Level: 7

MTB Ride level 7


34 miles

Ride Type




4,100 ft

East Sussex Explorer

From £48.00 inc. VAT

(4 customer reviews)

We have carefully crafted this epic day out on the eastern flanks of the national park to combine the very best bridleways and stunning views into 35 miles of prime off-road biking.

Whether as a custom private experience or as part of a Marmalade open group ride, this classic cross-country route combines the best of East 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.

Choose between:

The eastern side of the South Downs National Park offers so much. Marmalade’s unrivalled knowledge of the bridleway network that festoons this whole area has created a simply amazing day out. We start and finish in the beautiful village of Alfriston, before exploring the cliff-side trails down to Birling Gap, the fast-rolling descents of the South Downs Way and the jaw-dropping views from Firle Beacon.

Since the start we have been committed to use this expertise to create an extensive portfolio of South East MTB events, with these guided rides on the South Downs for experienced and regular mountain bikers central to this. Therefore, why not join us to discover 55kms of epic cross-country riding on our East Sussex Explorer?

What to expect

You will need to an active person with regular cycling fitness and big climbs in your legs to be able to enjoy this challenging but super-sociable South Downs ride designed for experience riders. However,  if you have recently joined us on our other intermediate or advanced rides, then this epic tour of East Sussex will be the perfect next step for you.

In true South Downs style the riding is good old-fashion 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 East Sussex 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, so we can help you decide.

The area and the trails

This eastern part of the South Downs offers an amazing network of bridleway trails that link seamlessly together to explore this stunning and ancient part of the South East. The majority of this ride handles the variety of weather very well but in places is exposed and therefore we would recommend packing an additional layer and your shades, when the sun is out and gleaming off the English Channel and the chalk.

Riding with Marmalade

We pride ourselves on creating the perfect vibe that makes everyone feel comfortable and confident to maximise your enjoyment during our guided South Downs rides. Combine this super fun and relaxed atmosphere with our expert knowledge and professionalism we will guarantee you the best day out on your bike to discover the trails of the South Downs National Park.

Mountain bike hire

Your bike not quite right? Visiting family and friends without your bike? Or simply you want to give this ride a go, but do not own a mountain bike? Then visit our friends at Cuckmere Cycle Company to hire a standard or electric mountain bike to join this guided ride.

  • Duration: We have all day, if we need it!
  • Distance: 34 miles (approx.)
  • Elevation gain: 4,100 ft (approx.)
  • Technical Grade: +Intermediate
    (any questions, please contact us)
  • Meet time: 9.00 am | 9.30 am on bikes
  • Meet point: The Willows, Public Car Park, Alfriston
  • Group size: 5-8 (max.)
  • This ride is aimed at regular bikers with a good level of fitness and who like cross-country (XC) style mountain biking
  • If you have attended our other rides such as the Goodwood and Kingley Vale, Tour de Rings or the Devils Punch Bowl then this ride would be perfect for you
  • Or you are a regular cyclist looking for a challenging, rewarding and sociable guided mountain bike ride
  • You are an active person who has the personal fitness to ride for at least 5-7 hours at a social and comfortable pace with regular breaks
  • You will be confident in basic bike handling skills and proficient with operating your bicycle in the correct manner
  • The trails will include features such as roots and small loose rocks, along with small rollable slopes. All of which are rollable or can be ridden around
  • All the trails will have options to ride around features that you do not feel comfortable riding
  • You have your own suitable mountain bike (Hybrid and budget bicycles are not suitable for this ride)
  • For bike hire, visit our friends at Cuckmere Cycle Company
  • The ride does contain a number of undulating and in places challenging climbs
  • You are aged 18 and 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

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

The base price is for one person. Add more riders 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 Mark and 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 Cuckmere Cycle Co.

