Cycling in Europe

I’m far from an expert on cycling abroad, in fact, before this year I’d never even done it! This year though, I bought a BikeBox Allen and put it to good use, cycling in Mallorca in March, The Alps in June and most recently in Girona in September. I’ve been reflecting on how each offers something slightly different and also on which ones I’d like to return to.


I can certainly see why Mallorca is so popular for cyclists. It’s not even about the weather. When we were there, it was actually quite cloudy, not that warm and was even a little wet on the first day. In fact, Barnet was 5°C warmer with blazing sun while we were over there dodging puddles!

What it does have is stunning scenery, super smooth roads, a wide variety of route types including some of the most famous climbs in the world and plenty of cycling facilities.

The Northern part of the island hosts Sa Colabra, Puig Major and other climbs, plenty enough to challenge the most experienced climber, whereas the centre and southern side of the island is generally quite flat, so you can enjoy a relaxing recovery ride, between the days of climbing.

It also seems like the entire island is setup for cyclists. Plenty of great cafes with bike racks, plenty of cycle shops and a selection of bike paths too.

The Alps

We stayed in a place called Bourg d’Oisans, right at the foot of arguably the most famous climb in the world, Alpe d’Huez. We were also there two weeks before the tour came through, so we often benefited from newly resurfaced roads (although occasionally held up by them laying down the new asphalt).

I think there were two things that really stood out to me, cycling from the location we had. Firstly was the ridiculous scenery. The Alps are simply stunning and like nothing else I’ve seen.

Secondly, there aren’t really any rest days. You can’t really cycle anywhere without going up a Category 2 climb! Add to that, the ‘easier’ Cat 2 climbs was still a 50 minute uphill struggle. In Mallorca, the hardest climb was 1 hour and 10 minutes (Puig Major) but here that was rather an easy one!

If you’re looking for an endless amount of challenging climbs, The Alps is the place to go – Col de Glandon, Croix de Fer, Col d’Ornon, Alp D’huez, Col de Sarenne and we didn’t have enough energy left for perhaps the biggest one, Col de Galibier.


Having enjoyed myself so much on the Mallorca trip, I instantly signed up for the next work cycle trip, this time to Girona. Whilst I feel it’s not as well known by non-cyclists, those in the know are well aware it’s a cyclist’s playground, being home to many pros.

I don’t know if it’s because of all these pro cyclists, but I’ve never ridden anywhere where you get so much respect from car drivers as you do in Girona. If your group starts out onto a roundabout, for example, traffic on the roundabout will stop and wait for the entire group to enter!

When it comes to ride variety, I feel like Girona is a mixture of the Alps and Mallorca. Whilst they aren’t as densely packed as they are in the Alps, there are some really tough climbs, such as Els Angels, Rocacorba and Mare de Déu del Mont. Starting out from the same place, it also wasn’t too hard to plot a lovely 35 mile cafe ride or even a light spin down to the beach.


Whilst I would say the Alps must be on every (semi) serious cyclist’s bucket list, the sheer brutality of the climbs mean I wouldn’t have it top of my list for recommendations.

Girona possibly has the best variety of rides of the three, with challenging climbs and also options for the days when you need an easier ride, but the scenery, nice as it is, just can’t match that offered by the other two.

For me, Mallorca has the best combination of everything. Amazing climbs, stunning scenery, silky smooth roads, thorough facilities and options for that day when your legs just don’t have it in them.

I now have the Dolomites and Tenerife on left my list. I might need to re-write this post once I’ve visited those!