It’s a loaded title containing loaded words isn’t it? Nobody likes to make mistakes and nobody likes to fail – it’s far more satisfying watching others do that from a position of safety – but failure and mistakes are utterly essential to us as athletes, coaches and, well, human beings if one has a desire to improve.
We need to reframe mistakes, to embrace mistakes, value mistake and make them much more huggable. They are, after all, our broken friends.
One of the most impactful quotes I’ve come across, and something that helped me view mistakes not as embarrassing little blighters to be hidden away but as a vital component for advancement in pretty much any sport involving technique, comes from Matthew Syed’s book ‘Bounce’. In it he says ‘purposeful practice is about striving for what is just out of reach and not quite making it; it is about grappling with tasks beyond current limitations and falling short again and again. Progress is built, in effect, on the foundations of necessary failure.'
In short, to improve you must try to do things you can’t already do and be prepared to get them wrong. By doing so, and by watching others try the same thing, you either learn how to do them, or how to do them more effectively. The coach’s job here is to ensure a technique is described and demonstrated correctly, broken down into its component parts if necessary and athletes are given the opportunity to practice, to make mistakes and, critically, learn from them.
Creating that ‘free to fail’ environment is way harder than demonstrating a technique but, I would argue, equally important. Of course, one way to start is by reframing mistakes using Syed’s terminology. In addition, something used frequently in business in Change Management is the concept of a ‘rubber room’ – anything that is said or done within the confines of a coaching session, does not leave the room – it stays confidential to the people involved. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, right?
Mistakes aren’t bad – they are an essential pedagogical ingredient and creating an environment in which riders feel comfortable enough to try new things and ‘balls them up’ is crucial. In my experience this can be more of a challenge when coaching those who have come to cycling ‘late’ often after having reached a level of proficiency in other sports when they were younger. Adults tend to be more self-conscious than kids and less likely to lose their limiting inhibitions when indulging in ‘play time’ on the bike.
Once you’ve got a group of people comfortable with asking ‘stupid’ questions and happy to try new things in front of others knowing they may balls up, you’ve created an environment of openness, trust and platform to learn. That is a truly beautiful thing. A state where people feel free to express themselves and try things that are new to them in a supportive environment is a great platform for progression. It works with a bunch of riders on a cycling circuit, just imagine what could be achieved in business or politics if people felt free to say what they thought and try new things? Crazy thought...
So, the next time you make a mistake, don’t try to marginalise it, pick it up, give it a little squeeze and see if there’s maybe something you can learn from it. And remember, if you’re not making mistakes, there’s a chance you’re not trying hard enough.
Rich Smith has made many mistakes, amongst them congratulating a women on being pregnant who had merely gained a little weight and attending the wrong funeral. He has coached the GB Transplant Cycling team for 10 years, is a British Cycling qualified Level 3 coach, a mature psychology student and has 30 years’ experience working in senior roles for Barclays, HSBC, British Waterways and National Grid Property.
I should start by pointing out the trouble is with me, not you…
Whilst giving cycling coaching presentations, I’ve often been posed questions by triathletes about their training that I’ve not felt fully qualified to answer - particularly in relation to ultra or Ironman distances. I’m entirely comfortable coaching somebody to ride a 112 or 200 mile bike race, and I’ve coached a rider to complete the route of the Tour de France. However, that’s not after a swim and before running a marathon. I don’t know enough about the bio-mechanical, physiological and psychological demands of the non-cycling events or how they interact with each other in a triathlon sequence to comment with any real authority. I can swim a bit, but I run like Phoebe from 'Friends'.
To plug some gaps in my knowledge, I took the chance to sit down with a few Ironman distance triathletes in Mallorca recently to try to understand a little more about how they fit training around their everyday responsibilities of life, family, work etc.
