Is visiting Menorca by bike worth it?
Nafent went for a long weekend to Menorca and endured a 170 kilometer long bike ride to explore the island.
Menorca. Particularly famous as a holiday destination, for Catalans and many people from European countries and beyond. The beaches are attractive, and the ocean water is more blue than on Caribbean islands. The island, the second-largest of the Balearic Islands, has a length of around 50 kilometers and a width of 22 kilometers, resulting in a big day out if one considers exploring the island by bike in just one day.
Our 170 kilometer ride, which anyone can split up into several smaller routes, aims to get to know all the highlights of the island in one go. We start at ARTIEM Audax, a four-star hotel ideal for sports people, that is located in Serpentona (Cala Galdana). The beach is at a crawling distance: 100 meters, and on this warm day, it is hard to resist the beautiful beach with its whispering waves. However, we are on a mission. It is early morning, 08:30, and when we come back we can still go and cool down in the water, whether that is in the Mediterranean Sea or in the hotel’s spa and wellness, which includes a big pool.
But before we head to the west, towards Ciutadella, we climb the second-highest hill of the island: s’Enclusa. Its peak is 275 meters above sea level and it is a fantastic warm up for what is yet to come. This climb is also featured in the Menorca Cycling Challenge, a yearly cycling event in Menorca that attracts hundreds of participants.
We can only dream of a separate road for us cyclists, especially because we have to take the same Me-1 back to go to the other side of the island. However, travelling back and forth is worth it when we arrive in Ciutadella. This touristic town has a great vibe, with a lot of people eating and drinking outside in the morning and a cute harbour. Our coffee stop is at Bar Tritón, a local café that used to sponsor one of the cycling teams from the island and a great place for a quick coffee stop on the way.
After 48 kilometers, we are back in Ferreries, from where we head to Es Mercadal, for the biggest test of the day: Monte Toro. Either way, the Monte Toro offers spectacular views over the whole area. It is a short climb to get to the top, but it is steep. Especially the last part of the ascent makes us sweat like pigs. However, we would not have wanted to miss this jewel of a mountain, and also the downhill is a great reward for our efforts.
Good roads, mostly flat, nice views, not too busy: it’s not a punishment to be riding around here. Our route towards Maó, the second-largest Menorquin town, that also houses the airport, is on secondary roads. This part of the route is the most beautiful one we have had so far. In the suburbs of Maó, we are up for a special visit.
Menorca has its own cycling museum, run by Arturo Sintes, famous in the cycling scene of the Balearic Islands. He is already waiting at the entrance to welcome us. We park the bikes inside the museum, which is only open upon reservation. Sintes guides us around and shows us all the jerseys that he received from Spanish cyclists over the years. There is a special section in the museum for Menorquin cyclists, where we also see Movistar-rider Albert Torres featured. The knowledgable Sintes loves explaining the history of all the bikes he has in his museum, as well as the Volta a Catalunya section in the middle of the place. It turns out he does not have space for all the assets he possesses, when he finally guides us to the garage next to the museum.
We give our mechanic, that rented us bikes for this weekend, Bike Menorca, also a quick visit. Fernando Casanova recommends going to the city centre for a good, early lunch, as the way back via the south coast is challenging. “Steep uphills and steep descents”, he says, “you better get some extra energy in.”
The roads are quieter here, but they are also more challenging. The mechanic from Bike Menorca was right: this is a hard part of the route; especially given the fact we have 120 kilometers in the legs already. We cannot get in our rhythm on these hilly roads. The views, however, over the Mediterranean Sea, are stunning. In Binidalí we stop for a second to let the quietness and beauty of the island sink in.
Meanwhile, the beaches have been filled up by tourists who did not consider taking the bike for a pedal-powered island tour. None of them has had a similar experience as we had: we are privileged, we realize. In the hotel, we order some food before we join the ‘bikeless’ people on the sand.
That night we reflect on our big ride in Menorca. It was worth it to come here, we agree. The big road between Maó and Ciutadella is a disadvantage for road cyclists, and it would be fantastic if there was an alternative for it. We would definitely come back, particularly for the Menorca Cycling Challenge, when many cyclists come to the island to spend time with each other on the bike, experience local traditions and see tourist places. In the end, it is always better to experience a new destination for cycling with others.