Maui Cycling March 2020 - Haleakala / West Maui Loop

Happy New Year All

My wife and I have a 3 week trip to Maui planned for the beginning of March this year. As I go a bit stir crazy just sitting on the beach she said to buy a bike box and bring your bike. This seems to be the perfect opportunity to cross a bucket list ride up Haleakala off.

What “compact” gearing is recommended if my FTP is 3.2 W/Kg? Hopefully I can use the Maui Cycle supported ride to carry some fluids.

I will be staying in the Kihei area for the first 10 days then over to Napili / Kaanapali area after that which will make a good jumping off spot for the West Maui Loop. If anyone with similar fitness is around maybe a ride can be organized.

thanks,

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I have done both rides on each of my last 2 vacations in Maui. The advantage for me was that I could knock out the rides early because of the time zone changes coming from Iowa and return home before my wife and children arose. For the West Maui Loop you will you will want to ride clockwise to avoid encountering the NW winds on the outside lane at the top which has a narrow road on the edge. A woman was blown off the road to her death doing the route counterclockwise about 2 weeks before I rode it last. Water was not an issue for me as there are plenty of stops in town during the ride . Be sure to stop for banana bread and stuff some in your pocket for your family breakfast when you return. I did the Haleakala ride unsupported and did not consider it necessary. I believe riding your own pace is critical. And the ride cools down at the top which will lower hydration needs . You will need to bring a jacket and arm warmers for the top as it will be cold. And it may rain a bit . A top 5 ride in the world in my opinion. Only surpassed by Mauna Kea which is on my list . I would consider the Hen House bike case to save money ( can avoid bike fees)or simply rent a bike. Aloha .!

I have done the Haleakala ride unsupported as well - there are enough places to get water/food on the way, but just barely, and I needed two large bottles for between the stops. I think it would be more enjoyable supported, and I would likely to it that way if I did it again. When I went the gate to the park only took credit cards, so make sure you have one to pay for entrance. It is a great ride - I highly recommend it. I didn’t enjoy the descent much - it was very windy at the top, and quite frankly I got a bit bored going downhill that long.
I did it at about 3.1 watts/Kg, with 34/28 gearing on the rented bike. I generally run 34/34 for riding around the Sierra foothills as I prefer a higher cadence. I was worried about the lower than normal gearing for me, but it was fine as most of the climb is a fairly mild gradient, except for right at the end. The last little bit is quite steep, and with the wind can be challenging, but it’s pretty short.

Here is my Strava from the ride - most of the places I stopped had food or water, so this may give you some places to check out.

@Kuttermax is there now; any rec’s?

Brendan

I did Haleakala with very little prep in terms of cycling fitness. The gradient is only bad on a couple of switchbacks and the last half mile. Like others mentioned there are places to refill bottles just not a lot. I would suggest biggest bottles you have and a small in the pocket just in case. Gearing you don’t really need anything special as it is mostly 5-8%.

Haleakala is a blast. Would probably say picking up a Varia radar if possible would not be the worst idea as tourist drivers are sometimes looking to the left or right and not ahead

Maui is one of my favorite places to road cycle. I’ve done the West Maui Loop a bunch of times, Haleakala three times, and a variety of other rides. I have a few general pointers and then some specifics below.

General:

  1. Ride early. Traffic always picks up as the day goes on, and so do the winds. West Maui Loop and Road To Hana are in particular best early. The downside is Julia’s Banana Bread shop won’t be open yet, but it’s so much nicer to have less traffic.

  2. Put a rear light or Garmin Varia on your bike. The more visible you are, the better. There are a lot of distracted tourists. Personally I wouldn’t ride without a Varia.

  3. Be considerate to the locals. Nothing infuriates the locals more than having someone block the road as they are making their commute to work or back home. The Varia helps a lot here. I always pull to the side and give a wave to the locals. Nine times out of ten they wave back. I’ve seen other riders refuse to move to the side and it just creates a really bad situation.

  4. Roads can be slippery, especially the West Maui Loop, when wet. There is a lot of red clay on the west side of the Island, so if the roads are damp be careful because the clay is very slippery. Intermittent short showers can hit too, so disc brakes are nice to have too.

  5. 28s are awesome on the Maui roads. Haleakala is generally smooth, but the 28s are great for the descent. The West Maui Loop and Road to Hana can have some chopped up pavement in parts and the 28s really help smooth this out.

Shops:

West Maui Cycles is a great bike shop and has some detailed information on their website for some of the Maui rides including Haleakala. They are located in Lahaina. I usually pick up some CO2’s there when I arrive since you can’t fly with them. They will then give you store credit back if you don’t use them and bring them back.

