Ride the Longest Paved Climb From Your Couch
It has been a long-time dream of mine to climb Haleakala with my road bike. The climb is dubbed “the world’s longest paved climb” with a total elevation gain of 10,068 feet in 35.6 miles at an average gradient of 5.3%. This ride is a definite bucket list item for any cycling enthusiast who has the opportunity to visit the beautiful island of Maui in Hawaii.
After a lot of research and careful planning, my goal was to reach the top in under 4 hours. Luckily, I have Mt. Diablo in my backyard - it has 3,580 feet of elevation gain in 12.3 miles at an average gradient of 5.4%, so it’s the perfect training ground as it’s about 1/3 of the Haleakala climb in elevation and distance with the same average gradient. The only thing we can’t replicate here is the climate which proved to be my worst enemy.
After months of intense training, and maybe more importantly, figuring out the right balance of nutrition and fluids, it was time to start the ride.I got up 2 hours before the ride to eat and go through my final preparation. I immediately found a good rhythm and cadence and felt really good at the start of the ride. Even the weather seemed perfect at the time!
I was all smiles as I started to climb up and enjoy these breathtaking views on the way up.
You know what they say about plans...at around 7,000 feet the clouds started rolling in hot and heavy, and big wind gusts made the climb exponentially harder, but I was determined to make it to the top.
At 9,000 feet the humid climate got the better of my legs and despite the painstaking schedule of planned food, fluids and salt supplements, I almost came to a standstill. I slowly willed myself through the pain and lowered my speed to pace myself to the top. I not only reached my goal, I smashed it in 3:38:58hr!
At the top I had my picture taken by a young lady who asked me if I shopped at Sports Basement. I told her that is where I work and she responded with “we love Sports Basement, we shop there all the time”. What are the odds?! The view? Non existent. But I couldn’t care less! I was so happy that I'd made it to the top.
The ride didn’t end there. I still needed to ride all the way down. By now thewinds reached about 20mph and it started to rain heavily. The temperatures were as low as 52 F at the top. I was way, way underdressed for such a descent as I did not plan for rain or strong winds.
Within a few minutes, I was soaked to the bone. My front and rear light got water logged and turned off, my shoes were filled with water and I was shaking vigorously trying to keep my bike on the road. The relief came as soon as I dropped under 5,000 feet where the weather was warm and dry again. By the time I reached Paia my clothes were bone dry and I was warm again. The only thing that remained was the water in my shoes, the cramps and an unforgettable memory. I can’t wait to do it again! (Next time under 3:30!
Eric Pederson says...
I was there (Paia) in February, and thought hard about giving it a go. I figured the ride up would be an epic. But it was the ride down I was worried about. There had been snow at the top not long before. In the end I relegated it to potential future adventures and we drove up there to watch the sunset – alone with a hundred odd (other) tourists. It was freezing. Really, really cold, and I wished for a down jacket.
We did have some clear views, and it is an incredibly long way down. Quite an achievement to ride up that! Well done!On April 20, 2020