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A roadie trip to Mallorca

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Why Mallorca

I love riding bikes in Europe. It’s as simple as that. The perfect roads/trails and views that we are not used to have proved to be an irresistible addiction since the first time I dropped into Pleney in 2011. For 2018 a Summer trip wasn’t on the cards. My Fiancé’s daughter was in matric and we kinda wanted to get out of HB for the Christmas mayhem. A winter riding trip to Europe? I wasn’t convinced.


We initially looked at Girona but were advised against it because of the cold. And then the idea for Mallorca came up. Off season in Mallorca with the promise of excellent roads and Sa-Calobra made it the logical choice.



We looked at ballpark dates and decided on the week between X-mas and new year. We wanted to get out of HB over that time and the flight pricing seemed good. Getting to Mallorca from here is an issue tho. None of the usual airlines fly there so we’d have to do an EasyJet/Ryanaire from somewhere like London. We finally settled on Air France to Paris and Europa Air from Paris at around 13k a ticket.


I did a bit of research and selected Soller for accommodation. The simple reason was its proximity to the road I wanted to ride most which was Sa-Colobra. I got on Airbnb and easily sourced accommodation in our budget and we were set.


The downside of flying Air France was the cost and hassle of getting our bikes there. 400 Euro was a little ridiculous so we decided to rent bikes. I’d NEVER consider renting a Mountain bike for an Alps trip but renting a roadie actually makes sense. You take your own saddle, gps and pedals. Mail the shop your measurements and it’s all done and you’re basically riding “your” bike. Plus your bike will show up because it’s already there. Also no hassles with bike bags and the like on the Paris Metro. I mailed a few bike shops and narrowed the choice down to a Spez shop in Palma and a Willier shop in nearby Deia.


I selected Nano Bicycles in Palma purely on price. 250 Euro for 2 Spez Allez’s with compacts and 11-32 gearing seemed like a good choice. In retrospect I should have chosen the Willier shop in Deia coz they were prepared to deliver and the cab ride in to Palma to collect the bikes cost 50 Euro.


Anyways. Nano it was and we were pleasantly surprised to have been given free upgraded bikes. 2 Spez Tarmacs with Ultegra gearing. The bikes come with a saddle bag with enough stuff to change a tube and mini pump. The service from Nano was incredible and they opened the shop specifically for us on the 2nd for us to return the bikes. They come highly recommended in my books. Just make sure you book BEFORE you walk into their shop on boxing day expecting bikes like the crew of yanks we encountered in the shop.


Bikes collected we swung a leg over and headed back to Soller over the utterly fabulous Col de Soller. More on this later.



Yes I think Sa-Calobra deserves its own paragraph. The direct translation from Spanish is The Snake. That should tell you a lot. It is the headline climb on the island. While it’s no Alpine giant it’s an incredible road that any reasonable fit person can tackle. It’s only 687m and 9.5km but every inch of it is incredible. Many articles I’ve read rate it as one of the best climbs in the world. The unofficial KOM up there is an astounding 22.30 by sir Bradley Wiggins in his TDF winning year. My times (Yes I did it twice) were somewhat more-humble at well over an hour.post-83454-0-83888400-1546952312_thumb.jpg


There’s nothing really that can put into words just how good the climb is. There’s around 20 (I didn’t count) switchbacks snaking up the mountain from the seaside village. You have to roll down the rather intimidating road to get to the start of the climb and from there it’s the ferry or the road out. There’s also a natural rock tunnel and a 270 degree corner near the top.post-83454-0-88069300-1546952320_thumb.jpgpost-83454-0-04319700-1546952329_thumb.jpgpost-83454-0-06286000-1546952339_thumb.jpg


The first time I did it we rode from Soller over Puig Major which is the longest and highest climb on the island at around 750m you then roll mostly downhill to the Sa Calobra turnoff. From there it’s a nasty little 250m climb to the top of the Col Del Reis where the roll into Sa Calobra starts.


It was at this point that Rob realized the day we were actually in for. We hadn’t hit halfway yet and we already had 1000m in our legs. I convinced her to keep going but it wasn’t to be. About 1/3 of the way down she hit the eject button. I told her that I respected her choice but that I would be doing the climb. I gave her 50 Euro just in case for a taxi and we split the food and she did the top third of the climb and made her way back to Soller.


