WEST MAUI LOOP for newbies

[I don't consider myself a pro-cyclist but a Cat 4 rider or maybe even Cat 3. But after this week and my experiences on the West Maui Loop I thought I'd write an article that I would have liked to have read before my first West Maui Loop rode.]

My wife and I had an all expenses paid getaway to Maui this past week. It was a great time of marriage building with prayer and fellowship together for the new year before us.

Maui is probably the closest place on earth to what the Garden of Eden may have looked like. Everywhere on the island is beautiful in its own unique way. It remains the same temperature year round averaging 75F-85F. If you're a water person you'll love the beaches and small hidden bays in the north part of West Maui. There is plenty of hiking that can be done in Iao Valley or you can drive to the top of the 10,000ft Haleakala Volcano and bike it down (or up) to see some spectacular views.

Cycling the West Maui Loop - Clockwise / Counterclockwise

What many do is that they cycle the entire West Maui Loop which is about 60mi or 100km. This is a breathtaking bike route with many scenic views along the way. Note if this is the first time you plan to do the whole loop, figure at least 4 hours to do so. Pros have done the loop in 3 to 3.5 hrs. It is really best to start your ride between 7-8am to avoid the strong trade-winds that'll slow you way down coming up on your way back up to Lahaina. It is a trek for fit riders that consider themselves Category 4 riders as some of the grades are 18-20%. If you're a Cat 5 rider than this will be a nice challenge for you and you may graduate to Cat 4.

If you don't want to do the whole loop you can do just segments. You can search sites like mapmyride.com or strava.com and see the segments people have marked out and ridden. The first day I rode the clockwise segment from Lahaina to "The Wall" and turned around back to our hotel near Lahaina. This was about 30mi and gave a good idea of what lay ahead.

On day 2 I just loaded up on liquids, Arbonne protein bars and went for it!

The Loop begins anywhere in West Maui on route 30, but a good place to start is in Lahaina. In Lahaina I rented a new Specialized Roubaix (great for inclines with its low gear ratio) road bike at West Maui Cycles, I highly recommend them. You can go online before hand and get your choice of a great bike. They were helpful and provided a little emergency kit for repairs.

From Lahaina you take route 30 north to begin the loop. It's pretty easy to keep on track as you ride, Highway 30 narrows after Kapalua, and it rapidly becomes more rural and hilly, with only light traffic. After route 30 turns into the 340, the road becomes one lane with varying pavement quality. You'll drive through a couple small village areas selling Banana Bread and liquids. I stopped at Lorraine's Banana Bread as well as the "Smoothie Bus" in an old village "Kahakuloa". Though the pavement gets narrow and rough where cars have to back up and allow other cars to pass, it is still totally do-able on a road bike, and traffic remains light. You'll most likely outrun the cars on the long descent into Wailuku. When you get to Wailuku it's easy to get turned around. Stay on Highway 340 past Waiehu beach Rd. (you'll curve right.) The road will turn into North Market Street (curves left.) Keep going until you hit Main Street and turn right. (This is a good time to grab some food).
Next turn left on South High Street, which will turn into Honoapi'ilani hwy. Keep going and you'll pass Maalaea on your left and meet up with the coastline.

Once you're back on the 30, there's a nice wide shoulder until you get back to Lahaina. Be sure to stop at the Olowalu General Store and try Marianne's smoothies before you get into Lahaina, she was so kind and hospitable to us weary riders! It was a nice way to finish the last few miles of the ride.

Cautions! / Bummer Alerts

Besides exhaustion there are a few dangers.

If you've never biked The West Maui Loop before, I strongly suggest you go the Clockwise direction and not the Counterclockwise direction. Counterclockwise is the more dangerous route as there are declines that come very close to the cliff sides where in some cases riders have traveled too fast not negotiating turns fast enough falling off the edge. Many of the curves and narrow roads in the north part have minimal guard rails or none at all. Sadly, a week before writing this article there was a tragedy at mile marker 8 where a rider fell from a cliff side curve to her death.

On the North side of the loop, the road becomes a one lane cliff road, and some drivers whip around them quickly. You don't want to get hit or driven off the cliff, so be very cautious. It's always safer to ride with others, and a lot more fun. In the morning, the road can be slick from dew. It also rains on the northern part of the island quite often, so beware. Wind can come up and make it difficult later in the day. Check the wind forecast (though most likely there will be wind regardless.) Be very careful when riding along the Pali (the stretch of winding cliff road on the south side of the loop.) Cars often blaze through here and sometimes clip the bike lane.

Some of the bummers are the raised road reflectors that are found very close to the bike lane. Hitting one of those is unpleasant especially at a high speed. You need to watch of course your bike lane for glass. Though I had no flats, it happens often.

Make sure to bring a helmet, plenty of liquids, sun-block and something to fix a flat if you don't have one. Also, watch out for cars and pedestrians.

I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I did. It was the most exciting bike trek I ever rode. You can comment or "Like" the article if you found it helpful.

If you'd like to know more about me and my real passion read more of my blog.