Head out onto the Downs at the weekend and you will be met by dozens of men and women in lycra battling up Devil’s Dyke and Ditchling Beacon.

At the same time bike shops are recording record profits and the membership of clubs has gone through the roof. BEN JAMES reports on Sussex’s cycling boom.

Just a few years ago cycling was something done by children and lycra-clad enthusiasts.

But now most of us appear to have taken to two wheels either for commuting, a hobby or racing.

Some put it down to the success of the likes of Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome while others say it is due to the spike in fuel prices and lack of parking.

Whatever the reason there is no doubt Sussex, and indeed the country, is enjoying a cycling boom.

One of the main benefactors has been cycling shop owners.

Richard Dowdeswell, store manager at Shoreham’s Cyclelife in Kingston Broadway, said business was “better than ever”.

The 30-year-old added: “We have really felt it over the last three or four years.

“We’ve been here since 1980 and last year we took more money than ever before.

“We were 70% up on the previous year and up 25% on the year before that.

“The main trend has been the increase in sales of top-end road bikes, which can go up to £5,000, and the sale of our electric bikes.

“Events such as the Tour of Britain provide a huge boost. We are a Raleigh supplier and Raleigh has a team at the tour.

“The success of British professional riders has definitely been important but I also think bikes are everywhere these days. In music videos, magazines and adverts. You can’t get away from them – which is great.”

Will Apps, from Rayment Cycles in New England Road, Brighton, said more and more cyclists were visiting his shop to get parts repaired.

He said: “It shows people are using their bikes more often.

“Before they might have just used them at the weekend but now they are using them during the week to commute or just get about as well.”

As well as numerous cycle shops, Brighton has its very own cycling cafe, Velo, which opened in The Levelearlier this year.

As well as a meeting place for local cyclists, it also acts as a base for organised groups.

Such has been its success, there are plans for a second cycling cafe in the city.The success of Olympic road and track cyclists as well as British professional team, Team Sky, has seen many buy their first racing bike.

As a result, Sussex cycling clubs have seen membership numbers go through the roof.

Mike Irons, membership secretary of Worthing Excelsior, said numbers had almost doubled in the last ten years.

He said: “I think the national success has had a lot to do with it.

“However, a lot of our new members have been riding on their own for a long time and suddenly decided that they want to join a club.

“The Sussex countryside is fantastic for cycling and it’s great so many are taking advantage of that.

“We used to have just ten on our Sunday club rides, now we have more than 35. We have to have three separate groups.”

Stephen Baynes, from the Crawley Wheelers, said the club had experienced a similar boom.

He said: “The club has grown three or four times in the last few years, it has been incredible.

“I think the professional success has helped. People see the Olympics and the Tour de France and think ‘yes, that looks like fun’.

“Once they are on the bike they are hooked. There is no better feeling.

“We have about 160-odd members compared to 30 or 40 about five years ago.”

Official figures for the numbers of those choosing to commute by bike make similar reading.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of people commuting in Brighton and Hove has more than doubled between 2001 and 2011 – with 6,600 taking to two wheels.

That increase, which was recorded before the success of the likes Wiggins and Froome, was the biggest percentage increase in the UK outside of London.