Cycling Destinations | Part #130 Nov. -0001
TEXT / CAROLIN SCHIFF | PHOTOS / CAROLIN SCHIFF
There are so many beautiful cycling destinations, it’s difficult to name just a few. The world serves us, cyclists, well and you can take it all in at a comfortable pace. You really get to enjoy the area and can get to places where cars cannot. In part #1 of Cycling Destinations, our colleague and professional cyclist Carolin Schiff has chosen Mallorca, Girona in Spain, and Lünerburge Heide in Germany as areas to add to your to-bike list.
The beautiful Spanish island in the Mediterranean Sea is well known by most cyclists. The island has so much to offer to match different preferences. You can go on a hilly ride or just spin your legs on a flat loop. The weather during the winter months is pretty nice and perfect for an early-season training camp. Another advantage is that you can reach the island very easily and quickly via airplane. In addition, most of the hotels on Mallorca are attuned to cyclists. Usually, it is no problem to bring your own bike and store it safely in a bicycle storage room or in the hotel room. If you don’t want to bring your own bike there are plenty of opportunities to rent a bike.
Cycling in Mallorca is very versatile. On the west side, you find the Serra de Tramuntana, a mountainous landscape. The highest peak is the Puig Major with 1445 m. But there are plenty of opportunities to climb other nice mountains. Personally, I really prefer the smaller climbs around Calvia and the coastal road from Andratx to Soller. You always have a nice view of the sea while having fun on the climbs and the descents. On the coastal road, you pass small and beautiful villages like Deià, Banyabulfar, and Valdemossa. In Deià you can refuel at the small bakery at the entrance of the village. After a delicious cake or a slice of pizza, you are ready for the last part of the coastal road. Another highlight is “Sa Calobra”. It is a very nice small and beautiful bay between the mountains. Since it is an impasse you have to go 10 km down and after this climbing the 10 km road back to Coll dels Reis (728 m). But the nice view in the bay is worth the effort. If you like climbing you should also definitely do the Puig Major, the Col de Soller, and Orient. If you are looking for a stunning viewpoint to the sea I can recommend a cycling trip to Cap Formentor. This is the most northerly point of the island and it’s also definitely worth the effort.
On the east coast of the island, you can find nice bays and flat roads. Villages like Cala d’Or or Cala Figuera are a nice destination for a coffee stop. A propos coffee. Since I am a coffee lover my training rides on Mallorca are never without a coffee break. I can recommend three places with really good coffee and food.
1. Cycling Planet in Alaro
2. Sa Mola 13
3. Rapha Café Palma de Mallorca
You would like to go to Mallorca but you don’t like the big hotels and the party tourism? Then I can recommend a nice place which is perfect for cyclists who are searching for something different. Check out @ma13mallorca.
For me, Girona offers a perfect combination between cycling and lifestyle. The historic town is a cycling hotspot and it is no surprise that lots of professional cyclists call Girona their home. The roads around Girona are perfect for a nice cycling holiday. The beautiful Costa Brava and the coastline are about 30 km away from the city. It’s a great loop with a stunning view. But there are more possibilities like Els Angles, Rocacorba, or the Mare del Deu de Mont.
Els Àngels is a classic climb that’s part of a popular cycling loop from Girona.
The Els Àngels circuit takes in two climbs with a nice respite in the middle. The gradients are never too intense, and the first climb starts just 3 or 4 kilometers from Girona. The route was made famous by Armstrong: locals say he loved it for a short high-intensity training ride.
Riding doesn't get much better than this: peaceful, rolling roads with hardly any traffic, pretty woodland, medieval villages, and ancient churches.
Rocacorba is (a bit) like Girona’s Alpe d’Huez: it’s a tough climb that’s famous for the history that has been written on its slopes. It’s been used by some of the world’s best cyclists as a test climb to see what sort of shape they’re in. For pros it’s all about getting a sub 30 minute; the climb has seen some big names turn themselves inside out to achieve that.
Mare del Deu de Mont: Like Rocacorba, the climb is a popular testing ground for the pros and with good reason: from Cabanelles it’s 18km with an average 5.4% gradient and goes up to 14%. Top Strava times are around 50 minutes - not for the faint-hearted!
Getting to and from the climb is no hardship. It incorporates the sort of quiet, rolling countryside of which every cyclist dreams.
Coming back from a training ride into the city you will find plenty of opportunities to refuel. There are great cafés and restaurants. If you are not cycling you should go on a shopping trip to the Old town of Girona.
Lüneburger Heide (Germany)
It is just around the corner from my hometown but cycling in the Lüneburger Heide is like a small holiday. Last year I went on a bikepacking trip on the ‘Heidschnuckenweg’ with three friends. The ‘Heidschnuckenweg’' is a 210 km hiking path from Hamburg to Celle. It is really beautiful with sandy roads and small villages. The area is called ‘Heide’. It is a natural reserve that is typically marked by sandy paths and forests. It’s perfect for the gravel bike.
We started in our hometown Bremen on Friday afternoon and came back on Sunday afternoon. It was just a weekend trip but it was a real holiday for me. I enjoyed being in nature and traveling with little luggage. We just had a saddleback on the bike for all our stuff. Since it was really nice weather we did not need a lot and slept in hotels. The first day was from Bremen to Buchholz i.d.N. We started in Bremen in the afternoon and arrived at our destination right before the sunset. Especially the last 30 km of this route in the ‘Fischbeker Heide’ were really beautiful. This is the area where the ‘Heidschnuckenweg’ starts.
Saturday was the big day through the ‘Heidschnuckenweg’. We started early because we planned to do a 190 km gravel ride. We enjoyed the day and had so much fun. It was just about being together and enjoying cycling and nature. We stopped a few times to refuel with a cake in one of the nice villages that the ‘Heide’ offers. In the late afternoon, we arrived in Celle. This is a nice small town with a beautiful historic city center. We had a nice evening in a nice Italian restaurant with pizza and pasta. The hotel we booked had a special room for our bikes which was really nice.
Sunday was the last day and the way back from Celle to Bremen. It is a nice cycling path beside the river ‘Aller’ and later beside the ‘Weser’. In between, you cycle on a railway trail. When we arrived in Bremen we enjoyed a good coffee in our favorite café to finish off this mini-holiday.