JUMP TO:

Four Days of Swim/Bike/Run Amazingness in Mallorca

MallorcaHeaderPic

I’ve been down in Mallorca since earlier this week, for a jam-packed slate of daily swim/bike/run workouts, with a side boatload of photo and video shooting. This trip was almost exclusively about testing a slate of devices set for review in the April/May time-frame. Some of these have announced already – like the Samsung Galaxy Active GPS watch and Garmin MARQ Athlete watch.

I often escape to the Spanish island of Mallorca to test devices for a pile of reasons, notably:

A) It’s cheap…really cheap
B) It’s easy to get to
C) There’s tons of great swim/bike/run locations, all directly at/from the hotel
D) There’s a ton of climbs/mountains that are substantial, ideal for GPS/altimeter testing
E) The weather usually cooperates (actually, knock on wood, it’s always been perfect for me)

Now I typically go in February, before the cycling/triathlon camp crowds hit. So things were quite a bit different here now in late March – it was kinda bat-crap crazy busy with cyclists. My guess is on a typical ride some 1,000-1,500 cyclists would go past. It’s bonkers. In any case, here’s the rundown – day by day of what I was up to.

Tuesday:

IMG_6168

I flew down Tuesday afternoon, with a three-hour gummy bear eating connection in Frankfurt. It was almost sunset when I got to the hotel at the eastern end of Mallorca. I always stay in the same spot (PortBlue Pollentia). Mainly because it’s the epicenter of triathlon/cycling camps. They’ve got 2 legit lap pools onsite, plus a pile of other pools for lounging. They have two bike shops onsite, plus an entire self-serve bike mechanics station. Food is buffet style, and inclusive for a minor surcharge. And the WiFi is free and reasonably fast.

I can swim/bike/run straight out the front of the resort. So after quickly ditching my baggage in the room I zipped right back out again to try and get a sunset run in. It wouldn’t be long – only 5KM or so – as that’s all the daylight I had (and I didn’t want to get caught sans-reflectors/illumination on these roads – mostly because I’d probably get hit by cyclists more than drivers).

IMG_6197

My route was simple, just an out and back past the kite surfers and the beach. I’ve swum at this beach many times before – such as for the swimming portions of my Forerunner 935 review (and this video). Though later in the week I made my openwater life easier and simply drove 5 minutes to a better beach for my non-pool adventures.

IMG_6200

And of course, as always – DCR data collection was in full effect here. After the run, I had 7 devices to download data from. It probably took me longer to download all the data and get it sorted than the actual run.

Wednesday:

The more I think about it, the Cap de Formentor ride is probably my favorite ride in the world. Sure, there are longer rides out there. Ones with more elevation gain. And maybe even better scenery. But no ride packs as good a punch as this down in the roughly 2 hours round-trip from the hotel. About 90 minutes round-trip if doing it just from the official start of the cape.

So it’s only natural my first ride on the island would be Formentor – as it almost always is every time I come here. Now as I mentioned earlier normally I come in early February, when it’s basically desolate. For example, this video below I shot back in 2016 using a sport follow me drone Airdog (RIP?)– there was nobody out there that morning. Like, one-car the entire ride kinda nobody.

Whereas this week? Madness. On average if you picked a given point on the side of the road a cyclist would probably pass every 5-8 seconds – especially by mid-day. The earlier you go the quieter it is, and by early afternoon the car-based tourists start to ramp up and you kinda don’t want to be on the road as much.

IMG_6290

A number of DCR readers shouted Hi or asked for pics – here’s a few selfies along the way with some of you. I’m getting better at remembering to get a selfie with others, after y’all ask me for a picture (which is of course, totally OK!):

IMG_6253 IMG_6235

The end point is, of course, one of the most scenic. I suppose most people take pictures of the lighthouse behind me, but I like the other direction instead.

IMG_6251

But my true favorite might actually be coming back down just before the tunnel, with the turquoise bay off to the right side, complete with some old boats washed up on the shoreline. With the mystique of the tunnel that lies ahead (and hey, it’s getting lights by next year!).

I think why I like this route is that it’s just a lot of rolling up and down. None of the climbs are particularly demanding individually. And the road plays games sliding in and out of rock canyons, forested areas, and spectacular coastal beach views. Oh, and you get to dodge and weave the wild goats as a bonus.