A few anecdotes I picked up…
From this I’ve observed
I'm beginning to understand why I get asked so many questions but triathletes – anything that’s going to make training more effective means you save time and energy. However, there’s only so much cycling you can fit to a program that involves two other sports and you don’t need me to tell you to do a couple of 45 min spins on the turbo at Z2 in the week and a long ride at 65-75% of FTP because you already know that. Conversely you could probably save yourself a chunk of time on the bike leg by concentrating on technique and getting more aero – there I really could help but, have you got the time?
Comments and observations very welcome
For many of us, the cycling season is over and sooner than we might like, autumn will fade into winter in the UK. Not only does the light disappear but it can be twilight period for riders struggling to know what to do on the bike. If you’ve had a long season of riding and racing, you’ll rightly feel like a rest to recharge the mental and physical batteries is in order, but when do you re-engage in training? Is the thought of aimless turbo sessions staring at the garage door or the washing machine filling you full of dread?
Here are a few things that might help keep you going towards Christmas (I can’t believe I’ve invoked Christmas already…sorry)
Set some goals for 2020 now. Make it something you can commit to so, should your motivation wane a bit over the winter, you’ve got a target to look towards. Motivation comes and goes but commitment is the thing that will help pull you through those tough sessions.
Focus on strength. Now is a good time to get into the gym. There are some exercises that are specific to cycling and others that can help build a solid platform. And SSSTTREEETTTCCCCHHH! Long, strong, lean muscles help pretty much every aspect of physical performance.
Engage your core. Cycling benefits from a strong core but does nothing to develop it. Again, there’s some straightforward exercises you can do at home or incorporate into your gym sessions.
Understand your technology. If you’re training with a power meter on your bike, or have a static trainer that calculates power, you can save a whole load of time and ensure you get maximum bang out of your training sessions by using it productively. Otherwise it just produces pretty pictures on Strava and Training Peaks.
Introduce some variety. Get the rollers out or learn to use them (I’ve got access to some good British Cycling instructions videos), dust off the mountain bike, book a track session (they all do ‘tasters’ where you can hire a track bike etc). If Zwift or Peloton work for you, great. Maybe cyclocross is your thing. I’ve even heard of some cyclists going for a run…
Keep an eye on your weight. My own progression from eating healthy raisins, to chocolate covered raisins, to just eating chocolate is both rapid and linear at this time of year. Everybody is different but maintaining a weight that is healthy for you is important. And, like it or not, weight is an important component in cycling.
Have a plan. A framework, any framework, to keep your training focused may help. Finding ‘the’ framework – one that is individualised physiologically and psychologically for you – will ensure you exceed your 2020 goals. If I can help you with that, get in touch.
Rich Smith has coached the GB Transplant Cycling team for 10 years, is a British Cycling qualified Level 3 coach, a mature psychology student and has 30 years’ experience working in senior roles for Barclays, HSBC, British Waterways and National Grid Property.
I was based at OQ Service Course in Puerto Pollenca, Mallorca last week. I caught up with clients old and new whilst fitting in a little riding at the same time - It would be rude not to, autumn is a fabulous time to ride in cycling paradise, it’s still warm but much quieter than early season in March and April.
The physical representation of the Service Course is a retail unit close to the sea front in Puerto Pollenca right in the middle of the ‘cycling triangle’ formed by the famous Tolos’ restaurant, the enormous Pollenca Park hotel and large bike hire businesses close to the town square. Working out of there in the warm evenings, witnessing the hustle & bustle and excited conversations, I reflected on my past life in corporate real estate and soaked up what a wonderful concept the Service Course is. It combines all that is best in modern retail – those looking to save the UKs High Streets could do worse than form an orderly queue outside to get some great ideas!
In developing the Service Course, Ottilie Quince (of World Transplant cycling fame) has combined the provision of services and products that cannot be purchased over the internet, in a perfect location whilst connecting to a growing group of committed, passionate enthusiasts. You can’t get sports therapy or a massage over the web, nor can you get your bike fixed or pick up or get fitted for a hire bike on the internet. You can’t see, touch and feel the OQ range of casual or cycling clothing available in the shop just by logging on. Just try getting a cup of coffee and catch up about who’s riding where this week on a website.
