Kernow, the ye olde and possibly more affectionate name for Cornwall isn't the place you think it is. If you grew up in Cornwall, as I did, then you don't know it for its coral blue seas and rugged clifftops. You don't hark for the sea air as you frolic in the sand dunes and you probably also don't eat clotted cream ice creams and wonder whether you put the cream or jam on first on a cream tea. More than likely if you grew up in Cornwall then your family were skint, your weekends were spent visiting some of the jewels in Cornwall's shopping crown including Tragos, Homeworld or perhaps a visit to St Austell market and the majority of Cornwall that you know is made up of piles of fridges and MK1 Astras dumped in 'fields' that don't even have any soil as they are just the fall out from a mining era that left your mate's dad without a job.
When we organised an event we called Trans Kernow I didn't actually plan on riding it. We worked hard to create an event that wasn't so much an event but an adventure. We took a bit of heat on social media but like any idea that is actually a good idea you have to expect it to at first appear like a bad idea. Let's for a moment take a side step to talk about creativity and how it impacts your life. Many times you will see something that appears to be a bad idea, this is usually widely indicated by a general mob mentality and a bucket of scorn being rapidly filled in the distance, ready to be poured out liberally in the foreground. However, often this scorn is just a mask for the uneasiness that those scorn pourers carry for the idea and that idea actually is great, it gains momentum and those very same pourers of scorn find themselves gutted that they didn't get onboard earlier. This theory can be applied to art, politics, business, technology and of course our event.
So, the concept was basic, 4 points on a map, get to them across a weekend, pay £30 for an entry and a bag of stuff, turn up at Rockets & Rascals by 9pm on Friday, pedal off into the night and be back at Rockets by Sunday afternoon. As I mentioned earlier I had no plans to ride this event, I sign other people up for this stuff so I don't have to, but with entry numbers low and a growing, nagging feeling deep inside me that I really should quit being a baby, I loaded up my Jones bike with enough supplies to service a small army and followed 30 people into the blackness.
Stage One - Plymouth to St Ives
Distance around 90 miles. I had made a plan on how to tackle the ride but I had no idea how tired I would feel. After a whole day of working in the shop I was expecting to feel more tired than I did and actually once I cleared the light pollution from Plymouth and headed over the hills behind Liskeard I realised it was actually a cracking night. A borrowed USE Strada light reliably shone the way and cycling alone I listened to a murder mystery podcast on my mini speaker and rode through the darkest bits of East Cornwall, never looking over my shoulder. As I crossed the A38 and headed deeper into Cornwall it wasn't long before I met the first of the rest of the mob, Janie and Simon, we sort of rode together for twenty or so miles, stopping at Cornwall's only 'proper' services for a hot coffee that didn't exist. I pressed on alone passing two more riders huddled on the freshly mown grass of a garage showroom somewhere on the outskirts of Newquay, they soon caught me up realising that the only warmth to be found was from wearing every piece of clothing you had and keeping the pedals turning, they soon pulled away from me and it wasn't long before I hit Chivenor Cross and the promise of the best Costa I ever tasted. Immediately warmed by the scorched milk I felt the urge to press on, it was clear now that I would not be stopping until I hit the first checkpoint in St Ives. The race was against the sun and I set myself the challenge of seeing the sun rise over St Ives bay. At 5:30am I met Hanky at checkpoint one, we were both surprised I had made reasonable time and cracking open my stove I made a brew and we watched the sun come up.
Stage Two - St Ives to Falmouth, about 30 miles
On paper the ride across to Falmouth looked like a pointless distraction from the task at hand, it isn't that far from St Ives but with a few rules in place to prevent riders taking the main A roads the ride from coast to coast would take most riders across the wild west of Cornwall. Every house has a broken Vauxhall in a field and the climbing, whilst gentle, feels hard with sleep deprivation and limited options for food.
I'd decided to get out of St Ives before the salmon trouser wearing knobs that now own the town turned up in their Range Rovers. Nodding a good morning to a tramp sleeping in a bus shelter I hauled the Jones up the twenty five percent climb out of town and pushed on. A kind shop keeper fixed me up with some croissants and sweets as he unloaded the morning papers and I realised at that point that I'd already done a great ride. Saturday was going to be a day of riding in the sun, hauling my way to Falmouth, onto Bude and then if there was enough in the tank heading for home. The ride to Falmouth went well, a call back to the boys at the shop before the Saturday Rocket Ride buoyed my spirits and a stop in to see my mate Mikie at Cog Cycle Repair was a good aim to get me through the wilds. A couple of hours later I am sleeping in an armchair whilst Mikie checked over my bike and probably resisted the urge to shave off my eyebrows. Checkpoint two brought Dunc's friendly face, the offer of a Rabbit Bap from one of Falmouth's new breed of bollocks cafe's and the subsequent starvation that riding solid for the best part of twelve hours can bring.
