 hours
Style: Cross-country (XC)
Level: 5

MTB Ride level 5

Bike type

Mountain bike
Electric mountain bike
Gravel bike


31 mi | 50 km


3,900 ft | 1,200 m

Central Downs Explorer

From £58.00 inc. VAT

(3 customer reviews)

Revised route for 2024

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 amid this landscape combines panoramic sea views, challenging climbs and long flat-out descents to 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 West Dean at the charming ‘Selsey Arms’ 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.

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 Selsey Arms.

What to expect

You will need to an active person with regular cycling fitness and experience. You’ll need to be happy with a few big climbs to be able to enjoy this challenging but super-sociable South Downs ride. However,  if you have recently joined us on our other intermediate or advanced rides, then this tour of the central downs will be the perfect next step for you.

In true South Downs style the riding is good old-fashioned cross-country, with long but rewarding climbs and open epic views. The riding is a mixture of stunning doubletrack and singletrack bridleways, including parts of the classic South Downs Way. The terrain is not overly technical, but a couple of the descents do require confident bike-handling techniques. The Marmalade Central Downs Explorer provides an exciting mixture with plenty of fun and a sense of challenge for regular and experienced mountain bikers.

If you are still not sure whether this ride is for you, then please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.

The area and the trails

Our route will find us sometimes amid woodland, but frequently on exposed areas of downland with stunning views. For this reason, bring enough layers to protect you from variable weather conditions, including sunglasses to help you handle the glare from the white chalk trails.

Riding with Marmalade

We pride ourselves on creating the perfect vibe that makes everyone feel comfortable and confident. Combine a super fun and relaxed atmosphere with Marmalade’s expert knowledge and professionalism we will guarantee you the best day out discovering the trails of the South Downs.

Bike choice

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, e-bike or gravel bike. If this ride is right for your level of experience and fitness, then bring your choice of machine. E-bikes, manual mountain bikes and gravel bikes are all welcome, whether you bring your own or hire from our friends at Riverside South Downs. 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 bike of choice is maintained and ready to ride, and please pack a spare mech hanger with your usual trail pack spares. For e-bikes please consider bringing a spare battery or range extender if you feel your power consumption may call for one.

Ride details
  • Duration: 4-6 hours
  • Distance: 31 mi | 50 km
  • Ascent: 3,900 ft | 1,200 m
  • Level: +Intermediate
    (If you have any questions about your level, just contact us)
  • Meet time: 9.30am │ 10.00am on bikes
  • Meet point: Selsey Arms, West Dean, Chichester
What do I need?

Equipment, kit and clothing


  • Suitable mountain bike in good working order (bikes can be hired in advance)
  • Helmet (in good condition, with no damage)
  • Clothing and shoes appropriate for cycling and weather conditions on the day
  • Personal choice of drink and ride snacks


  • Gloves
  • Glasses, sunglasses or eyeshields
  • Backpack
  • Spare inner tube
  • Puncture repair kit and bicycle pump
  • Padded cycling shorts for comfort

What’s not included

  • Bike hire – this can be booked via the ‘Bike Hire‘ section
  • Personal clothing & equipment
  • Overnight accommodation
  • Pre, during or post activity refreshments
  • Personal travel or accident Insurance
Is this for me?
  • To take part, you’ll need to be an active person who has the personal fitness to ride for at least 4 hours at a social and comfortable pace, with breaks
  • You will be confident in mountain bike handling skills and proficient with operating your bicycle in the correct manner
  • The trails do include features such as roots and loose rocks, along with small rollable steps – all of which can be easily ridden or avoided
  • This ride does contain undulating trails – and in places, climbs that may be challenging
  • This ride requires a suitable mountain bike (hybrid and budget bicycles are not suitable)
    • See the ‘Bike Hire‘ section below if you need to hire a bike
  • Riders should be aged 18 and over
  • If this ride sounds a little beyond your current skill and fitness level, please contact us and we’ll help you look at other options
  1. Peter Adams

    Fabulous ride expertly led by Sean. Stunning views, amazing weather and great company.
    I would highly recommend this ride

  2. Your review is awaiting approval

    Great ride lead by the Cookie Monster.
    Set in beautiful countryside with some big climbs and even bigger views. Some fast flowing downhills that just go for ever.
    Although the temperatures were a bit on the high side Paul made up for this with a cheeky ice cream stop at White Ways and ending with a great bit of downhill to the Fox Goes Free pub for post ride drinks. I would highly recommend this ride.
    Thanks Paul and Marmalade.

  3. Dave Collin

    Great ride guided by the Cookie Monster. Although the temperature was a bit on the high side this was a fantastic tour of the area.
    Beautiful countryside with with some big climbs with even bigger views. Paul was superb as always and made my day even better with a cheeky ice cream stop at White Ways and post ride drink at the Fox Goes Free.
    Highly recommend this ride.
    Thanks Marmalade

  4. Your review is awaiting approval

    Great ride led by guide Clive with his local knowledge. This stunning ride had it all, although this is a gravel ride, I did it on mv e-bike Flowing through the beautiful Knepp wildlife reservation and the rolling Sussex vineyards. This offered it all for me with uphills. downhills. single track and of course Gravel. I definitely recommend this and will look forward to doing it again.

  5. Jeff Grimes

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

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Private experience (extra information)

Booking the Central Downs Explorer as a private ride

To enjoy this experience privately with your partner or friends, the base price of £240 is for one to four people. 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 or call on +44 (0)7840 724611.

Need to hire a bike? Then after you have booked your private ride, scroll down or click click here to reserve your bike(s).

Meet point: Once you have booked, we can decide on the best location to start your ride. This will depend on whether you are staying locally and whether or not you require bike hire. If required we can bring the bikes to you.
If you want to discuss this before you book then please send Sean an email or call on +44 (0)7840 724611.

(All prices include VAT)

Bike hire (extra information)

How to book your bike:

  1. From the system below select the dates to match the ride you have booked with us
  2. Select the full day option
  3. Select normal mountain bike or electric mountain bike
  4. Choose the size of bike, based on your height
  5. Go to checkout and complete the bike hire reservation for each rider

These fantastic bikes, and this booking system, are provided by our friends at Riverside South Downs. If you have any questions or problems around booking your bike, just contact the Riverside team and they’ll help.    

Searching Availability…

Choose your option


Choose your option

    Your Basket
    Your basket is emptyReturn to Shop