According to Anders, the best 3 rides in Mallorca are Cap Formentor, Sa Collabra and the Ma-10 between Banyalbufar and Andratx. Anders is the very helpful Swedish owner of Bikehead, where Clare rented her bike, and he’s cycled all over Mallorca many, many times … so he should know.
We promised him we’d ride all 3!
Day 5 – Cap Formentor
43km, 1112m climbing, 3hrs
Having driven out to the Cap Formentor lighthouse the year before, we were a bit scared of tackling this spectacular winding road on bikes but it turned out to be a lovely ride and good training for the mountains ahead. Each climb is only about 200m high which is roughly the same as a Bath hill at home. Unlike Bath, there are plenty of scary cliff faces to peer down, the kind that give you tingles.
Andy enjoyed a day cycling without panniers but was less impressed by a very slow puncture that needed pumping up from time to time. I thought it might be slowing me down when an older coupler cruised by on one of the steeper hills using apparently little effort. A bit miffed, I stood up on my pedals to accelerate until I realised they were riding electric bikes.
Cap Formentor deserves its reputation as a great day out on a bike. Our top tip would be to bring your own lunch so you don’t have to resort to a very expensive potato sandwich from the café next to the lighthouse.
Day 6 – Port de Pollenca to Soller
63km, 1400m climbing, 4hrs 30mins
Our first job was to repair Andy’s slow puncture so we headed to a bike shop to buy a spare inner tube. Hallelujah … there in the back corner was tube of chamois cream!
Climbing at an average gradient of 6% for 7.5 km, the Coll de Femenia was our first proper mountain road since the Pyrenees last year. It felt good to breath in cool mountain air again as I watched Clare race ahead, struggling a little with the weight of the panniers.
At the top of this first climb the road rose gently up through some stunning high mountain scenery until we reached a tunnel that marked the start of the descent. Sure enough, we sped down for a few km but our fun was ended abruptly by a sign announcing the start of another climb to the summit … up for another 5 kilometres.
It turns out there are two tunnels. Perhaps we should have looked a little more closely at the map!
When we eventually made it through the real tunnel-at-the-top, the view across the valley in the late afternoon sunlight was worth the effort as was the 18km descent, full of switchbacks down to Soller.
Day 7 – Sa Colabra
28km, 1200m climbing, 2hrs 30mins
The road down to the tiny port of Sa Colabra is both an extraordinary feat of engineering and a kind of folly.
Nobody is quite sure why Antonio Parietti, the Italian designer, created it in the 1930’s. Perhaps it was simply for the challenge and sheer joy of it, although it’s unlikely the workers thought so as they laboured to move a million cubic feet of rocks by hand to make room for all the sweeping corners and switchbacks.
Nowadays, it’s recognised as Mallorca’s best bike climb both for the physical challenge and the sheer joy of the incredible scenery. It’s a proper test, averaging 7% for 10km.
We wanted to experience both an ascent and a descent of this iconic road and discovered that we could do so by taking a boat along the coast from Port Soller, returning late afternoon.
As we slowly made our way up from the port, Clare felt full of energy and passed quite a few MAMILS (middle-aged-men-in-lycra) on the climb, somewhat to their surprise.
Andy on the other hand, overtook just one cyclist and he doesn’t really count as he was pushing his bike at the time. I had no panniers holding me back that day so I had no excuses. It’s the first time I’ve experienced that common cycling cliché … “he just didn’t have the legs!”
Legs or not, it’s not often a bike rider gets the opportunity to complete a Strava segment with genuine professionals on the leader-board. The current leader of the Sa Colabra climb is Columbian, Sebastian Gomez from Team Sky, who sped up in 24 mins 54 seconds.
My time of 1 hour 52 mins 33 seconds puts me in 48,459th place (out of 48,844). Clare didn’t have Strava turned on, but it’s fair to say she’d be a teeny bit higher up the leader board.
At the top of the climb we were rewarded by the ultimate cyclists’ dream … a nice café with some excellent coffee. And of course, by the opportunity to swoop back down this amazing road in a fraction of the time.
Day 8 – Soller to Portals Nous
63km, 1483m climbing, 4hrs 40mins
The Sunday roads were empty as we climbed out of Soller heading south down the coast, a gentle autumnal mist hanging in the valley behind us.
This turned out to be a delightful section of the Ma-10, that runs the length of the Tramuntana mountains, full of breathtaking views out to sea from villages that cling to the wooded slopes. The road is well graded and we only came across one steep section, just south of Deia.
Around midday, we arrived at a junction and had a big decision to make.
Do we turn right and keep our promise to Anders by riding the long way around the coast? Or do we turn left up a shorter inland valley with the promise of Sunday lunch in the small town of Puigpunyent?
We turned left.
Touring cyclists like to experience a variety of different landscapes … and of course, touring cyclists like lunch!
Heading south, the inland route proved to be nearly as beautiful as the coast road, with gentle uphill climbs through vineyards and lemon groves followed by steeper switchbacks on the way down. It was so quiet we could look ahead to check for traffic before trying to take the racing line, almost like real cyclists.
Day 8 – Back to Palma
20km, 429m climbing, 1hr 30mins
On our last day, we enjoyed a gentle potter along the coast to Palma with time to pedal around the city and enjoy the sights.
Clare’s Spanish must have improved while we’d been away. This time when she ordered asparagus in the local tapas bar, she got asparagus. Vamos!
As I’m sure you can tell, we loved our cycle tour around Mallorca and would recommend it to anyone.
The bad news … when we admitted to Anders that we’d only completed 2 of his 3 ‘best rides’, he told us that the one we’d missed (the coast road to Andratx) was the best one of all … by far.
The good news … this means we’ll have to come back.
After all, there many Mallorca’s to discover and we have barely scratched the surface.
Clare and Andy