Mallorca is a gravel paradise
By JRtB, September 2021
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Mallorca is known for it's road cycling: smooth tarmac, great weather, lovely scenery. But JRtB reckons it should be known for its gravel riding. It's everywhere - if you know where to look.
The popular imagination of Mallorca as a key destination for road cycling has been long established. Every spring thousands of keen amateurs head out to ride in a warm climate, with excellent infrastructure, on well-maintained roads. There are bikes to hire, training camps to join, bike friendly hotels, lovely mountains, famous climbs, nice places to stay, and plenty of hotel rooms at that time of year, and best of all beautiful scenery. It is an easy flight from many places in the UK, Germany and other European locations. If you are lucky you might even see a pro-team on their training camp. JRtB have been out a few times, and we would concur with the popularity for all the reasons above.
The only difference this time was that we hired a gravel bike from Amigo Bikes in Mallorca (tell Marc that JRtB sent you). It was an Orbea Terra X (see our review here) Partly this was because we’d found a gravel bike for hire close to where we were staying, but mostly because we remembered how many of the minor roads are actually not tarmacked. The Mallorquins have clearly decided they would do better to look after the roads they have, rather than make every tiny track and path into a road, which then requires more maintenance, with no more resource to do so.
What this has enabled is a secret gravel playground. There are not any really established ‘gravel routes’ – I’m sure they will come - because why would you ride in these minor roads that are not very direct? But, using them made every ride suitable for a gravel bike – even the rides that could have been almost all tarmac. The one established route we did avoid – because we’ve done it before on road bikes (shhh, don’t tell the bike hire people) – is the Via Verde route between Arta and Manacor. This should have been a new railway line, but this was eventually ditched, and so its now an easily rideable family-friendly cycle route.
Sometimes you have to go looking for gravel, and a little research and search pays dividends in north east Mallorca. We used Strava heatmaps for route planning, which was effective but did result in a fair amount of hike-a-bike, due to our over-optimism that every blue line equals a rideable route over a steep hill. However, the big ride was a ride around the national park – the Parc Natural de la Peninsula de Llevant. Having mountain biked here in the past there was a certain nervousness about the rideability of these trails on a gravel bike. But actually, pick the right route, and it is happy gravelling. There is proper gravel – some of it quite deep, which has no grip whatsoever. Some of it is steep, both up and down, but with curious corners that have been shored up with concrete. Watch out for the drainage channels; they are enormous. Set against these minor inconveniences are the fantastic views. In one spot we could see across to Menorca quite easily. The beaches are of pure golden sand, with stunning coastal formations around them. It is really quite empty. A few people on the beaches, that have made it there by boat, and a handful of walkers, but no-one else. Certainly no other gravel bikers. Two Spanish mountain bikers, conforming to the stereotype that Spanish cyclists have the very best kit and bikes and style, but don’t go very fast. It was clear they’d never seen a gravel bike out here before.
Of the many great things about gravel riding in Mallorca, we would still rate having a cold beer to deal with all the dust, as maybe the greatest excuse for a post-ride beer we know. We’ll certainly be back to Mallorca, and if we can find enough of them, it will be on a gravel bike
All credits: JRtB, 2022