Type of ride: MTB
Total distance: 76 miles
Total elevation gain: 4254ft
Recommended bike: Hard tail
Favourite section: Surrey hills
Starting point: Kempton racecourse
Finish: Brighton sea front
“77 miles on a mountain bike? Good luck with that!”. A comment from a friend when trying to round up a few of the lads to take part in the annual British Heart Foundation London to Brighton MTB Ride.
He was right to point out it wasn’t going to be easy but there was plenty of great inspirational comments on the BHF Facebook page and across the web from previous years. I booked the bike in for a service just to be sure equipment failure wasn’t going to be the reason I failed to complete the ride!
Kempton Racecourse Start line
5am on the morning of the ride we loaded the bikes onto the back of the car and headed for the start line at Kempton Park Race Course.
We decided to leave the car at the start line and get a bus back to London after the race, rather than drive to Brighton and have the car at the finish line – in hindsight a school boy error. I’d highly recommend having you’re own transport at the end.
The first part of the ride meanders around the roads of Sunbury-on-Thames and takes you to the Thames where it follows the roads to Bushy Park. At this point the route crosses the Thames, joins the tow path and brings you back towards where you have come from.
You follow the Thames Tow Path all the way to Weybridge. From here you turn south and join the main roads. You follow the B374 all the way down to the roundabout. Take a right turn towards Byfleet. Here the road forks and you want to take the left down High Road. Follow this to Mill Lane and turn left onto Mill Lane.
Getting off road
Join the tow path which goes over a bridge and into Fox Warren Park. There is a good bit of off road riding here and first taste of what’s to come later. Follow the bridle path all the way to the M25 and take the footbridge over the M25 and continue along the bridleway.
The bridleway takes you through Wisley Common, over the A3 and onto Ockham Common. The terrain here is all off road through forests and is much better than the first ten mile section.
Insert a photo here.
Up to this point the route has been pretty tame in terms of climbs. That’s about to change! As you come out of Ockham Common turn right and follow the road. At the junction turn left onto Guileshill Lane.
At the end of the road turn left then almost immediately right looking for the path. Go through the gate and follow the path off road, through Roborow Wood, over the train track and down into East Clandon.
From here you will start to feel the gradient increase. The segment on strava is named as “Riply Road to Fullers Farm Climb 4k”. The 4k part refers to the length of the climb. The elevation gain is around 500ft with an average gradient of 3.5%. This doesn’t sound too bad but it’s twice this steep as go past the half way point.
The path meanders up through the woods and over some tree roots with some tricky technical sections. Your lungs will definitely feel it by the time you reach the top.
Extra 5 mile loop
You will notice on the London to Brighton MTB ride map below there is a funny little section which sticks out right next to Guildford. This is an extra 5 mile loop which during the British Heart Foundation ride you will get the option of whether to take this or not. I would highly recommend taking it as this section was one of the most enjoyable parts of the ride.
This area of woodland in the Surrey Hills has been labelled on Google Maps as “An area of outstanding natural beauty”. The trail takes you down some fast tracks. At the time we completed this MTB ride there was some tree felling and logging activity. We hammered it down the trail, past this logging area where it felt like we were entering some kind of war zone. A smouldering fire was sending smoke across the trail and the boggy ground slowed us down somewhat. It was a great experience.
Coming out of this felled area there is a short climb of around 200ft over over a couple of kilometres before joining the main London to Bright off road course again.
We joined back up with the main trail again to enjoy a steep downhill section down a narrow path with some massive trees in the way. These trees created some interesting natural drop offs. The day of the BHF ride was quite busy which made this a little slow going but if you are riding this in your own time would be a fun section.
Just before you reach the A25 there is little cut through on your left hand side through the hedge. Take this and drop down onto the path below. Take a right hand turn into the tunnel. I fell off here so be careful. You go from bright sunlight into quite a dark tunnel with very large pot holes. I also had dark sunglasses on, so I basically went very fast into a dark tunnel, blind. I don’t believe I’m the only person to fall off here either.
