Is biking Haleakala for beginners?

Old Sep 2nd, 2003, 12:12 PM
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Is biking Haleakala for beginners?

Hello! I am going to Maui in November and the other people I'm going with want to bike down Haleakala. They assure me its an easy ride since it is all downhill and there is practically no peddling involved. I am a little hestitant for two reasons. First, I just learned how to ride a bike last year and am a beginner to say the least. Second, most of the websites state that you need to be over 5 ft, presumably b/c of the bikes they have to rent. I am petite, a little under five feet so not only am I uncomfortable with biking to begin with, I'm a worried that the bike may be a bit big for me and even harder to control. Have any novices ever done this bike ride? I've seen many postings about accidents but my friends keep telling me it will be fine. I just don't want to hurt myself our first day there nor do I want to be sore for the rest of my vacation. Is hiking a better option? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I don't want to miss out on Haleakala altogether.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2003, 01:53 PM
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I've never biked in Hawaii, but I wanted to give you a few bike pointers. I don't think you should worry, I have heard that the organized bike rides are pretty tame.

As to your height, the proper bike size for you would be around a 13, I'm guessing, but you can ride a bike several sizes too big without ill effect, especially going downhill. All that really matters is that you have good stand-over height. In other words, you should be able to get a couple of finger widths between the top tube and your crotch. If you are stretched out a little more than your friends when you reach from the seat to the handlebars, that's actually safer because the farther back your weight is centered, the less likely you are to go over the bars.

If you are really concerned, call the touring co and ask them what the smallest size bike they have is. If they say 15 or 16 you'll be fine. I'm 5'2" and I rode a 17 for years before I got my properly sized 14 inch bike. And that was serious backcountry mountain biking.

When you pick up the bike, make sure they adjust the seat post height so you are in a position similar to what you are used to at home. TEST THE BRAKES before you go to the top of the mountain.

Have fun, and remember...you've got two months to practice before you go!!
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Old Sep 2nd, 2003, 01:55 PM
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Dodobird: Relax, you should be fine.

I biked down Haleakala with my 50-year-old sister-in-law who is very non-athletic and was also scared. She loved it! Also on the ride was my 13-year-old nephew who was about 5 feet tall, if that, at the time and he had no problem. It is downhill and the bikes are not fancy racing bikes and are very easy to control.

They let us try them out in the staging area before we set off so we could get used to our bike and its controls - which were basically the brakes! I would highly recommend this ride - if you want to go a little slower than the pack, as did my sister-in-law, someone will ride with you.

Let us know how it goes!
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Old Sep 2nd, 2003, 02:16 PM
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Biking down Haleakala is really a great experience. I'd hate for you to miss it. My husband and I have done it twice ... but also, my 55-year old parents did it and they are not particularly athletic.

The ride is not strenuous at all ... you don't really get out of breath or anything ... nor should you feel sore afterwards.

I will admit that when we first started our first trip down, I was a little scared. Because you are going downhill, you go pretty fast. I thought the hardest part was gripping the breaks the entire time! If anything, it is only your hands that are a little sore at the end. But pretty quickly, my fear turned into exhilaration.

Anyway, my only concern with your question was when you said you just learned how to ride a bike last year. If you are not very comfortable on a bike, I could see how it might be a little scary at first. (Like, I said, it was for me!) But if you know that going in, you should be fine. Also, as another poster mentioned ... you can practice in the staging area before you get going ... so take that time to get pretty comfortable with your bike ... maybe start riding downhill a little ways to see how it is before you really get going.

I think at the end you will look back and be so happy you did it!
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Old Sep 2nd, 2003, 02:47 PM
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I'm all for stretching your comfort zone on vacations, but I'm going to go agaisnt the crowd on this one...This is not a physically hard ride, as you are going downhill, but it is a very thrilling ride due to your speed. It requires some confidence in your ability to steer and stay up. If you are not totally comfortable riding down big hills and swooping around corners in your hometown, I would stay on the beach for this one!
YOur size would also concern me, as riding on a bike too large means you can't easily put your feet on the ground, and may not be able to stay as centered if you are stretching for the brakes. This is easy to check with the bike company, (Make sure you have your inseam length when you call), and if they say no, you're off the hook!
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Old Sep 2nd, 2003, 03:30 PM
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If you decide you're not comfortable riding down, you can always pay the fee and ride in the support van at the back of the pack. Our bike company told us before hand that they'd pull anyone who they considered "at risk" and they pulled everyone over after the first mile to check for problems. I'm a fifty-six year old female and I really enjoyed the trip down the mountain in February, but I opted out of the last twelve mile stretch after our breakfast stop as I have arthritis and my hands were really starting to cramp up with all the breaking. So practice riding, turning, and breaking with your bike in the parking lot at the top before starting down as the tires are wider and the bike turns wider than anything you've ridden previously. If you decide that you're not confident, ride down in the van and take pictures of your group along the way.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2003, 08:48 AM
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I'd call the company beforehand to make sure they had a bike the right size. I'm around 5'3", and ended up hurting my knee pretty badly on a tour in Paris. I was on a men's bike, which was a little too large for me, and I didn't clear the top tube while hopping off. I ended up pulling the whole bike down on top of me. I was just lucky I didn't end up in the Seine. At the time, I had been riding a mountain bike almost daily for a few months before, so it wasn't a matter of inexperience on bikes.

