Mallorca, famed for its dramatic landscape, great weather and beautiful beaches. A mecca for cyclists with tens of thousands exploring the island each year. Coastal roads, beautiful countryside and the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range call to many wishing to challenge their legs and soak up some Mediterranean sun.
The cycling trade of Mallorca is now worth an estimated 6 million euros a year, as cyclists follow in the footsteps of their heroes, who flock to the archipelago on training camps before the long season of classics and grand tours.
More popular than ever, most tourists stick to the towns around Palma in the south, but for cycling, the north is the destination of choice. Transfers from the airport are easy and only take around 45 minutes. The old towns of Alcúdia or Pollença are perfect bases for an idyllic cycling holiday or stay a little closer to the coast by local beaches.
There is plenty to do when you are off the bike. Take a dip in the ocean and sunbathe on the warm sands in one of the coastal resorts. Wander around the old towns with stunning architecture, from ancient ruins to Antoni Gaudi, and modern twists. No town is complete without its traditional market stalls, the largest located in Pollença, Alcúdia and Inca. Perhaps plan a trip to visit the Cuevas del Drach. The island has an awe-inspiring network of caves and underground lagoons that are truly out of this world. Adrenaline junkies can always try a spot of cliff jumping or water sports to set pulses racing. Sure enough, you can feel at home here.
Each morning, when the sun rises, cyclist set out for that day’s adventure. With bike hire easy to come by and a vast network of roads that spread out across the island, there is plenty to see out on the open road for all abilities and disciplines.
To the west, the mountain range of Serra de Tramuntana, with beautiful views, mountain lakes and woodland climbs. Steady gradients to question tired legs and winding descents that test your nerve, and your brakes. The infamous Sa Calobra and monasteries of Lluc are the main draws for adventurous mountain goats. Along the northern coast, iconic landmarks such as the Cap de Formentor lighthouse provide a great day out in the saddle. However, for those that like to get off the beaten track and locate the soul of a country (or if you quite simply don’t like climbing), the island has much more to offer than first meets the eye. Quiet villages, hidden from tourists, the flatlands of the east offer a new spin on the cycling destination.
The route starts in Port de Pollença, a beautiful seaside town that has cycling at its heart. The small town is host to many pro teams and holidaymakers alike who wish to cycle the stunning roads of the island.
Head out of town onto the Ma-2220, a beautifully smooth road that runs parallel to the ocean tying Port de Pollença to Alcúdia. Keep to the cycle lane to avoid the traffic that bustles by. As you ride into the historic town of Alcúdia, past heritage landmarks and busy artisan stalls, follow the road through the town to exchange one beach for another. The road flows through the popular resort town, Port de Alcúdia and out onto the Ma-12 past Can Picafort.
Leading you out onto the open lanes through the Mallorcan countryside, the road weaves you into a vast expanse of agricultural land, villas and stone-lined tracks. On a windy day, the long road out can be just as tough as climbing the high mountains. The sun-baked land, a reminder of how much you are sweating in the heat. Peddle past Mediterranean Fincas and long ago abandoned huts. The road starts to incline just enough for your legs to pay it some attention as you continue on until you reach the right-hand turn, signposted Palma. Climb the 2km long ramp with a gentle 3% average gradient until the walls and trees that were shrouding the view to your right give way, opening up the vista where you can see all the way to the mountain range far in the distance. Pick up speed on the flowing downhill, the quiet roads offering you a chance to stretch and take it up a notch as you sweep through the arid flatlands towards Petra.
Move with the road, as it rises and falls, enjoy the scenic views that stretch as far as the eye can see, happy knowing that most the climbing is done, never pushing higher than 5%. Spin the legs out on the downhill run into the sleepy town of Petra.
Petra is a traditional town that takes you back in time. You can take the turn left at the roundabout and head into town to explore the wonderful atmosphere and culture. Home to 3000 people, the locals maintain a peaceful way of life away from the bustle of the larger towns and cities. Classic Spanish buildings made from sandstone line the narrow cobbled streets. Petra’s wine, woodwork, honey and olives are renowned across the island. Try not to get lost wandering through sides streets, markets and shops selling handcrafted goods.
