Our trip started the side of “early morning” that some amongst us would recognise as “a bit late” after a few too many on a Friday night. A fleet of taxis darted through a rain-soaked SE15 on Thursday morning picking up members of Peckham Cycle Club on their way to the first Mallorca flight from Gatwick.
Most riders opted to hire bikes in Mallorca, so a quick check-in at the airport was swiftly followed by a bloody mary and painless flight, with the group touching down in Palma mid-morning. We were greeted by our driver at Arrivals, bike boxes were loaded into the minibus trailer and we began the 45-minute drive across the island to our destination of Port Pollensa.
Arriving at midday, we had a quick lunch before collecting our bikes from the hire company conveniently located opposite the hotel. The bikes were a fantastic standard: full carbon frames with the latest Ultegra groupset and a wide range cassette, each set up with our own bike fit and pedal selection. We were a little disappointed to learn that the red bikes were “faster” than the otherwise identical black ones, “the same as Ferraris” we were told!
Seven hours after leaving London we set off on the first ride of the trip, making our way out of Port Pollensa towards the lighthouse at Formentor. Spurred on by the excitement of riding new roads (along with some friendly competition) the pace quickly elevated as we progressed along the 20km of road out to the lighthouse, where we stopped to take in the view before turning back on ourselves for the homeward trip. By the time we returned to the hotel we’d ridden 40km of perfect roads, climbing over 800m with a few switchbacks thrown in for good measure; it was time to head to the hotel bar and plan tomorrow’s ride.
Day two was “Sa Calobra day”. To me, Sa Calobra encapsulates the brilliant, but ultimately pointless, struggle of recreational cycling.
I’ll give you an example: after an entire year of ownership, I realised my new bike has never been anywhere. Don’t get me wrong I ride it plenty, but only in massive circles that start and end at my flat, returning to the exact spot it left 4 hours previously. My poor bike has travelled over 9,000kms, but it’s gone nowhere. If my bike was a person, it would be having an existential crisis.
Cue riding Sa Calobra. You start at the top of the mountain and ride down it, already it’s topsy-turvy. Shortly before you hit the wet blue thing at the bottom of the road, you turn around and ride straight back up it. Net gain: 0km.
Suffice to say, it’s brilliant. Sa Calobra is one of the best roads I’ve ever ridden. It rewards you with stunning views on a rapid and reasonably technical descent and a steady but eminently achievable climb back to the top.
Over the next couple of days, the group split, with some riders tackling Puig Major and Soller, others heading off on mammoth 200km + days in the saddle, whilst some took it easy with shorter cafe rides away from the mountains in the heart of the island.
When we met at the bar each evening there was always a story of someone launching a heroic but ultimately doomed attack up a climb that was 5kms longer than they were expecting. Or rumours of a rider who didn’t take a turn on the front for 20kms straight. Essentially, the same stories you hear after every club ride. “Business as usual” you might say, but riding somewhere like Mallorca never is.
The most gratifying thing about the trip was seeing riders who might struggle on the short punchy climbs at home, really excel in the mountains abroad. Or riders that don’t usually have the time or inclination for a long day in the saddle really stretch themselves. These opportunities are rare, and we’re lucky to have the opportunity to travel abroad to find them.
Follow this link to find out more about Peckham Cycle Club or head over to the British Cycling website and find out about the clubs in your area and how you can get involved.