I continued on to the port and turned right back around. I really really battled. It was cold and misty but battle on I did. I topped out and slowly made my way back to Soller. 2010m in around 60km. Tough day out for a fat old bloke.


We went back on New year's day for Rob to do the climb. It was absolutely freezing and the thermometer on my GPS said 4 degrees at the bottom. We swung our bikes around at the bottom and rode up the hill. I think I'm correct in saying we were the first 2 people up SA Calobra in 2019.


The Riding

We based ourselves in Soller for all of the cols in the area. The riding there is amazing. The climbs are plentiful. I often remarked that the only flat thing in Mallorca is the sea. There’s a LOT of climbing but they all hover at 5-7% so everything is very manageable even for weekend/weakend warriors like myself. If you prefer the flats or if you are looking for Alpine giants then Mallorca is probably not for you. Take Chappies. Combine that with Boyes Drive with an incredibly smooth road surface. That’s pretty much what most of Mallorca road riding is like.


The Col de Soller for example has 61 (yes that’s right) switchbacks and yet only rises about 550m from each side. It’s an incredible road. The gradient hovers at around 5% and the switchies just keep coming. The road is also an alternative route with most cars choosing to go through the tunnel so it’s super quiet



Col de Orient and col de Honor are also relatively small cols in terms of climbing but the roads themselves are impeccable. And the switchbacks also keep coming.


We rode to Cap Formentor from Pollenca. Not so much a climb but a stunning road. Think a road along the Riviera combined with the road to Cape Point. Did I mention the perfect surface?


We drove Col de Femenaia but that is also a beautiful road that never gets above 6% for around 10km.


And then of course there’s Sa-Calobra. A death bed memory for me. The features and views alone make it the best road I’ve ever ridden. Then there’s the Who’s Who in cycling that have ridden the same road. Truly a stunning road.


We did 5 rides in total averaging around 55km and about 1220 per day.


The Place

We stayed in Soller which is about 30km north of Palma. It’s on the MA10 which is the “main” mountain road running through the mountains on the island. Sa Calobra is off the MA10 and the Col de Femenaia is on the MA10 just outside Pollenca in the North. I don’t think there’s a best place to stay on the island but I’d recommend Soller or Pollenca for the riding.


The place in terms of beauty really delivered. Palma was amazing with old world charm mixed with new world tech.



Advice if you want it

Rent bikes. The cost of getting your own bike there makes rentals a real option. And there’s loads of rental shops

Don’t go in the winter. It was cold. JHB Winter cold.

Don’t go in the summer. 2 million poms descend on Mallorca in the Summer and the road to Sa Calobra becomes a stop and go. By the look of it spring is the best time to go

Think of your rides in vert not kilometers. The only flat thing in Mallorca is the sea

Edited by Duane_Bosch
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On my bucket list.  Quite a few group outings organised from here to Mallorca at the moment.  Quite often we see someone on the Munich Cycling Facebook groups booking accomodation for groups and will then notify all in the group.  By sunset all positions are filled.

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Brilliant! thanks for sharing, we stopped there on our Boat Cruise, will post a picture of the stairs to the castle close to the harbor.


Edited by Dexter-morgan
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I have been there, little word of warning to others keen to go. Soller is in the mountainous part of the iland and so also in the rainy part better to place elsewhere and head there on th dry days ;)

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I am so buying you dinner soon so we can catch up (read: i can pick your brain) on Mallorca..


Lekker Duane. Stoked you had a good time

I got a road map with our rental bikes. We never used it coz I'd already bought a map from Takealot. You can have it. Looooooots of riding and lots of cols we didn't get to.
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I have been there, little word of warning to others keen to go. Soller is in the mountainous part of the iland and so also in the rainy part better to place elsewhere and head there on th dry days ;)

Good to know thanks. It didn't rain while we were there but there was no shortage of water coming off the mountain so what you say certainly makes sense.
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Clearly a once in a lifetime 'must do' and worthy bucket list ride destination!


Thanks for sharing the experience.

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