A classic charity ride for cyclists of all abilities, the London to Brighton route is a justifiably popular way out of town for any rider. At around 50 miles in length and relatively flat for the most part (until the end) it’s achievable for most riders and offers the reward of views, beaches, ice cream and beers at the end, not to mention a cheap and fast train back to London when you’ve had enough of the aforementioned rewards.
The issue with the ride is that the scenery and riding gets better & better the further you get along the route, only to abruptly end once you get to Brighton when you’re probably in the swing of enjoying the best bit of the day and wanting more.
There’s the inevitable suburban exit from London via the likes of Coulsdon & Merstham before you breach the M25 and find some more enjoyable, quiet country roads. From here, quiet Sussex villages like Turners Hill and Ardingly punctuate the route to Hayward’s Heath and the foot of Ditchling Beacon. Ditchling is a famous, but not fearsome climb. Relatively long, its sweeping bends and not-too-steep gradient provide an enjoyable route up to the top of the ridge of South Downs that separates you from Brighton. After pausing to enjoy the view, you can then descend into Brighton.
Alternatively, you could do what I did last time, and descend back to the foot of Ditchling and head to the west. The B2112 that leads you along the foot of the ridge towards the villages of Clayton, Pyecombe, Fulking & Steyning. This road winds through rolling green countryside and is the scene of probably my most enjoyable couple of hours of solo riding in England, everything just seemed perfect in the warm sun, with no cars around and great views in all directions. There’s also a great climb up from the village of Steyning called Steyning Bostal which offers incredible views in all directions.
From here you can continue all the way back to London for a 110+ mile day out, or equally make use of one of the numerous train stations nearby in the likes of Pulborough, Amberley or Worthing to get back to London.
Edit: In May 2016 I rode back down to Brighton from London. This time I went out of London from Fulham via Wimbledon & Mitcham, and found this to be a great way out of town with a basically identical rest of ride. That can be viewed here:
We also found an excellent post-ride refuel stop called The Hassocks in the small town of Hassocks. The unassuming pub won’t win any Michelin stars but has excellent friendly service, great value basket meals for £5.45 (including Curly Fries) and decent beer as well as a big garden. It’s also 20 yards from Hassocks train station which can get you back to Central London in an hour or so.