Sa Calobra, the jewel in Mallorca's cycling crown
The 12 km stretch of road up from Port Sa Calobra, over the top of Col dels Reis (682m) and down to the aqueduct is reason enough to come cycling in Mallorca. Featuring in most peoples top 10 climbs in the world it is, for a road cyclist, a must do. The scenery is spellbinding and the ride is literally breathtaking.
The road, (with an average gradient of 7% was built in 1932 without the use of machinery and in a way that avoids tunnels to make the most of the scenery), clings to the mountainside like a giant has discarded a strand of spaghetti. Straights, 50 bends (more than a few hairpin) and a 270 degree loop where the roads goes under itself, keep cyclists on their toes with wide smiles or nervous grins.
We have the Palma born engineer Antonio Paretti to thank for this masterpiece (as well as the road out to Cap Formentor). Under his direction, 31 000 cubic metres of rock was removed by hand to realise his dream. His design used the mountains natural curves to keep the gradient mostly the same until the 2 km to go mark which are the hardest and contain two short sections on bends that are steeper at a just manageable 11.5% gradient.
As someone who spent 136 days taking photos of cyclists on Sa Calobra for Mallorca Cycling Photos over the Spring and Autumn, I can say from experience that the best time of day to ride it is either before 11:00 or after 15:30, as over the middle of the day, the tourist buses and hire cars start to make their mark. Still, if you do ride over the busy time, it is often a matter of pulling over and letting the traffic pass you for a few minutes and the road will be mostly clear again. Whatever time of day you choose, I am sure it will be brilliant - just make sure you are fit enough! Personally, if I have to ride this amazing road in the summer, I do so first thing in the morning otherwise the heat gets too much.
When cycling in Mallorca, if you want to ride Sa Calobra with fresh legs for a PB, take the Sa Calobra Express from Port de Pollença, Alcudia, Can Picafort or Playa de Muro to the aqueduct and ride it with fresh legs.