Mount Haleakala
Lisa and I traveled to Hawaii as I was groomsman at my friend's picture-perfect Maui shore wedding. Not surprisingly, our first trip to Maui together just wouldn't be complete without bikes, so with some measure of anticipated hassle, we took our own rigs. Big thanks to Ron and Kathy Starkey who lent us their Trico cases, and the dozen or so other people who offered to lend us theirs as well. We felt the love in Oaktown.

We managed to squeeze in two rides during our six-day stay, the quality of which made traveling with the borrowed flight cases so worthwhile. The day after we arrived, we went on a 75 mile spin along the southside ("leeward") coast from Wailea to Kapalua and back. Mostly gently rolling terrain, and a LOT of trade winds to ride through. At this point, we were still recovering from pretty nasty colds and coughing fits, but managed to feel better and better as the miles racked up. It was a reckless and lucky gamble that somehow paid off.

Midway on the return, we stopped at MacGregor Point and saw a couple of humpback whales off the shore. A maritime guide we encountered said it was the closest sighting he had all day, so we felt pretty lucky.

Two days later, we got up dark and early -- after just 4 hours of sleep post wedding party and libations -- and headed out to northside ("windward") coast and did what we planned all along: the monstrously epic climb up to the summit of Mt. Haleakala (sea level to 10,023 feet in 35 miles, then back down).

Despite suboptimal health, rest and training prior to this trip, we managed the whole climb up, undoubtedly the most respect-commanding, patience-mandating climb either of us have ever done. The grade is actually pretty gradual most of the way, manageable even with a 42t middle ring. What it requires most is an amazing amount of patience, which comes easily if you can absorb and appreciate the amazing landscape and vistas around you.

Mt. Haleakala course

The climb from shore to summit took us about 5h45m in roll time. Reaching the summit, especially when the last 3/4 mile kicked up insultingly to about a 9% grade -- and just being there -- was indescribably euphoric.

The descent was an adventure in itself, of course. Even at pretty high speed, it took a mind-numbing 1h20m to get down... almost too long to be much fun.

Weather cooperated well, too. In fact, I think we serendipitously picked one of the better weather days during our entire stay to do the ride. The summit climate was somewhere in the mid 60s, sunny; high 80s back at the base. The afternoon cloud layer hovered between around 6,000' and 4,000' and wasn't too soggy or thick, so a wind vest over a jersey, base and arm/knee warmers were perfect.

Roads in Maui are generally fantastic for riding. There are a LOT of cars on the island, but good shoulders and a lot of striped bike lanes on the coastal routes compensate generously. Drivers are overall very courteous, but you may encounter 1 crotchety local in a thousand, no big deal.

We loved Maui. Our bikes loved Maui. The rest of our time -- when not reserved by wedding party duty -- was packed with fun, wilderness hikes, beach hopping, swimming and much else that made this trip damn near perfect -- fitting for the first 100% work-free vacation I've had in over 6 years.

Anybody interested in doing this ride for their first time really ought to check out Mike Jacoubowsky's primer on the hill climb, which goes into plenty of descriptive and pictorial detail about the terrain as well as availability of food, water and services. It is without doubt the most informative write-up for this ride I've seen out there.

Distance: 73 miles | Elevation gain: approx. 10,150' | Ride time: 7h10m
Info: Chain Reaction Bicycles
see related photo album | return to table of contents
Copyright © 2000-2009 | All rights reserved.