If they do have a bike the right size for you, and you decide to do the ride (I would) I'd recommend that you get padded bike gloves. They help a lot if you have the grip the brakes for a long time.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2003, 09:41 AM
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The answer to your question is "No".
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Old Sep 3rd, 2003, 10:10 AM
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Now, I've never done the ride. But just a few thoughts: Remember that you're competing with auto traffic on the road you'll be on, which makes me nervous, especially with all the curves. Also, you'll be surrounded by all that beautiful scenery, which may tempt you to take your eyes off the road--bad idea. Because it's downhill with all those curves, you have to be very confident in your ability to control the bike. The height and the prospect of tumbling down the cliffside freak me out too, it's a very real possibility.

I hear about both the accidents and about the fifty year old people who haven't ridden a bike in years who do just fine...but if YOU'RE uncomfortable going in, you may not enjoy the ride, and you might psych yourself out into an accident. As Maui Revealed says, just because thousands of people go every year, don't assume it's safe. Please don't accuse me of being overdramatic, there are some very real concerns with riding a bike at the edge of a winding cliffside, and these are just the things I considered on our trip, being a very weak bike rider. As a beginner, you might just enjoy the crater more on foot.

Maybe this is what Rusty meant in his flat out "no"?...

love
roxy
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Old Sep 3rd, 2003, 11:26 AM
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I've done the ride and loved it.

Just make sure that if you do the ride you take a guided tour..it is much safer.

With your apprehension, I don't think you would be comfortable with a "self-guided" ride.

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Old Sep 3rd, 2003, 11:55 AM
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Thank you for all your responses. I think I will call the various bike tour companies to inquire before I make my decision. All the info about the bike sizes and testing the bikes out before going forward has been very helpful. It's also a comfort to know that if I do try it and am still uncomfortable I can just ride the rest of the way in the van. Would those of you who have done the bike ride be so kind as to give me the name of the companies you used? Thanks again!
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Old Sep 3rd, 2003, 12:51 PM
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Do not worry about the traffic. You are not "competing" with the traffic when you bike down the hill. The guide rides in front and is in constant radio contact with the van following. Everyone pulls over in a safe place to let the cars go by. That part is not a big deal.

Like stated above, any time you are uncomfortable on the bike, you can pull over and hop into the van for the ride down.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2003, 01:10 PM
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ditto what Roxy, and in essence, what Rusty said - no!

We enjoyed the splendor of Haleakala at sunrise at the summitt and from various points by foot. I don't feel like I missed out on anything by not following the herds of bikers down the mountain...
and I think it's just plain creepy that you have to sign a waiver that you won't turn around while riding...
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Old Sep 8th, 2003, 04:23 PM
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Just FYI dodobird, two days after biking down Haleakala, I had the opportunity to drive down following the bikers in our rental car. Their travel speed was between 30 and 35 mph. I bike between five and ten miles daily during the summer, but didn't realize that we picked up that much speed on the incline. Sorry that I forgot to mention that in my original post!

P.S. My ability to view the scenery was about the same on both trips; great on the straight stretches of highway, limited on the curves.
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Old Sep 29th, 2003, 04:26 PM
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and what is the price of this ride for 2 people ?
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Old Nov 20th, 2003, 04:07 PM
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okay, just got back from my trip to Maui and I did not go on the bike tour. For all you beginners out there, here is my advice. We drove up Haleakala and I saw the bikers coming down. They were going roughly 30 mph and there were cars behind them. We opted to go on an ATV excursion on the mountain instead and the tour guides spoke of many serious injuries that occurred on the bike rides. While I know a few people who had an absolutely amazing time on the bike tours, I would recommend to all those who are beginners or a little weary not to do the bike tour. I'm glad I didn't! And I don't feel like I missed out on a thing. You can still go on the ATV excursions like I did, there's horseback riding and hiking. Hope this helps those beginners out there who feel like they might be missing out.
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Old Nov 20th, 2003, 04:42 PM
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You did the right thing. Anyone who says "you will be fine" should add "maybe". Enter "Haleakala bicycle accident" in a search angine and you will discover that Haleakala Park officials record a bicycle accident every 2 1/2 days, including fatal accidents in 1998 and 2002 (and maybe more that I did not find). If you go over the edge in one of the sections where there is no guard rail you are history.
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Old Nov 21st, 2003, 10:40 AM
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Speaking as an inexperienced cyclist who opted to drive rather than cycle - NO - we saw a cyclist nearly lose control - my decision seemed mighty smart after that little moment of terror. Personally driving up and down is a great way to do Haleakala (You do not have to concentrate on staying alive, stopping is a lot simpler and you actually get to see the scenery). I am amazed that anyone would recommend that someone who is "uncomfortable with biking to begin with" (to quote you) should try this.
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