May 16, 2016 § 14 Comments
Here are some travel tips when you take your bike trip to Mallorca. Not if.
- Don’t stay in the hostel bunk beds your last night. You are adaptable but not enough to bed down with 15 strangers, ten of whom are thieves and five of whom had beans for dinner.
- Rent your bike. There are Canyon, Pinarello, and Specialized shops. It won’t be as good as your bike at home but after the first ten minutes you won’t care. And you won’t be taking any of Fabian’s KOM’s regardless.
- Rent your bike at least six months in advance. The high end bikes are all rented up for April and May; as soon as a rental is returned it’s on the road the next day. Don’t dally, and tell the shop you want new tires and a new chain and a clean bike.
- Pack light, then cut your luggage in half. You’re now ready to begin packing. One medium-sized backpack and nothing more. Spain has these incredible machines that wash and dry dirty clothes, and huge markets (indoors!) that sell clothing, food, bicycles, and such.
- Okay, you’ve ignored #2 because, wanker. Make sure you have two (two) hours between connections or your bicycle may not make the transfer even if you do. You are going to feel stupid being on a bike vacation sans bike with nothing to wear but bibs.
- Travel with people you adore because by the end you will only tolerate them, especially if they blog about how they dropped you. Daily. If you travel with people you tolerate at best, by trip’s end there will be a warrant out for your arrest or theirs.
- Study Spanish for at least six months before you go. This will guarantee that everyone speaks to you in perfect English.
- Learn basic greetings in Norswanish because Norwegians, Swedes, and Danes are everywhere and it’s important to tell people how much they suck in their own language as you drop them like a boulder in a roadrunner cartoon.
- If you have special dietary needs you will be designated as a “pain in the ass,” or PITA. Learn how to say “gluten free,” “nothing with a face,” “I drink my own urine,” etc. in Spanish so your waiter can understand what it is he’s going to ignore.
- Bring a rain jacket. Bring a long-sleeve jersey. Bring two (two) undershirts, two (two) kits, two (two) pairs of socks, and one (one) pair of armwarmers. The weather varies from cool to perfect in May; think SoCal with showers. Hoodie, sweater, and cap required for apres-flail.
- Do not plan to sharpen your descending skills in Mallorca; plan to fully use those you have. Cars, bikes, hairpins, and sometimes wet hairpins require caution. You’ll improve simply by riding safely. The temptation to charge the descents will get you hurt or killed which is okay but none of your pals wants a body bag as their checked luggage. “Anything to declare?” “Just this corpse,” is a bad ending to any holiday.
- Make Day 1 a short, easy day. We did 30 miles and it was perfect.
- Front load your hardest couple of days. It’s easy to bite off more than you can chew so don’t do more than three hard days without a rest day. You want to finish the trip feeling great and hungry for more, not worn out like an old shoe.
- Eat a big breakfast every day. Twice. Eat a big lunch. Eat a big dinner. This isn’t a fat farm and if you don’t stay fueled you will collapse by trip’s end. Weight gain on the trip is much better than weight loss; the time to slim down is before the trip, not during. Plus, you will be a total buzzkill if you’re gnawing an oat after a 100-mile beatdown while everyone else is having whipped cream on their fatty pork strips.
- Decide what kind of trip you want. A hammerfest is very different from combining leisure with cycling. If photos and plenty of stops along the way are important to you, don’t travel with a bunch of cannibals who ate granny for dinner. This means you, Tony.
- Bring a GoPro if you want to document the ride and spend months editing and cataloguing a week’s worth of cycling. Even if you hate Strava, it’s worth recording these rides. #248 out of 13,000 isn’t bad!
- Get a big data plan. If you use AT&T, whose international plans suck, buy a phone and a data plan in Mallorca. It’s cheap and worth it, especially if you’re not going to have access to dependable Wi-Fi.
- Make sure you have access to dependable Wi-Fi.
- Check your passport. It must be valid for 90 days beyond your departure date, Jonathan.
- Schedule an extra day at the end for sightseeing and, if you must to say you did, bunking with thieves and serial farters. You miss a lot only cycling (but infinitely more only caging).
- You’ll get exponentially more out of Mallorca if you’re fit. Your training should include lots of climbing and a month out you should put in five consecutive 5-6 hour days and not feel destroyed. This is an amazing enough experience to train for a year in advance. You don’t have to, but why not? We had one member who simply couldn’t do the climbs and it was sad because he really missed out and he knew it.
- Along with the Spanish you won’t use, study the geography and scout all the famous routes on Strava. Twenty hours of map study isn’t too much. You’ll enjoy it exponentially more understanding where you are rather than blindly following. The island is so small you can master it quickly, yet it’s fantastically easy to get lost because no roads are straight, yet it’s impossible to stay lost because, tiny island. Also, knowledge is 9/10 of climbing because if you don’t know what’s ahead you won’t know how to meter your efforts.
- My preference is to ride early. If you prefer late starts or more loosey-goosey launch times like Joe Yule, make sure your group does, too. Nothing ruins a ride like Mr. Punctuality among relaxed cyclists, or a Johnny Come Late among pointy-sharpers.
- Life in general, and Mallorca in particular, is a terrible place to be a critic. The weather, being weather, is unpredictable. This is why you brought a rain jacket and purchased an all-weather smile at Wal-Mart. Food is really only perfect when you are humble, so since that ain’t happening because YOU ARE ROADIE, HEAR ME ROAR, just eat what you’re served, move on, and remember that this is an epic bike trip requiring food, not an epicurean trip requiring a bike.
- Coffee is everywhere, better than anything served in the U.S., and no one cares if you sit at a table for two hours taking micro-hits from an espresso cup, so for dog’s sake, do it.
- Don’t mix and match. I took binoculars and a field guide hoping to sneak in some birdwatching, but guess what? When you get your legs torn off the only bird you want to see is a chicken, and he’d better be cooked. Mallorca is so good and the cycling so challenging that you’ll have your hands full with ride, eat, sleep, repeat.
- Take this trip. You are old and tomorrow you might be dead. A German guy I met named Elmer was in Mallorca doing his seventh Ironman; this was his third after a heart transplant, which makes him the only person on earth whose body has done seven Ironmans but whose heart has only done three. Elmer’s 44 years old and not waiting for “later.” Neither should you.