Usually, in January I head somewhere warm to train. I pack my bike into a box along with everything else I could need for a month and set out to live somewhere as cheaply and minimally as possible. I’ve paid US$500 to sleep on a deflating air mattress in a shared room with a towel as a blanket so that I could eat rice and oats three meals a day and ride in the rain for four to seven hours.
This year, I decided to go on holiday. I’ve never done this before and today I’m writing this article from my new favourite little cafe in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii. I swapped the bike box for a backpack and filled it with a stove, tent, sleeping bag and a few other pieces of essential survival gear such as a Hawaiian shirt, some Eleven Speed Coffee and a chocolate bar.
Oh, and of course I packed my cycling shoes and a kit.
The other day, after I had my fill of reef rash and salt water in my eyes and ears, I hitchhiked into town to rent a bike from West Maui Cycles. They gave me a Specialized Roubaix with Shimano 105 that ran like a dream and had some nice easy gears for the steep hills.
It was suggested that I ride clockwise around the Western half of the island, which I am grateful for. Originally I planned to head the opposite way, but by riding clockwise you avoid the traffic on the main highway, get the climbing out of the way in the first half of the ride and even get a slight tailwind on the return. I found that by riding on the right hand side of the road also offered me some shady relief from the relentless sun on the early climbs, which I was certainly grateful for.
The ride starts (from West Maui Cycles) with a few miles of relatively busy highway. The shoulder is huge though – and apart from the occasional tourist willing to risk your life in order for them to beat the rush at a nearby stand where $30 photos of you with a parrot or something are sold – it’s very safe. Pretty quickly the road narrows and the shoulder disappears, and you enter rural Maui. The road is windy and undulates as it follows the lush and increasingly rugged coast. Brown grass becomes green and the jungle grows around you.
At mile marker 38.5 there’s a trailhead to the Nakalele Blowhole. This certainly piqued my interest but the steep trail on a rental bike seemed irresponsible, so I rode another half mile to a point on the road where I could look over the edge and watch the ocean force its way through a jagged lava rock outcrop. Believe it or not, I had never before seen a blowhole from my bike and thought this was pretty cool.
The road continues with short steep pitches, and I ride slowly on account of the narrow blind corners. I don’t mind riding slowly though, because I don’t want to miss the view and I’m on holiday. At mile 41ish there’s a dip in the road that you can get air off of. This was something I made note of which I figured would set my review of this ride apart from the countless others.
The latter half of the ride takes you along the main highway. The shoulder is large and the view is gorgeous as well. Jungle is traded for dry grass once again. The Maui wind hits you hard but it’s almost always a slight cross which means it isn’t ever totally against you.
The ride is right around 100 km – err uhh, 60 miles excuse me – and involves around 1200 m of climbing. It cost me $46.85 to rent a bike, helmet and flat repair kit, which was worth every penny and is far cheaper than flying two ways with a bike if you only plan to ride once or twice. I highly recommend this ride, and have a few suggestions for what to pack:
– Lots of water and some electrolyte mix or tablets
– Some cash for roadside coconut
– Sunscreen (I had a can in my back pocket which I sprayed myself with every 45 minutes)
– A device for photo taking
– Spare tube and a pump (there is some debris on the first part of the highway which is where I suffered my only flat)
I’d also suggest heading out early in the morning to beat some of the heat and perhaps even some of the wind.
It has been incredibly rewarding to go somewhere warm with the sole intention of exploring as opposed to training. The West Maui Loop is one of three highly recommended rides on the island (Haleakala and the Road to Hana are the other two). I feel like a true cyclist riding simply for pleasure here and expect I’ll return one day to ride up (and down) Haleakala.
Oliver Evans 20-year-old cyclist from Winnipeg, currently living in Victoria. In 2019, he will race with Trek Red Truck Racing.