From a retail concept you could wax lyrical about how the OQ Service Course maximises floor space, develops cross selling opportunities, brand awareness and customer segmentation but in there it’s a community of riders engaging with a service, products and people they know, like and trust. You get a feel, an atmosphere, a buzz and a sense of belonging that the virtual world cannot deliver.
It was fascinating to see newer riders come in, often families and their first time riding in Mallorca. They came in anxious about bikes, routes, guides, everything – understandably wanting to know they and their loved ones were going to be safe and looked after. An hour later they were leaving excited and reassured after getting to know their guide. It’s all about trust and reliability, right?
When you’re spending precious time away from work doing something as absorbing and rich as cycling, you want to be supported by people who share your passion and are there to help and encourage. That what Ottilie and the OQ Service Course does.
The link to the OQ Service Course website is here.
You could even talk face to face with a cycling coach there if you pick your time right…
Rich Smith has coached the GB Transplant Cycling team for 10 years, is a British Cycling qualified Level 3 coach, a mature psychology student and has 30 years’ experience working in senior roles for Barclays, HSBC, British Waterways and National Grid Property. He likes biscuits.
Organisations invest a lot of time and money in team building and leadership courses. In business, these tend to be either delivered in the classroom, building giant Jenga or outside making rafts to navigate a way through treacherous, if imaginary, waters. I’ve done a fair few or these over the years and frankly I’ve loved every minute of them.
Maybe it’s the biscuits.
As for me, alongside my career in business and eating biscuits, I have coached the Great Britain Transplant Cycling team for the last 10 years. A group of riders all of whom have had life supporting organ transplants and use bike racing at national and international level to increase awareness of organ donation and transplantation.
It’s fair to say they are highly motivated, courageous individuals. Their most recent outing at the World Transplant Games in Newcastle/Gateshead, August 2019, a team of 34 riders yielded 32 medals, 13 of them gold. I’d call that high performing.
So, before I get the Lego out or start blindfolding colleagues and persuading them to fall backwards into trusting arms, what team building analogies can be drawn from coaching this remarkable bunch? In business or sport, how does one go about developing a high performing team?
Emphasise the similarities shared by the team members
This is straight forward with the cycling team, amongst many other things, they ride bikes, they're all British and have had an organ transplant – this means they have shared traumas, experiences and back stories. What have your team shared? What makes them similar despite - perhaps even because of - their diversity?
Drawing out and emphasising similarities starts to bring a team together. I once led a team who all changed the ring tone on their phones to ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You’ … BAA DA, BAA DAP BAA DA DAT DAAA! Drove everybody nuts but you knew who was in the team. And never underestimate the power or a uniform. Or some uniformity.
The team must have a clear shared goal
Winning medals individually and as a team is a clear enough for my lot although not all the team will win medals, and the team know that, so maybe the goal is to perform to best of your ability – to try as hard as you can – you can do no more.
If you’re a veteran of multiple rounds of goal setting and performance reviews in business you’ll probably know about making your goals SMART. In business, completion of a project to cost, quality and on time are common but you do need to be specific about how much, how you measure quality and when it’s going to be completed.
How about making goals challenging, interesting and, easier in sport than business, fun?
Having a goal just because it’s measurable is not good enough. Goals need to drive the right behaviour. That’s where their real power of goals lies.
The team needs something to fight against
A little external pressure pushes teams together. A common enemy or a rivalry. It might be another team, organisation or even the Finance Department. Something the team need to work on collaboratively to overcome.
A little conflict, competitive pressure or shared adversity can be a positive bonding influence.
Rich Smith has coached the GB Transplant Cycling team for 10 years, is a British Cycling qualified Level 3 coach, a mature psychology student and has 30 years’ experience working in senior roles for Barclays, HSBC, British Waterways and National Grid Property. Whilst eating biscuits.
