Editor’s Note: Thanks to Gareth Price for this lovely report of his time in Mallorca. Gareth’s first serious forays into cycling began in 2014 when he was coaxed into doing the Carten 100. The rest, as they say, is history with Gareth being quickly bitten by the bug and crossing off those cycling bucket lists very quickly including sportives, a first season in CX and now cycling abroad!
Tackling Sa Calobra on a Pinarello Dogma
My love affair with the Dogma F8 and Sa Calobra, as with all affairs, started by chance. In 2015 I was on holiday with my wife and parents staying in the Mallorcan holiday resort of Puerto Pollenca, trying to combine a family holiday with some training for the inaugural Velothon Wales. Two days into the holidays my Parents found, as they described, a “small bike shop”. That bike shop turned out to the “The Pinarello Experience”, it wasn’t that small and had more Dogma’s hanging off the wall than I’d ever seen before.
I hired a Dogma for the day, rode to Sa Calobra, enjoyed myself but was left with that nagging doubt in the back of my mind. Could I have been faster and made better use of the bike? And so in June 2016 I returned for another family holiday. The plan was simple hire a “normal” Pinarello for 3 days and a Dogma for 1 day.
Reams have been written about how great Mallorca is for cycling with peak activity taking place earlier in the year. The island attracts both professional teams and amateurs all wishing to make use of the quiet roads, mixture of flat and hilly training and better weather than back home. Although I prefer June/July so that I can combine my visit with a holiday.
The hire process with The Pinarello Experience is simple
- Go to their web site – http://www.pinarelloexperience.com/
- Pick your bike
- Say what size you want and optionally saddle height
- And pay your money!
I had a Razha for 3 days and a Dogma F8 Dura-Ace Di2 for 1 day.
The shop is situated close to the centre of the town, just off the sea front at Calle Temple Fielding 3 and 5, and just around the corner from Tolo’s Restaurant – home of some of Bradley’s winning Pinarellos. The Dogma was ready for collection with the seat post set to my requirements and fitted with a set of Look Carbon pedals.
The route was a simple out and back to Sa Colabra – a total of 95km and just under 1,900 metres of climbing.
Leaving Puerto Pollenca and heading towards Pollenca on the Ma2200 you begin to realise what’s so good about the roads here. Not only are they smooth but have a wide space on each side just for bikes. Not like the 2 foot you get back in the UK punctuated with manhole covers, cats eyes and general rubbish! The road is smooth but already you get the impression that the Dogma wants to go faster and is easy to ride. But I’ve got a long way to go today, and I haven’t come to any hills yet.
Straight on at Pollenca on the Ma 10 heading towards Luc. The road is flat for a while until at around 12km you start the climb of the Coll de Femenia. The average gradient is 6% but at 7.5km in length is over fairly quickly. Half way up I catch a group who have come over from Leeds and we discuss the pros and cons on bike hire vs. bringing your own bike. From the summit of Coll de Femenia it’s another 10, lumpy, km’s to Luc and the right turn towards Soller. Follow the road until you see the right turn for Sa Colabra. You’ve got another 3km’s before you reach the top. But the climb has given me time to remind myself how much I like the bike. Changing gear, sometimes just for the sake of it, showed just how good the Di2 was. But then coming from a 105/Ultegra mix it’s bound to be.
Sa Colabra isn’t actually the name of the mountain – it’s the name of the small seaside village at the bottom of this dead-end road. The mountain is actually called Coll dels Reis. Unlike other climbs there is only one way to ride up it, and that is to ride down it first as the road stops at Sa Colabra.
A quick look at any map will indicate it’s the usual mix of hairpin and shortish straights – the proverbial spaghetti dropped on a plate road. If you want to get a feel of it look at the video on YouTube of the Sigma Sport cycling team decending, at speed. Although best not to show any of your loved ones before you do it.
As you’d expect the road, at times, can get busy especially with coaches taking tourists down the mountain. Best to arrange your descent to happen in the morning as, after lunch, the coaches will start to come back up the mountain. And whilst the road is wide enough for two cars you don’t want any near misses with a coach on its way back up.
I started the descent and quickly came to the 270 degree turn, which signals the start of the real descent. Unfortunately I caught some cars and coaches, but managed to slip passed them as they stopped at one of the hairpin bends. And so my descent started – once past the coaches I started to pedal hard.
The Dogma came with Mavic Ksyrium SLE’s carbon rims. It’s the first time I’ve ridden on Carbon wheels but as the first hairpin loomed I applied the Dura-Ace brakes, the pads bit into the Exalith coating on the wheel and the bike slowed down. Changed down a few gears then off to the next Hairpin. The brakes were as you’d expect. Loads of feel but very light, pull a little you slow down, pull a little harder and you slow down faster. All very progressive. One observation about the wheel/brake combination was the strange whirring sound they made when applying the brakes. It’s something to do with the pattern of the carbon weave. Nothing worrying, in fact as I got used to it the sound became an audible confirmation the brakes were working. I never got fast enough to see how well they deal with fading.
Generally speaking the descent and road surface is good. But an early hairpin reminds you that you need to respect the descent. All that separated me from going over the edge was what can only be described as, a raise kerb. And on the other side of the road is a hard, sharp and unforgiving rock face. Yes that’s right – you’ve been warned.
