By Daniel Christener — Cycling Images by Eric Aeder
As most Maui visitors know, there is one Must -Do activity while vacationing on the Valley Isle called ‘Maui Haleakala Sunrise Downhill Bike Ride.’ More than 100,000 visitors enjoy this activity every year. And no wonder! This is the ultimate bike-ride: straight down Mount Haleakala, the world’s largest dormant volcano, 36 miles to the sea.
Maui Downhill Bike Riding
Participants arrive at Haleakala’s 10’000-foot summit before sunrise between 4:30 and 5:30am to witness an incredible Hawaiian sunrise above the clouds, braving temperatures barely above freezing, at least during January and February.
But well worth it — the waiting, the cold, the shivering — because the scenery and the view from here are truly spectacular… On clear days you can see most of the large Hawaiian Islands, including Mauna Kea, rising 14,000 feet above sea level on the Big Island to the South.
After this unique sunrise viewing adventure, it’s time to start your downhill bike ride, which includes occasional stops along the way, until you arrive at sea level in Paia for a brunch of Kona coffee and croissants. This is a once in a lifetime adventure you’ll never forget, which is why so many return again and again for this experience.
Maui Uphill Cycling
Then there are those very few enthusiasts who think it’s cool riding in the opposite direction, starting at sea level and pedaling uphill to the summit. These are serious cyclists, usually on road bikes wearing full cycling garb.
There are times when Maui Downhill Bikers pass the Uphill Cyclists, and when their eyes meet, there is a smile on the face of each, sometimes in disbelief, and sometimes because both think the others are nuts.
Maui Cycle to the Sun Bike Race
In August each year, Cycle to the Sun, a 36-mile uphill ‘strapaza,’ starts at sea level in Paia and ends at the10’000 foot summit of Haleakala Crater. This ride up the steepest paved road on the planet is appropriate only for the fittest. Most riders train by riding this road numerous times beforehand.
The current record is an unbelievable time of less than 2 hours, 50 minutes. The average time for the ride is around 4 ½ hours. The 2009 event is scheduled for August 23rd, starting at 7am.
Ride Maui Again & Again
No matter what you preference, uphill or downhill riding , you can enjoy the unbelievable scenery, the fresh ocean breezes, and riding above clouds with an endless panorama across the tropical Pacific Ocean to where the sky and sea meet hundreds of miles away.
The peace and stillness up here can be exhilarating, and once in a while, if you’re lucky enough, you’ll hear a flock of large Nene (Hawaiian geese) flying above you honking their loud welcome.
So, no matter what your ‘thing’ is, do it and do it again! A Maui Downhill Bike Ride at Sunrise or an epic ‘Cycle to the Sun.’
Lets do it – See you up at Haleakala!
PS: Riding ‘uphill’ was part of my monthly training schedule when training for Ironman distance & competition. Living on Maui for more than 22 years, I still enjoy riding Haleakala up & down, even after being involved in a heavy accident a few years ago.