Cycling in Cornwall
Many an end-to-end cyclist has started or finished their personal epic at Land’s End. However, there’s much more to cycling in Cornwall, and the county’s dramatic and thrilling scenery could keep you cycling here all year round.
Tiny rural back roads, superb family trails and challenging off-road tracks give Cornwall a wow factor that’s teamed with glorious views and wildlife both on the coast and further inland.
Cycling UK has worked with Cornwall Council as part of the European Regional Development Fund EXPERIENCE project to create Cornwall cycling hubs in Mount’s Bay (Penzance and Marazion), Bodmin and Helston, with a varied range of cycling routes from each.
Rather than solely highlighting the most popular tourist hotspots, these routes take you along disused railway lines, old mining tracks and quiet lanes to some of the lesser-visited historical and cultural sites across the county.
Cycling UK has also been supporting local businesses such as hotels and cafés to become accredited Cycle Friendly Places, giving you some welcoming options for places to refuel and overnight.
For cyclists looking for the ultimate off-road cycling challenge in Cornwall, the West Kernow Way is truly a bucket list ride. Take on the 143-mile route around the sublime coastline of west Cornwall from Penzance to Land’s End and the Lizard, as well as exploring some of the county’s rich mining heritage further inland around Redruth.
For off-road day routes, check out the 7 mile Bodmin Beast mountain biking trail in Cardinham Woods. For a more serene ride, the Mineral Tramways trails make up a network of 37.5 miles of traffic-free trails, including the 11-mile coast-to-coast route from Portreath to Devoran on old mining tracks.
Other traffic-free trails include the popular Camel Trail, linking Bodmin to Padstow along the Camel Estuary, the relatively undiscovered Par Tram track through the Luxulyan Valley, the moorland circular trail at Goss Moor and the Mount’s Bay cycle route linking Penzance to Marazion along the seawall.
If you’re looking to explore more of Cornwall’s charming lanes and villages, take a look at Jack Thurston’s Promised Land in Cornwall route and former CTC chief executive Gordon Seabright’s Eden Project Classic.
Cornwall’s hills can be challenging, but with so much interest and beauty packed into a relatively small area, you don’t need to go far to have an incredible experience. Amazing foodie stops as well as traditional pasties and cream teas to help keep you going are never far away either.
There are plenty of ferry rides you can take in Cornwall with your bike, such as the Helford and Falmouth ferries, which make for a great experience. Yet perhaps the most memorable ride – or push – is the one across to the island of St Michael’s Mount, outside Penzance, over a cobbled causeway often covered by the tide. It’s just one of many unique cycling experiences in this most unique of counties.
Cycling groups and clubs in Cornwall
One and All Cycling Club
Callington Cycles Riders
Dept 26 Bude Mountain Bike Riders
The Widger Spoke-Easies (Launceston)
What to take with you on your ride
The only thing you really need for cycling is a bike. And maybe a phone and credit card: in Britain you’re only a call away from any service you might need.
But unless money is no object, it’s wise to take a few things with you on a day ride. A saddlebag, panniers or bikepacking bags are best for carrying stuff. A front basket is second best. A rucksack is third best. Your sweaty back will soon tell you why.
Cycling short distances in jeans and T-shirt is fine, but on a long or strenuous ride – over 10 miles say, or in hills – those jeans will rub and the T-shirt will get damp and clingy. Shorts or, yes, Lycra leggings and padded shorts will be much comfier, and merino or polyester cycling tops wick away the sweat, keeping you dry and comfy. (They don’t have to be lurid colours.)
If rain’s in the air, pack a rainproof top. If it might turn chilly, take a fleece or warm top. But the thing you’re most likely to forget is the sunblock.
It’s remarkable how often you enjoy being out on the bike so much that you suddenly realise it’s getting dark. So take lights (which are legally required at night). They’re the price of a sandwich, take up hardly any space, are easy to put on thanks to tool-free plastic clips, and the batteries last for ever.
Take a puncture repair kit (with tyre levers) and pump. Make sure it fits your valves, which will be either ‘Presta’ or ‘Schraeder’ – realising they don’t match is a very common roadside discovery! Carrying a spare inner tube (make sure it matches your tyre size) makes puncture repair much easier: mend the old one back at home. If you do get in trouble, some kindly passing cyclist will probably stop to help.
Using a helmet is a personal choice – they’re not legally required.
Cycling makes you thirsty, so take lots of water. Long-distance riders talk about ‘the bonk’ – a sudden loss of energy rendering you almost stationary. It’s miraculously and instantly cured by eating something sweet. On short rides you’re unlikely to run out of energy, but just in case, take a snack like flapjack, banana, chocolate or jelly babies.
Taking a packed lunch or picnic will save you money, though that hot drink and cake in a cosy café could yet prove very tempting!
Your phone GPS could be invaluable for showing where you are when lost; you can download free detailed UK maps and GPS software before your trip.
Paper maps are still useful, though, so take one: no power source or wi-fi signal required, and they’re great for suggesting possibilities or changes of plan.