Biking in Maui

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Biking

Maui County biking is safer and more convenient than in the past, but long distances and mountainous terrain keep it from being a practical mode of travel. Still, painted bike lanes enable cyclists to travel all the way from Makena to Kapalua, and you'll see hardy souls battling the trade winds under the hot Maui sun.

Several companies offer guided bike tours down Haleakala. This activity is a great way to enjoy an easy, gravity-induced bike ride, but isn't for those not confident on a bike. The ride is inherently dangerous due to the slope, sharp turns, and the fact that you're riding down an actual road with cars on it. That said, the guided bike companies take every safety precaution. A few companies offer unguided (or, as they like to say, "self-guided") tours where they provide you with the bike and transportation to the mountain and then you're free to descend at your own pace. Most companies offer discounts for Internet bookings.

Haleakala National Park no longer allows commercial downhill bicycle rides within the park's boundaries. As a result, tour amenities and routes differ by company. Ask about sunrise viewing from the Haleakala summit (be prepared to leave very early in the morning), if this is an important feature for you. Some lower-price tours begin at the 6,500-foot elevation just outside the national park boundaries, where you will be unable to view the sunrise over the crater. Weather conditions on Haleakala vary greatly, so a visible sunrise can never be guaranteed. Sunrise is downright cold at the summit, so be sure to dress in layers and wear closed-toe shoes.

Each company has age and weight restrictions, and pregnant women are discouraged from participating, although they are generally welcome in the escort van. Reconsider this activity if you have difficulty with high altitudes or are taking medications that may cause drowsiness.

Best Spots

At present there are few truly good spots to ride on Maui, though this is changing.

Makawao Forest Reserve. A 5.2-mile romp under a dense canopy of trees within the reserve is in store here for mountain bikers. To get here from Piiholo Road, turn left on Waiahiwi Road and then right on Kahakapao Road. Kahakapao Rd., Makawao, HI, 96768.

Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area. Mountain bikers have favored the remote Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area for its bumpy trail through an unlikely forest of conifers. End of Waipoli Rd., off Rte. 377, Kula, HI, 96790.

Thompson Road. Street bikers will want to head out to scenic Thompson Road. It's quiet, gently curvy, and flanked by gorgeous views on both sides. Because it's at a higher elevation, the air temperature is cooler and the wind lighter. The coast back down toward Kahului on the Kula Highway is worth the ride up. Kula Hwy., off Rte. 37, Keokea, HI, 96790.

Equipment and Tours

Bike It Maui. Small and family-owned, this company offers two guided sunrise tours down Haleakala each day. The price of $144 ($134 if booked more than a week ahead) includes transfers from your hotel, a sunrise van tour of the summit, a guided 28-mile bicycle ride down the mountain, and a full sit-down breakfast at Cafe O'Lei at the Dunes in Kahului. Riders must be at least 12 and weigh no more than 260 pounds. Kula, HI, 96790. 808/878–3364 or 866/776–2453. www.bikeitmaui.com.

Cruiser Phil's Volcano Riders. In the downhill bicycle industry since 1983, "Cruiser" Phil Feliciano offers sunrise tours ($150) and morning tours ($135) that include hotel transfers, continental breakfast, a van tour of the summit, and a guided 28-mile ride down the mountain. Participants should be between 15 and 65, taller than 5 feet, weigh less than 250 pounds, and have ridden a bicycle in the past year. Feliciano also offers independent bike tours ($99) and van-only tours ($125). Discounts are available for online bookings. 58-A Amala Pl., Kahului, HI, 96732. 808/893–2332 or 877/764–2453. www.cruiserphil.com.

Go Cycling Maui. Serious cyclists can join an exhilarating group ride with Donnie Arnoult, a fixture on the Maui cycling scene since 1999. Routes include Haiku to Keanae, Kula to Kahikinui, and the ultimate Maui cycling challenge: Paia to the top of Haleakala crater. Rides are $140 per person ($150 to go to the crater). You bring your own cycling shoes, pedals, and clothes, and Donnie provides the bicycle, helmet, gloves, water bottle, snacks, and energy drinks. His shop is also a full-service cycling store offering sales, rentals, and repairs. 99 Hana Hwy., Unit A, Pahala, HI, 96779. 808/579–9009. www.gocyclingmaui.com.

Haleakala Bike Company. If you're thinking about an unguided Haleakala bike trip, consider this company. Meet at the Old Haiku Cannery and take the van shuttle to the summit. Along the way you can learn about the history of the island, the volcano, and other Hawaiiana. Food is not included, but there are several spots along the way down to stop, rest, and eat. The simple, mostly downhill route takes you right back to the cannery where you started. HBC also offers bike sales, rentals, and services, as well as van tours. Tour prices range from $75 to $125, with discounts available for online bookings. 810 Haiku Rd., Suite 120, Haiku, HI, 96708. 808/575–9575 or 888/922–2453. www.bikemaui.com.

Island Biker. Maui's premier bike shop for rentals, sales, and service offers standard front-shock bikes, road bikes, and full-suspension mountain bikes. Daily rental rates range from $50 to $75, and weekly rates are $200 to $280. The price includes a helmet, pump, water bottle, cages, tire-repair kit, and spare tube. Car racks are $5 per day (free with weekly rentals). The staff can suggest routes appropriate for mountain or road biking. 415 Dairy Rd., Kahului, HI, 96732. 808/877–7744. www.islandbikermaui.com.

Maui Downhill. If biking down the side of Haleakala sounds like fun, Maui Downhill is ready to pick you up at your resort, shuttle you to the mountain, help you onto a bike, and follow you as you coast down through clouds and gorgeous scenery into the town of Pukalani. There is also a combination bike and winery tour that includes a visit to Maui's Winery at Ulupalakua Ranch. Treks cost $129 to $155, and include a simple continental breakfast. 199 Dairy Rd., Kahului, HI, 96732. 808/871–2155 or 800/535–2453. www.mauidownhill.com.

Maui Mountain Cruisers. Guided sunrise and midday bike trips "cruise" down Haleakala to Makawao, where you get back on board the van for a tour down to Paia. The cost is $155 for the sunrise tour; $135 for midday tours. Meals not included. 381 Baldwin Ave., #C, Paia, HI, 96779. 808/871–6014 or. www.mauimountaincruisers.com.

West Maui Cycles. Serving the island's west side, West Maui Cycles offers cruisers for $15 per day, hybrids for $35 per day, and performance road bikes for $60 per day. Tandems start at $30 per day. Per day rates are discounted for longer-term rentals. The shop also rents baby joggers and car racks. Sales and service are available. 1087 Limahana Pl., No. 6, Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/661–9005. www.westmauicycles.com.

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