Hawaii, as I discovered last week, is a cycling mecca. Sure, we know Kona on the Big Island is where Ironmen (and women) are made, but I'm specifically talking about this secluded coastal rainforest located on the “backside” of Maui. Apparently the island is shaped like a man from the torso up, and this tiny rural town called Hana is located near “his” rear, just off the picturesque Road to Hana, which is a long, winding, stomach-turning two-hour drive from, well, everything, including the airport, restaurants, and shopping.
While visiting Hana for another story, I figured, It's gotta be the perfect training ground. Nothing but climbing out here! Coach Daniel agreed: “You're on a volcano that emerged from the ocean, so it’s sea-level to the sky. It’s one of the few places you can gain 10,000 feet continuously on Mount Haleakala in 38 miles.”
Great, I had the motivation and the approval from my coach—now all I needed was a good bike rental and a local riding buddy to lead the way. I put the word out to my hosts, the Travaasa Hana—a super-luxe yet still homey new resort with elegant sea cottages clinging to a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean—a week before my arrival, and they immediately connected me to their resident cyclist, Dave.
A temporary transplant from Salt Lake City (there to work at Travaasa for a few years), Dave had been looking for an excuse to dust off his beautiful Trek. So the long, lean runner-turned-rider with silver scruff around his face pointed me in the direction of the reputable Go Cycling Maui bike shop, where I picked up this sweet titanium road bike en route to Travaasa from the airport. The next day, I met Dave for a mai tai at Travaasa's meet-and-greet happy hour to hash out a plan.
Whenever you meet a new cycling buddy, it's always a little nerve-racking. You worry if you're at the same riding level, if you share the same group-riding mentality, if good conversation will help carry you through the tough parts, if the other person will stop to help you if you have a mechanical issue or wait for you if you need more time getting up, say, I dunno, a volcano! I've definitely been in plenty of unpleasant situations where you're more focused on your frustrations with a rude or ill-matched riding buddy than the actual ride itself. Simply put, bad company = bad ride.
So naturally Dave and I were nervous to meet each other. To play it safe, we committed to riding 26 miles on Saturday morning to see how it went—or rather, see if we "fit." If all went well, maybe we'd attempt a 40-miler the next day up a steep part of the island (nearly 4,000 feet of rolling climbs) that he had always wanted to try, but hadn't gotten to yet. From our intros, I had an instant good feeling about this kind-eyed, enthusiastic guy, and let me tell you, my gut proved right from the minute we began pedaling away from Travaasa just after sunrise at 6:30 on Saturday.
When you find a good riding buddy—like my Hoo-ha's, Caitlin, and my cousin, Rich—you want to see them and ride with them ALL. THE. TIME. Riding with Dave was no different. His friendly, chatty, happy-to-share-Hawaii-with-you attitude instantly transformed my experience from just another training ride (that I had to do) to this amazing adventure of getting to explore a new place, meet someone new, and push myself (in a way that I wanted to).
That weekend, we not only pedaled along these breathtakingly dramatic sea-side cliffs on the Hana Highway on Saturday, but also along the base of the Mars-like Mt. Haleakala volcano (I'll save that summit for another day) on Sunday all way to back to Go Cycling Maui, which is a two-hour drive from Travaasa (Dave's friend picked us up). Along the second day's very challenging 40-mile route (30 up and 10 down), we stopped for photos, coffee, banana bread, sightseeing, and more. There's nothing like discovering an area from the back of your saddle with a friend, which I'm proud to say Dave became in just 48 hours.
Afterward I was happy to celebrate my 66-mile weekend (didn't go far, but definitely climbed high) with a plateful of Travaasa Hana's famous Hawaiian-style pancakes covered in bananas, macadamia nuts, and coconut syrup. (Hey Tour de Pink, can we get these at the finish line next week?) I followed up that filling feast with a soul-soothing hour-long deep-tissue Lomilomi massage at Travaasa's award-winning Spa (Conde Nast Traveler named it the 2012 “No. 1 Resort Spa in Hawaii”). It was the perfect ending to a weekend of pedaling, pancakes, and pampering.
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