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  1. #1
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    haleakala downhill?

    I've searched and read the few Haleakala threads on this forum, however I'd like to find out more info and not threadjack.

    My dilemma:
    I'll be in Maui for a few days next month and plan on riding the downhill portion only from 10,023 feet (catching a ride up to the top with the wife), and wanted to know some info from the other road bikers who've done the downhill to see if I'm in over my head or not (I would prefer to not have to go with one of the tour groups if possible). I'm pretty confident in my biking skills but just have never done a huge descent like this one before.

    My experience:
    Been biking for ~2 years in the Seattle area, mostly on the BG/lake Sammamish trail, with some urban/city thrown in every once in a while, averaging 30-40 miles/week for commuting and 20-30 miles on weekends; I've also done organized centuries like the RSVP and STP.

    Questions:
    1. How much experience did you have before you went, are you a racer, have you done centuries, weekend warrior, etc?
    2. What's the avg speed coming down the mountain?
    3. I worry about how my rental road bike brakes will fare - any issues here or am i being a worrybug?
    4. I know there are always associated risks with any biking activity especially one like this, so what's the biggest risk factor here? I would guess it's a combo of rider inexperience, inattentive drivers, and just the general speed of travel.
    5. What was your overall experience of the ride down?

    I apologize for the detailed-ness of my questions, I tend to be a worrier and analytical in nature so I hope ya'll understand


    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Senior Member nevermore1701's Avatar
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    i lived on maui for 2 years... they take van fulls of tourist up there and let them coast down.... people die on that thing. are you renting or bringing your own bike? make sure the brakes work real good on anything your gonna ride down on. if you can go up there early enough to watch the sun rise you will not be dissapointed. people spend the night up there to see that. its also very cold up there that early clouds are down low.can also spend some time whale watching too

  3. #3
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    Thanks nevermore!

    I would be renting a road bike but am thinking of bringing my own. I'm definitely planning on watching the sunrise, and the cold will be OK for me i'll bring my Seattle cold weather layers and a backpack

    Have you biked up/down it before?

  4. #4
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yamsyamsyams View Post

    Questions:
    1. How much experience did you have before you went, are you a racer, have you done centuries, weekend warrior, etc?
    2. What's the avg speed coming down the mountain?
    3. I worry about how my rental road bike brakes will fare - any issues here or am i being a worrybug?
    4. I know there are always associated risks with any biking activity especially one like this, so what's the biggest risk factor here? I would guess it's a combo of rider inexperience, inattentive drivers, and just the general speed of travel.
    5. What was your overall experience of the ride down?
    1. Pretty experienced I guess. I'm a Cat 3 on the road, if that's relevant.
    2. My average speed was probably in the 30's. I actually had cars pull over to let me pass.
    3. The first time I road up was on a rental bike from West Maui Cycles. Specialized Roubaix with 105 and Fulcrum wheels. Nice bike. Well tuned but I went over it with a fine toothed comb, especially the brakes, before going up.
    4. The biggest hazard on the top third is hypothermia. The biggest hazard on the middle third is the tourist groups on cruiser bikes that nevermore mentioned. A lot of those folks haven't been on a bike in years and have no idea how to ride a straight line or brake gently. Be EXTREMELY careful when you pass them. The lower third is pretty safe. It's a busy highway but there's a very wide and clean shoulder.
    5. The ride up is epic and definitely a bucket list achievement. The ride down is exciting, but it's also pretty stressful for the reasons stated in 4. above. So it's exhausting in its own right. To be honest, next time I do Haleakala, I may just climb to the top and have my wife drive me down.
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

  5. #5
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    The Bike tours are only allowed to start their downhill ride from the park entrance (I think that is at the 6,000 foot level). They killed off too many tourist riding down from near the summit.

    Individuals can still ride up and/or down to/from the summit.

    Don't worry about how many miles you pedal at home, your coasting downhill. Your downhill cornering skills and hand endurance will be what is important.

    Do not drag your brakes all the way down. Brake hard prior to the turn then try to roll through the turn without braking. Give your hands a chance to relax, rest as often as possible and give the wheels a chance to cool a little. Dragging the brakes too much can cause your hands to cramp up.

    Have you ever learned and practiced your downhill cornering skills? Your life may depend on it. Davis Phinney is one of the best in this skill and wrote an article in Bicycling Magazine decades ago (that is how I learned). I looked for the article but did not find it, just lots of guys telling recounts of what they read. Do you know how to counter steer and disconnect your body from the bike (lean the bike while keeping your body upright)? Can you do a high speed turn while controlling the bike by increasing or decreasing the turn radius?

