31 things I learned on a cycling holiday in Mallorca
I am just back form a fantastic week of road cycling in Mallorca. Here are some of the things I discovered.
1) The island has a heavenly amount of smooth tarmac. In fact, I think the roads must have been created to serve the needs of keen cyclists (especially those from the UK, who are sick fed up of potholes). The tarmac in Mallorca is as smooth as black Royal icing and spread out to the very edges. Potholes are as rare as pots of gold and many larger roads have sections marked out for cyclists, away from the main traffic.
2) It is possible for drivers to be tolerant of cyclists. In Mallorca, they beep only as a gentle warning that they are behind a cyclist. They wait for ages to pass and do not appear to become impatient. They almost always give a wide berth to cyclists and there is no rude hand gesturing or pissed off faces as drivers go by.
3) Mallorca has a 1.5m passing rule between drivers and cyclists – and it does appear to be obeyed.
4) A week in Mallorca pre-summer season is cheap. I paid less than £200 for flights from Glasgow to Palma and shared accommodation. Bike hire for a superb carbon fibre bike was €120. Food and drink are also very affordable.
5) A week at the end of April offers the perfect type of weather for cyclists with mostly warm and sunny days.
6) Mallorca can be windy but it was never windy for two days in a row. And even when it was windy it was dry and warm.
7) On windy days you can look forward to becoming a “cycling hero”. This occurs when you have a tailwind on smooth tarmac roads and with very little pedalling you find you are travelling at 40kph.
8) Sharing an apartment with men can be surprisingly tidy (see 9), easy-going, courteous and a lot of fun. I usually enjoy the company of a cycling girlie pal while on holiday but it was still a lot of fun to be away with the boys.
9) Some men seem to like keeping kitchens clean and tidy. Who knew? The top bottle-washing (and, in fact, general washing up) prize goes to Super Hill Climber Andy, who washed and cleaned every bottle of each person in our apartment every evening.
10) Hiring a bike can be just as good as taking your own bike on holiday in Mallorca. I hired a superb carbon fibre racer bike and liked it more than my own bike back home! Whatever your ideal bike, from mountain bike, through hybrid to racers, you’ll find dozens of outlets with good quality bikes to hire.
11) Mallorca has cycling for all. There is the perfect cycling route for all types of riders, from flat back country lanes that meander through fields of golden cereals, wild flowers and orange groves to mountain passes that climb in increasingly tight hairpin bends and boast stunning views of high cliffs and beautiful seas. There are super fast flat roads that rarely bend and slower undulating roads that never seem to go straight. But, brilliantly, almost all roads are laid with wonderfully smooth tarmac (see 1).
12) This is not the Alps or the Pyrenees, but the island still boasts some superb climbs. Sa Calobra is one of the best and a highlight for keen riders. Cycling Weekly even went so far as to suggest it might be the perfect climb. I thought it was incredibly beautiful. It’s not an easy climb and reaching the base of the climb over many miles of ups and downs from Alcudia felt tougher than the actual climb but the rewards of the muscle pummelling ascent were the sublime views.
13) Lots of men do not like to be chicked. Well, I guess, I learned this point a long time ago and in the UK but my male chums told me that every time I cycled past a man they suddenly put in an extra bit of effort to try to beat me. Only, because I am light I am hard to chase down on a hill and I enjoyed chicking a lot of men in Mallorca!
14) Wearing matching team kit seems to be the only thing to do in Mallorca. Everywhere we cycled we saw large pelotons of riders (mostly men) in matching lycra tops and shorts. Our group bucked the trend and wore our own non-matching kit. Maybe next time we’ll order team strips!
15) Mallorcan towns can look ugly on the edges but cycle in a little further and you discover stunning historic centres with castles, pretty buildings and gorgeous squares.
16) Take a ride leader with you. Someone, like our very own Perfect-For-Drafting Nick, who loves to plan routes and seek out the best rides each day. You can also go with a large organised cycling tour group, but on balance we preferred to do our own thing.
17) Make sure your route leader plan routes according to the wind direction. Or, as I found, if the wind is strong, make sure you have a nice big chap like PFD Nick to draft behind!
18) April is the month for fabulous wild flowers. They were everywhere and took my breath way.
19) Mallorca feels like one huge sportive, day after day. The island attracts a huge mix of riders from many European countries – yet few riders chatted as we rode along. That felt strange because sportives are usually super friendly. Instead, we happily chatted amongst ourselves.
20) Cycling on Mallorca is a great place to get to know your fellow riders. We enjoyed miles of quiet country roads and the chance to chat over our lives, likes, interests and our love of cycling.
21) Inland accommodation might be better than coastal. So many people head to the coast of Mallorca and there a many, many places to stay that offer good touristy resorts and beaches. We stayed at Alcudia on the north-eastern coast. But I think I would find accommodation further inland for future cycling trips because they would be less touristy and much better for starting day-long rides. Anyway, cyclists tend not to laze on the beaches!
22) However, in the quieter season it is possible to find very cheap apartments in large and quiet resorts, such as Alcudia. Be warned: These resorts would be horribly busy in the summer.
23) There are many popular cycle routes and climbs, such as Sa Calobra and Soller. But there are also some fabulous but less ridden routes and climbs including Col de Betlem near Arta and Col d’Honnor. Check out Mallorca Cycle Routes.
24) It’s a good idea to go on holiday with people who are bigger and stronger than you. When the wind picks up, you simply tuck in behind them, hug their back wheel and benefit from epic drafting!.
25) Buy a Mallorcan map, because it will include all the right cycling roads, rather than a vague approximation. We found a lovely waterproof version.
26) The smart looking inland trains take bikes, which means you can explore further afield.
27) A good restaurant is usually discovered behind a well-kept hedge. Well, that is what we found. The resort of Alcudia does not have many good restaurants but we did finally find one, the Rancho Chico, which served fantastic steaks, kebabs and great wines.
28) Load a compass app on your phone so you can work out which direction to take out of towns. All the streets look the same!
29) A beer stop some 10km from home is always a good idea. Two beers is not so good. But a beer and an ice cream is almost perfect.
30) If you can’t find a good restaurant but a cheap barbecue (we found one for 16 Euros) and buy lots of amazing but cheap meat and seafood from Lidl.
31) A cycling holiday guarantees you’ll come home fitter rather than fatter. I think I might still be in calorie deficit after some 600km of cycling!
I loved Mallorca for cycling and will definitely be back.