Cycling the Big Island

Recently, my dad and I found ourselves on the Big Island with a couple of rented bikes. I did a couple rides with him and a couple rides without him, he doing a triathlon without me. Here's an index of the posts:

Ride 1: Old Mamalahoa Highway

Ride 2: Kohala Mountain

Ride 3: Hina Pali Lookout

Ride 4: Chain of Craters Climb

Other Possible Rides

Here are some other resources I used in planning cycling on the Big Island:

Steephill.tv has an excellent account of their travels on the Big Island, often with prettier pictures than mine.

Bicycling Magazine has a good article too, it's better written but contains less pretty pictures.

Ride 1: Old Mamalahoa

Route Map

My ride started out being dropped up about 1500 feet up Highway 19. There was still a fair amount of climbing to do after that, but it was all at a low grade. There’s a small shoulder and the road is fairly heavily trafficked. Highway 19 after Wailua wasn’t much to ride on either; there was a small shoulder and it was also highly trafficked.

After the turn onto Old Mamalahoa however, cars were an afterthought. At the start, Old Mamalahoa was sheltered on one side by thick trees and open on the other side. Soon these trees go away and it’s all pastureland.

It was hazy when I rode and the temperature here was a good 15 degrees cooler than closer to the coast, and a lot nicer to look at.

This section had small rollers which weren't challenging.

After the pastureland, there was a lengthy downhill. It was a fun and windy descent, but not too technical. It got me going fast enough to where I didn't need to worry about cars passing me. Then it was into Honokaa, where I refilled on fluids and got a bite to eat. The shore was visible coming into the town and I was tempted to try and go find it. The result ended in me walking my bike uphill…

It doesn't look that steep, but it's very hard going closer to the top. Going back up the Old Mamalahoa climb was enjoyable.

The climb gains about 1200 feet in almost 4 miles. It's a steady climb, and I was able to keep up a pretty good pace up it that wasn’t exhausting.

Coming back through the rolling section was still nice, and had very little wind.

I came out onto Highway 19 and followed that all the way to Waikaloa.
The shoulder on 19 opens up when it flattens out, but given that it was 15 degrees warmer than where I was before, sunny, and unscenic, it wasn’t too much fun to ride on.

Ride 2: Kohala Mountain

Ride 3: Hina Pali Lookout

Route Map

We moved over closer to Volcanoes National park for the next few days and did some cycling around there. The first day was a ride around Chain of Craters road and then down to the Hina Pali lookout.

Cycling around Chain of Craters was nice and forested, and nice weatherwise.

It was the weekend, and I was surprised at the lack of cars, but come Tuesday and all the parking lots were packed. The ride to the lookout was about 9 miles of descending that was never steep enough to approach technical. It was a one-lane road though, so we had to take some care around the corners. Especially because it became foggy and we encountered some rain.

After a few miles of this, we were sure that the lookout wouldn’t be as nice as promised, and we were right.

At least there was a photo there to show us what we might have seen.

Biking back up is a lengthy affair and seems like 9 miles of a false flat.

Things cleared up near getting back onto Chain of Craters. Chain of Craters has some nice little uphills to keep things interesting, but nothing too challenging. Then it was back on home (rental cabin).

Ride 4: Chain of Craters Climb

Ride 2: Kohala Mountain

Route Map

Started out in Waikaloa and went up highway 19. Like I said about my last ride, highway 19 isn’t entirely too interesting.

Fortunately for me though, there was a half-ironman going on that day, so I got to ride in with a bunch of triathletes on nice aero bikes. It made the ride more interesting, and gave me some different photos to take.

My image of the ironman course was that it would be pancake flat, but this wasn’t true. There were some pretty large rollers which sapped the energy out of me, especially because all the other riders on the course were going faster than me (they also all had aerobars…). After the turn onto 270, the scenery got better, more trees became visible, the temperature dropped a bit and there were nice views of the ocean.

It’s maybe a 600 foot climb into Hawi, but nothing too steep. Then I turned onto 250, and things got steeper.

There’s no shoulder on 250, but nor was there much traffic. If the mapmyride elevation info can be trusted, it’s 7-8% for about 1200 feet.

The climb gets less steep after that and eventually opens to the ridge of the mountain, where things are flatter, but also very windy.

The views up there are excellent and the coast far below could be seen.

It’s uphill rollers on the ridge, which eventually gained trees for protection from the wind.

I was really hurting at this point though, and had to stop once as my legs were almost cramping. I had also exhausted the better part of my three water bottles. Needless to say, this sign was quite a relief:

It was mostly all downhill from there. Descending into Waimea was a blast, maybe 1200 feet that flew by, with the mountain on the left and open views to the plain below on the right.

Steephill.tv has a prettier picture of the view than I do. After going into Waimea for drinks and a snack, it was back down 19, back onto the Half-Iron course, now less populated and I actually passed people this time, and back to the hotel.

Ride 3: Hina Pali Lookout

Ride 4: Chain of Craters Climb

Route Map

After a much needed rest day, it was time for the Chain of Craters climb. This day was going to be little more than a lengthy climb. 10 miles of riding to a lookout point 2,000 feet up. Starting out was flat and windy.

There is a flat area closer to the coast and then a ridge which has most of the climbing.

It’s mostly old lava flows, so it’s nice to be able to see where you came from.

There was a lookout at around 2000 feet. I don't have any good photos of the lookout, but here's the 2000 foot sign.

The descent had maybe one turn in it.

Then it was back onto the flats, where the wind had really picked up. Then it was the literal end of the road.

Other Possible Rides in Hawai'i

Other possible rides

There was more cycling to do in Hawai'i than my legs were capable of, and here's my take on some other roads on the Big Island which I had considered cycling.

