Majorca: a grey area

Recently, I was very fortunate to spend eight days on the Spanish island of Majorca. It was mainly a cycling holiday, and it was extremely enjoyable. But in that pedalling vein, I was not alone. It seems in the twelve years since I was last on Majorca, the shoulder seasons (spring and autumn) have become exceedingly popular with cyclists. And I’m not talking crappy rental bikes with rusted chains and baskets on the front: serious cyclists, with groups sporting matching shirts and guys of all shapes and sizes positively motoring up and down the hills.

The summer sees a totally different influx of tourists. Dare I call them the German and Scandanavian version of K-Mart People? (IKEA People, perhaps?)

After spending a week biking all over the north of the island, at a leisurely speed (with only water in my bottles), stopping to enjoy lunch and the views, I can say the place is very beautiful, away from the developed coastal areas. These are given over to eyesore, all-inclusive resort hotels: some new, some abandoned, some boarded up until the summer season. The coastal roads are littered with crap shops and themed restaurants. It makes for a rather bizarre contrast, that inland there are interesting and attractive small towns like Alcudia, Pollenca, Arta, Selva, Soller and Campanet, to name but a few, while the beaches are set up like a Spanish version of a Vegas strip.

This doesn’t deter the cyclists, who come in droves at this time of year (to stay in the eyesore hotels which are open and which cater specifically to cyclists) and who are mostly male. Beyond the overload of testosterone, these cyclists seem to fit primarily into the 45-65 age group. There are younger riders and hard-core triathletes, but they’re pretty much a blur of spandex, sponsors, carbon and shiny legs as they roar past at ridiculous speeds, appearing to hate every minute of it. Tourists who are not cycling are also from the grey brigade, doing their package tours by bus.

Playa de Muro, where I stayed, was something of the island’s cycling mecca. There were banners for half a dozen cycling tour companies, and all through the day, groups were riding down the main strip. One restaurant was constantly packed with riders, nearly all men, nearly all 45-65. The place is called Boy, and pardon my 80s reference point, it but reminded me quite a lot of the Blue Oyster bar from Police Academy.

For most of my kilometres, I cycled alone. This is because, as a triathlete, you always cycle alone in races, so it makes sense to train that way. I also don’t feel comfortable riding in groups, nor do I want to spend several hours staring at bums and back wheels. On Majorca, it was especially rewarding to ride solo, enjoy the scenery and take the time to savour each ride. My favourite was the winding back road from Arta to Betlem (mainly because on this island packed with riders, I was the only one on this route that day).

This will give some idea of the island’s beauty, on the climb from Pollenca to Lluc. This video is posted on the Purathletes page on Facebook.

My last cycling holiday was in 2010 on Fuerteventura, which was also good. After Majorca, shared with the grey nomads, and after sampling the island’s seedy coastal lows and sublime mountain highs, I think I’ll get a bit more adventurous for the next one. Go somewhere that’s not such a cycling haven, and not as popular. Suggestions?