What gets the wind in your hair, excitement in your eyes, keeps you fit, allows you to discover new places, and is free? Cycling!
The 4 islands of Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera which make up the Balearics, are a cyclists’ paradise – good weather, easy to get to, with a mixture of flat or rugged terrain (in Mallorca at least!), coastal and city routes – i.e. something for everyone. You can be a serious professional rider, training for big competitions (more of that later), or doing it in a more relaxed manner to have fun, to explore different villages, towns and the countryside: to discover beautiful coves and fascinating monuments: to view stunning landscapes: to enjoy a different gastronomy, all the while doing sport in complete harmony with your surroundings – fit, healthy and green, what more can one ask for!
Cycling or bike riding falls into 3 categories – such as bicycle rides, mountain bike rides and road bike rides, each one appealing to different types of riders, and each type well catered for on the islands. Bicycle rides – think back of being a child when you rode your bike to school, around your area, out with your friends – townie type stuff: mountain rides – think of death defying, adrenaline making, dizzying rides along mountain ridges; road bikes – think lycra clad racers. And it’s not any old bike they ride – again there’s something for everyone – child, hybrid, electric, mountain and road.
Love them or hate them, cyclists are here to stay. It is estimated that they will bring around 300 million euros to the economy this year (2019). Some of this can be attributed to the fact that they come here mostly in the off-season winter months, thus helping to keep hotels (and therefore employment) open during this time when they would normally be closed for the winter. In Mallorca alone it is estimated that 200 hotels, mostly in the north of the island, will stay open purely to cater for biking tourism, offering such things as secure bike storage, bike washing facilities, on-site mechanics, in-house shops, packed lunches, whatever it take to keep the customers happy and returning, which many of them do, year after year. Bike-shop cafes are also springing up all over the islands, offering repairs and/or hire.
Cycling, and particularly racing, is big business in general – think of the Tour de France, Vuelta a España, Team Sky. And the Balearics is where they come to train – teams of 60-70 taking over a whole hotel. Not only that, but there are 10 annual competitions on the islands, the most well-known of which is Mallorca 312 in Alcudia. But anyone who cycles on one of the most unique mountain roads in Europe – Sa Calobra (between Port de Pollensa and Cap de Formentera) downhill, and remember, what goes down must come up, or cycles from Palma to the Lluc Monastery deserves respect!
In Mallorca alone there are over 480 cycles tours – 62 bicycle rides, 115 mountain bike rides and 302 road bike rides: within which there are 10 specific routes : Menorca has 6 routes, plus the fantastic 180 k coastal Cami de Cavals (the old horse route): Ibiza has 21 routes, while Formentera has 12.
On the web there is a wealth of information on each of the islands with beautiful photos, route finders and route planners, the only difficulty you will encounter is knowing which one to choose!