(All prices include VAT)

Bike hire selection

  1. From the system below choose the date and time to match our open group or your custom ride (e.g. 6 May 2023 & 9 am)
  2. We recommend the full day option for this ride
  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
  6. Book your place on the open group ride from the ‘Open group dates‘ drop down menu above

Please Note:
The bike hire system below can sometimes have a delay before it has fully loaded. If it fails to show, then visit Cuckmere Cycle Company 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 Cuckmere Cycle Company)

4 reviews for East Sussex Explorer

  1. Richard Mason

    This was a brilliant day out in (my view) the most beautiful part of the South Downs. The scenery was stunning and Mark was an excellent guide, both from getting us safely round the route and giving some really good local background and history. Thoroughly recommended.

  2. Julian

    This is such a great way to explore the eastern part the South Downs. Highly recommended. I am fairly local to the area and have often looked up at the hills from the road and thought I must explore! There are so many paths and bridleways, if I had attempted to explore the area on my own I would surely have lost my bearings and either got lost or given up, so this is a great idea. It made for a really enjoyable day being in the hands of Mark of Marmalade, who knows the area so well. He was a great guide and took us to some really lovely spots with spectacular views of the area and was able to point out landmarks and explain some of the history of the area along the way. Really enjoyed heading through parts of Friston Forest. We had a good break for lunch in the picturesque village of East Dean, before heading onto Birling Gap and then back up and over for the route back to Alfriston.
    I have only recently started getting back into riding my bike so I am still not as strong as I could be. There are some long climbs in places which were quite hard for my little legs, especially toward the end, but there was no pressure to keep up and always given time to recover at the top. Lots of encouragement too! At the beginning of different sections, Mark would describe any little technicalities to watch out for in preparation. He had also ridden the route the day before just to know of any changes to conditions, so you’re most certainly in safe hands. When you go up, you know you will be coming down at some point. The descents are always the best part and well deserved after the climbs so it was even better to finish on a nice long one. A great climax! Thanks for a lovely day Marmalade! I am looking forward to some more cycling adventures and learned a lot about bikes and equipment from Mark and the friendly group I was with. An inspiration for more adventure for sure! A great opportunity to share knowledge, stories and a cold beer at the end. Thanks again.

  3. Andy Leader

    Just ridden the challenging but enjoyable East Sussex Explorer with Marmalade MTB. The ride starts at the very picturesque village of Alfriston and certainly does explore the eastern South Downs taking in Firle Beacon, Friston Forest, East Dean, Birling Gap and the South Downs Way. There were spectacular views throughout and the weather was kind to us. We were a small sociable group excellently led by Mark with his great local knowledge. There is such a vast network of bridleways and trails in this area and exploring it with a guide is a great option, plus help is on hand to assist any bike issues not to mention the social aspect of riding in a group. You do need to have a decent fitness level to enjoy this ride but the sociable and encouraging format of Marmalade rides means that you can go at your own pace. There were some tough climbs but to complement some nice descents. Nothing super technical but fun and fast as you wanted it to be. I really enjoyed the day which was concluded with a well-earned drink at the historic George Inn in Alfriston. Thank-you Marmalade for a great day. I would definitely recommend this ride if you like epic cross-country. I am now looking forward to my next Marmalade adventure in a few weeks’ time.

  4. d3overland

    Just ridden the East Sussex Explorer this May Bank Holiday, did not know quite what to expect as it was a last-minute decision after original plans where scrapped due to continuing Covid restrictions. I’ve always looked at maps and trails of the South Downs and thought there is an opportunity of getting extremely lost and so when the post on FB popped up it seemed a no brainer to go on a guided tour! The “undulating” terrain as often referred to by Sean our guide, was in places a bit tough for my old legs but everyone was encouraging, and the pace was never too fast and allowed for some great chances to enjoy the scenery from up on top of the downs. Being able to cover such a large area in one day and a mixture of trails and tracks (and some rain) made for a good mix of riding. If like me you are a bit doubtful about doing a group ride like this and that it will be full of “young people” then do not be, I am 56 this week and I am sure that I was beaten on the age front this weekend. Did I learn anything from the day? Yes, I did, the need to get a bit fitter and to hone technique but above all having a great guide(s) that were non-judgemental made for a “grand day out” So thanks to Sean and Bex from Marmalade and to all the other riders on the day. I will be looking forward to expanding my knowledge of the South East on future trips.

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