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Daniel Wildey gets sweaty on Mallorca's coastal singletrack - an discovers secret coves, technical trails and the hidden joy of the ascent.

stunning mallorca coastline

I must have shot a despairing glance as I forced out the final few pedal rotations and approached my guide - Guy Shemesh, of ChainGuide Mallorca. Or else he read between the lines of sweat running down my face and decided to offer some words of encouragement. "When the downhill is as long as the uphill I will believe in God."

Combined with the relief of reaching the summit of Coll Baix, his words spurred me on in a 'we're-all-in-this-together' kind of way. And later, the rosy tint of hindsight made me realise that the downhill wouldn't have been half as much fun without the climb.


A taste of the good life

Besides, it's highly un-British to expect anything to be offered on a plate, as I'd found quite literally the previous evening. I'd arrived at the Zafiro Palace Hotel in Alcúdia, a town on the north of the island, and after a day of travelling I was salivating over the saltimbocca on offer. Only a Brit would hesitate to take two pieces from an all-you-can-eat buffet.

As far as I can remember this was my first experience of an all-inclusive resort, and even after the initial pleasant surprises such as a very tastefully decorated room and a general lack of children running wild, the buffet was a treat. Artichoke risotto, saltimbocca (turkey, although traditionally veal, wrapped in parma ham) with asparagus, figs and raspberries for dessert and Faustino as the 'basic' house wine were not the kind of delights I'd normally associate with the words 'all-you-can-eat.'

Alcúdia’s palm-fringed beaches.jpg

By the time I'd finished riding with Guy the following day I'd burned all those calories and more. We made a gentle start through the streets of Alcúdia's Old Town and onto tiny beaches where waves lazily lapped at our tyres. Warmed up, we came to the remains of a seaside quarry where the Romans carved out the stones to build the ancient walls of Alcúdia.


In search of secret spots

A short spell of superb coastal singletrack was over all too quickly and then a long climb inland brought us to the scene of Guy's encouraging blasphemy, after the steep ascent to Coll Baix. From here, Guy's local knowledge became invaluable. We were perched at the summit of a gnarled and technical singletrack descent through pine forest to a secret beach, a route I would have never found alone.

The ride was intense, and the beach fairly busy for a secret spot, but it was obvious it would have been teeming if accessible by road. Everyone there had either hiked in or approached from the sea, and I'm sure nobody regretted their journey to this beautiful cove, hemmed in by terracotta cliffs and deep blue sea.

We hiked back up until we reached another formidable looking climb on a bare hill, exposed to the blazing sun. Again, it was a pore-opener, and the sweat flowed freely as we crawled up the switchbacks, humping bikes to shoulders near the steepening summit of Coll de na Jacinta. The summit arrived quicker than expected, and afforded incredible views across the isthmus between the bays of Pollenca and Alcúdia, and further to the imposing mountains of Mallorca.

The steep ascent.jpg

The long descent to the sea was far more satisfying than the tricky battle we'd tackled earlier, and I finally found my flow on the rocky, fast-paced hillside. Low bushes obscured rocks poking out of the trail, keeping adrenalin and concentration levels high. One of our fellow riders slipped and fell three metres off the trail, but was lucky to land in foliage that wasn't hiding any rocky surprises.

The twists and turns and ups and downs over dry streambeds gave my upper body as much of a hammering as the climb had given my legs, but my smile-muscles ached just as much as the rest of me the next day.

Naturally our arrival at the beach called for a beer, and like the descent, it was all the sweeter for having been well earned. The lord works in mysterious ways...

I'd even begun to get comfortable with the feeling of getting something for nothing at the hotel's all-inclusive restaurants; that evening my weary legs gently throbbed through a fog of Faustino and I felt like they'd earned everything they could get. So when an appetizer of deep-fried breaded olives stuffed with anchovies materialised on the table at 'El Olivo' - Zafiro's Mediterranean offering - they lasted about three seconds.

Heaped piles of frito marinero followed - a pan-fried party of potatoes and seafood - along with a veal, sirloin and langoustine combination, modestly under-promoted as 'surf and turf.' It was unsettlingly excellent, and I suspected I would have a great deal to pay back to the cosmos the next morning.


The only way is up

So it proved. We drove out 30 minutes from Alcúdia the following day, with Guy promising superb singletrack but warning of a real slog of a climb to finish the route. The drive took us past the unique wetlands of Parque Natural s'Albufera, a critical habitat for small white flamingos, and into the impossibly narrow streets of the hilltop town of Artà.

From here we set out, pedalling through surprisingly lush farmland abundant enough that we could pick Erbossa berries (known as Madrono in Spanish, Arbousier in French, and apparently non-existent in English, but tasty in any language) straight from the roadside.

The leisurely, bucolic start didn't last long, and by the time we entered Parque Natural de la Peninsula Llevant the midday heat was beginning to tell, and I was ready to point downhill for a while.

Riding towards the sea.jpg

Fortunately, Guy had arranged for us to point downhill a hell of a lot. It started with a riotous, undulating trail, exposed high above the sea in the east, with dramatic peaks to the west. As we approached the point where the gradient dropped more steeply to the shore, I had to stop just to take the surroundings in. Far below was a stretch of deserted sandy coastline, edged with shallow turquoise waters. The trail was bordered with occasional splashes of colour in the form of vibrant pink flowers and the bleached track, white stone in off-camber slabs or loose gravel pits, snaked as far as the eye could see.

It was rough and fast, with long sections of almost reckless riding between the tight, loose switchbacks. And it went on and on, and gloriously on.

It always seems much easier to climb when a downhill ride is still ahead. Hence Guy's earlier warning about the tough finish to the day. We were barely a quarter of the way back to Artà before I was cursing him under my breath. I fell far behind the rest of the group and tried to settle my mind into any kind of rhythm, and to recover some of the adrenalin that had coursed through my body hour before.

Of course all those fatalistic feelings that you'll never make it to the top are nonsense. But the fun is usually proportionate to the effort required. And in the end, we remember the achievement of pushing through the pain as fondly as the sheer joy of the downhill. God wouldn't deprive us of that, would he?


Travel info:

Map of Mallorca.PNG

Health & safety

ChainGuide Mallorca offer mountain bike itineraries for all abilities, but protective equipment should be considered for even the easiest rides – the terrain can be rocky and loose. The other obvious danger is the sun – plenty of water, sun cream, and skin covering is recommended.


What to pack

Clothing for a normal sunshine holiday ought to be sufficient.


Our trip

Everything outside of travel and accommodation was kindly arranged by Guy at ChainGuide Mallorca, including route planning, bike rental and logistics. For more info on their services and pricing, see


Getting there

Take your pick. Mallorca is well-served by flights from all over the UK. 


Getting around

There is plenty to entertain you in and around Alcúdia, and if booking with ChainGuide Mallorca, any transportation needed can be arranged with Guy.


Food and drink

Try Mallorcan specialities such as ensaimada - pastries dusted with icing sugar - and pa'amb oli, bread with garlic, tomato and olive oil. 


Where to stay

Daniel stayed at the Zafiro Palace in Puerto Alcudia.


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