Cycling around Mallorca

Ben cycling along the promenade in Palma
Ben cycling along the promenade in Palma

From daredevil descents to gentle promenade pedals, there are cycle routes to suit all abilities in this Spanish island, writes Ben Mitchell

As I pull out of one of the countless switchbacks on the legendary Sa Calobra cliffs, the wheels of my bike give a satisfying whirr and I tell myself I’d better enjoy every moment of this electrifying 9.5km descent, as I will soon have to suffer these harsh gradients to get all the way back to the top.

The winding road down to Sa Calobra

The winding road down to Sa Calobra

I pull over at the top of Coll dels Reis mountain pass to take in the sheer magnitude of the drop ahead of me; the road winding its way endlessly downwards with cyclists as small as ants rolling into the sparkling bay below.

As the road steepens and my speed picks up, I notice the pain etched on the faces of cyclists bravely tackling the ascent, which rises 670 metres with an average 7% gradient.

But all the effort will be worth it, because waiting at the bottom is quite literally a hidden gem.

After refuelling with a plate of pasta at one of the waterfront restaurants in the tiny village of Sa Calobra, I clip-clop in my ill-suited cycling shoes through a slippery narrow tunnel along the cliff edge.

I’m blinded by the dazzling afternoon sunshine as I emerge, and when my vision returns, I discover a secluded beach lapped by gentle waters and hidden by cliff walls.

It feels like something straight out of an Enid Blyton mystery.

With the daunting ascent awaiting me, I only have time for a quick paddle before getting back on my bike and starting that slow crawl back up.

As my thigh muscles burn with each increasingly tougher turn, I remind myself that once over the top, I have a gentle ride back to the seafront Iberostar Playa de Muro hotel (rooms start from E151/£133 per night) and the luxuries of the spa, with its range of massages to rub and pummel my aching legs.

I park my bike in the hotel’s giant 1,200 capacity cycling garage before heading to the swimming pool where a gentle dip helps my legs begin to forget the hardship I’ve put them through.

Soon, it’s time for dinner in the hotel’s Tramuntana buffet restaurant, which offers everything from sushi to pizza.

But it’s the paella which re-energises me and makes my mind wander back along the twisty roads up the mountains as I begin planning my next day in the saddle.

Here are three of Mallorca’s greatest cycle routes...

1. Sa Calobra

Mallorca is a mecca for road cyclists from across Europe, and Sa Calobra is the main attraction. The ascent along a well-paved road made up of 26 hairpin bends with gradients reaching 10% makes for a classic climb and a hugely enjoyable descent.

Huerzeler Bicycle Holidays - based at the Iberostar Playa de Muro - can set you up with everything you need to get on the road, including a range of bikes and e-bikes, route suggestions and much-appreciated energy food, to put in your jersey pocket as you head off on your ride.

Sa Calobra is 55km from Playa de Muro, an easy ride back but a considerable ascent, so to make the day easier, there’s the option to use drop-off transport services, reducing ride distance and ensuring the day remains challenging without being exhausting.

2. Port de Soller

Cycling from Palma to the quaint valley town of Soller and its sister town Port de Soller, also involves a ride up to a mountain pass with wonderful views.

Far less challenging than Sa Calobra, it has gentler gradients and the top section remains mostly car-free, as vehicles tend to use the tunnel shortcut.

Soller is a traditional Spanish sandstone town with a beautiful church and town square, and on arrival at Port de Soller, where you share a road with trams, you’re welcomed with a beautiful vista of the bay, filled with yachts and powerboats.

Located 36km from Palma, the port is a perfect place to stop and enjoy some seafood in one of the numerous waterfront restaurants, before choosing your route back to the capital - either by retracing your ride or via the picturesque Valldemossa village, known for its luscious oranges.

3. Palma Promenade Cycle Path

Perfect for a rest day from the mountains or as a family ride, Palma’s waterfront has a 15km car-free cycle path and promenade - which is completely flat.

Hiring a bike from Philipp’s Bike Team, start from the Iberostar Playa de Palma (rooms start from E268/£236 per night), heading along the wide, car-free road before joining the cycle path which winds its way along the waterfront, passing marinas and beaches.

It’s an easy and enjoyable way to reach the centre of Palma.

The path arrives adjacent to Palma’s Gothic 13th century cathedral, where you can explore the old quarter of Mallorca’s capital with its 10th century Arab baths and historic walls.

Along the cycle path, there are countless opportunities to stop for an ice-cream, a spot of lunch or a dip in the sea at one of the inviting beaches (Coll d’en Rabassa is one of my favourites).