Through the open kitchen window I heard a German-accented “Halloooo?” calling hopefully from the lane outside our gates. It was another group of lost Lycra-clad cyclists needing directions to the Mallorcan resort of Ca’n Picafort, which becomes the base for huge numbers of visiting cyclists at this time of the year.
The cyclists who find themselves lost in our rural haven mistakenly assume it’s possible to reach the appropriate main road by means of the enticing narrow lane through our picturesque secluded valley. Like their many predecessors, they freewheeled down the lane at great speed, yelling with exhilaration and shattering the tranquillity of our bucolic idyll. They are somewhat quieter on the return journey, having arrived at the lane’s dead end right down in the valley and had to slog all the way back up the hill. Sometimes I wonder if we should buy a defibrillator – just in case.
What? No Formula 1 here?
Although it happened in our early years here, we still remember one strange Sunday afternoon encounter with a lone German cyclist, who spoke little English or Spanish. He was looking for a restaurant and became quite agitated when we explained that the nearest was some 10 kilometres away, in the town of Manacor. We gave him directions, but he seemed reluctant to leave.
It was a surprisingly hot day and his red face glistened with sweat, so we offered him a cold drink, which he declined. Then he spluttered: “Schumacher! Schumacher!”. I peered at the lean face under the cycling helmet, wondering if we were indeed in the presence of motor-racing greatness. Then the centimo dropped: he wanted to know what was happening in the F1 Grand Prix race that afternoon. He was unimpressed to hear that we had no television or Internet (at that time), so couldn’t update him on his fellow countryman’s progress, and after spitting out a string of German words, he hauled himself onto the saddle and was on his way.
Most of the cyclists we encounter, though, are pleasant (and grateful to find someone who knows the area and speaks English).
A wheel paradise
Mallorca is a pedaller’s paradise at this time of year and it’s easy to understand why. The climate is better than in Northern Europe – where many of the visiting cyclists come from; Mallorca has a superb road network of 1,250 kilometres (just over half of which are secondary or rural roads, carrying little traffic), and an extensive network of cycling routes.
The terrain of the island offers something for every level of experience and fitness: from the flat agricultural plains at the heart of the island, through to the switchback roads weaving through the soaring Tramuntana mountain range. Everyone – from the holidaymaker who wants to see the island in a more environmentally way, to the amateur athletes competing in events such as triathlons, to top pro cycling teams, Mallorca has it all.
Not everyone who comes here to cycle does so in Lycra. There are also travel companies catering for people who want a slower-paced holiday, cycling leisurely through glorious scenery on roads that are safer than back at home.
On one occasion, whilst pottering in the garden, we could hear English voices in the lane. We looked out of the gate and saw a middle-aged man and woman pushing their bicycles up the steep hill. They looked weary, so we invited them to join us for tea on the terrace – an offer they accepted with smiles on their faces.
We spent an agreeable hour or so chatting – during which we discovered that the man worked in Oxford (where I had worked in radio for ten years). Small world, eh? Although not serious cyclists, they’d been enjoying the beautiful scenery during their two-wheeled meanderings around northeast Mallorca. Like many cyclotourists, they intended to return to Mallorca. Perhaps the next “hallo” called from the gate will be theirs.
A Google search will produce details of numerous companies offer cycling holiday packages in Mallorca. If you’re coming to cycle here independently, here are three hotels geared up (sorry about the pun) to the needs of their guests on two wheels: Petit Hotel Son Arnau in Selva; Castell Son Claret in the Es Capdella countryside, and Finca Serena, in the rural heartland of Mallorca.
Jan Edwards ©2020