Mallorca cycling: 3 "must do" rides
One of the best ways to experience Mallorca’s beauty is by bike. Throughout the winter months, many of the European professional teams spend time in Mallorca training in the ideal conditions.
The Tramuntana in Northern Mallorca offers hundreds of kilometres of arguably some of the best road riding in the world and Pollenca in the North Eastern corner of the island is the ideal place to stay (and a Scott Dunn catered villa ensures you have space to store bikes, delicious healthy meals served to keep you going and that your family are superbly looked after). For anyone cycling in Mallorca for the first time, these three rides encapsulate what Mallorca is all about and the first two can be tackled by anyone with a reasonable level of cycling fitness and wanting to understand the appeal.
Ride 1: Cape Formentor
This ride packs some of the best bits of Mallorcan cycling into 50km and 500m of climbing and is an ideal introduction. The climb out of Port is a wake-up call for legs suffering from desk-fatigue but the views of the Port and the forest fire plane’s drills collecting water from the bay are a welcome distraction. Over the top and past the tourists at the Mirador es Colomer, the descent to Formentor beach is truly magical - alpine hairpins on brand new tarmac in the sweet-smelling pine forest. After Playa de Formentor the road in the national park is uncharacteristically rough but the Mediterranean views on both sides mean it is never boring. At the lighthouse you will congratulate yourself for taking the bike while weaving through rental car gridlock before a well-earned ice-cream. While this is an out and back ride somehow the journey home offers something different and I could ride this every day without getting bored. Alternatively for a shorter ride, Formentor beach is a great place to meet the family and put the bike back in the car.
Ride 2:Lluc Monastery
A first ride into the Tramuntana proper begins with a long spin on the Ma-10 to clear any lactic build up from Formentor before the climb to the Coll de Femenia (640m) which seems a big climb compared to my regular South Downs rides. Vineyards, goats and glimpses of the sea are the only interruptions from the gradual climb and before you know it, the altitude gain is enough for a spectacular vista down the valley to the Bay of Formentor. Over the col and the road undulates before a blast down into the forest and to the monastery at Lluc whose impressive courtyard is an ideal coffee stop. From the monastery, rather than going back over your tracks, the short climb up to the Ma2130 is well worth the effort as the hairpin descent down to Caimari and Selva is guaranteed to put a grin on your face before the last 20km through the dusty foothills and passing through the sleepy town of Campanet before rolling back into Pollensa.
Ride 3:Sa Calobra
The most renowned ride in Mallorca, this is the ride you simply have to do. It is by no means as demanding as an alpine classic, but close to 4000m of climbing over 100km or so is a great challenge for anyone who understands the appeal of climbing on a road bike. You may be on holiday but this is definitely one to set an alarm clock for because having the road to yourself before the coach tours arrive is well worth the early start. The climb to Lluc seems like a warm up as the anticipation of something a bit more challenging approaches and energy conservation is essential so this is no time for attacking. After Lluc the road undulates but continues to climb until you reach the final climb to the Coll dels Reis.
After a quick photo stop, the eternal descent (682m) to the tiny port of Sa Calobra is cycling Disneyland -the road simply could not have been designed any better – swooping hairpins give way to longer straights before weaving through the “rock garden” of the bottom section. Arguably the only downside of the descent is the knowledge that you will shortly be turning round to come all the way back up. You are unlikely to go as fast as this, but watching the IG Sigma pro team will give you a good sense of what it is all about:
Some will stop for a quick coffee and to dip their toes in the sea, but I have always preferred to get on with the ascent which starts gently enough until you get above the treeline and the gradient starts to pick up. The final third is the most challenging as the hairpins become steeper and the last one loops right back over itself for a lung-busting last push to the col. To return home the road back via Lluc (and the obligatory coffee and cake at the monastery) seems almost all downhill and while the descent from the Coll de Femenia is even better having built up some confidence on Sa Calobra. Alternatively for anyone determined to log more than 100km, there is the option to divert through the superb forest descent to Caimari and back via Campanet.