Tricia’s Trips: Biking in Mallorca
Vail Daily reporter Tricia Swenson shares her recent road biking experiences in Spain
As the summer activities come to a close and before the winter snowsports season ramps, the fall is a great time to take a trip. This year, I had the opportunity to go on a road biking trip to Mallorca, Spain for nine days of riding and some spectacular scenery.
The tour was led by world-class athlete Mike Kloser and his equally-athletic wife Emily. The Kloser’s started doing European biking trips in 2015 and have covered ground in the Dolomites in Italy and the Tyrol region in Austria. When the pandemic shut down international travel, the Kloser’s were able to keep the trips going by routing trips along some of the most scenic byways in Colorado.
Mallorca is the largest of the Balearic Islands off of the southern coast of Spain. The island is a popular tourist destination due to its climate and recreational activities. According to some of the locals we spoke to, there are about 35,000 cyclists who flock to Mallorca annually to enjoy the temperatures and the terrain.
Our group biked in the northern and northwestern parts of the island, traveling along the Serra de Tramuntana. After arriving at the airport in Palma, we drove for about a half-hour to a small village called Valldemossa, which became our home for the next few days.
Instead of hauling our bikes all the way across the Atlantic, we rented bikes there. We were all paired up with these awesome, high-end Pinarello road bikes from the Pinarello Experience Bike Shop and set out on our first ride, just a short ride to test out the bikes and make sure we were dialed in for longer rides the following day.
We went from our hotel to Port de Valldemossa and I don’t think I’ve ever seen narrower roads than this. From the top of the ride, you could look down and see all the switchbacks, and it almost made you dizzy. But, we rode down to the port and back up and it was exhilarating. Thank goodness the cars are pretty tiny in Mallorca – lots of Fiats!
The timing of this trip was perfect. There’s no better way to reward yourself after a summer of biking and training than to take a trip that affords you the most beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea. Thoughts of sore muscles go away when you’re looking at the endless ripples shining in the water from the top of a winding road on a cliff. The blue water seems to fade into the blue sky with no border in between.
The terrain was very hilly and the average gradient of the climbs was usually between 6-10%. The engineering of the switchbacks was amazing, almost propelling you into the next section of the road. You pass by countless olive groves and goats and sheep grazing on the open range. You hear the bells the animals wear and also hear the occasional “baaaaa” from one of the little baby sheep.
After a few day trips on the roads surrounding Valldemossa, it was time to bike to another town and a new hotel. We traveled 76 kilometers (about 47 miles) from Valldemossa to Port de Pollença. This route took us over the highest peak in Mallorca, Puig Major, which sits at 1,445 meters (4,740 feet) above sea level.
Like I mentioned, the roads are very narrow in Mallorca by U.S. standards. There isn’t much of a shoulder to ride on, but the drivers are very conscientious and courteous and are used to going around bikers, which was a good thing because I dropped a chain while switching gears on the way back from the lighthouse at Cap de Formentor and there was no shoulder and lots of tourist traffic. I thought, “Please, don’t run me over!”
I had to put my bike up on a stone “guardrail” type of structure that was the only thing between me and about a 300-foot drop to the turquoise water below. Luckily, Prisca Boris, another Vail local on the trip, had stopped to take a picture of the beautiful scenery and came up behind me and braved the narrow road and tourist traffic and helped me get my chain back on my bike. Thanks, Prisca; I owe you a beer!
Mallorca is a road biking mecca. We would see large groups every day from all over. Germany, France, England … they were all there. It would be fun to see their bike kits and try to figure out what language they spoke and where they were from.
Along the routes our group would stop at cafés that would cater to bikers. Here, we’d grab a cappuccino or an ice-cold Coca-Cola from the bottle. Nothing tastes as good as a Coke during a ride. We’d also order up almond cake, apple cake, lemon cake, fudge brownies, all sorts of baked goods along the route. There’s no need for a processed energy bar when you have homemade treats like this.
Speaking of food, there was no calorie counting on this trip. We had fabulous, multi-course meals each night either at our hotel or at restaurants close by. The menus were all very international and you could order a variety of items like fish, steak and sushi. We had a lot of Iberico ham, sobrassada sausage, olives and aioli. Sea bass “Mallorcan-style” was done with spinach and tomato sauce.
You may think with all the riding each day we’d start out at the crack of dawn. That was not the case. “The breakfasts are too good in Europe to skip them just to ride earlier,” said Emily Kloser. Each morning we’d begin our day with a buffet breakfast and eggs made to order. Plenty of bread was served and you’d often times have a charcuterie board for breakfast, too. Even the gluten-free people would sneak some bread every once in a while, because it was just that good.
The views provided a distraction from the exertion and at the end of the day we were rewarded with time either by the pool in Valldemossa or the beach in Port de Pollença. Here, we’d talk about our ride experience over a cold beer or a Spanish wine or the occasional tequila and lots of potato chips.
After our rides, we’d also wait our turn for a massage. Vail local Adam Plummer, who is part of the Kloser team on these bike trips, acts not only as our bike mechanic if we have troubles on the ride, but also as our massage therapist. Adam would set up his massage table right by the pool so you could either bliss out in the sun or still be part of the conversation going on with your bike mates hanging out poolside.
Our group consisted of 14 bikers who were all there for different reasons. Some were there for the challenge, some for the trip of a lifetime, some biked for loved ones lost and some were there to get a fresh start. You change over the course of the nine days of riding. You feel a sense of accomplishment and a sense of camaraderie with your newfound friends on the trip. You get used to living day in and day out with them and talking about random topics on the rides or at lunch, at the cafes, or on the beach. You smile, laugh and feel grateful to be on the trip. This is what memories are made of.
“Take the trip, eat the cake, buy the shoes” is a motto I live by and if you have a chance to do a trip like this, jump on it. Take advantage of traveling during the off-season, we’ll all be too busy to go anywhere before you know it.