Recently, a chunk of my time has been dedicated to preparing the Great Britain Transplant Cycling team for the World Transplant Games being held at the back end of June in Malaga, Spain. At their core, the team are a technically mature group of riders with a good deal of international experience but we also have some new ‘unblooded’ riders and the addition of a new event to play with.
This year, the organisers have introduced a 3-man (or woman. Or man and woman etc) team time trial over 20km so much of my skills coaching focus has been around developing their technical ability to achieve what I hope will be world beating times. Team time trial is great to coach because there is so much in it (group riding, pacing, changing and communication to name but a few) and it’s great to ride because you can learn so much useful stuff. It’s also really exiting!
My challenges have been around advising on selecting the right teams and getting dedicated training time for them – tricky when they're spread all over the UK (from Scotland to the South Coast) and, with Captain Ottilie Quince, there is an international dimension as she’s based in Mallorca!
Physiological training for both the particularly brutal 5km individual TT and the team time trial has, for some of the riders local to me, been at Aldersley outdoor velodrome in Wolverhampton which has allowed them to get some very specific sessions in and produce some useful power figures to help with both training and competition. It is a great facility but nobody, ever, has walked away from Aldersley claiming they’d over heated – it’s always bloody cold there!
To resolve this heat deficit and get some warmth in to my bones, last week I swapped Wolverhampton for Sineu in Mallorca where it was 32 degs to put Otts through her paces in a controlled environment. It's a tough life, but somebody had to live it, right? Turns out I can't speak the language at either venue...
We did two very tough sessions amongst some other (rather less strenuous and more enjoyable riding) along with Steve Donaldson, a more recent addition to the GBTx team. Steve is a classy rider with national representative experience as a young rider before his heart transplant. He also enjoys the awesome almond cake at Sa Ruta Verde in Caimari, but then who wouldn't?
Saturday 20th May sees six of the transplant team competing in the Bromsgrove Olympic 10 mile time trial as a prelude to a skills training session at Stourport the following day. So, keep an eye out for times from me, Gavin Giles, Bob Joliffe, Michael Oliver, Declan Logue and Steve Donaldson.
My GBTx team duties are a happy addition to coaching a number of non-transplanted riders so, if you’re interested in engaging a cycling coach, take a look at the website and drop me a line.
Cheers for now.
2009 was my first visit to Mallorca to ride a bike. After many years of spending a couple of weeks a year in mainland Spain during my winters, it took me a while to get around to dipping my cleated toe in to the Balearic island.
Bradley Wiggins described Mallorca as a Scalextric track for cyclists, and he’s right, the Tramuntana mountains that range across the North West of the island are most cyclists’ idea of heaven and contain many of the classic well know rides. You also have access to some interesting flatter inland routes through the camis and the quieter roads too.
Staying, as many of us have done, in the Po Park in Puerto Pollenca back in March 2009, they’d screen off most of the enormous dining room to stop it from looking so empty. Now….? No way, I’ve seen estimates of 150,000 to 200,000 cyclists every year visiting the island, many in March and April although the season is expanding either side of the traditional spring months. Whilst summer tends to be quiet, October and November are becoming increasingly popular months to ride. Hotel dining rooms have never been fuller.
The pros still tend to be out there in the winter months, November to February mainly, and whilst the conditions aren’t balmy, the experience of riding in 16 degrees on a sharp January day on deserted Mallorca roads is well worth packing some leg warmers for, trust me, it’s beautiful. Certainly well worth missing a reliability trial for if you have the time and money.
In the olden days, there were very few places to hire a bike and when you could find something, the choice was limited and the quality hit and miss. Hotels catered for cyclists in a spirit of reluctant tolerance rather than open armed bonhomie on the proviso they didn’t have too much impact on the real guests and didn’t nick all the bananas from the breakfast buffet.
