Haleakala Bike Descent
Hosmer Grove to Haleakala Bike Co. Shop
Monday, February 27
We were up not-so-bright (the sun had not yet risen) and early on a clear and cold Monday morning on this, our last day on the mountain of Haleakala. Today was our bicycle descent day, and we needed to be at the bike drop-off point at the right time - 7:00am.
We ate a couple of trail bars for breakfast and packed everything we didn't need for cycling at the bottom of our packs. Or, at least I did, anyway.
We needed to walk from the campground out to the main park road, then down it until we crossed the park boundary. Haleakala National Park does not allow rental companies to do downhill cycle rentals within the park boundary (they used to, but some unfortunate incidents that saw a few people killed resulted in a complete stoppage of group rental activity within the park). So, we needed to walk down a short ways until we were no longer on park land.
Off to the east, a thick blanket of clouds marked the the tropical inversion layer, which looked to be still more than a thousand feet below us.
Crossing the park boundary, we walked down the nicely-paved, widely-shouldered (important for bikes) highway. We had about half a mile to walk.
Walking down 378 to rendezvous
Back when we were getting fitted for our bikes four days before, we had worked out a fairly elaborate plan with time schedules, calls, and acknowledgements with the bike shop. However, just minutes before we were to start doing just that at 7:00am, a big white van pulling an even bigger trailer roared up the hill towards us. Sure enough, it was a Haleakala Bike Co. truck, and as soon as the driver saw us, he decelerated and pulled off the road, performing a dust-churning u-turn. Our bikes had arrived - ahead of schedule, even!
Haleakala Bike Company Arrives
A tall man hopped out of the truck and warmly greeted us. His name was Aleka - and was responsible for running the bikes up to the many 'Sunrise' and 'Haleakala Express' (two of their products) riders for the day. We were an extra three 'Haleakala Express' riders, technically, but Aleka was here early to give us our bikes early in advance of the main crowd. So nice!
Aleka got out our bikes and helmets, then had us place our backpacks in a safe spot in the main truck. He would run the packs back down to the company store - where we ourselves would soon be headed.
After getting a safety talk and a set of directions from Aleka, he waved Aloha and set off to a point a few hundred yards down the road (where he would wait for the other company vans to bring all of the other folks doing bike descents today).
The rental bikes themselves were an interesting mix of gear. Essentially they were Fisher Mullet mountain bikes (hardtail mountain bikes, suspension in front and none in the back) modifed to be single speed. They had disc brakes, which was a very good thing for a 6,000+ foot descent down a mountain, but strangely, they were sporting super knobbly off-road tires. Given that our route down was entirely on nearly-perfect pavement, I would have thought that some sort of road-going mountain bike tires would have been much more appropriate.
Excited to be starting off on the next and last phase of our pseudo-traverse of Haleakala, we mounted the bikes and let gravity do its work!
With the tractor-like whirr of those big off-road tires rising to a tenor, we were soon rapidly descending down the highway. We waved another thanks to Aleka as we coasted by the pullout at which he had stationed himself.
We soon emerged from a forested band and into a wide area of open slopes. The road angled mostly west across the flank of Haleakala for a while, twisting and turning with every little gully and ravine. would have been very fun in a good-handling roadster - but was equally as fun today on the bikes.
Jenn and Maui countryside
Off to our right was an expansive view of the middle part of Maui - the "Valley" part, as it is often known. Half of the valley was in shade from the shadow of massive Haleakala, and the other half - extending over to the West Maui Mountains - was lit by the early morning sun.
When we were not stopping at the various lookouts to take shots of the scenery, we moved along at a brisk 35 to 55 km/hr (20 to 30 mph). Fast enough that significant braking and/or leaning was required in the tightest of hairpins. The off-road oriented tires on the bikes made road-holding around the turns a bit squirmy. A nice pair of semi-slick mountain bike tires would have been perfect!
After at least 25 switchbacks and countless other minor twists and turns, we arrived at the base of highway 378. Here we would turn right onto highway 377, and, at a much lower grade, glide back north towards the little town of Haiku, where the Haleakala Bike Company's shop was located.
The cool mountain air of 6,500 feet was long gone. It felt much warmer and 'moister' down here.
Finishing the main descent
We spent the next 45 minutes or so gliding past the pleasant scenery of the Maui Upcountry. There were plenty of roadside flowers, leafy neighbourhoods, scenic farms, and the quaint main intersections of little towns. There was occasionally a short hill that required 30 seconds of uphill pedalling, but for the most part it was all easy downhill.
Scenic Upcountry countryside
Wide shoulders, pretty farmland
The combination of Aleka's map and instructions and my GPS meant we had little trouble in following the route back to Haiku. We pulled into the bike shop parking lot at about 8:50am - approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes after starting down from near the boundary of Haleakala National Park.
We went into the bike shop to report our arrival and return the bikes. Everything had gone without a hitch! Many thanks to the Haleakala Bike Company's crew, including Lew, Brian, Aleka, and anyone else who helped us with our "non-standard" bike rental adventure. We really appreciate your willingness to accommodate our request!
Below is a video sequence covering our four-day sea-to-summit climb of Haleakala. Click directly on the image below to start the video.
Video, Haleakala Sea-to-Summit Climb - Click on video above to start
Four days of backpacking - and more specifically, four days of eating powdered oatmeal and dehydrated dinners - meant that we were hankering for something more substantial. We asked the bike rental guys if we could leave our gear with them for a little longer, then headed out and over to a restaurant right next to the bike shop, where we availed ourselves of a good hearty bacon-and-eggs sort of breakfast.
Interactive Trackmap, cycle descent of Haleakala - double-click map to expand
Haleakala Bicycle Descent from Park Boundary - Cycle Data
* : +/- 75 feet