The Spoke June 29, 2015

This is not a Ridley Orion bike review

"Do you work here?" I asked.

"No," came the response, "Speak to Javier". 

I waited for Javier to finish attending to the bike that evidently needed tweaking. 

Moments later, "How long do you want a bike for?" came a voice from behind. 

I turned around. It was the bloke I just asked for help. 

"Errrr, 3 days." I said, alittle bemused. 

"I think I can help. What size bike do you need?"

"58cm frame," I said.

"That's a large in a Ridley. You ridden a Ridley before?" he enquired. 

"No," I replied wondering what that had to do with anything. 

"You've got pedals though, right?" He stated. 

"No. Just a helmet and shoes. No pedals," I replied. I had travelled deliberately light. This wasn't a cycling holiday. 

"No pedals?" he said again. 

"That's right." I said "No pedals." This is difficult, I thought. 

"Not sure if I can help. What type do you need?"

"SPD-SL's," I replied confidently. 

"These??" He said showing me a pair of SPD's. 

"No. SL's," I repeated.  

"Ummph" said Dave and off he went looking for some SL’s pedals for me. He returned a few minutes later brandishing a pair of the required type and then asked me if I'd ever ridden in Mallorca. When I replied I had many times he perked up and suggested I should plan my next cycling tour with his company, Sun Velo Tours in mind. I said I would consider it. With my new bike I wheeled it back to the car, €80 lighter for bike hire and a water bottle, plus a further €26 for 2 inners and a Topeak mini 9 multi-tool later. I was as ready as it was going to get. Hopefully I would not need to use the inners. 

I have not ridden a Ridley bike before. I quite liked it. I wouldn't trade it for my Superbike, but as a substitute bike for 6 hours on 3 snatched rides around Mallorca it was perfectly fit for purpose. It was not an exciting bike to ride but a reliable one. Carbon framed with a combination of FSA and Shimano 105 the most interesting thing about it was the 25mm tyres. I have yet to switch from 23mm and on the strength of this experience I probably will. It did seem to be more comfortable, but to be fair that was perhaps more due to the very good state of the Mallorca roads than an extra 2mm of rubber on my tyre. It will be interesting to see if I arrive at the same conclusion after a few miles around the wonderful pot hole ridden roads of West Sussex. 

3x2 hour rides was the agreement. This would offer a circa 150km of distance depending on how well I navigated, what the terrain was, how much wine I had to drink the night before and the wind. As per usual I spent some time looking at the map judging a suitable initial loop. It would look something like this:-

Head south towards Ca'n Picafort, then west, inland to Santa Margalida, then north to Muro, Sa Pobla and Pollenca. From there I would ride in a south westerly direction towards Alcudia and back along the coast, home, to the hotel at Albufera Playa. That looked like about 50km to me. 

It was, in fact, very nearly 60km. The second time I did it, I was 35 seconds short of 2 hours. Pretty much spot on.

I was in two minds to seek a different route every morning, but I wanted to optimize my time as much as possible. I didn’t want to waste the opportunity being lost in, say Alcudia, like I always do. (Note to file, if lost, all roads eventually lead to Palma.) It was before 07.00 and there was a chill in the air, sufficient to warrant arm warmers. I figured I would be stripping these off once I had warmed up. It was going to be a beautiful day (is there any other type in Mallorca?), and I was rolling on the road. This route would suffice for today and tomorrow and I would consider a change on day 3. These were familiar but new roads to me. The roads were my own, there was no movement apart from the occasional bus ferrying people between hotel drop-off. The moment I headed inland to Santa Margalida the road became more undulating, but it was nothing unexpected. I could see the mountains to the north in the distance. This time, that’s where they would stay since I knew it was fruitless trying to reach them in the time I had available. Another time. I had settled into my rhythm on the ‘new’ bike and sure enough it was time to remove the arm warmers. I had an official sweat on. I could see the town ahead but before I reached the outskirts proper, I took a right and followed a series of winding curves that eventually led me to the ‘main’ road, Ma-3411 to Muro. There was a minor incline just on the way into town, enough to get me out of the saddle and work alittle.