APC_0002

I got back mid-day and spent a number of hours on conference calls and writing posts. I suspect that’s the biggest difference to my time here versus that of a typical training camp. I don’t aim to throw down 4-6 hour rides while here. I aim for 2-3 hour rides (inclusive of some tourist/scenic photos), and then aim to do two workouts per day (bike + swim or run). My goal is to be a functional human being for all the other hours of the day I’m not swim/bike/running, so I can still write posts or what-not. Usually that works.

I swung by one of the outdoor pools late afternoon, but it was packed with people. Sure, I could have swam – but I preferred nobody see my aquatic flailing’s. Thus I can maintain some misconception that I know how to swim.

IMG_6322

So I came back after dark. The pool’s open till 8PM and is heated. I was all alone – and it was perfect:

GPTempDownload

Seriously – I could swim like this every day at sunset if I had a warm and quiet pool all to myself.

Thursday:

While most cyclists here would make the beastly slog from the hotel up past the monastery at Lluc, and then tackle Sa Calobra, that would violate my 2-3hr ride rule by a fair chunk, adding some 50KM. It’s a long climb up to there (realistically adding 50-80 minutes one-way). Plus, I’ve ridden it before. It’s stunningly beautiful.

So instead, I started my Sa Calobra ride from the parking lot at the monastery. That worked surprisingly well. I first meandered on the slowly rising terrain for about 45 minutes or so before reaching the top of Sa Calobra.

IMG_6374 IMG_6357

But that’s where it gets interesting. See, here you first must descend the famed Sa Calobra climb before you go back up it for realz. Yup – that’s right – all the way down to the water. It’s that blueish thing a gazillion feet lower.

IMG_6383

Once you finish going down the twisty dead-end road for about 20-25 minutes, you reach a small fishing village.

IMG_6400

These days it’s primary export is feeding cyclists bad tourist food. Of course, I too supported the local economy by picking up a sandwich that contained bread from 4 weeks ago. Calories are calories I guess.

IMG_6389

After that, you bid farewell to the sea and begin your ascent back up the same road you came down. Unlike most epic climbs where you don’t really know exactly what lies ahead, in this case you know precisely what’s coming up. After all, you just came down it. In some ways I think it actually makes the anticipation worse than it really is.

In the beginning you meander through some olive groves and then a bit of a forested section where two rocks have squished together:

RockWalls

After that, it’s up-up-up.

This will probably sound bad – but honestly, this wasn’t that bad of a climb. After descending it to the fishing village, I thought going up would be much worse than it was. Perhaps, but it only averages 7% grade and only for 9.5KM (5.9 miles). Versus something like the Stelvio which averages 7.4% for 24.3KM (15.1 miles). Of course, the Alps are an entirely different beast. But I think given all the fanfare around this climb I was expecting to be curled up on the ground crying somewhere before I reached the top. In contrast, it kinda breezed by.

IMG_6408

After I reached the top I went back down again. Yes, for realz.

I had to get the photo I wanted to take.

But as I went to the spot to get my prized photo of myself, there was a brightly wardrobed gentleman standing in the middle of the would-be frame. Unfortunately, I’m not a photoshop wizard when it comes to removal editing. After I waited about 10-15 minutes I gave up and went further down the mountain and got a different photo of myself. This one:

IMG_6488

My process for both of these photos is super simple. I used the DJI Spark for both, with just my phone. I got it into position and then just started a video recording. I then rode through the frame (up and down) a few times, while holding the phone just out of view, or carefully in my back pocket (with the screen still on).

After doing the first photo, I decided to head up and see if my yellow-clothed man had moved on. Indeed, he had. So here’s my second photo in the spot I originally wanted.

I actually got a few different photos here – some with me in it, and some not so much. And by ‘photos’, I mean I took the video and then snippet the exact frame out of it. However, I think the one with all the cyclists actually came out the best (at least from an interest standpoint).

You can see my multiple attempts on Strava if you zoom in enough:

image

After the Spark ran out of juice, I finished going back up to the summit one last time and then worked my way another 20-30 minutes back to the monastery.

