Mallorca cycling: My favourite bike route
Mallorca offers many fantastic cycling routes, including the popular climb of Sa Calobra and the ride to Cap De Formentor Lighthouse. The Coll de Sóller is also on the must-do list of many cyclists. Recently, I discovered a fabulous route that takes in Sóller and the north-west coastal villages of Deià and Valldemossa.
Hills and coast in NW Mallorca
The route: Alaro, Orient, Coll D’Honor, Bunyola, Coll de Sóller, Sóller, then along the coast through the north-west coastal villages of Deià and Valldemossa and back to Alaro.
Distance: 88kms/55 miles
Total ascent: 5230ft/1595 m
Classic hill climb: Southern ascent of Coll de Soller over 5.1km and with 257m of height gain and an average gradient of 5%.
At the heart of Mallorca
Last week, I enjoyed my second cycling holiday on the Spanish island of Mallorca. Our group, nicknamed the Vino Velos, were based close to the town of Alaro, a 25-minute drive north-east of Palma.
In 2015, we had been based further east in an area of the island that is very popular with cyclists. The majority of holidaying cyclists seem to descend on Mallorca in early or late summer and stay in Port de Pollenca or Alcudia.
We fancied a change of location this year so that we could explore new roads and routes. Alaro is at the heart of northern Mallorca and offered greater access to many lesser ridden cycling routes.
My favourite bike ride of the week was named by me as Hills and Coast in NW Mallorca.
Riding Hills and Coast in NW Mallorca
On paper, the route looked to be the perfect distance for a day’s riding in the sunshine. Our Vino Velo group of six like to ride routes that offer lots of potential stops, for coffee, food, wine and beer. We also like a few challenges and great views.
What surprised me, in the end, was the amount of total ascent that we rode during just 55 miles. Although I knew we would be climbing one of the classic Mallorcan hills, the Coll de Sóller, and a couple of other named hill climbs, I had no idea we would ride almost 1600m of up.
In fact, over a week of cycling it was the in-between up and downs, rather than the longer one-off climbs, that always seemed to add up to a great deal more total ascent that I could have ever imagined.
Staying near the small town of Alaro gave us easy access to the Coll de Soller. We decided to cycle the hillier route via Orient and Coll D’Honor (550m/1805ft) north from Alaro and heading west.
The smaller climbs gave our legs a warm-up and we had fond memories of riding this road in 2015. Never too steep, the smooth tarmac road to the top of Coll D’Honor, especially the final tight hairpin bends, is truly fantastic.
Towards the top I was overtaken by a woman wearing a wonderfully colourful cycling outfit. Despite being out of breath I managed to shout something to her (I think it was “Ooh, nice kit,” or some such mumbling nonsense). She cycled a little slower to let me catch her and I was able to establish that the kit is made by Vander Kitten. (I have already put in a request to the G-Force for a full outfit for my birthday!)
When climbing hills I try to take my mind off the slog by thinking two things: 1) If I wasn’t riding my bike on this hill I would be sitting at my desk working, 2) The descent will be more than worth the uphill pain.
The descent from Coll D’Honor was worth every hard pedal push uphill. The sweeping switchbacks are so much fun and the speed of acceleration is thrilling. It’s worth learning good technique for descending around tight corners simply to give yourself even more high-speed enjoyment.
After four miles and more than 1000ft of descent we reached the town of Bunyola, a super popular place for a coffee or lunch stop for cyclists. On a sunny day the square is jam-packed with bikes and cyclists.
Located to the north-west of Bunyola is the Soller climb, which crosses the Serra de Tramuntana. The Tramuntana mountain range forms the south-west to north-east backbone of Mallorca. Almost a decade ago a tunnel was built to the east side of the road to Soller where almost all motorised traffic now goes. This means that the road climb itself is quiet and is a paradise route for cyclists.