Find your way back on track and continue to follow the Ma-3340 than runs down to the outskirts of Ariany. At the roundabout head left as the road stretches out ahead of you, cutting through farmland and the vast expanse of natural terrain. The jet black tarmac guiding you through the heartland of Mallorca. Relish the gentle breeze that cools your skin, as you push on towards the small town of Sineu.
Sineu is the perfect place to stop for lunch. Just off the route and after a long false flat, the rest is welcome. Freewheel down the hill into the town and stop just before the crossroads. On the corner to your right is a classic Mallorcan restaurant; Sa Panbolaria, serving traditional dishes and refreshing drinks. Practice a few phrases to make sure you get what you order as English is not on the menu. Sit and watch the bustle of the town as you enjoy your surroundings.
If you choose to venture further into town there is plenty to see. On a Wednesday the islands most traditional market opens. From livestock, fruit and vegetables, pearls, lace and olives by the bucketful there is something to be found. It takes over the whole town. On quieter days, the architecture stands proud as the rich heritage can still be seen today.
After lunch, select an easier gear to spin up the hill and out of town, otherwise the cheeky 9% kick could give you quite a shock to the system.
After leaving the quaint town of Sineu behind, the route glides you downhill, for the next 10km let your legs ease back into a rhythm, as you take the right-hand fork on to the Ma-3511 towards Llubí. The road winds through panoramic scenery, full of olive trees, dry stone walls and the occasional sheep. Quiet dwellings hidden down gravel tracks, preserving memories of the past, and a simpler way of life. Gradually the lane opens up to show the outskirts of Llubí, swing around the roundabouts, to the left and then to the right as you enter the town.
Llubí, a small town is known for its architecture and production of capers. Sitting 74m above sea level, it is traditional and isolated from tourists. Here you are truly off the beaten trail and in the heartland of Mallorca. Rarely talked about and mostly left to continue on as they always have, the 2000 people that call Llubí their home, live a tranquil life in contrast to their countrymen in the city of Palma just a 20-minute drive away.
Cycle through the time-honoured streets, past shuttered windows, secretive side alleys and private balconies. Take the right just after the small tree-lined plaça. Out of the saddle, scramble up the hill and left at the end of the road. From here, the narrow lanes of Llubí immerse you in the daily life of the locals, weather-worn matriarchs sit discussing past lives and watch the world go by. Small cafe owners chat with lifelong friends, and little children skip in the sunshine disrupting the local stray dog’s nap. Follow the old street down until you reach the town hall sitting right in front of you, take the right signposted ‘Emita’ or hermitage where the track runs out of town past glorious villas and back into the farmlands of Mallorca. A few kilometres after leaving Llubí, a small side road to the right will take you to the ‘Ermita’, a small cafe on the religious site is a meeting point for locals. As with most of these towns, very little English is spoken. The local language being Calatan, a few memorised phrases will get you a drink should the mood take you.
Back on track, follow the lanes as they weave through the landscape, on onto the next much larger town of Muro. Take the side lanes that run around the outer edges of the town in the direction of Sa Pobla.
Many holidaymakers choose to stay centrally in Sa Pobla due to its close proximity to the city and the beaches. It boasts a great transport network with the rest of the island whilst still maintaining a Mallorcan way of life. Museums, churches and local produce are the main attractions. Take the central route into town as you follow the little streets, make a right angle as you continue through town and out back onto the main road taking you on your homeward journey, the Ma-3433.
A short way out of town, take the left-hand lane to avoid the traffic cutting across the farmlands and fields, towards the Ma-2200 in the direction of Pollença. Climb the steady rise as the road picks its way around the lumpy land of the west. Gradually rise and by-pass the town following the road until you see the right hand turning of Camí de Llenarie. The smooth, peaceful lane leads you directly back into Port de Pollença. Take the blue cycle lane to your left and you spin lightly back to your accommodation.
100km in the bag and now privy to some of the lesser known Mallorcan secrets, head down to the beach, chilled drink in hand to watch the sun bounce of the waves as it sets on a beautiful day, on the island of Mallorca.
THE NUMBERS –
TOTAL ELEVATION: 537
DAYS OF SUNSHINE EACH YEAR: 300
AVERAGE TEMPERATURE: 21oC
OLDEST SETTLEMENT: 6000BC
CYCLISTS PER YEAR: 35,000