Later that evening before sunset I headed to the beach to get in an openwater swim:

reallyColdspot

For this swim I had the Samsung Galaxy Active Watch on my left wrist, and the Garmin MARQ Athlete on my right wrist:

GoProSwimBuoy2

Plus a Garmin Forerunner 935 as a reference attached to the swim buoy:

GoProSwimBuoy

I was pleasantly surprised by the MARQ’s swim track. I have felt like Garmin’s swim tracks have gone down the toilet in the last 1-2 years. I wrote and made videos about that last summer a bit. But this one was arguably the best I’ve seen lately. Below compared to a reference track. Though, it did stumble slightly in the last 150 meters or so, as you can see from the #3 dot to the finish. Technically it’s still non-final firmware though.

IMG_6627 IMG_6626

Meanwhile, the very much final Samsung…umm…yeah…below. I’ll just leave that there…

In unrelated news, right after the swim, I Facetimed with the kiddos at home, while still wearing my wetsuit. Also, I used an Animoji during a portion of this conversation…naturally.

IMG_6478 IMG_6477

And then I drove back to the hotel in my wetsuit, because it was the warmest way I could think of getting back.

Swimcar

After that, there were more meetings, more writings, and more eatings. Not too shabby a day!

Friday:

I kicked off the day with recording the podcast with Shane/GPLAMA. You can now find that episode in all the usual places, including right here.

After podcast time it was out onto the road for a mostly photo/video focused ride. By that, I mean that the previous few days I’d mostly done normal workouts and taken various photos that were more scenic in nature, but less so setup shots of devices and such. Sure, I took plenty of video/photos of things while I was riding/swimming/running along – but I generally didn’t stop to get photos/videos of devices.

Whereas for this ride, it was all about the imagery. Ultimately, that’s what makes the posts and videos I do standout. As I usually do for these sorts of things, I declutter my handlebars down, so that I’m only showing off one given device at a time. Same for watches too, where I’d remove other things in the frame.

Handlebars1

Of course, I’ve still gotta ride somewhere. So it was back to Formentor I went. It was a lot of stop and go. I’d mostly do the climbs non-stop, since I could easily swap out devices/mounts, change cameras and take shots/etc at low speed climbing. Whereas while descending I’d stop every 20-30 seconds and reset cameras/devices and go again. I was getting b-roll, explainer bits, and photos for 6 upcoming reviews. Repetition was the name of the game.

I made my turnaround at the beach. It was pretty there. Though actually, I didn’t take any device shots there. I just carefully balanced my bike and hoped the wind wouldn’t push it over into the water.

IMG_6539

Then it was back up for more climbing and more photos/videos again. This time focusing on different things/features, or camera angles than last time. Oh, and a few DCR readers said Hi or got selfies along the way. Here’s one where I managed  to remember to get a return selfie with while I was swapping gear. It was somewhat funny, because her kit was pretty cool and I had actually gotten a picture of it about 2 minutes prior – so that I could find it later online since I hadn’t seen the brand before. So to have her then stop me moments later for a selfie was ironic.

IMG_6543

While working my way back to town I made a hard left turn up the oft-overlooked climb to the tower, and got a few more shots/sequences. You can actually see the previously noted beach in the lower left corner. I thought the shot would come out better than it did, but I wasn’t quite far enough forward to get the beach above my arms versus below it.

Handlebars2

A bit later I positioned a camera up on the rocks and then did various loops/etc through it. You can see it roughly a meter or so above my handlebars.

IMG_6554

I used a blend of the GoPro Hero 7 Black and a DJI OSMO Pocket. For close-up video it was mostly OSMO Pocket, since the gimbal made it nice and smooth and it has better close-up sharpness of gadgets. Whereas for wider/situational type shots I used a GoPro Hero 7 Black mounted in a variety of ways, including a knock-off chesty and a knock-off GoPro shorty stick.

Finally, it was back down to town to get my bike all packed up and head off to the airport. Though, I did make one more stop by the pool first. Just cause:

IMG_6593

And with that, my flight is descending down to Zurich where I hope to have enough time to get all the photos added to this post before my next flight home to Amsterdam [Spoiler: Not quite fast enough, but now I’m descending to Amsterdam and this post is done!]. Looking forward to getting back to The Girl and The Peanuts.

With that – thanks for reading, and have a great weekend ahead!

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.
If you would like a profile picture, simply register at Gravatar, which works here on DCR and across the web.

