Cycling in Cornwall
Cycling in Cornwall
Many an End-to-Ender has started or finished their personal epic at Land’s End, getting in or out as fast as possible. But the dramatic and thrilling scenery of Cornwall could keep you cycling here all summer, on the tiny rural back roads, the many superb family trails, or the challenging mountain biking courses.
The Camel Trail, a stunning railpath along the estuary from Bodmin to the foodie destination of Padstow, is one of the best rides in Britain for families and dawdlers, while the Clay Trails around St Austell offer five quiet pathways through the beautiful and sometimes bizarre, Mount-Fuji-like landscapes left over from clay mining. The Goss Moor trail, north of St Dennis, has transformed a motorist’s nightmare into a cyclist’s delight: an easy seven-mile loop, mostly offroad, across moorland.
Cornwall is a firmly rural county of hills and valleys – the biggest settlements are Falmouth and the county town, Truro – and those exploring the tiny back lanes will need lower gears than normal for the frequent steep climbs. A route for the adventurous mountain biker is the Bodmin Beast, a seven-mile challenge on the slopes of the Cardinham valley. But one route offering a relatively flat traverse of the county is the Mineral Tramways Trail, an 11-mile coast-to-coast from Portreath to Devoran on old mining tracks that’s fine for families with bike hire at both ends.
Taking your bike on the tiny ferry across Falmouth Bay is a great experience. But 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 one of many unique cycling experiences in this most unique of counties.
Cycling groups and clubs in Cornwall
Cornwall CTC (Liskeard)
Regular rides of all sorts leaving mainly from Liskeard around beautiful Cornwall
Truro CTC (Truro)
Lively broad-based club active in and around Truro with sociable and longer rides
Penzance Wheelers (Penzance)
T&T Cyclists (Penzance)
The Recyclists (Helston)
Penrose Pedallers (Helston)
Falmouth Wheelers (Falmouth)
Rides round the Falmouth area with beginners strongly encouraged
Nijhuis H2OK (Truro)
St Austell Brewery (St Austell)
Local brewery that is keen on cycling
Looe Cycling Club (Looe)
Liskeard Ladies (Liskeard)
Sociable and supportive Saturday morning rides with all welcome, c.20 miles
St Nicolas School (Downderry)
Cornwall MTB Club (Truro)
Sociable MTB rides around the county
Callington Cycles Riders (Callington)
Dept 26 Bude Mountain Bike Riders (Bude)
Truro CC (Truro)
Truro Cycling Campaign (Truro)
RNAF Culd Rose CC
The West Cornwall Women's Cycling Group (Cornwall)
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 ten 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 price of a sandwich, take no 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 cafe 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 wifi signal required, and they’re great for suggesting possibilities or changes of plan.
What have we missed? Let us know your favourite routes by leaving a comment below.
Cycling routes in Cornwall
Camel Trail, Clay Trails, the 180-mile Cornish Way, and maps for exploring off the beaten track
Cycle A-way’s list of maps, routes and resources for Cornwall
Multi-use and Cornish Way Trails