Is it safe to ride a bike in Mallorca?
In the United States, where I am originally from, much of the popularity of gravel cycling in the past decade has come from the increasing dangers of trying to share the road with cars and trucks on American roads. American roads often have no shoulder and American drivers are impatient, dangerous, and often distracted by mobile phones. Riding bikes on remote gravel roads with minimal auto traffic is a great way to reduce the risks of being in a collision.
Mallorca is a completely different beast. Most drivers tend to be more cautious. Spanish drivers are often quite patient when it comes to sharing the road with cyclists.
On my first visit to Mallorca I found myself pedaling uphill on the MA- 10 up North. The dominant sound was heaving breathing as I struggled with the grade, but eventually I heard something else as well. Was something rubbing? Was that my derailleur?
In fact, it was a small car patiently waiting behind me about 10 meters. They weren’t attempting to pass, they weren’t going to run me off the road or even honk their horn. They were waiting for a safe place to pass and were happy to wait a few minutes to do so. It was a wonderful experience and a pleasant shock.
Is riding a bike on the road dangerous in Mallorca?
Most of our visits have been in the off season, so I know that my experiences aren’t typical, but only two negative experiences sharing the road come to mind here in Mallorca. The first is the small section of road on the MA – 11 between Soller and the turnoff to Col de Soller and MA-11a. This section of road has almost no shoulder and in places I don’t think it has a shoulder at all. The road isn’t really wide enough and cyclists are forced into the traffic lane moving slowly while cars buzz by. This is unfortunately a little too much like riding at home. Luckily, it’s only a short section and the climb over Col de Soller is always worth the trouble.
The other experience is a funny one. On a previous trip I was riding without a modern headunit with a great map (like my current Wahoo Elemnt Roam.) I took a wrong turn at a roundabout and found myself briefly riding on the MA-13. While traffic was buzzing along at a high rate of speed, it wasn’t particularly dangerous riding. There was plenty of shoulder and I wasn’t in anyone’s way. The reaction of Spanish drivers was priceless. This is the only time I have gotten honked at and it was pretty consistent. Apparently riding one’s bicycle on the highway is completely unacceptable behavior.
Is this the tradeoff for an island with an incredible road network and polite and patient drivers? I’m happy to give the cars and trucks a single highway in exchange for safe travel on the thousands upon thousands of kilometers of world class paved and gravel roads that Mallorca has to offer.
In Mallorca we don’t ride gravel because the roads are unsafe or unpleasant to ride on. On the contrary, the road riding here is sublime. We ride on gravel roads to explore the secrets of the island and to find the hidden adventure that lurks just beyond the next curve.