Woe betide if you had a mechanical over there, needed a massage or a guide or wanted to top up on gels and powders. Possible, but tricky to find when you wanted it.
Okay, so enough of me doing the job of the Balearic Island Tourist Board, we all know Mallorca is bloody brilliant, right? The point I want to make is the cycling scene in Mallorca has changed significantly over the past few years, both in terms of the islands’ offering and the riders who, if you will, buy in to the concept.
Nowadays you can hire a bike of your choice either through your hotel or independently – you can specify crank length, cassette ratios, saddle type, pedals etc. You can book a massage, find guides to show you the best routes, arrange to be picked up in the event of a breakdown, buy photographs of you descending Sa Calobra etc. Hell, you don’t even have to bribe the driver to let you take a bike box on the coach anymore. This, I hope you’ll agree, is a big step forwards.
In the past, riders would go to Mallorca on a ‘training camp’ to prepare for a domestic cycling season. Yeah, okay, it was really a cycling holiday with your club mates but you could kid yourself and significant others it was a vital ingredient in your quest for a 22 min 10 mile TT if you tried hard. I know this. I’ve done it. Many of us have.
More recently, chatting to fellow riders I've found many are training in the UK for a week in Mallorca – they are preparing at home so they can get the maximum out of a week on the island rather than the training for something else. It’s become a destination where you show your cycling form rather than a place you develop it for use elsewhere. Or maybe they are just more honest than me. You decide.
In most aspects, cyclists in Mallorca are now as well catered for as skiers in Meribel. The parallels (no pun intended) between the two activities are striking and, as Mallorca continues to develop as a cycling Mecca, no doubt the similarities in terms of what is being offered to consumers will grow.
There is however at least one distinct and notable difference. And no, it’s not snow.
As a novice skier, you wouldn’t think of hiring your skis and boots, getting a ski pass, taking the lift to the top of black run and chucking yourself off. You’d be out of control, out of your comfort zone and be a danger to both yourself and others. As a novice skier, you wouldn’t join a line of young experts following each other down a tricky off piste section in close formation unless you were 100% sure you could do so safely without ploughing in to the back of them would you? Of course you wouldn’t.
You’ve probably worked out where I’m going with this but, as a cyclist inexperienced in cycling in the conditions Mallorca presents – mountains, switch back climbs and descents, large groups of riders with mixed abilities, fast speeds etc you CAN do exactly that on a bike. You only have to look at the queues outside A&E at Inca or Playa de Muro hospital to prove you can and what the results tend to be.
A novice skier would go to ski school in the morning to learn how to ski safely and proficiently before going out to practice on the slopes to develop his or her skills. Similarly, an inexperienced cyclist should be able to learn to ride safely and efficiently in Mallorca before tackling its more challenging elements. In fact, I’d go as far as saying, particularly as the number of cyclists has increased exponentially but the standard of riding has declined, learning the ropes is essential for your safety and enjoyment.
Not only is the learning process great fun, just like ski school, you make friends and take away some skills that will improve your riding, and the pleasure you get from it, immeasurably. It will also make you safe and competent ensuring you have a better chance of going home with all your skin still attached to your body.
Compacted snow hurts when you hit it at speed, tarmac more so. Plus, the last time I skied down a slope, I didn’t have to contend with a hire car driver coming up the other way.
So, look out for RideFast Mallorca Bike School, coming to a bit of traffic free Tarmac in Puerto Pollenca in October 2017 and then again in the spring of 2018. A couple of hours learning or reprising the basics and you'll be well on your way to a better Mallorca cycling experience.
Last weekend I was at the Manchester Institute of Health and Performance for a two day a foundation workshop run by the UK Strength & Conditioning Association aimed at people looking to become accredited as an S&C coach or those, like me, wishing to add best practice to their existing sport specific coaching.
The English Institute of Sport define Strength & Conditioning broadly as ‘the physical and physiological development of athletes for elite sport performance’. In practice, for a sports specific coach like me, this means using a none cycling environment to improve the performance of a rider on the bike.
