Escaping the Tourist Trail on Mallorca’s Gravel Routes

In Villafranca, we stopped for a quick coffee again. Gravel riding was, after all, mainly an excuse to enjoy all the best of what Mallorca has to offer. 

Things have changed for Jelle Mul. His early experiences of Mallorca, the winter road cycling mecca of Europe, were bulging with speedy sunrise climbs, sweat dripping from his nose, and the coach shouting from the window of the accompanying car, “Five more minutes. Go Go Go!” even as he felt the pain of pushing, his breathing barely in control.

On a recent return to the island, just under two decades after his first visits as part of a Dutch cycling team, the pace was decidedly slower. Invited by his friend Dennis, and joined by ex-Olympian and cyclocross pro, Thijs Al, the three had different ambitions for this trip. Where previously the focus had been on smooth road climbs, increasing the speed with each session, the emphasis now was on quiet, interesting gravel routes linking points of interest (read: food and drinking holes) across Mallorca. 

Instead of a characterless hotel in town, Jelle and his cycling buddies would be in a pretty farmhouse in the countryside. Instead of a coach pushing them, they’d have a local guide to show them the best of Mallorca’s old farm roads. 

They started day one as they meant to go on. Jelle, Thijs, Dennis and the guide they came to call Legend, rode rural gravel tracks, stopping in pretty villages to sample the edible delights of the island, and catch a break from the heat. Plus they absorbed all the local knowledge and historical tidbits Legend threw at them. They also took it as their prerogative to be flexible, and as a result, spent a night or two cowboy camping in beautiful locations…

Satisfied and smiling, we rode in the direction of Montuïri and Randa—our final destinations for the day. Some tricky but fun sections through the pine forest brought us to the bottom of “Randa”, the holy mountain of Mallorca.  All the hills in the center of the island feature chapels or monasteries, but only on Randa will you find three on the same mountain. Ramón Llull, a philosopher, mathematician, and religious man, lived there as a hermit. The story goes that he had a spiritual revelation and came into contact with God on the top of the mountain. 

We decided to leave Ed and his comfortable Bike Villa for the night and set up camp by the monastery. The restaurant on top served great wine and amazing food, so we decided to wait out the late sunset and after a great dessert, sneak into the garden and roll out our sleeping bags to put our heads to rest. I’m not sure if it was the wine, the good food, the perfect day, or some sort of revelation, but not much later, we all fell sound asleep with the biggest smiles on our faces.

The trip was a resounding success by anyone’s standards, especially those free spirits who enjoy exploring on two wheels. You can read Jelle’s full piece in Soigneur here.

For routes and more inspiration, you can check out Jelle’s profile on komoot here.

Photos by Jelle Mul