Gravel Biking Adventures in Mallorca & Spain

Lisa is one of  our fittest Tour Guides! Here she tells us about her adventures on gravel in Mallorca and Spain.

Adventure, that’s the word probably most associated with gravel riding and for those who do it we know why. The crunchy stuff under your knobbly tyres, the sound of birdsong and baby lambs as your soundtrack and constantly being surprised by cool single tracks, steep bumpy climbs that lead to amazing views, hopping over the occasional gate or fence and finding a cafe in a tiny off the beaten track village somewhere that has the best almond cake. That’s the kind of adventure that awaits you and why more and more people are trying out gravel riding, myself included.

I came to Mallorca in the autumn of 2020, friends had told me about the smooth roads and long climbs that the island is famous for. Facing into a cold wet winter in Ireland and not allowed to work due to covid restrictions I packed up my bike and headed for the sunny island. The roads and terrain lived up to expectations and then through some friends here I discovered that the island also has a fantastic network of farm roads, gravel tracks through vineyards and mountain bike single tracks (mostly) suitable for gravel bikes. 

Gravel bikes are a blend between mountain bikes and road bikes, borrowing different characteristics from each to find a middle ground; this allows us to ride on various surfaces mentioned above. 
Gravel spins quickly became a weekly thing with new bikes & tyre upgrades being made as our routes became longer and the weather conditions changed (it does occasionally rain in Mallorca!) I found out that I really enjoyed creating new routes for these weekly spins and often found places that even the locals hadn’t been. Using a combination of mapping apps such as Komoot & Strava as well as just riding down a track to see where it goes is part of the adventure for me and then riding these routes with friends is like having a party on the trails!

Fast forward a bit and I find myself in Girona at the end of a Spain coast to coast tour that I was working on with Paul & Fiona. Having heard that Girona is a gravellers paradise with its huge network of wide smooth easy gravel roads I downloaded a route a friend of mine had posted and went to see for myself. I quickly discovered that Spanish mainland gravel is like Mallorca gravel on steroids, everything is bigger. There’s also a really good network of via verdes (old railway tracks) which makes it perfect for anyone wanting to try gravel for the first time as these dirt routes are so smooth they can be ridden on road tyres. 

Wanting to see more Spanish gravel I jumped at the suggestion of a friend to visit Teruel in the Aragon region of eastern Spain to go on a 10 day bike packing adventure, Gravel biking developed from the bike camping culture of the 1970s and 80’s where people would load up their old steel touring bikes with giant handlebar bags and panniers, and go head out and do some camping. Luckily bikes and equipment have evolved since then and we headed off with our bikes loaded with a saddle bag, frame bag and small handlebar bag, as it was January and the night time temperatures dip below freezing we opted for hostels as this would mean a hot shower every night and time to do longer rides as we wouldn’t be setting up camp each night. We headed from Valencia to Teruel on Spain’s longest via verde; Ojos Negros. From Teruel we explored parts of the Montanas vacias (empty mountains) route, this route runs through the Monts Universals, the Sierra de Javalambre and the Sierra de Gudar. Also known as the Spanish Lapland, so called because it has a population density similar to that of its Finnish namesake. This meant we could feel the solitude riding for miles through lovely pine forests and over beautiful high elevation plateaux’s without seeing anyone or passing any villages, when we did arrive at a village signs of the dwindling populations where noticeable everywhere, as more and more people migrate away from these remote areas to the bigger cities. This sad reality didn’t take from the friendliness we encountered from the people we met along the way.

After a few days in the mountains our legs requested some flatter roads so we headed for the orange tree lined tracks around Valencia to finish up our trip.

Gravel adventures are whatever you want them to be and this for me is one of the reasons I love this type for riding as it takes you away from the traffic, shows you new places, challenges you on tricky sections and is one of the best excuses to eat cake and drink coffee with friends.