One thing I did notice was the lack of cars trying to pass me. I’m no great decender but if you’re a half decent descender you’ll stay in front of any cars. The only thing you need to watch out for is other cyclists passing you.
As you get lower down the descent the hairpins reduce and you get in to a series of faster left, right, lefts. And so you’re at the bottom – take a little care here as you go through the coach/car parks with the inevitable tourist wandering around the road.
At the bottom there’s the obligatory over priced cafes, so take extra cash with you for drinks, probably best not to rely on your “contactless” payment methods here. And the phone coverage is not great either.
And so for the climb. The Strava segment is called “Sa Calobra – Coll dels Reis (official)” all 9.4km and 668m of climbing and remember it stops at the very top, not at the under/over bridge near the top. The average gradient is 7.1% with a maximum of 12%. The current record holder is the Sky rider Sebastian Henao Gomez who completed the ride in 24:54. Despite being on the same bike I’d set my target a little lower.
The best way to describe the climb is challenging. Not because of the gradient or the length but the fact you can’t really see where the end is. The early few km’s are in the trees but when you get out of them all you see in front is a wall of rock. You just can’t see where the end is, you know it’s up there somewhere, you’re just not sure where. Occasionally you’ll see a coach on a road high up and all you can think of is “how the hell do I get there”. With this lack of visual clues as to where you are you need a plan. I’d set a target of not being under 10kph at any time – in that way I’d manage the climb in around 50 minutes. If I managed that it would be 20 minutes faster than last time.
Strangely on the climb, one of the things I liked most about the bike was the Carbon aero bars. Not for the time it saved me cutting through the air, I wasn’t going fast enough. It was the comfortable place to put your hands on the top of the bars for the climb. Kilometre post after kilometre post ticked by giving a visual clue of where I was. It was lunchtime and the sun was fully overhead. I was glad I bought the Tolo’s jersey – by now I’d have been cooking in the Rapha “Classic” jersey I’d brought over. Merino wool and sun doesn’t really mix. The other advantage of the Tolo’s jersey was the service you got at the restaurant later.
With every hairpin came with the usual temporary increase in gradient only adding further to the burning in my legs. But it was then, as you applied all of your power, you appreciated the stiffness of the frame and the bars. Then all of a sudden the under/over bridge loomed and I put in an extra burst for the last 2km’s. I’d done it. Under 50 minutes. But let’s put this in to perspective.
28,000 Strava users have recorded times, Sebastien Gomez went up twice as fast as I did – but he’s probably half my age. My time put me in the top 50% so it wasn’t that bad.
After a short break – the ride back. The descent from Coll de Femenia to Pollenca is very very good. Fast, cambered, smooth corners add to the excitement but the final, flattish, run into Pollenca is the best. It was at this point, on top of a high gear, I really felt like I could do anything on a bike. That’s the confidence it gives you and how good it makes you feel. For that time I was Geraint Thomas leading a stage in the Tour!
So how good was the bike?
Like most of us, I read bike reviews. Wishing that I could get the chance to sample some of the rides they do. And I did. But all I can say was – it was very good. Yes Dura-Ace Di2 is bound to be better than 105, and the Pinarello asymmetric frame better than my Scott. I’m sure sometimes reviewers are being picky – what really is the difference between a rating of 95% and 96%, apart from 1%.
The thought that summed it up was not so much how good say the gears were, but that nothing stuck in my mind as being bad or annoying. No rattles, no squeaks, no wandering offline – nothing wrong. And in my book that gets 100%
To hire or not to hire?
I’ve taken a bike on holiday once only because I was just about to do my first sportive, the Tour of Pembrokeshire, and wanted some time on “my” bike. The costs add up. £45 to hire a box, £60 for the plane and the extra £20 the taxi charged – £125 in total. Not to mention the collecting/returning the box, packing/unpacking the bike etc etc. It’s so much easier to hire and for £125 you can get descent enough bikes.
Was it worth it?
I’m bound to say yes aren’t I, but let’s look at the numbers. The bike costs €100 per day. Convert that to pounds and its £84 (Ed, this was written before that bloody vote) – already a two digit number so psychologically it’s moving in the right direction. You’d be hiring a bike anyway and that would be £22 a day – so your marginal cost is only £62. Why that’s less than a descent night out. So it’s a no brainer really.
And the service you get from The Pinarello Experience is second to none.
But ask yourself what other sporting experience could you have for that money? A round of golf at a famous golf course – unlikely. But then I got more than that – I got to ride a bike that’s used in the Tour de France, what other sport could you say that about? “I drove Lewis Hamilton’s car” – think not.
So sitting in Tolo’s back in Puerto Pollenca, watching the admiring glances my bike (for the day) is getting from other cyclists, enjoying my recovery drink/beer and looking at the Bradley Wiggin’s Pinarellos hanging from the ceiling, I begin to add up all of my thoughts from the day.
Would I go back again next year and try again? You bet. Would I buy one? Probably not, but that’s the attraction of hiring – its having something you don’t normally have. Shall I give up my day job to be a Pro cyclist? Nope
On my own bike, with some more training and losing some weight, I’d have probably got similar times to those I achieved on the Dogma. But to look at it in this way is missing the point. It’s not about what you achieved; it’s about how you feel doing it. About the experience of riding a Dogma – and on that day it was my Pinarello experience.