Team Sky train there and the cycling is so good on the island, they (i.e. we Brits) named it twice. Yes, I’ve just enjoyed a week in the Mallorcan sun riding my bike.
This was not a training camp of any kind. It was a holiday and a chance to combine everything I love about cycling. Climbing, descending, sunshine, breathtaking views and smooth roads.
Why Majorca? To be honest I was being lazy. I was tired, oh so tired. I wanted somewhere I could simply get off the plane, get on a bike and ride. I considered France and Switzerland also but on this occasion the logistics made my legs ache before I’d even left the house. As much as I love a good tour complete with panniers, this time I just needed a break. If there’s such a thing as a cycling holiday, Majorca is it.
Go. Really, just do it.
Bradley Wiggins calls it a “Scalextric set for cyclists” but one look at the twisting, looping hairpins on the Sa Calobra descent and climb also brings to mind the Hot Wheels Mega Loop Mayhem Trackset. Let’s face it, by the time you reach the top you won’t know which way is up either.
There’s a very good reason why the pros train in Majorca.
It. Is. Amazing.
Sun, smooth quiet roads, twists, climbs, endless descents, coastal roads, little traffic and respect from drivers. Still reading? Why aren’t you on skyscanner.com?
But what’s with the two names?
Is it Majorca or Mallorca? As usual, it’s the Brits abroad who are to blame. We do like to rename places don’t we? Have a guess which one is the original. Go on.
When to go?
Majorca is hot. This you know from those BBC3 documentaries where teens spend the night dancing on bars dressed only in their underwear. So I’m told. Personally I love cycling in the heat, odd given I melt in anything over 21°C if I’m not on the bike. That said, plan accordingly.
Towards the end of September the mercury still made it above 30°C. For me this was perfect, the temperature dipping slightly as you climbed, not too cold on the descents and that lovely feeling of sinking into a warm bath as you glide back down to sea level. Go during the summer and you’ll need to be up early to avoid the blistering heat, which makes this less of a holiday and more of a regime.
Where to stay?
I was in Puerto Pollensa (Port de Pollenca). Ideally located just eight miles from the Serra de Tramuntana ‘mountains’ (you ride ‘em and then tell me they are not technically mountains). Conveniently, my modest self-catering accommodation was just 3 minutes from the sea so I could take a post-ride dip. And yes I did pretend I was a pro taking an ice bath.
Down the coast you’ve got Alcudia, the base of choice for Team Sky. It’s slightly further away from the mountains. Looked trashy to me too, what can I say? Both are a long way from Magaluf, which is on the south of the island. A good or bad thing I’ll leave to you, the dear reader, to decide. That said you could stay in the south, just so long as you’re on the west side of the island near the lumpy stuff. Jaegerbomb and protein shake anyone?
Take your own bike or hire?
I love my bike. Parting with it I feel lost, a teen with no mobile, a Guardian reader without an opinion, a BBC football pundit with no overdone suntan.
Such love is also why I find life is easier when you hire a bride for a week. There’s no worrying about transport damage, no stressing about your precious going missing, no reassembling, no carrying the bloody thing to the airport and no driving for 24hrs non-stop to avoid the dreaded baggage handlers. Sure it costs a little extra dollar to hire a road bike but not much once you subtract transport fees. Plus you get a new bike to test. One possibly better than the one you ride. You know it makes sense.
An honourable mention here to Bruce and the team at Pro Cycle Hire for fixing me up with a carbon road bike for the week. Ordered online, measurements sent, pedal type supplied and I was ready to ride when I collected the bike. Even if you don’t hire a bike, pop into the shop, it is a veritable museum for some lovely steel framed bikes. Wow.
The pros and cons of road bike hire are debated in more depth elsewhere on the blog.
Yeah, yeah, but what about the riding?
You cannot fail to be impressed. Panting up Puig Major, twisting your way down to Sa Calobra or taking in the ocean views as you rise and fall towards the Formentor lighthouse. Your legs may not thank you for it but your cycling heart will. Speaking of which, I think I left my cycling heart on a Mallorcan road somewhere, look out for it, it’s probably still beating at 196bpm.
