Slow Cycling Mallorca

Peter Markham, a former editor with BBC News, undertakes an epic cycling adventure around the island.

Peter Markham

Five years ago, the idea of cycling through Mallorca’s Tramuntana mountains didn’t appeal to Peter Markham whatsoever. He’d witnessed lycra-clad middle-aged men huffing their way to Cap de Formentor and it wasn’t his idea of a good time. So, how did a man in his early 60s have a change of heart and decide to bike around the island solo?

Starting Small

It all began when Peter stumbled upon “The Slow Cycling Group.” Their name had a certain charm, and after joining the eager amateurs, he embarked on countless 40-50 km rides, soaking in Mallorca’s natural beauty. Biking up Mallorca’s mountains brought Peter a sense of tranquillity and the sound of streams, the turquoise sea, sheep’s bells, and breathtaking views melted away the physical strain. “I discovered I could fall into a meditative rhythm,” he reflects. Enjoying such a relaxed way of cycling made it apparent that competitive long-distance biking would never be his thing. The infamous annual 312 cycling event was decidedly off the cards – Peter had no desire to join the enthusiasts cycling as quickly as possible around the island’s 312 km circumference. He decided, instead, to tackle the same route on his terms. Slow.

Peter knew he would need to spend a few nights away from home to complete the course. For overnight stays, Mallorca’s secret hideaways, the refugios, came to the rescue. These hostels, generally meant for hikers, offered an affordable bed, dinner, breakfast, and even a packed lunch. Sharing a dorm with strangers wasn’t without its quirks, however. Peter recalls a night at the Son Amer hostel near Lluc and the trial of getting into bed without losing one’s modesty in a dormitory full of strangers. “There was also the fear of any dreaded snoring from my new roomies. My solutions were earplugs, an eye patch and choosing a bunkbed that faced a wall,” he tells us.

Highs and Lows

The first days of Peter’s journey took him through rain-soaked descents, gruelling climbs, and a particularly notable 45-minute hike to the Puig de Galatzó refuge. “Despite wanting to throw my bike in the ditch, I thought of how Jesus may once have felt, and so I staggered on across the rocks with my precious bike above my head,” he recalls with a chuckle. It proved well worth the pain to arrive at the new refuge set amidst stunning scenery with a well-stocked bar.

The final 2 days saw Peter pedalling through intense heat, flying down tranquil, tree-lined slopes and on to cycle through the busy city life of Palma. He cruised along kilometres of sandy beaches crammed with sunbeds and tourists dazed from drinking in the sun. On his final day, he wended his way slowly home, and once he reached Alcúdia, cracked open a bottle of Cava to celebrate his achievement. “It was so special to me because I’d completed the circuit of Mallorca on my terms. My mind will long be able to conjure up the beautiful sights I took the time to stop, study and reflect upon,” he thoughtfully concludes.

Text by Ché Miller | Photos by Jonathan Renso Barzola