    While driving up to the summit, pay attention to the most critical hairpin turns to get an idea of where you need drop speed before entering the turn.

    Most problems are when tourist cut the turn too tight and head on into oncoming traffic or loose control and go face fist off the road into lava rock.
    Land of the Free, Because of the Brave.

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    Thanks guys for the info!

    Caloso - very useful, thank you! I also am planning on renting from West Maui Cycles, that Specialized looks really nice and I will definitely watch out for the tourists. From further reading it seems the % injuries is under 1% and mostly from inexperienced riders.

    CB HI - from what I am reading I feel like I know how to counter steer is but have never pinned a name to it. I will read and practice it on some downhills here maybe issaquah? While I'm able to handle myself in a very self aware way I am going to pull over at the scenic stops (are there many?) when possible to give my hands and the wheels a rest and my camera a workout

    I called the West Maui Cycle shop and the guy who picked up seemed to made it seem like a very risky thing for anyone who hasn't done anything like it...he's right in that I've never had a long descent like this but I will definitely practice during hopefully a non winter/rainy day between now and mid December!

  7. #7
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    I assume you watched this video. Had he crossed the double yellow at the wrong time when he had less than ideal control, he could have bought it with an oncoming car.



    The bike tour groups do not start their ride until the map turns from green to grey. Less sharp turns.

    http://goo.gl/maps/Qars0
    Land of the Free, Because of the Brave.

  8. #8
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    Have you done a google street view picture ride down?

    http://goo.gl/maps/HxzSI

    http://goo.gl/maps/OCqH1
    Last edited by CB HI; 11-23-12 at 03:45 AM.
    Land of the Free, Because of the Brave.

  9. #9
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CB HI View Post
    I assume you watched this video. Had he crossed the double yellow at the wrong time when he had less than ideal control, he could have bought it with an oncoming car.



    The bike tour groups do not start their ride until the map turns from green to grey. Less sharp turns.

    http://goo.gl/maps/Qars0
    I kept wanting to say "Get in the drops!"
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

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    Quote Originally Posted by CB HI View Post
    I assume you watched this video. Had he crossed the double yellow at the wrong time when he had less than ideal control, he could have bought it with an oncoming car.



    The bike tour groups do not start their ride until the map turns from green to grey. Less sharp turns.

    http://goo.gl/maps/Qars0
    Thanks for the vid! I did have a chance to watch that one along with as many as I could find on youtube (weren't that many overall for roadies)

    I'm going to google street view the hell out of the entire downhill section to be "extra safe!"

  11. #11
    Senior Member Daveyboy's Avatar
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    Haleakala downhill

    I rode both up and down Haleakala a few years back. While going up was a challenge, the downhill was a little sketchy for me. I've done a bit of road riding, raced a little cyclocross, but nothing too crazy. I think as mentioned earlier, you really have to pay attention on the top third, especially coming around the switch-backs. I came into those corners pretty hot a couple of times and really had to lay on the brakes. I had my own bike and so was pretty confident in it. At one point a car in front of me slammed on his brakes for some animal in the road and I had to do a controlled skid. So, you definitely need to pay attention to cars and switchback corners - your speed can really get away from you at a constant 5-8% downhill grade. I also descended through the fog/clouds at one point so visibility wasn't the best for that portion.

    I wouldn't hesitate to do it again if I had the opportunity, but would make a more 'controlled' descent than my first attempt.

  12. #12
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by caloso View Post
    I kept wanting to say "Get in the drops!"
    +1
    Land of the Free, Because of the Brave.

  13. #13
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    geography minded, Other than you can fly there to escape the winter, If you got the Dosh,
    and Sea-Tac And PDX are both serving that purpose,

    Hawaii is at like 20 degrees latitude, Blow the tropical latitude (cancer) line..
    the PNW is between 40 and 60 degrees well north of there..

    So HI is hardly PNW .. it's south of the whole CONUSA

  14. #14
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    geography minded, Other than you can fly there to escape the winter, If you got the Dosh,
    and Sea-Tac And PDX are both serving that purpose,

    Hawaii is at like 20 degrees latitude, Blow the tropical latitude (cancer) line..
    the PNW is between 40 and 60 degrees well north of there..

    So HI is hardly PNW .. it's south of the whole CONUSA
    To avoid a really dull sub-forum, they added Hawaii to it.

    The proof is in your post.
    Land of the Free, Because of the Brave.

  15. #15
    ES&D t4mv's Avatar
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    Just to add a bit to the countersteering bit, the best way to practice it is to go down some constant radius turn at a comfortable speed and then gently push on the inside drop of the hbar. Push on the right drop on a right hander and the left drop on a left hander. You should notice the line tighten up because you've initiated a slight dive to the inside of the turn by turning the wheel slightly in the opposite direction.