You can click here to Subscribe without commenting

Add a picture

*

50 Comments

  1. Unicyclist

    Weee, looking forward to all the reviews! Nice pictures, seems like you really enjoyed yourself! Makes me wanna go to Mallorca as well!

  2. Michael Chomiczewski

    Which hotel did you stay in Ray? Asking because I’m in Mllorka as I write this and hope to make a better hotel choice next time around…. Blown away be all the cycling here!

    • Here ya go: PortBlue Pollentia

    • FrankJ

      Hi Ray,

      I’m staying in the same hotel next June. Any tips you can give me? Does the wifi has a login page?

    • Cool!

      The WiFi does have a login page, though, at least you only seem to have to hit it once per stay per device. But yeah, it won’t allow you to sync a Garmin device over it. For that I’d recommend just picking up a cheap SIM card at the airport for data for your phone and tethering.

      In terms of other general tips for the hotel:

      1) It’s a haul from the airport – about 35-45 mins. If you plan to wander a bit while staying, I’d recommend a rental car. If you don’t plan to leave the resort except swim/bike/run, then a shuttle/etc is good
      2) The breakfast/dinner food is…well…somewhat you’d expect from hotel buffet food. I ended up going to the grocery store to get things for lunch, as you’ve got a small fridge in the room. Just helps break things up a bit.
      3) I recommend an upper level room versus ground floor room – because then you can park your bike outside at night on the deck. Versus if you have a ground floor room, no place to put your bike without having to worry about (some folks did just lock their bikes on their lower level decks). And the hotel does have bike lockers, but I didn’t see anyone using them.

      Beyond that – I can’t really think of any tips to be honest. It’s all pretty straight forward. If you forget anything, they have it there. Or for example, if bringing a bike, I bought Co2 there, since you can’t take it on the plane. I then gave them afterwards it to a random passing triathlete as I was packing my bike. Better than tossing it.

    • You absolutely CAN take CO2 on planes, both in hand luggage and hold luggage, and every seat has a CO2 cylinder beneath it in the life jacket! Make sure your cylinders are marked as CO2 though, or you may win the battle (proving the rules) but lose the war (they take your stuff anyway because it’s not marked). In Europe, at least, the rules are for up to 4 containers of up to 28g CO2 for sports usage such as life jackets or tyre inflation.
      Whether Airport security know these rules or not is another matter, but all EU regs include:
      ” Small cartridges for other devices.

      No more than four small cylinders of carbon dioxide or other suitable non-flammable non-toxic gas per person and the water capacity of each cylinder must not exceed 50 mL.

      Note: For carbon dioxide, a gas cylinder with a water capacity of 50 mL is equivalent to a 28 g cartridge.”

    • Huh – I didn’t know that. I guess I’ve long since got tired of having my bike case torn apart and then finding a TSA (or similiar) note in there. I don’t mind them stealing them, it’s them putting back together the bike case that scares the $@#@ out of me. Never ends well.

      Still, good to know – maybe I’ll put them in a ziplock baggie righter under a zipper, in case they do want to tear things apart, it’s easy access.

    • Dave Lusty

      I put them in my carry on baggage so I’m there when they check. That way if they have an issue I just hand them over as they’re cheap but I will always explain the rules first – no luggage shenanigans necessary. 9 times out of 10 I’ve gone right through no issues. The last time in Lanzarote not so much, but my cheap Amazon cylinders were unmarked so if roles were reversed I’d probably have done the same 🙂
      Gatwick in the UK are very good with this, and I’d imagine Schiphol and CDG would be the same as large airports tend to have good training. That means at the very least you should keep them on the way out and not need to buy new ones before your first ride. On the way back it doesn’t matter so much.

    • Frank

      Thanks for that. I already booked a rental car and will take my own bike.

      Login page means I’ll bring my BT speaker rather than one of my Sonos speakers 😉

      I think we have a large family suite on the ground floor.

      And I always bring CO2 on the plane, rules have changed because of avalanche backbacks. It’s not that strict anymore.

  3. Ian S

    Yep, I’ve been lucky enough to ride in a lot of places, Formentor is definitely up there for me. It’s the perfect 2 hour spin. Nice shots Ray

  4. Matty

    Don’t know what garmin did with Marq (all due different chipset?), but does fenix 5 plus still record crappy open water swims as it did last year?

