A Volcanic Ride - Mount Haleakala

So, last week I ended up in Hawaii.

I had known I would be there a few months prior so a few repeats of Norton Summit and Greenhill Road had been included into my routine. I had also tried to extend my regular rides slightly as I knew I'd be in the saddle (an unfamiliar one at that) for an extended time.  

I had done my research on where Mt Haleakala was, where "the" ride starts from, where to stay, where to borrow a bike. Firstly, I organised to book the bike from Maui Cyclery - http://www.gocyclingmaui.com/, accommodation was to be at The Paia Inn - http://paiainn.com/. The rental shop and accommodation were both within 100metres of the start of the climb. Nice!

After flying to Honolulu and then onto Maui, we checked into our room. Very nice, comfortable and recommended with direct beach access which was utilized straight away. After a swim and a lie down on the sand I walked out the back door and into Maui Cyclery. A couple "dudes" were manning the store and very easy to get along with. I soon had my bike (Felt Carbon Di2) set up after a bit of a ride in the parking lot. I checked my route notes with the guys which I would then stick down with sticky tape to the top tube. The bike was then ready, lights attached, biddons filled, just some sleep required. Note, this was a one day only ride, it had to be the next day irrespective of weather.

I awoke a bit before 4am, trying not to wake my most wonderful  wife who ever so nicely allowed me to do the ride. Luckily the room had an outdoor area and kitchen to get ready. I got dressed, loaded up my jersey with long finger gloves, rain jacket, two bananas, three muesli bars and some cash. Quickly I ate some disgusting instant in a cup oats and headed out. During this time it started to drizzle, oh oh.

4.20am I left and headed to Baldwin Ave and the start" line in the dark. There was no warm up as the hotel was so close and the drizzle continued. A couple cars passed in the opposite direction at which stage I had to make sure I was on the unfamiliar right side of the road as their lights appeared ahead. Despite the drizzle and at times a bit heavier, there was a smile on my face for the first 5 miles at which stage the rain stopped, the clouds cleared and some light appeared. The temperature started at 23 degrees but continued to fall as I headed up, luckily I didn't need the rain jacket. I continued to monitor my progress with my Garmin and my guidance notes on the top tube. 

I made my first turn soon after a small climb after Makawao and headed towards Kula Lodge. I stopped there for a coffee from the road side caravan. He is there from about 2.30am to 7.30 (WTF), we chatted for a while as he told me I was the first cyclist heading up for the day. The coffee was piping hot and I could only manage half of it, biddons refilled and off I headed. I had now covered over 2,500 feet of climbing.

With the sun coming up, the clouds only in the distance I made the next turn onto Crater Road, 6,500feet and 22 miles to go. This section of road was fantastic, the bitumen was a fine chip and as smooth as babies bum with a wide cycling shoulder for "bikers". Ever from Makaweo, I could seen the summit which slowly appeared to be getting larger in size as I got closer.

As I continued, I enjoyed seeing the markers on the road telling of every 500 feet of elevation and I ticked off each in my mind knowing I was getting closer. A series of switch backs were then handled. The views from this section was amazing. I stopped a number of times to enjoy the scenery looking back from where I had come and to where I was heading. It was through this stage I came across the first of about 15 groups who on organized tours are bussed up with cruiser style bikes to enjoy the downhill ride. The cars who had enjoyed the sunrise over the crater were now also coming past. These was three types, those who didn't care I was there, those with mouths were wide open almost saying what are you doing? and other drivers with a big smile and yelling out a bit of encouragement. There was also a few thumbs up from those who passed me on their way to the top.

At 5,500 feet I could distinctively feel the air getting thinner with less oxygen, however I never noticed it getting any thinner than that for the rest of the ride. At 7,000 feet I arrived at the Heleakala National Park at which time you pay the $5 entrance fee and soon after I filled up the biddons again. I was now above the clouds and the views were just getting better. Another series of switch backs were ahead as I weaved in and out of some mist and up to 9,000 feet. At this point vegetation was low lying, small and the landscape quite barren. The summit was getting closer in sight.

I then passed the visitor centre with 1km to go. My legs had got used to the constant 5-6 percent grade but from now on it was mostly 10-12 with an avg of 8 till the top. There was a few times out of the saddle but there was to be no stopping during this section as I just wanted to get to the top and that I did!! It had taken me longer than I had predicted as I stopped so many times to enjoy, smile, rest, photograph, talk to locals and riding groups heading down. My legs felt a little tired but surprisingly good. I had eaten 2 muesli bars, 2 bananas, drunk one too hot coffee and 5 biddons.

I was greeted by a Canadian guy clapping with a couple others joining in. I had a few obligatory photos at the top and some tourists asked me about the ride. I felt like I was being interviewed after winning a stage of the Tour de France. I rested for a bit then headed back down 1 km to the Visitor Centre where more people asked questions and some Japanese tourists who I couldn't communicate with just took photos of me. A few clouds were starting to come in and again I smiled knowing that getting up early had worked for me. I put on my rain jacket (for warmth) and long finger gloves.     

Next was the downhill - Yippee!! There are a few tight corners in some of the switch backs but mostly sweeping bends. The surface of the road from 7,000 to 3,500 was just a dream come true. By the time I was half way down I was starting to warm up. I didn't want to stop so I just opened my jacket and let it flap in the wind. I only had to pass one group of bikers and I carefully did this as I wasn't quite sure of there ability on the bike and their squealing brakes not giving me confidence if they were to swerve in front of me. There was no other vehicles to pass as I kept the speed up. On the descent I passed 6 fellow cyclist heading up the mountain as we each waved to each other in respect. The descent had taken only 1hr 7minutes to complete. As I came to the end I came across my wife on the side of the road who thought her luck had changed as I called out to her. I'm pretty sure she could see the smile on my face from what had been the most amazing experience.

If you are ever in the area for a holiday or a stop over to the US mainland please stop by enjoy this ride which needs to be experienced.

For what its worth visit - http://app.strava.com/activities/146676402/overview

I'm hoping to have some photos up soon.

Views: 287

Comment by easytiger on June 4, 2014 at 20:12

Chapeau JV!

Fantastic ride, great write-up. I feel a bit left out now - first Michael, then you. Would probably prefer surfing if I went to Maui, but I'm sure I could find a spare 5 hours to climb a volcano!

Comment by Gus on June 4, 2014 at 22:04
Great ride. Thanks for taking the time to write it up. I know there are many who are eying it off on their bucket lists.
Comment by Jules Begg on June 5, 2014 at 22:51

Congratulations, i am inspired to loose weight after reading of such epics, thankyou

Comment by rossmg on June 6, 2014 at 20:21

Nice one! Very inspiring!

Comment by snappy_don on June 12, 2014 at 9:35

Congratulations JV. Photos please :-)

Comment by Terry C on August 1, 2014 at 23:43

Great ride. I think that the over one hour descent really puts it into perspective !

Comment by Gemma K on September 30, 2014 at 22:45

I too was in Hawaii (different island), and had my cross bike recently... your blog tricked me into doing an 'epic' climb too since I had my bike with me.  Only about half as far, and half as high, but as a certified 'big unit non-climber' dragged my arse up on knobbie tyres through Waimea Canyon via the Canyon Drive. Never again!  http://www.strava.com/activities/196785148

Comment by Justin V on October 1, 2014 at 13:14

Gemma, never say never. You did it, you proved you could and its memories from these rides that stay with you for next time your in pain and don't feel you can go any further. The reality is, its surprising what you can actually do if you really want to.

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