Last week’s cycling holiday in Mallorca revealed a few tips that might be useful if you are thinking about doing the same.
1 Book early and go early: Book flights as far in advance that you can and go early in the summer season, especially in April, or later in the summer, for cheaper accommodation.
The busy tourist season on Mallorca is end of May to September so if you can travel outwith these times you’ll enjoy a quieter touristy island and cheaper prices. If you don;t hire a car, check out transport from Mallorca airport.
2 Use AirB&B: I have become a big fan of AirB&B over the past two years and you’ll find many properties on Mallorca. Last year, our group booked into apartments in a holiday resort in Alcudia. They were cheap but basic and the views were of the next apartment block.
This year we found a large villa near Alaro with the most amazing views, a swimming pool, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a well-fitted kitchen, plus a washing machine and tumble drier etc.
3 Be prepared for the cyclists!: There might not be so many tourists and family holidaymakers but be prepared for an island filled with cyclists! This is not a bad thing but on occasions it can feel like you are riding in a huge sportive, especially in the more popular cycling areas closer to Port du Pollenca and Alcudia.
4 Don’t shout out “chicked”: There are many popular colls and classic climbs in Mallorca and this is where you find the most cyclists. I enjoyed climbing these hills and quietly enjoyed the chance to “chick” lots of male cyclists. However, I resisted shouting out “chicked” because I know that would not be nice!
5 Expect lots of guys: Although I spotted more female cyclists on my recent trip, compared to last year, there are still mostly male cyclists. I quite enjoyed this although I think the island would benefit from a more even split of male and female cyclists.
6 Hire a bike: Mallorca is the only place where I have hired a road bike and been happy with the choice. I normally take my own bike but the island has numerous good quality hire outlets. You’ll pay about the same for a week’s hire as it costs to transport your own bike in a bike bag on a plane, but it’s far less hassle.
7 The gears will be fine: Last year, I hired a bike and it came with a triple front cog set-up. This meant I had the luxury of tons of gears. This year, when I picked up the bike it was triple-less and had just two front cogs. I worried about how I would cope on the big climbs. But I shouldn’t have bothered worrying because the gearing set up/ratio offered enough easier gears for all the hill climbs.
I should have trusted that the bike hire shop would take into account all the hills on the island when setting up their bike gearing.
8 Even flat Mallorca is hilly!: What surprised me that was over a day of apparently flat cycling we accumulated a total ascent of at least 750m. While I expected a lot of hill climbing on the days that we visited the climbs of the Orient, d’Honor, Sa Calobra and Soller what was more astonishing was the amount of total height gain over seemingly flatter routes. Mallorca offers a lot of undulations!
9 Watch the weather: The weather is likely to be far, far better than the UK in late April and early May but it is changeable. We enjoyed hot and sunny days but also some rain and wind.
10 Pack for the weather: Make sure you add arm warmers and a lightweight windproof and waterproof jacket (Patagonia Houdini, if you’re interested!) to your suitcase. Gloves with fingers and toe covers for cycling shoes will be a bonus, too, if you get as cold as I do.
11 Pack for the hills: When you are climbing the hills on your bike you will find yourself hot and sweaty. But as soon as you start to descend you will end up chilly. Make sure you have a gilet at the very least for these cold downhills.
12 Eat often: Proper fuelling on a bike is vital. If you are cycling hard and for long distances you will quickly run out of energy and so it’s a good idea to carry snacks and energy gels with you.
We found that there were lots of places to stop for coffee, colas, lunch and more coffee on Mallorca and we made good use of these cafes and restaurants!
13 You can’t trust a Garmin: More than half of our group had Garmin bike gadgets, yet they often revealed contradictory route info. We even had one person programme three Garmins with the same route and they still offered different directions.
I have no idea why Garmin make it so difficult to plan routes on their gadgets an why they are so ridiculously non-intuitive. I thought it was only me that found this with Garmin but it was the same complaint from all of our group. Surely, someone out there can invent a route guidance bike gadget that works a lot better.
Anyway, I suggest you make use of an old-fashioned paper map, as well as the map on your smartphone. I sometimes found the iPhone compass a great comfort!
14 Get off the beaten track: There are many must-do climbs and routes on Mallorca, such as Sa Calobra.
But there are also some lesser-cycled routes that are very beautiful and far less busy with other cyclists. We chose to stay in the heart of northern Mallorca, near Alaro, so we could access routes that we had not cycled while staying on the east coast last year.
For example, this route via Soller and the north-west coast of Mallorca is truly beautiful. On another day we cycled to the port of Andratx. We also enjoyed flatter inland cycling days, such as this route from Alaro to Sineu to Sa Pobla and back to Alaro:
15 Group communication: Our cycling group included friends from England, Scotland, Switzerland and Arizona. We each had different hand and voice signals for communicating as a group of cyclists.
It’s therefore a good ide to agree a basic set of stop, slowing, turning left and right style signals at the start of the trip otherwise you might end up riding into each other!
See my Useful Hand signalling blog
16 Take two water bottles: Some people find that they need to drink the entire contents of two water bottles while cycling in hot weather. What we found on Mallorca in early season was that one bottle was sufficient, so long as it was re-filled at regular café stops.
The other bottle cage/bottle can be used for carrying extra bits and pieces such as arm warmers, jacket, long-finger gloves etc. Of course, we also used out jersey pockets for extra accessories but having a fully dry place for things is very helpful, too.
17 Enjoy easy days, too: Although you are on a cycling holiday this doesn’t mean you need to be out burning your leg muscles every day. In addition, because it is a n early season strip you might not be as fit as you would like.
It’s a good idea to factor in easier cycling/recovery days so that you can better enjoy the tougher, hillier days. For example, we enjoyed one day of just 35 miles where we cycled between cafes!
18 Benefits of stretching: After each cycling day we stood in the cold water of the swimming pool for about 10 to 15 minutes and then did about 20 minutes of stretching. We all said this helped a great deal with recovery for the next day of cycling.
19 Take ear plugs: If you are sharing with a friend make sure you pack ear plugs to combat their snoring.
20 Invite a Spanish speaker: Our trip was enhanced by Octavio, who was born in Mexico and lives in Arizona. This meant he spoke Spanish, which greatly benefitted out holiday experience on Mallorca.
21 Remember it’s a holiday: There is more to a cycling holiday than just cycling. Choose a nice group of friends, eat well, drink and be merry. We had a very enjoyable week with lots of good chat and giggles.
22 And do something different: We greatly enjoyed a somewhat bizarre outing to a restaurant that had been highly rated by Rick Stein. One of our group spotted the mention of Stein’s “best lamb ever” review on-line and so we booked into Es Verger.
The car journey alone, up a very steep, multiple switchback, pot-holed road to reach Es Verger located high on a hill was enough of an adventure! On first impressions, the restaurant seemed very basic. We were not offered a menu and there were two beer choices and only the house wine (lovely, actually).
We were told we were all having lamb. Thankfully, it was amazing treat. I don’t really like eating lamb but it would have been strange not to try something so highly recommended by Rick Stein. The meat was so moist and juicy and came off the bone without a hint of resistance. It was quite extraordinary.
Note that Es Verger closes at 8pm. We thought this closing time was a little strange because people usually eat late in Spain but once you have climbed that road you realise you would not want to do it in the dark!
Tell me your tips for a great cycling holiday in Mallorca…