Riding through Muro, I took a couple of photos from a vantage point that overlooked the plain. The land looked like it was beginning to dry out. Exiting the town towards Sa Pobla I was greeted with a 1 km descent which I took full advantage of. I hammered it. The road, Ma-3340 was almost dead straight and in the distance, 5 km or so was Sa Pobla. The purpose of Sa Pobla was to go around it and continue north. Mission accomplished. Passing over the interchange with the MA-13, it dawned on me I had been on this road before. It was with Lukey and Frank a couple of Decembers ago. In the dark. And the wet. From memory I also recalled it was a continuous, gradual ascent all the way to Pollenca. At least I could see where I was going this time. I was enjoying riding a different bike. I was reasonably comfortable and the bike was responsive when some power was applied. I ground my way up the incline and coasted down the other side. I recognised the mountain where we had effectively ridden up a track to the church at the top; I knew I was close to Pollenca. Not quite home, but definitely familiar ground.

Climbing gently I reached the junction with the Ma-10 but continued right on the Ma-2220 which would take me to the coast….well nearly. This offered a chance to gather some speed; a subtle decline met maintaining somewhere between 35 and 38km was possible. I was now on the fringes of Port de Pollenca. Rather than continue I turned towards Alcudia and home. The road was flat and the wind was behind me. I would be sprinting home. The ‘Badia de Pollenca’ looks truly beautiful in the morning. There were no waves save for the mild wake of a fishing boat that was pondering it’s way along the coast. The sun shimmered on the water’ mountains book-marked each end of the bay. I was motoring along on the well maintained (and well used) cycle path.

Negotiating Alcudia has always been a challenge for me. This time was no different. Predictably I ended up on the promenade wondering where it had all gone wrong. The answer was a couple of signs back when I should have headed to Palma…..I was soon back on track on the Ma-12. 10 km later I was resting on the steps of the hotel, ride complete. Legs were tingling, I had ridden the last stretch as hard as I could. I had really enjoyed it. This was going to set me right up for the day ahead.

I did the same again the following day, creeping our before anyone was awake.

Now, having ridden that route twice, I was in two minds to keep it simple and go three in a row. No! Time for change. My final ride would, however, take me south again. It looked like this:-

Head south through Ca'n Picafort, staying on the road to Arta. About 10km from Arta take the Petra turn, west, and continue to where the signs for Santa Margalida appear once more. Riding north, go through Muro and Sa Pobla. Once at Sa Pobla, take the road for the S'Albufera and south for the hotel. It looked like about the same distance as the previous loop. It practice it was. 

Third day out and the legs were tired this morning. The room was quiet when I left. It was a touch chilly to start with but that didn't last long. 20 minutes in and I had warmed up and settling into the ride. I was blessed with yet another beautiful morning. The sun was rising, there was hardly any breeze and there was nothing on the roads. Perfect cycling conditions. 

By the time I took the turn for Petra, I had started to descend. This explained at least in part the next 14km of undulations. My legs were creaking a bit, a mix of wine, mild dehydration and an early morning combining together. Nothing I hadn't dealt with before. As I rolled towards Petra I could see a chapel overlooking the town below. There is a ride that takes in 3 climbs around this area which I will do at some-point. This chapel was one of the 3. It didn't look too bad. Reaching the outskirts, the signage took me towards Ariany and Santa Margalida. This would be a different approach to the previous day's loop, but just as picturesque. A mild climb over the lip of a hill and I coasted into town. Muro was next. The road from Santa Margalida to Muro was the poorest surface I experienced over those 3 days, but it was more ‘rough’ than ‘dangerously potholed’ – WSCC take note. I rumbled, weaved and bumped appropriately and then recognised where I was from a ride a few years ago. Skirting the bottom of town, Sa Pobla was next up. This would be a quick 5km because of the exciting descent and the subsequent carry-over from that. Sure enough 8 minutes or so later I was on the Sa Pobla ring road heading towards the national park that separated me from the hotel. The distance marker said 7km but memory said it was longer to the seafront. I sped along at 36km eating the distance. It's hard to get a feel for the park from the road - giant reeds line both sides of the road so there's not much wildlife to see. As you get closer to the beachfront the vegetation becomes shorter and it's possible to get a clearer view of the wetlands. There were birds resting/floating on the water all of whom looked at peace in the early morning sunshine. I was only a few minutes from the hotel now. I raced along the now familiar seafront. Legs burning, I reached home with sweat pouring off my brow, accumulating 63 km in 2hours 10minutes.

185km in 6 hours 18 minutes, total. For a series of 'bonus' rides I was delighted to be riding round the island again, serving as another reminder of what a brilliant place for cycling Mallorca is. I committed to myself I would return later in the year to indulge in some cycling specific time there. As for the Ridley? It was a decent enough hire bike but I would not rush out and buy one – and for me that’s saying something!

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