  5. Dave Lusty

    I’m surprised you don’t do Lanzarote, it’s probably quicker if you need to stop over in Germany for Mallorca and La Santa is definitely a better facility although maybe more pricey. I’ve never failed to get a lane to myself in one of the 3 50m pools at any time of day 🙂

    I’m curious how you handle the selfies when you must have had several test devices not yet released? With 1000 cyclists buzzing about that must make NDAs challenging especially once you’re recognised (not hard in that kit!). Do you quickly hide them or just hope people don’t notice?

    • Yeah, I liked the brief time I spent on Lanzarote a few years ago, really nice!

      Time-wise it just depends on the day. This time of year there’s no non-stops from Amsterdam to Mallorca, so that made it longer going down, but coming back was super efficient. Not as efficient as the non-stops that there is often from Paris, but good. The Canary islands are a serious haul off the coast of Africa, so unless there’s a non-stop it’s going to be the connection + twice as long a flight from that connection. That said, I’ve done some testing a few times in Gran Canaria, because again – the altitude bits. So I’m inconsistent there. 😉

      For hiding devices, yeah, its always tricky. For some bike computers I’ll put older rubber cases on them. And if watches I’ll usually swap out straps when possible. If I don’t wear that kit, then honestly most people don’t put two and two together, especially if I don’t announce something ahead of time. Further, I find that most people won’t notice right away that I’ve got something different (if at all). Sure, you and I might because we notice every nuance of every watch, but for most people that have 1.5 seconds to look at something, it’s near impossible to catch a new unit unless it’s drastically different (ala MARQ).

      In fact I met with some companies while there – and they too were out there riding/running/etc with unannounced units. Even in company kits.

    • Mircea

      Transavia has direct flights to Mallorca from Amsterdam and Eindhoven also this time of the year. We flew a week earlier than you for a training camp.

  6. dznuzz

    I went earlier in March and I have to say that it has been my favorite place to ride so far. Cool to see the videos of all the roads I was on just a few weeks earlier!

  7. Martin

    Total new sport – driving in wetsuit! :))))

    well done 😉

  8. David D.

    I rode in Mallorca a couple of years ago and for me it was probably the toughest hill ride of all time. It was good I had no idea what to expect and I loved it once I was through 😉

  9. Raymond Wright

    Any issues with the drone in Spain. Lots of restricted airspace on P

    • Yeah, it’s a lot more restrictive than it used to be. For example, the entire Cap Formentor area is now a no-fly area.

      However, inland a bit it’s fine. I only actually used the DJI Spark in one spot that I checked ahead of time on the Spanish drone site.

      As an aside I continue to maintain that DJI does a crap job at making it easy to figure out these regulations. For major countries like the US, France, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, etc.. all of them have websites with no-fly areas listed relatively clearly. These should be pulled into the DJI app – which by and large only lists airports and super-duper-sensitive no-fly zones in the US. DJI has enough connections/weight to make it easy for people not to get in trouble, yet basically, they don’t.

  10. Alex

    Guau! What a disaster with the Samsung. I’ve been using these watches for a long time and I have never got such a bad track (is true I only do running and bicing). Do you have an idea why this happened? Is something related with the signal under water or a problem of the shealth software? The tracks I get using Strava or Endomondo app (also Shealth sometimes because is confortable in order to control the music) seems reasonable good enough. It is true i do not compare them professionally with other watches so I cannot judge the accuracy level.

    • Yeah, my cycling/running GPS tracks are actually pretty good on the Samsung Galaxy Active (much better than past Samsung watches). Using both Endomondo and S Health apps).

      For swimming, only option is S Health. In fact, I even gave the watch the benefit of the doubt and waited 15 seconds before and after pressing both start and stop buttons above water before I started swimming. In fact, even longer afterwards for the Samsung (about 45 seconds). Somewhat akin to hitting a transition mat in triathlon.

      Looking at the track, I’ve got no idea. It’s like it just gave up on life from the start.

    • Alex

      There is an app call swim but I believe is only for swimming pools.

