If there is one small island on earth that attracts cyclists like carbon moths to the flame it’s Majorca (Spain for ya’ll). This relatively small chunk of land is a perfect microcosm for cycling. Boasting great hills, smooth roads, abundant beaches, charming cafes and restaurants, not to mention well equipped bike stores it’s a wonder that any self-respecting cyclist actually gets back on their plane at the end of their trip.
I’ve wanted to ride here for a long time and I’ve heard a lot about the place. What I found on the ground was certainly greater than my expectations – there is truly something for everyone. I’m technically here on a family vacation, but that didn’t stop me renting a bike (from the grumpiest person I met all year) and hitting the road every morning for a week. If you’re up early nobody even notices your biking fetish.
We stayed in Alcudia which is perfectly situated for hitting the hills, Cap de Formentor, the flats to the SE (when you’re done with hills) or a combo of all three. It’s a shame I don’t have more time because there are some epic all day rides beckoning. Can’t complain, because I’m still riding far more than expected on this trip.
There are plenty of great trips out there documented – this site shows 10 of the best: http://www.cyclefiesta.com/multimedia/articles/mallorca-best-cycling-routes.htm
I would have brought my own bike, but since the car rentals at a decent price all feature small cars it worked out better value to rent. Not to mention the several bike transport costs of flying multiple sectors on different days.
We have pretty much perfect location – near all the stores and restaurants but tucked away in a secluded alcove of the area. It’s fun to slip out of the apartment with the family still sleeping and head out into the pre-dawn morning. It’s warm all week, and I get comfortable being in shorts and jersey from the get-go. Always wear a cap, because when it warms up I sweat a lot. It’s hard to keep the focus when a steady stream of sweat is in the way.
More enjoyable then is this quiet start to the day, better than the watered down Sangria or the Paella that serves up by the thousand-full to tourists. I don’t really have any fixed or pre-planned agenda, simply following the road as it beckons to me. Like weight training it’s easier to start slow, and move onto the heavier climbs once warmed up.
I love the mountains, missing that in Montreal, despite Vermont being on my doorstep. Vermont is really hills anyway not mountains. It’s never really the same feeling. Here in Majorca, the mountains, although diminutive, have a rocky, ancient feel to them – far from ground to soft mounds like the Laurentiens, they speak of jagged history, struggle whilst at the same time offering a sense of shelter and safety. You never end up too far from civilization – the worst you might suffer here is a flat cellphone battery.
It’s also a very sociable place to ride – even if you’re on your own. I make pick-up friends on a couple days and ride with one very nice German fellow for a few hours through the mountains – he shows me some great short cuts where I am rewarded by amazing vistas after being punished by mountain bike worthy gradients. We enjoy a quick coke at the top of a long hill in the late morning. Yes it was as charming as it sounds.
It’s funny how a biking friendship starts with a little competition on the road. I was over-taking a slow moving couple and having ridden them off felt that tingly sense of someone in my slip. Sure enough this guy was tucked back in there like a happy Joey enjoying the easy air and free speed. Well, that leads me to open gas it a bit, which leads him to work it a bit more and so on and so on. After a few k’s and a couple rollers I test is whether he’ll take on some of the work. When he steps up and takes a pull I know we will be road friends – at least for the day.
If that’s not your style, you can hire yourself a guide (like me) or go in a group but really a couple of friends riding together or a small group would be ideal – the routes are very intuitive and you don’t stand much chance to get very lost.
I’m willing to bet that most folks during daylight hours wouldn’t wait long if they flatted or meched-out. There are just that many riders out there on the main climbs (think Sa Colobra, Cap de Formentor).
It’s easy to find snacks and water (or better) at local café, but out of the tourist areas you won’t find any bike shops to speak of. I always work on the basis of fuel and water scarcity, opting to ride with two bottle always and stash one at the bottom of an out and back climb. It’s good to know you have a bottle waiting for you on the back end of a climb, especially when the temperature climbs.
The heat definitely climbs sharply after the early morning and I definitely didn’t spend too much energy past siesta time. A couple of short afternoon rides left me sweating to the bone, and truthfully it’s pretty hard to imagine an enjoyable ride deep into the summer day with more riders and cars competing for space under the 40 degree sun.
It’s very easy to get away from the tourists and experience a more authentic island culture, especially by bike. There are so many farms and small villages where it feels like life hasn’t changed much for hundreds of years.
Value for money is phenomenal, and it’s pretty hard not to be impressed with the beautiful scenery most often all around you.
There’s so much to say about this island’s biking culture, but really the best thing is to book a ticket, don’t tell anyone you’re going and take off and enjoy some of the best road riding I’ve seen anyway.
Oh yes, and many of mountain roads are like glass, I mentioned that right?
And kiteboarding for apres-biking 🙂