Climbing Coll de Soller
I confess I was been a bit nervous about this climb because it is always talked about in the same sentence as the climb from Sa Calobra. (See no.12 in 31 things I learned about Mallorca). In fact, Soller is a far easier and much less daunting climb. With a top of 497m, it is also lower than the Coll d’Honor.
I actually enjoyed the ride uphill, impressed by the smooth surface, the beautiful sweeping switchbacks and the picturesque views. Over 5.1km we gained a total height of 257m and on an average gradient of 5.2%. What the average gradient means is that while there are some steeper sections a lot of the route was fairly easy going.
I was surprised how quickly I reached the top and how rarely I dropped into my easiest gear. The Vino Velos regrouped at the top for the obligatory “with sign” pics and then headed off, with jackets and arm warmers on, for another spirit-lifting descent.
Again I found my mind consumed by the art of whizzing around tight corners, looking out over breath-taking views and enjoying the fast pace of cycling without pedalling and just a few touches of my brakes.
On reaching Soller we struggled to find a table to seat us all for lunch amid the many cyclists and general tourists. The lunch also turned out to be the priciest of the whole holiday. Eating out is rarely as expensive in Mallorca as the UK but the smaller, less visited towns and villages can be extremely cheap for food. Soller was almost twice as pricey as other places.
Rolling along the coast
From Soller, we headed west towards the coast with the village of Deià as our first port of call. This road winds up and up from around 150ft to almost 800ft but the rewards for the muscle zapping climb are the awesome views over the rugged shoreline, numerous sandy coves and the deep blue sea.
We also enjoyed some “villa spotting”. The homes and villas that cling to the coast above the sea in this area of Mallorca are some of the most magnificent I have seen on the island.
A descent and then another small climb and then another descent brought us to the pretty village of Deià, which is renowned as a hideaway for musicians, writers and artists. One of our group, Paul, has a friend who visited the village and was so impressed that she named her daughter Deià.
I was beginning to hope that all the climbing had been done for the day but no such luck. From 515ft at Deià the road wound higher and higher and around corner after corner to reach a top altitude of 1470ft. Some sections of this road were the steepest encountered all day and with more than 35 miles and 4,000ft already cycled our group was starting to feel weary.
Our next stop was Valldemossa, acclaimed as one of the prettiest in Mallorca. The tranquil village sitting high on the western coast of the island offered a chance for another rest stop. While two ordered beers I enjoyed a glass of freshly squeezed orange (another must-have when cycling in Mallorca!).
I then had a glance at the map and was amazed to see we still had quite a way to go to return to the villa. We had been cycling all day (with a few stops, I admit) yet we estimated another 15 or so miles to go.
It must have been all the ascending, plus the heat, that had left me feeling so exhausted because by my calculations we had cycled only about 37 miles to Valldemossa!
Thankfully, a lot of the route back to Alaro was a descent or fairly flat. We whizzed through about six miles of downhill, from 1440ft to about 480ft. The came another six miles of fairly flat riding to reach Santa Maria del Cami before another wee up of about 250ft to return to Alora and our villa.
The final climb to our villa posed a challenge each day. The road has its own steep hairpins and is very pot-holed. I managed it every time and even after our hardest days but the thought of doing so was enough to make me swear and moan loudly on the approach!
You can see my routes in these two Garmin sections. I mistakenly switched off my Garmin Edge in Soller so the route is in two sections.
Find me on Strava as Fiona Outdoors to see the route details:
Post-ride recovery routine
Each day, after our cycling, we headed to the villa pool. Unheated, the water in April was too cold for swimming but the ideal temperature for cooling tired legs muscles. We stood in the pool chatting about the day’s ride, sipping a beer and letting our legs enjoy the chilly water.
After this we stretched out our muscles and taught each other a few of our favourite yoga poses and stretching postures. There is no doubt that this half hour or so spent properly recovering from our daily rides helped us to get back on our bikes and ride more miles the following day.