      I also have read that the open water support would arrive in May, but if you have the option on the shealth it should work fine…bad software design from samsung..is a pitty because the hardware is not bad at all. Happy to read that running/bicing things look better 🙂

    • Yeah, the option is on there today. The reality is I suspect they just don’t have any openwater swimming algorithms, which…are really hard to do. It takes companies years to get those algorithms right to be even within 10-15%.

  11. massimo

    thanks for the post. it is funny you say it is cheap. you can find half of this price in the south of Italy and the sea it much nicer 🙂

    • Probably true. Though, you can find cheaper places in Mallorca too – for about half the price just a kilometer or two away.

      However I’d argue the extras this hotel offers are worth it for athletes. To have two lap pools onsite, plus two bike shops is huge. And easy access to roll bikes in/out of rooms (and bike lockers if you really want them).

    • Carla

      I know the hotel manager and will pass the message thanks for speaking the good word for us!

    • camillo

      I don’t believe southern Italy will offer the same services to bikers (try to rent a decent bike…). What about car drivers? In mainland Spain there is a lot more respect for cyclists than in Italy.

  12. Hugo M

    Really interesting piece – can only hope you’ve got a 9 something on one of your wrists.

  13. Tyler

    Is that a 945 on one of your wrists?
    Silver vs black buckle.

  14. Ally

    Would you recommend Mallorca for new/intermediate-level triathletes/cyclists who’s never done overseas travelling with her bike? Otherwise, where would you recommend for a first-timer overseas cyclist – would love to hear any thghts!

    • Hi Ally-

      Absolutely. It’s actually interesting, you can either ride some crazy hard routes in Mallorca, or one can ride endless olive grove lines farm roads. Or a blend in between.

      You can easily just show up at that (or other resorts) solo and enjoy your time with very little background prep, or find a wide variety of training camps for cyclists or triathletes.

    • JimC

      There’s also a huge rental market in Mallorca, which makes life a lot easier when travelling.

  15. Henrik

    I need more of that nice sunset swimming in my life.

  16. Brett B

    First time heading there in July. Staying at same hotel. Best bike rent? Wife and i have Trek at home. Also have good site for routes or book on routes? Thanks for the help and a great write up.

    • I don’t remember the exact names of the two bike shops onsite, but their rental fleets looked solid with modern road bikes and all. There’s also a ton of other bike shop options too super close by. And in July, you’ll honestly have the upperhand since it’ll have shifted more towards general tourist season versus the current cyclist season.

    • ian

      Stayed there for the first time just two weeks ago. The two on-site bike rentals were Hürzeler and ActiveMallorca. We went with AM, got Canyon Ultimate CF.

  17. Steven Warshauer

    Interested to hear your comments Ray on the Garmin MARQ Athlete compared to the Fenix 5X Plus. Garmin has told me it has an updated HR monitor that is an upgrade from the Fenix line so would like your feedback on whether it works any better than the Fenix when not wearing a chest strap. Any other improvements over the Fenix that would make it worth upgrading even though $1,500 is really expensive? Interested to see what they have done to try and justify folks upgrading other than the materials used in the MARQ. Thanks. Great pics by the way! Makes me want to plan a trip there.

  18. Pavel

    Hi Ray,
    did you take your own bike or rented one at Mallorca?

  19. Crank

    Are you not afraid of your cave when you are travelling ? You have a very public life and someone not dumb can figure out when you are gone? Or is the Netherland actually very safe?

    • I’m not too worried about it to be honest. It’s a fairly heavily secured commercial building actually, and we have more cameras and alarms than I know what to do with atop that.

  20. Ivan

    Pas Normal Studios kit! Nice clothes!

  21. Russ

    We were at the same hotel as you, at the same time! Perfect place to be even if you’re a cyclist and not a triathlete. Personally, I liked the hotel buffet, but then again after riding 150 km, I’d probably like anything edible. The ride to Cap Formentor is wonderful and so close. It’s a perfect 2 hour jaunt, so much bang for the buck. My feeling was that riding in Mallorca is the equivalent of going to a great ski resort. Everyone has their favorite climb or slope, the restaurants welcome athletes dressed in funny clothes, and the locals are prepared to deal with us since we are important to the economy.

  22. martin

    If you want to avoid the crowds at the bottom of Sa Calobra, take the left turn near the bottom as you descend, signposted Cala Tuent, the road goes up a little bit then descends to a much much quieter bay!