Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cycling in Paradise


Bike riding in Hawaii. It brings visions of riding in luscious tropical jungles with dreamy beach scenes in the background. But that's really not why we go to Hawaii. The cycling there is....well, unique.

If anyone adores Hawaii, it is me. Not a day goes by that I do not day dream about my favorite spots on the isle of Oahu. However, Life on a Bike there is quite different from Life on a Bike here on the mainland. With limited space, it's obvious that the first challenge is having alot of trails from which to choose.

Many of the trails traverse harsh Pali cliffs. Tropical rains yield lots of slippery as glass mud over wicked large roots, and one false move will have you tumbling down razor sharp volcanic rock to a most unpleasant end to one's vacation. A few doubletrack roads can be found, but you want to stay away after a big rain.

Most trails in paradise are much better suited for hiking, but we're die hard cyclists. Gotta ride bikes wherever we go. We know all the places to go, and they all dish up a challenge. These ain't touring trails.

For most Hawaiian residents, a bike is merely a means to get around. Here, the sport of choice is based on the water, which is logical. This is an island afterall. Bikes are transportation.

Your bike takes you to your friend's house, the beach, or to school. This is my favorite sight, riding by the local school with all the kid's bikes lined up outside. Brings a smile to my face everytime I pass by here.

There are a few pump tracks and a free ride area with jumps, but you won't find it jam packed like you'd find Big Creek on a Tuesday night in Roswell. Everyone's out surfing instead.

There is a respectable contingent of triathletes, but then again, swimming is part of that sport. Road routes are limited, but the worst part, in my opinion, is the road surface conditions. The smallest little volcanic rock will slice your tire in a New York minute, if you're lucky enough to survive bouncing around over the rough surface. That's why you ride your mtn bike.

One year we brought our road bikes, and we swore we'd never do that again. Getting beat up from the rough roads and having to repair tires, we decided that a mountain bike is the way to go. That way you can ride wherever you want, road or dirt, and still keep your teeth intact.

All that to say, even though we don't come to Hawaii for the riding, there is still enough to satisfy our need for 2 wheel fun. So, Thanksgiving day we packed our bags and boarded a plane for the torturous 9 hour flight to Paradise. One of our bags housed my Santa Cruz Juliana frame, drivetrain, Fox shock, and other various pieces of a bike. No ridiculous $175 fee was to be paid to stupid Delta airlines because it fit within the measurement rules. A wheelset had already been shipped off to our destination and was waiting for sherpaman to do his thing.

The first day after you arrive in Hawaii, you inevitably awake at 3am bright eyed and bushy tailed. Therefore, by 5am, Raja decided to put my bike together, and at 6am I was ready to roll. He was not so lucky in his bike selection. Raja was to borrow a friend's bike. They were gracious enough to offer, so he could not complain.

Riding from the house in Kailua, we can weave through residential streets and work our way to the little town of Waimanalo.

You can do a nice little road ride on the backroads of Waimanalo that back up to the Pali cliffs, but today we were heading for dirt.

Just before you get into town, you turn off the main street and head to the trailhead of the Maunawili Trail. A short doubletrack climb takes you to the singletrack that cuts along the edge of the Pali Cliffs.

It's a narrow trail with lush foliage and a symphony of birds to serenade you.

There are so many interesting things to see and sounds to hear. It really is a delight to the senses.

The last 4 miles of the trail get really technical with lots of big roots and rocks to hike a bike over. If it has been raining, I do not recommend it.

One of our favorite things to do on a bike is climb. Climb climb climb, happy happy happy, that's the Camp Hillseeker theme. The perfect ride for that lies up on the North Shore. We park at an airstrip alongside the planes,

while the gliders get towed up to the skies.

After a few miles of riding past ocean views, horse farms, and palm trees,

the real fun begins. The road begins to climb for the next 4 miles. From sea level up 2,400' to those trees on the ridge line in no time flat.

The best part is there are no cars, except for service vehicles that have a key to access the 3 gates along the way. It's just the two of us, Nene birds, and a dilapidated road that climbs straight up.

It doesn't take long before you can look over your shoulder and see the North Shore.

Raja had his work cut out for him on the Giant bike and its lack of low gearing, but that didn't stop him, of course.

4 miles later, you'll find yourself at the Nike Tower with views of both the leeward side and the North Shore to Kaena Point. Some days we've been up here with winds of 25-30mph that would blow you over. Thankfully this time was fine, so we headed back down just a bit to hook up with the dirt roads of Peacock Flats.

This will take you all the way to a singletrack trail that drops back down to where we parked. However, it is the most heinous trail we've ever ridden/hiked and it is not for the faint of heart. Since Raja wasn't on a nice full suspension, we opted for some playing around before heading back to the road for our descent.

It's so beautiful up here.

The descent is much more enjoyable on a mtn bike than a road bike. It's only when you go down that you think, "dang, did I climb up this? This is steep?!"

Raja put his rig to the test to see if he could rail the turns.

He said it was a bit of a challenge, but I thought he made it look pretty good.

I love the view coming down.

It reminds me of the other world down there, and I start getting antsy to go take a look. Time to wrap up this ride so we can go watch the insane action at Pipeline.

During last year's Hawaiian escape, we did not have bikes. We were Bikeless in Paradise, and we lived to tell about it. This trip we had about every experience I could think of on a bike. We had casual rides through neighborhoods and the park, we climbed a steep road and played on doubletrack off shoots, we traversed singletrack trail in the thick jungle, and climbed a volcano on road bikes. We even had the chance to help a little guy take his first spin on a bike.

I love the look on his face when he got going!

I hope he has as bright a future ahead of him riding bikes as we've had. Afterall, he lives in Hawaii where you can ride everyday. Cycling in Paradise. That does sound pretty good, doesn't it?!!


1 comment:

Ken said...

Next time I'm hiding in your suitcase. Don't laugh, I fit. Ken.