25/04/2017 12:35:48

Words by Ian Jeremiah

White roads and CX rides – Cornwall on the Focus CX Mares

Cliff edge

So the cross season is over, you’ve some time on your hands and a versatile bike in the shed. How best to take advantage? Head for white roads, open moor and bridle paths. Last week we took the Focus CX Mares – a shop favourite – for a tour of the far South West; Cornwall’s Penwith Peninsula.

A short hop from Penzance and St Ives, St Just proved the perfect Launchpad for Cornish cross riding. It’s a hybrid place of visitors and workers; workmanlike but appealing, with galleries sharing the space with the remnants of industry. Victorian Tin works crumble on the horizon and the hills rise and fall with startling regularity. Pick any road you like and you’ll soon find yourself gazing at the sea or rolling into open moor.

Leaving the quiet confines of our rented cottage, was an absolute joy. I quickly encountered short steep climbs, cobbles and broken path, rutted farm tracks and open moor. The cross bike – equipped with Shimano Ultegra, DT Swiss wheels and gravel grinder tyres – was ideal, striking a balance between fine offroad handling and decent speed on the road. If you’re into mixing your terrain, there really is no better choice.

Five minutes into ride time, and open moorland spreads across the horizon almost as far as the eye can see. This moor- to the North East of St Just – undulates to the sea on the west and toward distant Bodmin in the East. Home to a Celtic burial site, its moody, magical and magnificent. Standing high above it, slabs of granite occupy high perches and survey all that goes on. I lay my bike down and clamber over them to survey the Cornish landscape. Bliss. Normally my mindset is ‘full speed ahead’ but to take that approach here is to waste the opportunity. From this high point the sea calls and seduces.

I clamber off, remount and aim the bike downhill, swiftly hitting white roads and bridleways with non-existent human or motorised traffic. Very occasionally I passed a dog walker and enjoyed a brief, friendly conversation. An Unexpectedly enjoyable aspect of these routes Is the technicality of the bridle paths. They lull you into a false sense of security then chuck in rocks at jaunty angles and potholes that are borderline craters. Over-egg the speed on one of the frequent downhill sections and you’ll be sorting out punctures quick smart.

In Cornwall, it seems, all bridle paths head to the sea and hitting the coastline on the bike is to experience unalloyed joy. If the sea breeze that cools your body doesn’t raise your spirits and free your soul, you surely can’t be alive. I’ve rarely seen such a moody, attractive landscape (with the notable exceptions of Skye and Pembrokeshire). The windows of ruined tin works frame the sea and sky as the path undulates. I want to stop and gaze as much as I want to ride and explore. These are views that are difficult to tire of; a point proved by the fact that I can’t help eeking the ride out as long as possible, even to the extent of popping the bike on my shoulder and running to the top of Cape Cornwall. Finishing off with a mug of tea and a cream scone in one of St Just’s cafes or pubs, brings proceedings to a fine conclusion.

White roads

Riding in Cornwall has much to commend it whatever time of the year and we were very lucky to enjoy a week of excellent riding conditions over Easter 2017. However, to release the best of this varied, ancient landscape, I’d very much recommend heading there between May and September.

Oh….and if you’re packing your watersports kit as well, DO remember a good wetsuit. That water was a bit fresh.

From the shop: CX bikes and all-rounders.

Our rider (Simon) used the Focus CX Mares, a competition specification cyclo-cross bike that is light, fast and precise, retailing for £2699. For a less out and out race machine, we are impressed with the current incarnation of the Giant TCX. £1299 buys a proven, light Aluminium frame with Tiagra components and hydraulic disc brakes, suitable for racing, commuting and versatile off-road use.

thumbnail_Tin works