Monday, September 6, 2010

World's best descent





I was very fortunate to go to Maui and while there, I rode one of the best climbs on the planet...10,023' in 35 miles. I rented a Litespeed titanium bicycle from West Maui Cycling ( and joined 7 other riders to ascend the Haleakala Crater, a dormant volcano. This ride starts at sea level and the ascent begins immediately. My legs felt strong and the tempo was just right (photo 1) for settling in and conversing while climbing. Shop owner, Donnie Arnault (photo 2 on right), advised going slower than you normally would, because above 9000', you will wish you had. I took his recommendation seriously knowing he does this ride 50 TIMES a year. The temp at the start was 75 and humid, very Hawaiian! At the first stop 1-1/2 hours in and 3250', I could tell the quads had been working, but I gotta tell you, I was so jazzed to be riding up this fabled climb with an ex-pro racer. If you are into this sport, I don't need to explain the euphoria you feel riding a new road with spectacular scenery filling your senses. As we continued to the top, I caught glimpses of Maui's beautiful beaches below, hangglider's and paraglider's overhead, low-growing trees forming a canopy above and the open grasslands over 4500'. Donnie gave me pointers on racing tactics while I bragged about my family. The second rest stop (photo 3) came at 3 hours and 6500' where the temp was around 50. GoCyclingMaui gave me arm and knee warmers, a light jacket, food, water and endurolytes to get me to the top and back...commercial tours are not allowed above this elevation. For the next hour plus, a strong climber from Westlake Village, CA and I ascended together until I begin feeling light-headed at 8500'. I didn't want to sacrifice the summit to ego and fail to make it entirely, so I turned him loose and away he went. Greg has done this before and I was slowing him down. At around 9500', I knew I was going to make it, but the last 300' were a 10-12% gradient and it was tough! In my lowest gear and standing I could barely tick the pedals over, but I am no quitter. Keep going, KEEP GOING...I'm there! 10,023' above sea level (photo 4). WOW!

The summit offers amazing views of the crater, cinder cones, other islands, beautiful colors of water and I could go on. The best thing to do is come see for yourself. And ride a bike if you can.

As it pertains to mileage, I am only halfway. But descending this volcano has to be the best cycling experience possible. For 35 miles, you are going downhill! And if you want to rip along at 50mph, go ahead. The pavement is great, you can clearly see cars ascending the road because of the switchbacks and the hairpin 15mph turns are gravel free, offering a smooth line to carry your speed through the apex. Very few cars were in our way...I mean slowing us down. I love blowing by cars given the opportunity. As we got lower, the temp climbed and I was peeling off the arm warmers, gloves and jacket while going 30. In about an hour, Greg and I were at sea level again. 70 miles and I was stoked! Yeah, it was tough, but so rewarding. Do you ever look at a mountain (or volcano) and wonder if you can make it to the top? Stop wondering and GO FIND OUT!
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