Cyclescheme is the UK's most popular cycle to work benefit, creating more cyclists than any other provider.

Socially progressive and governed by the Greens, the East Sussex city ought to be fertile ground for a transport cycling revolution

Brighton and Hove is a vibrant contrast to those English seaside towns with ageing populations and empty high streets. The East Sussex city – a status granted by the Queen for the Millennium – has been a bohemian retreat ever since the Prince Regent settled here in the early 1800s and built the eye-popping Royal Pavilion, with its Indian-inspired domes and minarets. Today there are enough residents who have swapped life in the capital for one on the coast that Brighton’s nickname is London-by-the-Sea.

Royal Pavilion - Brighton by Steve Slater

Royal Pavilion - Brighton by Steve Slater

Although it is less than an hour from London by train, Brighton and Hove is no dormitory town. The seaside tourism that spurred its 19th-century growth and created Regency streets and Victorian landmarks like the Grand Hotel and the Palace and West Piers still exists. There are big businesses in Brighton, such as American Express, whose European HQ is here, and Lloyds Bank and Legal & General. Conferences come here. A good proportion of Gatwick Airport’s employees live in the city.

Brighton and Hove never really had heavy industry to lose, so it avoided the post-war decline of many UK cities. Its middle-class gentrification and hipster overtones may frustrate or bemuse lifelong Brightonians but perhaps explain why it’s a welcoming and inclusive city. Ten per cent of the inhabitants identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Parliament’s first and so far only Green MP, Caroline Lucas, was elected in Brighton and Hove, and the Greens run the city council as a minority administration.

Given the Green Party’s presence, you might expect utopian cycling conditions in Brighton and Hove. Not so – at least, not yet. Cycling numbers are reasonably healthy, and you’ll certainly see more e-cargo bikes than in most cities, but this is likely due to demographics more than infrastructure.

The best type of bike for cycling in Brighton & Hove

As a coastal city in southern England, Brighton and Hove is mild even by the standards of the UK. You can expect rain year round but seldom snow. Any practical hybrid with mudguards will work fine as an urban runaround. While the city itself isn’t particularly lumpy it sits below the chalk hills of the South Downs, which are. So you’ll want a wide gear for recreational riding, and maybe electric assistance.

As there are a lot of bridleways accessible from Brighton and Hove, and as some Sustrans routes are partially unsurfaced, it’s worth having a bike with some off-road capability. If you’ll have more than one bike, a hardtail mountain bike might be bike number two. If you’ll have just one, an all-roads tourer or gravel bike that can tackle both tarmac and (easy) trails will give you more freedom.

The Giant Toughroad SLR 2 (RRP £1,299) is described as an adventure bike. It’s a relatively lightweight hybrid with chunky (50mm wide) 29er tyres, and fittings for mudguards and pannier racks. So you could use it for commuting or shopping during the week, then for riding tracks like the South Downs Way (see below) at the weekend.

Giant Toughroad

Giant Toughroad SLR 2


The new Islabikes Luath (RRP £999.99) is a do-it-all gravel bike that’s specifically designed for cyclists who are shorter than the average man – which is to say, most women and some men. With shorter cranks, a narrower handlebar, short reach levers, and carefully considered frame geometry, the three size options will fit riders from about 4ft 11 into 5ft 9in. All of them will take mudguards and a rear rack.

Islabikes Luath

Islabikes Luath


Brighton & Hove’s transport network

There’s some good, largely traffic-free cycling on the seafront (NCN 2) but provision is patchier inland. Brighton and Hove’s online cycle map is a familiar infrastructure picture: a mix of quieter streets, on-road cycle lanes, and some segregated paths here and there. The map itself isn’t particularly user-friendly so it’s worth using an alternative such as Citymapper or for navigation; either will provide on-the-go directions if you download the associated app.

 Brighton and Hove have offered cycle training for adults in the past. That’s been suspended at the time of writing but will presumably restart. The city’s bike hire scheme shut down in 2022 but reopened with a new provider, Beryl, in the spring of 2023. Both ordinary bikes and e-bikes are available for hire.

