About Mountain Biking in Mallorca
Mallorca offers excellent mountain biking for those wishing to seek out the trails. The added joy of mountain biking in Mallorca is discovering secluded beaches, hilltops with stunning views, wildlife in its natural environment and colourful fields of flowers in the spring.
Terrain on the island is nearly always rocky with little soil cover - sometimes sandy - this gives the trails a technical feel with many obstacles generally suited to the more experienced biker. The trails have been likened to areas of Colorado and Arizona in the USA. The mountains are composed of limestone and when the limestone is wet, conditions can be very challenging. It is always better to wait until the rock is dry, never long on the island! The east coast is slightly more sandy and a good wet weather option. Try one of Mallorca's Adventure Companies if you'd like a guide.
Written by Justin Gwyn-Williams- an experienced Mountain Bike Guide living and working in Mallorca for Rock and Ride – Mallorca. He is also the author of Mountain Biking in Mallorca - a guidebook to the island containing up-to-date route descriptions, maps and GPX files. Now available from Rock and Ride – Mallorca.
When to come
The ideal time to visit for mountain biking in when the island is quieter (September to May) when the roads are clear, the accommodation ample and the temperature perfect. Summer also works, however, early starts are recommended to avoid the heat of the day. Some of the hire companies offer night rides as an option.
It is always difficult advising someone on the best area for mountain biking in Mallorca as the routes are spread throughout the island. However, one of the great attractions of Mallorca is its compact size and its good road network. This allows all of the areas to be visited from wherever you are staying. All the area’s mentioned in this article have good mountain bike hire companies. Many of them hire quality full suspension mountain bikes. However, it will be worth booking in advance during the busy seasons.
Most areas of the island offer very good mountain biking potential. In particular Sa Comuna near Bunyola & the Soller valley in the west, Cala Millor on the east coast, Pollenca / Alcudia in the north and Peguera in the south west. The west coast is very mountainous with bigger climbs and exciting descents. The east coast is generally flatter but still offers excellent trail opportunities.
For the less experienced biker, one good area is Na Burguesa near Palma which has plenty of forestry roads. Sa Comuna near Bunyola is also a good place to explore with many 4x4 roads in lovely forest comprising Mediterranean Holm Oak and Pine.
Finding the best routes in the past on Mallorca was notoriously difficult. However, a guidebook is now available with up-to-date route descriptions, maps and GPX downloads. The guidebook covers the entire island and is a perfect accompaniment to a mountain biking holiday. It is available as a download or hard copy from Rock and Ride Mallorca. All of the main biking areas are also well served by mountain bike hire shops, some of whom run guided tours.
Access in Mallorca is a contentious issue, with sections of the GR221 currently closed. If you are asked to leave an area for whatever reason, please do so without antagonising the land owner. There is little or no demarcation between walkers and mountain bikers as regards the use of footpaths. If you meet walkers slow down and be courteous, a friendly “Ola” goes a long way. Walkers have the right of way over bikes.
Hiring bikes & equipment
If you don’t own your own mountain bike and plan on renting equipment then there are plenty of Mallorca mountain bike hire shops hiring out both full suspension and hard tail mountain bikes. The cost of daily rental varies from store to store and on the type of bike you choose to rent. On average you can pay anywhere between €16 - €80 euros for a days hire. Prices vary depending on whether you select a basic bike without suspension, or a full on free ride descent bike. (It is also possible to hire mountain bikes for children from around €15 a day.)
If you bring your own bike then there's no point loading up your excess baggage with spare bike parts either (unless your bike requires specific specialist component parts).
Bike setup recommendations
Typically hire bikes in Mallorca are set up European style, with the back brake on the right. Ask to have them swapped around if needs be. Ask in advance of your visit as most of the bike hire companies are flat out during the busy season with road bike rentals.
- If you use knee and elbow protection (recommended), bring these with you as they are difficult to hire.
- I prefer riding with quality flat pedals on the technical routes for extra safety and confidence. Think Enduro riding.
- Always have the saddle down on steep technical descents.
- Have your suspension and tyre pressure set up correctly. A common mistake is to have both too hard. You want to be using the full travel of the shocks. Have your “sag” set correctly and the rebound setting so the folks react quickly and don’t “pack down”.
- Some of the trails are in remote locations and you may not see many people in a day. If you are riding on your own, tell somebody the trail you will be riding and take a phone.
- Carry a basic first aid kit, bike tool, Zip ties and have the ability to do minor maintenance. The trails are very hard in terms of wear and tear on bikes.
- Carry plenty of water in the summer.
- If you are new to mountain biking get some advice on riding technical rocky trails with loose surfaces. Good body position and the correct use of the brakes will save you a lot of pain.
Mallorca has some excellent biking shops that sell plenty of spare parts and components for your bike. However, remember the spares list does not extend to some obscure pivot in your one off special downhill rig. We are talking rear mechs, pedals, cranks, chains, cassettes, brakes, brake pads, cables etc from the more popular manufacturers. The exception to this rule is the rear gear hanger; bring one with you for your bike, especially if it’s of the super funky alternative/rare type. The bike shops do not carry this part for all the different bike manufacturers and the models they make and it is probable the most frequently damaged part in the event of a crash. Even a relatively innocuous fall can damage this part and although they can often be bent back into shape, it would be a shame to ruin your holiday if this were not the case. (Most of the rental shops will also do a good line in helmets, body protectors, repairs and servicing.)
