Sa Calobra


The Sa Calobra is Mallorca's iconic climb. A road originally built for tourists to gain access to the small port at the bottom, it is a cycling paradise, a ribbon of tarmac draped on to the mountianside.

The Sa Calobra is one of the only climbs in the world, where you have to descend down it first, to climb it. Access is via the mountain road linking Soller and Port de Pollenca. The disadvantage of this, is once you descend, you are re committed to climb back up. But with the cafes and restaurants at the bottom and the infamous 'orange shack' at the top, getting a coffee or can of coke is no problem. The climb now has over 45,000 individual attempts on Strava, and there is nearly always more cyclists than vehicles on the road, in practically every month apart from July and August where you will find most in the pool.

The Climb in Detail



Built in 1932 by Spanish civil engineer Antonio Parietti Coll, the Sa Calobra, affectionately known by many as ‘The Snake' or 'Serpent'"

 

The Ascent

The ascent can be split into three parts. Each with a distinctive look and feel. The bottom 3km or so is fairly gentle, less than 7% and shaded. As you ride through the roads pinch point, the ramp steepens and then returns to about 7% for the next 3km as the vegetation opens up and you begin to lose sight of the ocean behind. The top 4km or so is open and a dizzying affair, fitting in 26 hairpin bends with the ramps on the hairpins touching over 10%. Once you go under the tunnel at the top and back on yourself it's a short sprint to the summit.

 

Not the tallest, but the most famous

The Sa Calobra is not the tallest climb on the island. That prize goes to Puig Major, accessed from the same road as the Sa Calobra. But due to this climb being a playground for pro cyclists in the off season, it is the most famous. Bradley Wiggins was rumoured to have spent all day riding up and down the Sa Calobra while preparing for his TDF win, and a look at the Strava leader board, below, shows no shortage of recognisable names. A good time for the Sa Calobra, for a decent amateur is 50 minutes. 25 minutes if your name is Ritchie Port!

Visually spectacular

The road is an engineering achievement, against the odds, down a mountainside with no natural route down; the descent is technical but fast, with no two hairpins the same, which keeps you on your toes and covering the brakes. The 270-degree hairpin near the top is the highlight visually, and well worth a quick photo.

Two words of caution. Be careful of coaches on the ascent and descent, especially in tourist season and make sure you take enough water for the exposed top section if a hot day.


"Balearic bike heaven" - Financial Times 

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