The conditioning part is relatively straight forward, this is preparation of an athlete to perform to their best ability. That’s what I do on a day to day basis with cyclists by prescribing a training plan that tells you how hard, how long and how often you should ride to achieve your cycling goals.
Aligning the strength bit to make it cycling specific is a little more challenging although pretty much any athlete is going to benefit from being stronger. In theory, stronger muscles mean more power, better recovery and less susceptibility to injury but in practice does lifting heavy weights in a gym correlate well to knocking out a personal best for a 10 mile time trial or completing a 100 mile sportive in one piece?
A few years ago, cyclists of any flavour wouldn’t be found dead near a gym, more recently, cyclists who specialise in track sprinting wont be found anywhere else. They now spend more time back squatting, dead lifting and SLDLing huge weights in small repetitions than they do on the track. The worlds best sprint cyclists can’t be wrong and the case for well-structured gym time is now made and evidenced by the number of gold medals won by the GB sprinters over the last few Olympics.
For endurance cyclists (in practical terms, anybody who isn’t involved in BMX or track sprinting) the case is less clear cut. Speaking to the tutors on the course, they said they have struggled to convince elite endurance cyclists that getting off the bike and in the gym is time well spent. Further, and understandably given their discipline, they tend to be obsessed with ‘volume’ as their route to success. Your guess is as good as mine as to how much of this is psychological but certainly the case for gym based physiological adaption to help endurance riders go faster or further is less well developed.
From my own practice, from the riders I have coached and from the knowledge I gained from the weekend, I feel there is a good case to be made that in real world non-professional cycling an element of thoughtfully prescribed S&C training in your program is going to make you faster. Here’s why I think it makes sense to get in the gym.
If you think some Strength & Conditioning training might be for you, please don’t read this and fire off to the gym to do 12 million bicep curls, the amount of bad practice in gyms is scary; at best it’s wasting effort and at worst it’s an injury waiting to happen. Just like a training prescription for cycling sessions, you really do need to know what exercises to do when, how to perform them correctly and how they fit in to the rest of your training before launching in to it.
I’d be really interested to hear people’s views and experiences and if I can help you, please let me know.
Two reasons for this brief blog, first, a couple of thoughts on the value of CPD (Continuing Professional Development) and secondly, a confession…
If you are involved in any of the ‘professions’ you’ll be familiar with the term Continuing Professional Development, it’s often a requirement of membership of a professional body regulating the activity of its members (lawyers, accountants, surveyors etc) that they carry out several hours of development study every year. Often they need to provide evidence of this structured learning to prove their skills remain sharp and they are up to date with current legal, professional and ethical practice. I’m kind of hoping doctors must do this too. All sounds very serious, doesn’t it?
British Cycling encourages its coaches to undertake further learning post qualification but it’s not compulsory – there is an argument to say that it should be and that this principle should be extended to those coaching any sport – particularly if those under the age of 18 or vulnerable adults are involved.
‘Top blathering, but what has this got to do with cycling’ I hear you ask? Good question: que spurious link…
I’ve been using rollers as part of my training for a few years although it fair to say I’m a later convert. A couple of weeks ago I did the British Cycling online CPD ‘Using rollers in your Coaching’ course and whilst sitting there half expecting to be told what I already knew, I discovered a whole load of useful things I’d either forgotten or didn't knew in the first place. See, you never, ever stop learning.
Using rollers provides some great variety (and sometimes sheer terror) in to what can be a boring period of indoor winter training and, with a bit of imagination, you can incorporate all sorts of useful core work it’s difficult to get anywhere else. For many, it’s a new challenge and keeping your training progressive and interesting is vital for motivation. For the beginner, just balancing on the things is difficult enough but with a bit of perseverance and guidance, you can add a whole new dimension to your training and warm up routines. Anything that provides an alternative to the turbo trainer has to be a good thing, right?