Stage Three Falmouth to Bude, About 70 miles
Rather than pedal back out of Falmouth I opted for a boat trip, the Roseland peninsula across the harbour is one of the most beautiful places in the World. On one side you have the River Fal and its deep waters skirted by woodlands, on the other the land gently meets the sea and you have coves like Portscatho with it's white sands. I was in no mood for a sight seeing trip, the sea had whipped up a massive swell and my crossing had left me not only covered in salty water but my bike too. The climb out of St Mawes warmed me up fairly quickly and I stopped to take off my long sleeves and get comfy in a t-shirt. It wasn't long before I found an 'artisan bakery' and resisting the temptation to try "Tarquinn's special sauce" I crammed a cheese sandwich and stuffed a cinnamon roll into my Apidura feed pocket for later. The thing about being really fricken tired is that every gateway looks like a place to sleep, I rode for at least fifteen miles with these gateways reaching out to me, begging for me to stop and sleep. Eventually I found a patch by a river, inflated my roll mat and lay under the sun for an hour of idyllic sleep. Packed up and stuffing down the cinnamon bun I new my afternoon was going to be a tough one, the climb out of St Austell towards Bodmin was brutal and Cornwall's worst drivers did their best to fill my imaginary swear box. Cresting the Cornish alps I was glad to hit the flatter roads in the middle of Cornwall, pass Bodmin and pick up a rolling road towards Camelford. It was at this point where the romantic notion of riding across Bodmin Moor like some kind of modern day Poldark turned from mystery into misery. The gate to the moors was a fourteen percent climb that lasted for two miles. My bike and legs couldn't take it and I pedalled in zig zags turning two miles into three. Cresting the top I was met by the mother of all side winds, helicopters buzzing the hill sides and long, empty roads, this felt like the real Cornwall, remote, stunning and views that took a long time to change. I was tired and starting to make bad decisions, my Garmin was telling me where to go but I began to lose trust, I could see the coast but it wasn't getting any closer. My tired legs were pushing me hard and I missed turns and had to retrace my steps. The final nail in the coffin left me walking a thirty percent climb into Widemouth Bay but fortunately I found some company, the promise of a dinner and a few hours rest and a magical sunset on the North Coast.
Stage Four - Bude to Plymouth, originally 70 miles, ended up being about 50.
Before setting up my mini tent and going to sleep on the beach (which is probably not allowed but I was so tired I didn't care) I checked the weather, I knew if I got a few hours kip and got up early I'd miss the worst of the weather, Sunday was not looking good. Eight hours later I awoke to the drops of rain hitting my tent. Angry at my failure to stick to the plan but equally happy that I was on nobody's timetable I packed up and shipped out - striking gold again with a sausage bap in a petrol station at 6am. My original plan was to head across the border to Hatherleigh and ride off road and on Route 27 all the way home but it quickly became apparent that Dartmoor was no a place to set my sights. I turned at Holsworthy and headed straight South for Launceston, every pedal stroke seemed to turn up the volume on the rain. My Madison riding kit had actually done a great job all weekend but the sheer intensity of the rain tipped my poor jacket over the edge. I knew now I was literally racing home to stay warm. After a quick hello with fellow rider Tom we went our separate ways, Tom heading down the Cornish side of the Tamar, myself heading down the Devon side towards Tavistock. As I reached Tav' I remembered not only a pack of American Hard Gums that I'd not eaten but also the sleeveless down jacket that I had in my seatpack. I took it out and squeezed it under my soaking wet jacket, whilst everything was wet it was at least retaining some heat and the Hard gums gave me the energy I needed to push on through Tav, pick up the Drake's Trail and with a little tear in my eye as I hit Gem Bridge I realised I had cracked it, I was heading for home.
Ride Stats: Total Number of Miles : 240.5 Riding Time : 21.5 hours Hours of sleep : 9 Calories Burned : 16,000
Check out my route HERE
If you fancy a go then entry for Trans Devon 2018 is now open HERE