Majorca 2018: Capers on the Formentor
One, two, one, two, test, test, … Today, I will leave my bike buddies behind and ride solo to Pollença, to try out another bicycle. Not just any bicycle, mind: the J.Guillem Formentor, a titanium thoroughbred. My wife has been riding around on a J.Guillem Major for quite a while now, and is more than happy with it. (As am I, because I get to clean it.) The Formentor is the top of the J.Guillem range, and today I am going to find out just what that means.
First, a short primer on J.Guillem. That somewhat strange looking name is how the Majorcan locals pronounce “Jan-Willem”. Jan-Willem Sintnicolaas is a Dutch expat who’s been in the bike business for about twenty years now, with molten titanium coursing through his veins. (Not literally, because that would be rather lethal.) He was the main force behind the Van Nicholas brand, now sold to a large group. After his required sabbatical, he picked up the torch and started this new venture, focusing on quality over quantity. And it’s working: his bicycles have earned glowing headlines all the way to Australia.
But back to Majorca now. There are worse places than this island to live and design bikes in. It’s pretty clear that the surroundings inspire Jan-Willem. Every model is named after a local climb. There is the Major, named after the Puig Major, the longest and highest climb in the Serra de Tramuntana. Or the Atalaya, the all-round gravel grinder for the all-road adventures that are all the rage. But I get to play with the Formentor today, and not just any: this is Jan-Willem’s own Formentor Disc with a top-notch build.
Of course, I have to take this beautiful beast to the source: the Cap de Formentor. To reach the eponymous lighthouse on that cape, I have to –no, get to– ride along a winding coastal road with bays of incredible hues of blues and a few expertly laid out climbs. (Designed by the same architect/engineer as the island’s famous Sa Calobra climb, which is quite the calling card.) The ride is ridiculously easy, but I cannot put my finger on why exactly. Is it the frame material providing a smooth ride? Are the oval Rotor chainrings responsible, even though I initially expected to dislike them? Or is it the speed and ease of use of the electronic shifting, or the lightweight Scope wheels, or the precision disc brakes that inspire confidence in the twisty descents, or, or, or? No, it’s the and, and, and, obviously, because it’s the combination of everything that makes this bike feel just right.
Everything? Well, no: the most personal component of any bike to me is the saddle, and my larger-than-a-climber’s posterior prefers a slightly less “sporty” seat. A bit silly of me, because I brought my own Brooks saddle along. Granted, my Brooks may have titanium rails (weight weenie?), it would still have looked out of place on the flashy Formentor.
Actually, “flashy” is not the right word. These titanium bikes are of a more subtle beauty. They absorb the colours of their surroundings, without disappearing from sight. A sight for sore eyes, and not just mine. On the short return trip to the lighthouse, three people spontaneously commnented on my bike. Those who know me, know that I am not exactly the biggest extrovert, yet I immediately and enthusiastically started spreading the gospel. Could it be comparable to how the brains of the hatters of yore were changed by inhaling lead fumes? Here I am praising this bike to total strangers, and it is not even my own! It is a precious jewel, that’s for sure.
It pains me to return my (sorry: his) bike to Jan-Willem and get back on my aluminium rental. It makes me realise just how big the difference between a decent bike and a fantastic bike really is. The Formentor is not the lightest bike of the bunch, or the most hyped up, or the cheapest, but it is an ideal choice for the distinguishing cyclist looking for lifelong pleasure. It makes every day feel a bit like #newbikeday.
Thanks to Jan-Willem for loaning me his personal Formentor Disc, Werner from J.Guillem for coordinating it all, and Bart from Ghent’s finest bike shop Vélocien to get us all in touch. Thanks also to my legs for getting me everywhere. It was worth it! (And just to be clear: no money changed hands for this report; my enthusiasm is real. Be sure to check out the close-up photos and you will spot the craftmanship immediately.)