In the Puna Coast:
137/Kapoho Kalahana Road is a nice road along the coast which offers some excellent views and transitions easily from exposed lava flows, to heavily forested areas, to nice views of the beach. There isn't much traffic on the road. Pohoiki Road is nearby and is also nice, but more heavily trafficked and starts out quite narrow. Cycling up 130 looks miserable - there's a bunch of pavement, it was steep, and there really wasn't much to see.

Mauna Loa lookout. Thought about doing this ride, but took a nap instead. As sore as I was then, I don't regret it, but it's a nice road up to an alright lookout.

It's about a 2500 foot climb and has some nice hard sections. It is a one-lane road, but there wasn't much traffic when we drove to the top.

Ali'i Drive. I wouldn't want to bike this road at all. It's high traffic, small shoulder, and a large amount of runners and pedestrians going the other way on the shoulder. I would perhaps consider it though if I were a female in a bikini on a cruiser bike, or had a surfboard rigged to my bike (also a cruiser bike).

Cycling the Big Island Index


Now with more aloha

Battling jet-lag, tired from an abbreviated nights sleep, not having ridden a bike in almost three weeks and with unshaven legs, Jacob rode in to do battle at the Driveway 4/5 crit. As well, it was about 100 degrees out and winds blowing at 15-17 knots. It was the first chance he’d get to race the 4/5 without having done the 3/4 race just prior, and both he and the tifosi were eager for results.

Upon arriving at the Driveway however, Jacob realized that he had forgotten his favorite souvenir from Hawai’i:

No matter, he just gritted his teeth and bore in for a tough fight.

Moving to the front from the very start, Jacob decided to see how his legs felt. The results were not encouraging. Soldiering on, results from his stomach were not encouraging as well. Getting lapped was not very encouraging either. These were not the same legs that rocketed him to 10th in the 3/4 race weeks prior.

15 minutes after it began, the 30 minute crit was over.

Will his return to form be succesful? Will his old legs return to him? Will he get a set of new, more attractive legs? There's only one way to find out! Stay tuned!


Sandnessjøen- Sherbet Land Grand Prix

The following is Jacob's travel journal in it's entirety that he kept while in Norway. The journal was only recently discovered and made public, having previously been entombed in a thick layer of permafrost for months prior.

Though the Peloton begged to the likewise, Jacob took a week off from the peloton in order to locate and bring back two fabled riders from the past of UT cycling – feisty Swedish sprinter Mathieu Von and Spanish breakaway artist Jorge “De los piernas peludos” Hagstromo.

These were not your ordinary cyclists, and Jacob knew hunting them down would be tough. Knowing their exact location was impossible, but Jacob knew that they did their summer training in the Sahara and their winter training in the wastes of Norway. And so our intrepid hero went to Norway.

The following are excerpts from his travel journal:

Day 1: Took a small plane from Oslo to Sandnessjøen. The locals seemed wary of my Fuji.

Day 2: After some asking around, I heard of a local crit raced on a thawing fjord. Thought I might look for our two racers there. Obtained this photo I’ve attached. To get more grip on the ice, I’m going to run some 25s I picked up. I never thought it would come to that. This is the only bike race where people have died of hypothermia, so I’ll have to be on my toes.

I find the giant penguin intimidating, not because he looks to be a dozen feet tall and angry, but because if he got here all the way from the South Pole, he must be pretty badass.

Day 3: The race is tomorrow, but I consulted a Noaide, the Norwegian version of a Shaman, and asked his blessing for the race. I had to sacrifice my Fuji to the cycle gods, but I got a Storck in return. The Noaide spat on me a few times, I’m convinced it’s part of the ritual.

Day 4: Raced in the crit. 23 starters. It is not unlike the crit races we have in the states except it’s on ice. It was a flat course with wide turns, not unlike the Driveway of old. I was cornering and the guy next to me lost his grip, hit the deck, and just kept sliding. Another time someone fell into thin ice. Impressively, he then burst out of thin ice about 10 feet later and kept on going like nothing had happened. He managed to get in first in the sprint. By this time, the group had been parsed to about 10 people. We came around the final turn and the guy who had crashed earlier was still sliding around the course and slides into the group, just behind my rear wheel. I stay upright and sprint away, coming in 2nd. 1st was Henrik Guttormsomsen, and 3rd was Edvald Schlendenson. Everyone on the podium was invited to the Cykle Platz, a German fortress from WWII recommissioned as a cycling fortress. I decided to go the next day.

Day 5: I looked up the history of the Cykle Platz. It is a safe haven for road cyclists against roaming bands of fixed gear riders. Apparently, the fixed gear riders they catch get the ‘flop and chop’ treatment. I don’t know what it is, but it doesn’t sound friendly. Entering was an intimidating affair. Even though I podiumed at a crit, I could be a fixed gear rider in disguise. I showed them my freshly shampooed hair and uttered the secret password ‘brifters’ and I was in.

After passing guards armed with ninja-stars in the shape of gears and nun-chucks with frame pumps at the end of 10-speed chains, I was ushered into the royal hall. There, before my eyes, were Jorge Hagstromo and Mathieu Von, sitting atop Selle Italia Strike saddles made of white gold, and with women clad in polar-bear skin bikinis frolicking around them. I beseeched them on behalf of the beleaguered Texas Cycling Mens B team to return to America, take up racing there, and prepare themselves for a mighty campaign. These two assented to my humble request and consulted me on other matters at which I am not at liberty to divulge. We did however, decide that it was time to cast off the old German name for the fortress and call the impressive structure Velohalla.