Recommended cycle routes in Majorca
Day one – Coll d’Orient, Coll de Soller and Puig Major
At 85 miles and 3,500 metres, this is a ride for day one when your legs are still fresh, hopeful and naive. The ride starts gently with a couple of leg warmers through the beautiful Orient Valley. Lulled into a false sense of security, don’t forget the next climb comes at the 50 mile mark and peaks at 850+ metres.
There’s few hairpins on the final Puig Major climb so it’s a never ending, hard straight slog to the top and a stiff mental challenge. A long dark tunnel greets you at the summit, seemingly completing your journey into hell as you are enveloped in darkness. Be careful in here, it’s a can’t see your handlebar blackness and the side of the roads are gravelly in places. Job done, it’s a lovely 25 mile descent back home.
Day two – Coll de sa Batalla and Sa Calobra (Coll dels Reis)
Awesome. The gentle Coll de sa Batalla flies by as you dream of the hill of a thousand hairpins that goes by the name Sa Calobra. No picture I have seen does this climb justice. Seeing is believing! Practise your descending as gravity drives you around bend after bend and when you get to the bottom you can wonder why on earth somebody bothered building the road! Little to see, you simply follow the road and loop back on yourself, slip the chain into the easiest gear and turn back up the climb.
Sa Calobra is the cruellest of climbs in so much as you have no choice but to descend before you’re allowed to climb. Thankfully I found the bark worse than the bite. I love hairpins, they give you rhythm and a change of scenery. With each turn you see your achievements so mentally the climb is much easier than Puig Major.
A word of advice. Watch out for the platoon of mega-coaches that for some god awful unknown reason descend these treacherous turns. There really is no reason to descend this hill but to climb back up it again. Damn you tourists with your empty itineraries to fill. Climbing you need to go slow and watch your timing as coaches struggle around 180 degree turns. Go early, you will be rewarded.
Day 3 – Cap de Formentor lighthouse, sunset
Take it easy, you’re on holiday remember? A cycling holiday, an oxymoron if ever there was one! Formentor may rhyme with tormentor yet this is a lovely 30 mile ride from Puerto Pollensa with a gentle calf stretching 2,000 metres of climbing. Get up early or go late with some bike lights to guide you down the dark descent once you’ve watched the sunset.
This was meant to be a gentle evening pootle however I left my hotel late and found myself in a race against time to reach the cape and return before sunset. Great ride, possibly my favourite, even with the very rough roads on the latter half of the route. Riding so late I virtually had the roads to myself and, fuelled by a can of coke and a dose of panic, I found myself flying to the peninsula as the sky turned orange, red, pink, purple, quick, quick, it’s almost black. And then I was back, beaming. Hurting too. Superb.
Did I mention the velodrome?
I never imagined my first experience of a velodrome would be a dustbowl in the middle of Majorca. So it was courtesy of a group ride organised by Bruce and the team at Pro Cycle Hire who took us out to the Sineu Son Moix Velodrome.
I was nervous as I steered my way onto the outdoor track. Boy are the banks steeper than they look on TV. I was convinced my front wheel would go skiing down the slope at any minute taking yours truly with it. Somehow I defied gravity and remained upright. Was I ready for my ‘hot lap’? No, not really! Scared and with tired legs, it was hard to go all out in the corners, the sloping sides a little too alien to bank the bike fully especially with the concern of pedal strike. One thing I know for sure, I’ll be taking my fixed track bike beyond its usual commute to an actual track to improve on that time!
Want more? You can find all of the above routes and gpx files on my Strava profile, plus a few more rides (EDIT: also directly linked in the comments below). Here’s a great site with even more climbs mapped.
What to look out for when cycling in Majorca
- Pro cyclists: Wiggins is a fan and upcoming neo-pros like Simon Yates and Ian Bibby are top of the Strava charts
- Rafa Nadal: Lives on the island, usually found in a fishing boat
- The beach: This is a holiday after all
- The food: Traditional Mallorcan cuisine is a must and they love their meat so ideal for protein hungry cyclists. Pork suckling is my dish of choice
- Sunsets and sunrises: You’re a cyclist, you get up early and get home late, may as well look to the horizon. Wow.
- The water: Don’t drink it. Just don’t. It don’t taste like it oughta.
- Goats in the road (not a Samuel L Jackson film)