haleakala / Holly-Ah-ka-la VYNL's How-To for the World's Longest Paved Climb

First off...

...let's address the Devil's Advocate out there: Why listen to a how-to by a bunch of Californians who have only done the climb once?

The first time you do a climb is when you get to know it best. You come up against surprises, bust down preconceived notions, and arrive at the top undoubtedly more seasoned than you were at the bottom. The more you do that climb, the more things become ho-hum and unsurprising. "Oh that long 15% pitch right in the middle? Yeah that sucks, but it's not too long," is your reaction on attempt 5. But on attempt 1? It's more like, "OMHOLY MOTHER OF GOD WHEN WILL THIS END?"

And so, here is our how-to for Haleakala, the world's longest paved climb.

the before

A big climb means putting the Boy Scout motto into full force, and to do that, you need a great bike shop to work out all of the last minute kinks and load up on tubes/nutrition/CO2. For that, there's no better place than Maui Cyclery in Paia. Run by former pro and longtime Maui resident Donnie Arnoult, you will come away feeling prepped and stoked to tackle the long long (long) road ahead. Chances are you just scored some ride buddies, too, as they make the trip almost daily and are happy to take out of towners along with them. We ourselves had a bit of a mechanical fail, and Donnie&Co were able to get us rolling again ASAP.

Pro Tip: Check the weather. Unlike most rides, this one can happen/not happen based on conditions both at the bottom in Paia and at the summit.

THe up

Normally we would have a big detailed route here, but the beauty (and beast) of this climb is there are only two turns and one direction. Right, Left, and Up. From the moment you take the first pedal stroke at sea level, mentally prepare yourself for the reality that you have started the climb.

First timers complete it in anywhere from 3-5 hours, so try to thumbtack between that amount of time. Also try to pack most of what you intend to eat. And intend to eat most of what you pack. And intend to pack a lot of food, even if you don't think you'll need it. There is only one possible pit stop at the Kula Lodge Restaurant, which you should definitely take if for no other reason than to sample more local banana bread. Which is awesome.

PRO TIP: Also stock up on some amazing coconut water + Cayenne pepper shots here to keep the elevation headaches away. Locals swear by it.

If you've made it this far, congratz! Only 25 miles and 7500ft of climbing to go!

You've already made the one right turn (hopefully) onto Hanamu Road. Now it's time to make your one left turn onto Crater Road, where the sign entrance to the park itself sits and the endless switchbacks begin. If there is any change in pitch, you're going to notice it here. It's subtle, but subtle counts on a climb like this. The solution? Change nothing. Stay zen and keep those pedals circling. Also, don't forget to look around a bit, because the view candy is about to give you a sweet tooth.

Feast your eyes. This will be your view for a looooooong time.

Keep climbing. Stop at the ranger station for H20 and maybe to down a coconut water + cayenne pepper shot if you've got a little headache. Then, keep climbing. And climbing. And climbing. And breathing, or at least attempting to, because you will be getting into some seriously thin air at this point. The wind will also start to become a factor, as you are now 100% exposed. If you're lucky, it will toggle between head/tail depending on which direction you're heading. Not so lucky? Side/side.

Eventually, you will see the observatory in the distance. Save a bit, because the last .5 miles up to the summit itself is the steepest .5 miles of the climb. Because of course it is.

But then....

the top!

Take obligatory Elevation 10,023ft shot here.

High fives! You are at the top! Time to score some epic pics, re-layer up, and eat some extra calories, because you are about to enjoy the world's longest paved descent!

the down

As much as we would love to tell you to shred all 35 miles, you are about to be heading down for anywhere from 1 - 1.5 hours. You will need to stop occasionally to let your brakes cool off a bit, and depending on the weather, the wind can be brutal. We definitely do not recommend anything deeper than 35mm rims for this ride due to the extreme island winds.

PRO TIP: heading down is a better opportunity to get those awesome "I can see the fricking curve of the Earth" shots than on the way up, as the pressure to complete the climb is off and you can literally start breathing again.

the after

Once you are done and are rolling back into Paia, we recommend riding straight to Milagro's Food Company and ordering two margaritas and a full plate of Nachos with the works. Then eating all of them. Then ordering more food and eating that too. In case you wanted something more scientific or detailed, sorry, we just climbed 10,000ft in 35 miles and can only think of food.

Photo courtesy of MauiTimes.com. We ate ours too fast to take a fancy photo. But the size of the picture directly correlates to how good they taste.

We know this ride is a far distance away for most, and requires some extra planning to make happen. But if there is one epic ride on your bucket list (hopefully there are more epic rides on your bucket list, and if there aren't, check out our Norcal Bucket List), this might be the one.

Amazing rear wheel ass-save courtesy of Maui Cyclery

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