The confession? I’d never ridden no handed on rollers before, I have now. Why would I want to well? Well, it’s the starting point for some great core exercise sessions (it certainly tighten my butt muscles on the first few attempts) and, last but not least, you get that ‘weeeeeeeeee’ feeling you did when you first learn to ride a bike!
Some of my riders will be looking forward to getting that feeling really soon…
Cheers for now!
I've been going to Mallorca to ride in the spring time since 2009. It’s something I really look forward to after a winter of battering myself in the garage on the turbo or rollers and riding in the generally nasty conditions a British winter benevolently bestows upon us Brits.
It tends to be leisurely, sunny miles to familiar and beautiful places with a good thrash up a mountain for good measure so it feels like training rather than a complete jolly. Which of course, it isn’t, right?
This time I hooked up with Mallorca Cycling Shuttles and my cycling buddy and GBTx team mate, Ottilie Quince who has based her sports therapy business out there, to take on a ride with a different start from the normal leisurely 10 o’clock(ish) roll out from Puerto Pollensa. This time we loaded our bikes in a trailer and loaded ourselves on to a coach for a journey to Andratx, some 115ks away on the other side of the island and, more relevantly, at the other end of the Tramuntana (still tarantula to me…) mountain range. Shockingly, we did this at 8 o’clock in the morning!
An hour or so later we were dropped off in a sunny but cool Andratx to start the ride home to Puerto Pollensa via some of the most glorious mountain roads you could ever hope to set a wheel on. You can take a number of routes back (check out the funky maps on the Mallorca Cycle Shuttle Facebook page or website) but we chose to follow the ‘vanilla’ direct mountain route. When I say vanilla, the Tramantana mountain range is a World Heritage site and rightly so: it’s a stunning place to ride a bike. What I really mean is we passed on the option of dipping down to the various pretty ports from the MA10 mountain road. Should 115ks not be enough, you can extend this to 162ks by riding down to Port des Canonge, Port Valldemossa and the famous Sa Calobra before getting back to Puerto Pollensa - a serious challenge.
Unless you decide to come back ‘flat’, all routes go over Puig Major, the biggest mountain in Mallorca at 1445m although the highest you can climb on a road bike is about 850m (it’s enough, trust me). You go through the top of the mountain via a tunnel before you descend – not a bad idea to take a red flashing rear light with you if you have one to hand – the tunnel is quite long. Also, the descent of ‘The Pig’ can get cold at certain times so taking a jacket or a gillet is a good idea.
We opted to stop at Fornalutx a few hundred metres up Puig Major. It’s a beautiful tiny village based on an old Roman forge settlement and you can see the colour of the iron ore in the brown and orange escarpments around you while you have a coffee and a cake. Or two. Stop there if you want, but don’t tell anybody else, it’s a hidden secret…
The ride is tough one, even for those familiar with the route, but the guys at Mallorca Cycle Shuttle have removed the need to cover over 200k in the day and ride flat via Bunyola for 3 plus hours to get to the start of the mountain range. For most of us mortals 5-6 hours on the bike is manageable whereas 9 hours plus becomes a chore. A great idea, well executed. At €24.50 the trip represents good value in my view and you can watch your bike being safely packed in an enclosed trailer towed behind the bus so you never lose sight of your valuable transport home.
Maximum kudos to the guy in trainers, board shorts and a T shirt who completed the ride. He claimed the rhythmic squeaking of his hire bike reminded him of his girlfriend and he was only going to worry about it if it stopped.
Mainly, this is just a bloody good day out on the bike, a real achievement to complete with spectacular roads and views. However, if there is a coaching analogy, tenuous though it might be, cutting out the ‘junk’ to get to the good stuff is it. I’d sooner ride hard over the mountains than try to conserve energy spinning out on the flat for hours early in the morning, but that’s just me.
If you're lucky enough to be over in Mallorca, check out the Mallorca Cycle Shuttle website or Facebook page and treat yourself to a different day out on the bike.