Discover Mallorca’s Epic Road Cycling Climb Sa Calobra
Sa Calobra is arguably Mallorca’s most iconic climb. Made famous by Bradley Wiggins who trained hard on it prior to his 2012 Olympic and Tour de France success, the mountain has been like a Mecca for cyclists ever since. It is almost unthinkable that a road cyclist will go to Mallorca without taking on the hairpin bends and that makes the mountain that little bit special.
For many, it is the best climb on the island.
So let’s take a deep dive into the mountain that you simply have to climb.
History of Sa Calobra
Up until 1932, the village of Sa Calobra was a remote coastal village with fewer than 32 people living there. The only way to leave or visit was by sea or climb the hills which was a perilous journey, the Torrent de Pareis, to reach Escora which at the time was a hamlet.
This changed when Italian engineer Antonio Parietti cleverly designed this remarkable road which snakes its way up to what is now the MA-10.
Construction of the road was completed manually by workers who used no mechanical equipment in the road’s construction. The highlight of the road is arguably at Sa Moleta, where the road does a remarkable 270° loop and is called the ‘bow tie’. Some refer to it as ‘the loop’ or ‘tie the knot’ such is the shape of this part of the road.
How Long is Sa Calobra?
Sa Calobra is 9.4kms of ride. It will feel longer as you’re always riding an incline. The ride begins at 12 metres and the height at the top is 682 metres so your elevation is 670 metres.
What is the Average Gradient of Sa Calobra?
Sa Calobra’s average gradient is 7%. This makes the climb very doable for most cyclists who have a little experience under their wheels. That said there are a few surprises where gradients can hit 14%! On the whole, the climb is achievable and highly rewarding but the hairpins give it a challenging twist. You also have to factor in that to reach Sa Calobra you have to take on demanding climbs first.
No matter how many times you climb Sa Calobra, it never gets old.
How Many Hairpins does Sa Calobra Have?
Sa Calobra has 26 hairpin bends. This is part of the ride’s appeal as there are only a handful of climbs that snake their way up the side of the rocks like this Mallorca beauty. Alpe D’Huez is another.
How do You Get to Sa Calobra?
One of the most interesting things about Sa Calobra is that to reach it you have two options:
- You catch the ferry to the village of Sa Calobra and begin the climb.
- As there are no other linking roads, you descend Sa Calobra first, spin around, and start your ascent of the 26 hairpin bends. You can reach it via the MA-10 cycling Puig Major, Col de sa Batalla or Col de Femenia first. Given the fact you have to take on a demanding climb to get to Sa Calobra you do need a good level of fitness to take on the climb.
When is the Best Time to Ride Sa Calobra?
Sa Calobra isn't suited to the winter months. It is far better to ride it in the spring to early summer i.e. March to May. October and September are also good months to take it on. During these times the weather is ideal.
Riding Sa Calobra
The descent is fast and your eyes will be fixed on the road although you can’t help but admire some of the views. The road is both an engineering miracle and a work of art. It has been carved into the side of the limestone cliffs and you could be forgiven for thinking it was a Salvador Dali creation. Maybe, it inspired him.
Starting the Climb
If you’re looking to record a time, the official start is after the car park. As soon as you see the "Salida/Start" sign it’s game on: so go for it and don't forget to start your Strava if you're tracking performance.
The first 5 kms are hairpin free and gradients tend to hover between 6-8% although one hits 14% about 2kms in.
The road here is sheltered and quite leafy. Appreciate the rock arch as you ride through it, it is quite spectacular.
The Hairpins of Sa Calobra
The hairpins start 5kms in give or take. They weave their way up the side of the rock snake-like. In fact, the name Sa Calobra comes from the Catalan name for a snake. The rest of Spain calls the great climb Coll dels Reis.
It is 5 kms in where the views are at its most spectacular and you’ll appreciate the beauty of the road and the engineering that went into it. Antonio Parietti had already designed the Port de Pollença to Formentor road in 1925. His masterpiece followed in 1932, making two remote spots of Mallorca accessible by road for the first time.
Gradients tend to hover between 7-8% with the last few kilometres seeing them rise to around 9%. After the ‘bow tie’ or the ‘loop’ you may experience gradients between 12-14%.
As such, it is good to have energy in reserve for the last part of the climb.
Mallorca sees little rain thanks to its Mediterranean location. It does get hot, so it is a good idea to take extra fluids for the ascent. You can enjoy a well deserved cup of coffee at the Repsol petrol station when you reach the top.
Ride Sa Calobra with SportActive
Sa Calobra is an amazing ride and should be on your bucket list. You can ride it with SportActive either in the spring or autumn Mallorca cycling holidays. Not only will you take on the famous hairpins but you’ll ride other amazing routes such as Puig Major and Cap Formentor.
Not only will your cycling improve riding with SportActive, but come at the right time and you can cycle with Legend Sean Kelly, The King of the Classics.