“Today we have a big-ass morning, just so you know,” says Borja Uria, one of our trip leaders, as he smiles.
Uria is referring to the 40-plus miles our group from Arizona will be biking today, day two of a multi-day Backroads bike trip to two of the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain.
“I rode my Peloton TWICE,” Arcadia resident and friend Jackie Hutt responds when I ask her what she did to train for or trip to Mallorca and Menorca.
“I’ve never biked more than 30 miles in a row before,” pal Heidi Crown says, laughing. “But here I am, biking in Spain… a bucket list trip. It’s surreal.”
Sadly, MY training included just one bike ride and a few yoga sculpt classes. But, I’m excited to work off some of the weight I gained Zooming and get back outside for my first big international trip with others since the pandemic started. Sure there are some added hurdles when it comes to navigating Covid travel—government forms to fill out, negative test results, and vaccination cards to show upon arrival. The five other couples joining my husband Kenn and I on this active vacation are more than happy to make the effort.
Our guides are just as excited since, like so many others in the hospitality industry, they had to suspend operations when the Covid crisis hit. Berkeley-based Backroads has been leading guided biking, hiking, and multi-sport adventure trips around the world since 1979, when founder Tom Hale first had an idea in the middle of the night to start a bike touring company and encourage active travel (Backroads.com). They’ve slowly started adding back some of their international destinations, taking all precautions, and welcoming travelers again safely. They’ve also added E-bikes, which is a game-changer for those who may be intimidated by the thought of pedaling over anything steeper than a speed bump.
We begin our trip in the beautiful Serra de Tramuntana mountains, part of Mallorca’s World Heritage-designated landscape that attracts more than 80,000 bikers year-round. Mallorca is a melting pot of cultures and traditions, dating back centuries. You’ll find stunning beaches, lush vineyards, and enough windmills to make even the Dutch jealous. A stop at the well-preserved Medieval town of Alcudia allows us a chance to stretch our legs.
Our bike route continues to the water, where the strong winds off Pollenca Bay test my balance and riding skills but provide ideal conditions for the kiteboarders enjoying the day.
The six-day trip takes us to the picturesque Cap de Formentor, where the mountains meet the Mediterranean, and then on to Menorca, a smaller island a mere 40-minute flight north.
Not as well-known as Mallorca, Menorca has a hidden gem-vibe, where our fearless Arizona group welcomed the chance to bike through miles of whitewashed villages and rolling hills (a support van available should last night’s serving of Spanish wine take an early toll).
“The biking in Mallorca is, dare I say, world-class,” leader Carlos Abud tells me. “Obviously, all of the best riders go there… but Menorca? It’s a Mediterranean island where time stands still, and everything moves slow.”
Menorca is also home to a wonderful brewery and the Michelin-rated Es Moli De Foc, a delightful cozy restaurant surrounded by colorful walls featuring even more colorful artwork. Our group may have overwhelmed owner Vincent with questions about their house-made lager and memorable paella.
That’s another thing—you’ll never go hungry on a Backroads trip. The company prides itself on finding local spots to treat its guests, usually ready for carb-loading after hours on a bike. One afternoon, our support driver Javier Menses actually prepares a traditional Mallorcan picnic himself, featuring local cheeses, sobrasada (meat), and traditional cocarroi (pastries filled with meats and vegetables).
Our longest day of riding on the island brought us past many traditional farmhouses and then through the otherworldly rocky landscape leading to the Cape of Caballerias, where a lighthouse and stunning views made the uphill pedaling all worth it.
A final dinner at Torralbenc allowed our grateful group the chance to relive trip highlights, compare notes about leg soreness, and thank our leaders for keeping us safe and giving us lots of laughs. I also think we managed to convince them to add the Grand Canyon state to THEIR travel list.
“At the very end, it’s very simple what we do,” Abud says. “We ride our bikes, we like to have good food, we stay at beautiful places, and we see amazing things outside. It’s super simple and that’s the best part of life, right?”