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by Scott Penzarella on March 09, 2013
Riding with 12 guests this past month over a 4-day cycling adventure culminated with the ascent of the world’s longest paved road- Mount Haleakala, a 10,225’ climb from sea to summit.
Unlike other great climbs around the world, this one-day, one-effort push starts at sea level and climbs nearly unrelentingly for over 36 miles. There are many areas from which one can start the Volcano climb, but one of the most famous and enjoyable is from the little ‘bohemian town’ of Paia. Nearly 36 miles from the base of the volcano to the top, this climb is world-class and truly an epic.
For some cyclist, we head to the island of Maui for this ride alone. For others, as with our group this past weekend, it was nearly one of 4 “epic” rides around the island. After a small 35-mile warm-up ride on arrival day, we proceeded to ride 110 miles around the island on what I have come to call the “Hana” loop. During the windy season, in which we found ourselves, this ride can rotate from a brutal headwind to an epic tailwind. Few 100+ days on the road are this rewarding. Killer views of the surrounding isles, perfect volcanic landscape at our fingertips, few cars and great company, this second day proved to be extremely fruitful for all riders.
One might say that riding 110 miles the day before a 10,000' summit push on Haleakala is imprudent and in some ways handicapping our ascent goals, with slower speeds and some possible incomplete arrivals. However, for many of us, this Hawaiian cycling adventure was about pushing our limits, building our base miles, and discovering a new cyclist within us all. And that is exactly what we did.
The following day, day three of our 4-day trip, we awoke to a nutritious breakfast prepared by our resident Chef, Chris Dressick, whose 5-am meal preparations equipped us perfectly for another long day in the saddle. At 6:30am, the first group of riders set off up Baldwin Ave led by guide and Studio Velo-Head Mechanic, Josh Flexman, whose efforts the day before were still unknown. With half of the group up the road, the “A” group enjoyed a more relaxed pace at the main house, legs up on the wall or in the ocean preparing both mentally and physically for the day ahead. Some sought a 4-hour arrival, some a 5, and some just making it there.
By 7:20am, we were off with another small group of riders who one by one would join the rest of the crew on the mountain. Despite the threatening cloud bank about half way up the Volcano, the day’s weather turned out to be perfect: sunny, warm and with little wind until we arrived to the upper reaches of the climb. Considering what normal weather conditions bring on most days, we couldn’t have been fortunate by the day’s outcome. By 11am, some of the first riders would be standing on top of the mountain, celebrating a heroic ride up Mt. Haleakala. We took photos and enjoyed the incredible view of the Hawaiian Islands that surround Maui. Chef Chris had handed off sandwiches earlier on the climb so many of us enjoyed an early “ride” lunch before layering up for the long 1+ hour descent back to town.
That afternoon brought considerable pizza consumption at the famous Flat Bread Pizza joint in town, along with considerable amounts of local brew (at least for me). Content and well tired, we retreated back to the main house for a swim in the ocean, a soak in the main house' jacuzzi, then an afternoon rest. Dinner came early that night, with one of Chef Chris’ famous seafood meals and remarkable desserts. With one more 75+ ride scheduled for the following day, we all headed for bed early.
The fourth morning came quickly, though not as early as the proceeding days. The miles were clearly adding up and each of us was showing some fatigue--well not all of us, I think a few riders were unmoved by the difficulty and mileage--- to my amazement. The slow role-out towards the West Maui side of the island was accompanied by a swift tailwind. The trade winds were stronger than normal this year but with the wind at our backs it was welcomed. We all new, however, the head wind awaited our return to Paia and as a result some riders turned back early. Other forged ahead and rode the entire out and back route, totally their weekend mileage to over 350. A great training block indeed!
In the end, the West Maui ride turned out to be one of my personal favorites, with majestic views of the north and west shore’s coastline, surf and small towns throughout the route, and limited traffic. The 4 days of riding culminated with a nice afternoon relax on the main house deck in front of the beautiful Pacific Ocean. It was nearly surreal. Listening to the ocean waves break with a swift wind blowing side shore, the afternoon was left to recovery drinks, cold beers and lots of post-ride snacks.
Enjoy more trip photos here: Studio Velo FB Page Photos