This year in the beautiful mountains of North Wales the summer has been very….erm…..well….Welsh. The sun has come out on occasion but, like everyone else venturing out around here, it has peered through the incessant downpour, seen the flooding, and decided pretty quickly that it’s time to head back inside and sandbag the doors.
So, misinterpreting the rhyme for my own advantage (rain, rain, go away…) I decided to go away to Menorca for a spot of riding in an area where the sun wasn’t quite as afraid to show its cheery, yellow face.
Menorca is the smallest of the Balearic islands at just 35 miles long and 9 miles wide, and has but a single mountain (Mount Toro) which reaches a height of 357m. Not exactly, you might think, the best place for MTBing then. First appearances can be deceptive however, and with a guide, a decent hardtail, and a willingness to drop the bike and swim in the ocean at every opportunity, it actually offers some very fine riding.
The real secret to Menorca’s attractiveness to the mountain biker is the medieval Cami de Cavalls – the Path of Horses. This trail, used over centuries for spotting potential invasion, and re-opened only five years ago, runs around the entire coastline of the island. It links dusty singletrack with minor roads to create a 220km trail which is perfect for mountain bikes.
For my ride on the island I hired a Giant Talon hardtail MTB from MTB Menorca in Es Grau – a bike and kayak hire company located in a tiny fishing village in the heart of the island’s Parc Natural S’Albufera d’es Grau. My guide, Didac Pujon, planned a route through the Parc to the lighthouse at Favaritx, returning along the Cami de Cavalls to Es Grau.
The riding was excellent – a nice warm up past the lagoons and old salt flats of the natural park, and then some technical, rocky and sandy singletrack skirting the coastline. Even though the island has only a single mountain, it is covered in smaller undulating hills, and the coastal trail is consistently either climbing or descending. In the summer heat, the Cami de Cavalls proves to be an excellent route for a proper work-out, with enough technical riding to suit even the most hardened MTBer. Regular rest stops at beautiful and deserted beaches were not to be missed and gave ample opportunities to cool down, by taking a plunge into the ever-so-refreshing turquoise-blue sea.
All in all, it was a fabulous ride, made more interesting by Didac’s extensive local, environmental and historical knowledge. So, if you too are in need of a break from the excessive dampness of the UK, I can thoroughly recommend a visit to Menorca. I for one will be returning soon to ride the entire Cami de Cavalls!