Maui barely registers on the map of cycling destinations. In fact, a recent Bike League report card ranked the state as 40th out of 50 in terms of biking policies, infrastructure and laws. Yet we have some of the world’s best scenery and weather–you could basically ride year-round on this island.
When it comes to Maui cycling, most people think of the bike down the volcano experience on Haleakala, but the island also has a robust bicycle community that includes road biking, mountain biking and BMX riding. Renting bikes, bike camps, guided tours, mountain trail riding and elite races like the Xterra or Cycle to the Sun are just a taste of some of the popular activities for adventure travelers.
Cycling isn’t part of the local culture like surfing, sailing or kiteboarding, so there is definitely less hype about the sport. But it’s an easy sport to engage in solo, with a group or as a couple, or family.
Since the best place to learn about island biking is from a bike shop, I stopped by West Maui Cycles. There I spoke with Nathan Blades, one of Maui’s cycling enthusiasts (he’s depicted on this week’s cover). He gave me the skinny on padded shorts, jerseys and riding. Blades says he rides at least every other day.
“Really what you want to do is be content longer on the bike,” he says. “The small seats on the road bikes gives less resistance to the legs and is made to fit your pelvis. You wouldn’t want a chunky seat like on a cruiser. So the padded shorts are a buffer for your bum, and you will get less fatigued while you ride. Same with the proper shoe. Clips are twice as good as regular shoes, so you can lift and push.”
Average rides take about three hours in length, and many start early in the morning to take advantage of cool temperatures. If you’re not so sure you want to spearhead your own self-guided tour, Maui Cyclery books complete tours that include titanium bikes, all the calories you need on the ride, water bottles, garments and shoes. Tours start at $140.
“We take people out for three hours of peddling, about 3,000 feet of up and down climbing,” says Rob Anderson of Maui Cyclery. “That is our standard tour. We can also customize the ride if the client is not up for that. We can do a ride up Haleakala [but] we cannot take people into the national park. Ninety percent of the time people are using our bikes. It can be a lot of work and money to get bikes boxed up and fly with them. Weather makes a big difference in where we go–the most popular spots to ride are Kula, Keanae and West Maui.”
The Maui Mountain Bike Coalition works hard on trail maintenance and tries to keep trail access a priority in Maui. Their website (mauimountainbike.org) has the best descriptions on the trails in the Kahakapao Recreation Area in Makawao and the Poli Poli region. Their Facebook page lists opportunities for trail clean-ups and trail weather checks.
For those who aren’t ready to strike out on the public trails, Bike Park Maui plans to open in June with an all-levels, family-friendly trail park with bikes to rent. They even equip as young as six, something the rental shops don’t do.
Blades says the community is diverse and because of that there’s no one organization on Maui for cycling. But a lot of the shops organize group rides or know of one you can get into if you’re interested. South Maui has a Wednesday morning cycle for speed demons, and everyone is welcome–”if you can keep up.”
“There are currently a collection of events and races through the year for the local riders,” says Jaime Boote, West Maui Cycles’ owner. “We have them all listed on our web site. We will also be trying to make a few more. This month we are going to host the first ever women’s group ride starting from the store on May 29.”
Boote says his shop doesn’t host guided mountain biking tours because all legal trails are on state land and you need special commission permits. But he does direct customers to private guides if they’re interested. At Maui Cyclery, they have added cycling camps in the winters where visitors can get an immersive cycling experience. They also organize the annual Cycle to the Sun–an uphill race from Paia to the Haleakala summit.
“We do cycling camps in December and February, and I can arrange private camps as well,” says Donnie Arnoult, Maui Cyclery’s owner.”I will also be doing an all-levels, just-for-fun ride from Ulupalakua Ranch in December. We will ride out toward Kanaio. At the end of the race, we will do lunch at the Ulupalakua Ranch Store. We switch it up year to year. Sometimes it’s the pancake ride, and we go out of Kula and loop back to the Lodge for breakfast.”
The Maui Cycling Group Rides group on Facebook is a great resource for residents to catch up with island cyclists and find other people going on rides, and for visitors to get advice on rides. For more information on cycling, consult your local bike shop. And ride safe!
All levels women’s ride from West Maui Cycles
Na Ala Hele Makawao Forest Trail Work Day
Volunteer maintenance for Kahakapao Recreation Area. Meet in parking lot at 10am,
Cycle to the Sun
10,023 feet uphill, 36 miles,
Century Ride, 25,50,75,100 mile routes
Bike Rentals on Maui:
Haleakala Bike Co (Haiku)
Krank Maui (Makawao)
Maui Cyclery (Paia)
Maui Sunriders Bike Co. (Paia)
Island Biker (Kahului)
Crater Cycles (Kahului)
Cruiser Phil’s Volcano Riders (Kahului)
West Maui Cycles (Lahaina)
South Maui Bicycles (Kihei)
Photo: Sean M. Hower