Rail services are run by Govia Thameslink Railway and its subsidiaries, Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express. Although the network gives good access to towns and cities across the south of England, including London, cycle carriage is poor. You pretty much just turn up and hope for the best. None of the operators carries bikes on peak hour services to and from London, apart from folders. Outside of those times, you’re told opaquely that some bikes (the number isn’t specified) are carried on “many of our trains” and that you can “usually bring a bike on board if there is space”. In short: buy a folding bike if you plan regular bike-rail journeys from Brighton and Hove.

Brighton & Hove Bus Company runs most bus services in the area. Don’t expect to get aboard with anything other than a bagged folder. Spirit of Sussex coaches are an exception and will carry bikes in the hold in a box or case, subject to space being available.

Local rides in Brighton & Hove 

For a family ride, it’s hard to beat the Cuckoo Trail, an 11-mile rail trail between Heathfield and Polegate. It’s flat, well-surfaced and almost entirely traffic free. Along the way, there are sculptures to look out for and wildlife such as woodpeckers to listen to and, hopefully, spot.


There’s also the Downs Link, which runs for 34 miles between Shoreham-by-Sea and Guildford. It also follows an old railway so is flat and mostly traffic free. It’s largely unsurfaced but firm enough for hybrids, touring bikes, and gravel bikes, not just mountain bikes. There are plenty of places to stop off en route. Southwater Country Park (17 miles from Shoreham) would be a good destination with children.


Unless you hug the coast, any road rides from Brighton and Hove will involve the chalk hills of the South Downs. The payoff is that you’ll always have a downhill to finish. The Living Coast by Bike website has a handful of local routes to try. If you want to ride further afield, Komoot has some good suggestions. There are plenty of "">local cycling clubs to ride with, too.


South Downs Way

South Downs Way by Mark

For mountain biking, the nearest trail centre is Friston Forest, 17 miles away. It has two waymarked trails, a 4-mile blue route and a 5.5-mile red-graded singletrack route. Closer to Brighton and Hove, there are some unofficial (and thus not waymarked) trails in Stanmer Park. Yet what the city lacks in bespoke trails, it more than makes up for in access to ‘natural’ trails: bridleways crisscrossing the Downs. The most notable of these is the 100-mile South Downs Way from Winchester to nearby Eastbourne, which passes right by Brighton and Hove.

Bike shops in Brighton & Hove

Brighton and Hove has a dozen Cyclescheme-registered bike shops, with more nearby. Here are three of those that are highly rated by Cyclescheme customers.

Baker St Bikes is an independent shop in the heart of Brighton. It’s open seven days a week and sells the following bike brands: Airnimal, Brompton, Genesis, Orro, Ridgeback, and Trek. Customer comment: “The Baker Street Bikes staff know what they talking about and listen to requirements and do not try to sell you the most expensive bike!”

Rayment Cycles has been trading since the 1970s, making it the oldest bike shop in the Brighton area. Bike brands sold include Specialized and Commencal. Customer comment: “Great shop and staff, was able to road test a couple of bikes before I made my decision too.”

elctrc is the biggest electric bike specialist in Brighton and Hove, and one of the few in the UK to have “Bosch eBike Expert” accreditation. The shop’s brands include Gocycle, Haibike, Raleigh, Riese & Müller and Tern. Customer comment: “Team were lovely and helpful, bike is great.”


Keeping your bike secure in Brighton & Hove

Brighton and Hove really is London-by-the-Sea in one important respect: bike theft. It’s in the top 20% worst places in England and Wales by postcode area for stolen bikes, behind various parts of London and hotspots like Oxford and Cambridge. As ever, city centre areas are the riskiest places to leave your bike.

Always lock your bike whenever you turn your back on it, ideally with a Sold Secure Gold or Diamond-rated lock. Lock the bike through the frame to a sturdy piece of street furniture or a dedicated cycle stand. If you have a high-value bike or will be leaving it locked up for an extended period – for example, overnight – use two locks.

The vast majority of bike thefts take place not on the street but in ‘semi-private’ locations at home. That means on your property but not in the house – for example, a garage, shed or garden. Lock your bike to a wall or ground anchor if it will be in one of those locations. Alternatively, park it indoors.