It is highly advisable to ensure your own bike is in tip top condition before lugging it all the way over to France. A days riding in the Alps equates to many rides out in the UK and the wear and tear on your bike reflects this. If you start the week with your bike in a poor to average state of repair it will let you down at some point and spoil the day, if not the weeks enjoyment. If you are not a competent mechanic then your local independent bike shop will provide a service for your pride and joy to ensure you and it remain friends for the week. It is money well spent to upgrade your tires if they are of the lighter weight cross country variety and purchase some free ride tyres with a 2.3 section to smooth your way and avoid the punctures. There is every chance a set of brake pads will disappear in a week so bring a spare pair and carry them with you on the trail to avoid that metal on metal effect! If you run out of time before you come away, Mallorca local bike shops will be able to carry out a service for you. Charges are approximately €40 per hour on a pro-rata basis depending on how serious a service your bike requires!
Equipment for cycling
- Water - One of the biggest problems in this region is the heat. Fit two bottle cages to your bike and take 750ml bottles with electrolyte drinks.
- Sun Cream - The thin air and hot summer sun means you will burn quicker here than at home
- Windbreaker - Although it may be warm in the valley temperatures can drop rapidly as you climb, weather can chage quickly and the fast descents can cool you down fast.
- Snacks - Energy Bars and gels are a very good idea if you are planning a day on the roads.
- Mobile Phone - Being able to contact someone to pick you up if your chain breaks is helpful.
- Money - You may need it in an emergency or just for a beer at the end of the day.
- Basic Repair Kit - You can't fix everything by the side of the road but not all breakdowns require the day to end.
Flying with your bike
A review of airlines terms and conditions in relation to sports equipment baggage indicates that it is highly likely that you will be subjected to a standard charge for taking your bike on board. Easyjet; bmibaby; Aer Lingus; and KLM indicated that there was an average additional charge of between £15 (€22.50) and £25 (€36) to take your bike, one-way.
However, make sure that the combined weight of your luggage does not exceed you allowance. Although you may have paid an excess for your bike its weight may be added to the weight of your hold luggage and there can be a penalty for any kg's over the allowance.
The more conventional airlines such as British Airways and its code share partner Swiss airlines permit free transport of bikes providing they fit within the free baggage allowance, and are packed in a hard shelled container.
Packing your bike for a flight
There are a few options available in transporting your bike. Hard bike boxes tend to cost in the region of £300 and like a hard case suitcase it will minimise the risk of damage occurring to the your bike but they are heavier. A soft bike bag is the cheaper option, costing around £100. Whilst this will provide your bike with a little more padded protection it is not as reliable as the hard box. On our recent trip from the UK to Geneva, we transported our bike in its original cardboard box, protected the key areas with bubble wrap and cardboard and it arrived safely and undamaged. Most airlines stipulate the following:
- Bikes should be contained within a protective box or appropriate bike bag;
- Only one bike should be carried per box/bag, and no other items (except protective padding) should be included within the box/bag;
- Handlebars and pedals must be fixed sideways against the frame or removed; and
- Tyres should be deflated slightly to reduce the risk of damage.
If you are transporting your bike, you should also check out your travel insurance arrangements. A lot of travel insurance companies will not cover your expensive mountain bike without an additional excess payment, and a lot of airlines will not be held responsible for any damage sustained whilst the bike is in their care. Check out your household insurance policy to see whether it can be covered as 'contents away from home'. There may be a slight surcharge for this option, but it's potentially better than having to fork out for a new bit of kit, or a brand new bike!!
In addition to bubble wrap, purchase some pipe lagging and zip ties from a DIY store to put around the frame of the bike for protection during transportation. In addition, if you don't have your original cardboard bike box, ask your local bike shop for one. If you have the choice always use the manufacturer’s box and your bike should arrive safe and whole. However, it is worth noting that the most frequently damaged part of a bike is the rear gear hanger. Remove the rear gear mechanism and tie wrap loosely to the frame to avoid this scenario. This applies almost equally to disc brake rotors if your bike sports them. Take them off, likewise pedals, its only a five minute job and will prevent you engaging in a fruitless search for an obscure part in resort.
Currently the walker/rider relationship is generally amenable. To keep it this way slow down for walkers and pass in single file to one side. A ring of a bike bell is more conducive to alerting walkers to your approach and getting them to step to one side of the trail whilst you pass on the other than an intrusive shout! A friendly “hola” as you pass usually goes down well too.
Some trails are marked walkers only; please comply, you wouldn’t be too happy to meet a walker half way down your favourite downhill course! It would be a shame if the restrictions were to be introduced in Mallorca.
The following 6 mountain biking rules were introduced by the International Mountain Biking Association, and should be understood and followed by every mountain biker before venturing out on the Mallorca trails.
- Ride on open trails only. The mountainside and it’s environment is precious, ensure your cycling is environmentally sound and socially responsible.
- Leave no trace. Stay on existing trails and don’t create new ones, so no cutting off switchbacks!
- Control your bicycle. Where safety notices are displayed, take note and follow them!
- Always let your fellow riders know you’re around. Many trails are also used by hill-walkers who have priority over mountain bikers. There may be trails which are off limits at certain times of the year so it’s best to check this out before you venture out.
- Never scare or intimidate the local wildlife. Remember to leave gates as you found them
- Plan ahead. Check out your equipment before setting of to ensure it’s in good repair, taking puncture repair and basic tool kits with you. Carry necessary supplies including food and waterproofs. Always wear a helmet and appropriate safety gear for the terrain you’re about to tackle.