Maui Cyclery is in Paia and do some a number of guided/supported rides on the island. They have a supported Haleakala ride that usually runs once a week. If it is your first time doing Haleakala I would recommend this option. They will have someone riding along with your group, but allow you to ride at your own pace. There will be a vehicle they bring with supplies, food, and water. They can go up about two thirds of the ways, but they are not allowed in past the park gate, so after that point you are on your own. You call the shop to schedule the rides and they will let you know what days things are happening. They also rent bikes and will try and set up the bikes similar to your own bike if you send measurements. I always bring my own but their rental bikes looked good and the people I rode with had no complaints.

https://www.gocyclingmaui.com/

Haleakala:

I’ve done Haleakala three times, the first two as a supported ride with Maui Cyclery, the third on my own, but my wife was driving up that day and did hand me some bottles on the way up. There are places to get water, per the guide. Depending on your pace you will need to carry two or three bottles at a time. Bring money and a credit card. You have to pay to get through the gate to the park 2/3s of the way up. Weather is the big variable. It can get very stormy up top, so best to pick a day with a good forecast. Carry a rain jacket, arm and leg warmers and gloves. That will get your through most things.

I’ve ridden two different bikes up Haleakala. This first was a SRAM 10 speed set up with a standard crank up front and a wide range rear cassette (I believe 11-36) with WiFli rear derailleur. It worked fine. I then switched to my current road bike with has a compact set up in the front and a 11-28t in the rear. It’s a great set up for the entire island.

The Haleakala climb is a long grind, but not super steep. You will hit much steeper stuff on the West Maui Loop, but Haleakala is 36 miles of almost all uphill. You just have to settle in and grind it out. If you don’t like long tempo or zone 2 work, you will not like this climb. Wind can be a factor and slow you down is places, but you just have to grind through it.

I love the descent, lots of big sweeping switchbacks that you can carry a fair bit of speed through. The road is generally in very good shape with wide shoulders. The problem I found is that I will descend faster than the cars, so if the cars don’t let you by it can be a drag having to follow them. I ride 28’s with a disc brake equipped Emonda, so a great climbing and descending bike. Discs let you dive into the corners a little more aggressively and will also help a lot if there is some rain.

West Maui Loop:

I agree with riding clockwise. This keeps you on the inside of the road. I start in Kaanapali which sets up the ride perfectly. You get some flats and a slow steady climb to warm up and then you hit the awesome rolling hills along to coast past Kapalua as the road narrows. Tons of amazing photo ops. As mentioned, I go early so the traffic is super light. Julia’s is closed at this time but the Art Gallery just past it may be open and have water. Awesome photo spot there too. After the climbs are over, you will work your way across the island, usually with tailwinds, and then circle back along the coast. Multiple places to stop for food and water here. I do the loop on three bottles and don’t have to stop, but depending on your pace there are lots of spots to stop, enjoy the view, and get food and water.

It was mentioned on TR podcast that this ride may be “overrated”, but I disagree. It’s my favorite road ride hands down and I always look forward to going back. I’ve seen a few pro’s out over the years too. Rob Britton used to ride there every Christmas and once flew past me up Haleakala. Emily Batty just returned from a Maui training camp and posted multiple pics on her Instagram from the West Maui Loop.

Road to Hana

This is another iconic ride. I’ve only ridden it in one direction though, from Paia to Hana. I park in Paia and leave shortly after sunrise. The result is an amazing ride up and down the coast with spectacular scenery and little traffic. It is so much fun. I’ve met up with family in Hana after and ended up driving back later in the day after doing some hiking. I think it would also be ok to turn around in Hana and head back, as most of the traffic would be coming the other way. The road is similar to West Maui along the west shoreline, rolling, sometimes a bit wet, and some chopped up pavement, but the views…

Please feel free to message me if you have any other specific questions, or just post here. Happy to share any knowledge I have that might help.

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Hi there Islandr,
I did Haleakala in October at around 3.1W/kg. I’m skinny at 5’10 144lbs, so I don’t have much power. I rented a Roubaix from West Maui Cycles that had 34:34 gearing and it was a godsend. Yes the average gradient is just over 5% but there are some long stretches where my computer never registered below 7% and I needed that low gear. If you have some local gradients you can ride and experiment with cadence and gearing you can start to figure out what to expect.
Two 750mL bottles were more than enough for me. I took the advice of drinking what was left and refilling at Kula market and again at the park entrance, which was probably overkill. Food was also a non issue as I had a couple of gels leftover at the top and felt fine.
Sadly, that was the only ride I did on Maui. I will say that while driving Hana Highway all I could think about was what an epic ride it would be.
Good luck and enjoy the ride!

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Thanks for the info everyone

I picked up a 34 tooth low gear cassette and new chain from the LBS, better safe than sorry for the attempt on the uphill

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