You are now about 32 miles into the ride in a small village called Shere. Perfect time to take in a beer and a spot of lunch in a nice English pub. There are plenty to chose from as well. The Dabbling Duck, White Horse and The William Bray are all about 50 yards from each other.
Refreshed and ready to climb!
Assuming you have rested your legs a little you’ll be well refreshed for the “Winterfold Forest Off Road Climb”! Again it’s not the steepest or the longest climb but it’s most definitely challenging after 30+ miles on the mountain bike!
Ride out of Sheer and down Middle Street onto Sheer Lane. Then there is a right hand turn down Pathfields. Follow this down onto the path where you are straight away into a little intermediate climb. Its surprisingly steep and good warm up to get the legs turning again. At the end of the path turn left out onto little London. Now you are basically going to do a U-turn, out onto Sandy Lane and then almost immediately right.
You ride alongside a train track for a short while before bearing left. Now you can probably see the hill directly in front of you. This is an elevation gain of 360ft over 1.5m with an average gradient of 4.4%. The path takes you up into the woods at the top. Here you will take a turn to the left.
The goods news is that from here there is fast downhill section through a few stunning villages. When it levels out you will soon be joining the north and south downs link path. The bad news is, you still have the biggest climb left to conquer at the end.
The Downs Link
The Downs Link was an old railway line which has now been converted to a long distance bridleway connecting the North Downs Way and the South Downs Way National Trails. It’s all off road, practically dead straight and difficult to go wrong on.
When you get to the trail you will follow it south for around 28 miles all the way to Bramber. At Bramber you will leave the The Downs Link and take a left hand turn at the roundabout. Follow High Street all the way along into Upper Beeding.
The main road out of Upper Beeding is the A2037. Take a look at the map and you will see a trail which branches off the A2037 to the right. This is called “The Bostal” and is the start of a mega difficult climb up Truleigh Hill.
True Truleigh Bonker
This is the name of the segment as labelled on Strava, likely due to the effect it has upon you, especially after 66 miles on a mountain bike.
The first section is half a mile long and 300ft in elevation. Oh and it’s average gradient is 10.5%. Not only that but the terrain is very technical. Rain water has clearly been running off the hill and down this path for many years. This has calved big gullies out and left big rocks scattered about. You pick a route up the path which you think is the best and very soon you run out of room and find yourself having to cross to the otherside, and over a big gully in the process.
66 miles of MTB riding in front of this climb has your legs twitching. You just know cramp is going to kick in at any time. Your lungs are burning. It’s a really tough challenge to get up this without stopping or walking. Don’t let it beat you.
From the bottom right the way up to the top of the hill is just 1.75 miles, 618ft elevation with an average gradient of 6.7%. So you can see how the hill does level out once you get past the first segment.
Below is an image from the top of the top of the hill on the most glorious afternoon in late September.
Fast Downhill Into Shoreham-by-Sea
Now you’ve got a well earned 2 mile downhill blast into Shoreham-by-Sea. Your body is that knackered at this point, my hands were cramping up simply attempting to hold on to the hand bars. My calf muscles and thighs wanted me to sit on the saddle but my head wanted to enjoy the thrill of the fast downhill.
At the finish line in Brighton you can get yourself a well earned pint and some food. This London to Brighton MTB ride is a brilliant experience. Doing it as part of the event with so many other riders is a lot of fun with some great banter on the way round.
We got stuck at the finish line waiting for a bus to take us back to Kempton Racecourse. The bus hadn’t even left London when we were meant to be on the way back. After a couple of pints and bit of a rest the temperature started to drop and it was not a great experience slowly getting colder and colder. However, the bikes do get bubble wrapped and loaded onto the lorry and arrive back in one piece.
Download the London to Brighton MTB ride GPX here.
Download the London to Brighton MTB ride TCX file here.