    Haleakala is on my bucket list, too, but that video dude was a bit casual about things because a lot of folks would've been in the drops and tucking for a higher top end/efficiency.

  16. #16
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    Ok, I've only ridden up it on a bike but

    I did drive down it in May after a horse ride.

    While driving, I was sizing it up for bike descent it and I think the difficultly would be mainly in maintaining mental focus for on hour and a half or more that it would take to get all the way down. My impression is that the turns in the top portion aren't banked very much so you wouldn't want to go into a turn too hot. However, the road surface is uniformly very good which is something I wish I could say about my local roads.

    I'd hesitate about starting a descent "cold" though. Maybe your time is limited, but do you think you can start riding up to the top starting at about the 8,000 foot level to get your mind and muscles warmed up? (You also get to enjoy some views this way.)

    When I rode up Haleakala 10 years ago I did it on a rental bike--which was of marginal quality. One reason I decided not to ride down is that I wasn't impressed with the brakes and I also notice too late its pads looked glazed over. Personally I'd feel a lot more comfortable on my own bike for something like this, but then again, if that's all your going to do biking wise in Maui, it sounds like a hassle shipping your ride for that--so if you go the rental route, at least carefully inspect the brake pads (or simply have new ones put on) before leaving the shop.

    On final note, while I can hardly state on an expert on this, I did notice driving down last Spring that the traffic about 5pm on a weekday was very light. I'm not sure what it's like in the morning after sunrise, but I'd think it would be worth checking with a local riding group or shop about the time of day when you'd be most likely to enjoy a relatively unoccupied road. This could make a big difference in the quality of your experience.

  17. #17
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    Just wanted to update this with my report of my experience. I got back in january and had forgotten I had even started this thread

    At the top, the sky was clear that morning but extremely cold due to the wind/chill factor, otherwise coming from Seattle 40F weather the temperature itself wasn't too bad; I was wearing my full winter riding gear anyhow. The sunrise wasn't that great, it looked like what you'd see from an airplane window. I've seen better in other parts of the world and was a bit disappointed, given the hype, wake up time and waiting in the cold.

    So I rented a Specialized Roubaix full carbon/ultegra for the downhill. It was about 30-40 mph winds that day according to the station ranger, so pretty dangerous IMO at the top (power was even out that day due to the power lines getting blown down), so I waited a bit and the wife drove me down to the lower parking lot before I made my starting descent. I'm very risk averse when it comes to cycling, however didn't want to miss this rare opportunity to ride down Haleakala, so this was my compromise. The top part is definitely sketchy because of the wind and lack of shoulders, however it wasn't something I wasn't used to. The cars were very conscious of me (had rear flash) and the few that did go faster than me gave me lots of space and I waved them on in the safer straightaways.

    It got a lot better starting at about where the tour bikers start, however it almost became even more dangerous because the views got a lot more spectacular/distracting, and while the winds were not constantly trying to blow me off the side, it came in surprising gusts that can catch a rider off-guard very easily. I almost fell off the bike once due to this reason, however the rest of it was extremely pleasant. Rode down Haleakala and then north to Paia to have lunch with my better half at Mama's Fishhouse (incredible ride, and incredible food by the way!). All in all a pleasant experience, and the next time I'm up in Maui I'll be doing the island loop (regret that I didn't have time for this) and maybe the uphill as well up Haleakala.

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    Would you recommend riding a mountain bike for the downhill?
    65% of all statistics are made up on the spot. - DD

  19. #19
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by theEconomist View Post
    Would you recommend riding a mountain bike for the downhill?
    It could be done on a MTB, if you were more comfortable on one. Slick tires rather than knobbies as it is beautiful pavement.
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by theEconomist View Post
    Would you recommend riding a mountain bike for the downhill?
    I think all the tour groups give out heavy duty comfort cruiser type bicycles with gigantic tires, which I would guess would be a little like riding a mountain bike with slicks.

  21. #21
    Dharma Dog lhbernhardt's Avatar
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    I've got a week booked for Maui in May. I've got the West Maui Loop already stored in my GPS, and I'm planning to ride up Haleakala on the fixed gear at some point. Will probably start from the hotel in Kahului at about 3 am, catching the sunrise on the way up, planning to get to the top mid-morning so I avoid the tour groups descending, and when it's a bit warmer for my own descent. Will likely have a flip-flop rear wheel so I can coast down. Does Hwy 37 get really busy during the weekday? Thanks.

    Luis

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    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    That time of day I would be really concerned about all the tourist buses going up in the dark so they can be at the top for sunrise.
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

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