MTB Hawaii: Krank, Maui-Mex and Red Pow
It was eight years ago when I first tasted Maui’s red earth on two wheels. It has been a fairly pivotal memory in terms of my riding experiences. Quite a lot has changed in that time. There is an ever growing, ever evolving mountain bike scene on the island. Hawaii’s Maui Island offers a variety of constantly shifting weather, fantastic après spots, heaps of rental opportunities, beautiful scenery, and really great riding. All this within an hour drive of Kahului airport. Let’s begin to break it down.
Widely known for it’s overwhelming tourist scene, expensive but equally beautiful golf courses, annual surf comps and crazy winter swells, Maui is also host to the Xterra Triathlon Championships. My friend and riding host Tony set me up with a sweet rental from West Maui Cycles and we set off to Kapalua to sample the mountain bike course. Most of the course is nestled in what was once one of the islands most beautiful and premiere golf courses. Fifteen years of over growth and going to seed has taken it’s toll on the old village course however.
I was told a crew of around two dozen trail workers with saws and tools head out a couple of weeks before the big event to prep and restore the 32km loop. It offers 3300 vertical feet of up and down, spectacular views, and is sure to make you sweat. Lots of water is essential here as temps can sustain at a very humid 30°C (86°F) or even more on hotter days, as it tends to be on this side of the island if it isn’t raining. Another thing to remember is that this loop is part of one of the most difficult triathlons out there, the climb is a real punch! Tony and I were only able to ride some of the trail, as much of it was still quite overgrown. It was also the first trail riding I had done in several months, so the 15km we did get to ride had me worked. We ended the ride by cruising back down the double track, past the lower parking lot at the Ritz near the beach for a very welcome swim in the tepid, but heavy surf. I must say, swimming in the ocean after a ride is sure to get anyone’s stoke on! However, the real highlight of the day for me was our après session at Miso Phat Sushi.
We were hosted by the owner Shawn and his business partner Dove (who also happens to be Tony’s girlfriend) to the finest sushi I have ever had in my life. Also note worthy was the Lilikoi ice cream Dove made, my God it was like Hawaii in your mouth! Their secret to success is some magical combination of a small place, magnetic personality, their own boat named ‘Shiso Phat’, relationships with some of the locals who can supply them with fresh catch other restaurants just can’t get, and an A+ executive chef. If you find yourself in Kapalua/Kahana it is a must visit! Check them out here www.misophatsushi.com and on facebook or instagram. If you’re interested in learning more about the Maui Xterra Championships you can do that here at www.xterraplanet.com.
UP COUNTRY & MAKAWAO
Lush rain forest of tropical ash, cook pine, eucalyptus, and a sea of ferns beckon you through the cool air and steezy vibes of Makawao and the forest reserve. Strolls through the gallery rich village, Maui-Mex and cerveza beckon you after your ride. These are the things I fell in love with my first time riding here in 2007. Don’t take my word for it though. You see Makawao is host not only to a plethora of galleries and artists, but a few heavy hitters in mountain biking who’ve come to call it home for their families and businesses.
Krank Cycles is one helluva bike shop. Owner Aaron Reichert (AKA Moose) started up the shop a couple of years ago. Nestled in this wonderfully sleepy and arty village, they are a huge part of the mountain bike community and it’s initiatives to show what Maui has to offer the sport. Their rental fleet is top notch with the latest superbikes, dirt jumpers, XC rippers and DH rigs. The staff truly shine here, offering friendly advice and directions to all the riding around the area. Be sure to check out the Krank facebook page for sick shred pics and daily trail report updates.
This Mecca is a short ten minute drive from the shop, or a good 45 minute pedal (be prepared to climb!). It is home to red-pow Valhalla. The state, and county have gotten behind the community and a local trail association to elevate this multi-use recreation area and transform it into a world class mountain bike destination. What would you like? Flow trails, juicy winding single track, full on DH, berms, dirt jumps and table tops, wall rides, or skills areas? You name it, they’ve build it. All very sturdy, very professionally built and maintained.
These trails rail, the locals are a very friendly and stoked bunch, and the red dirt of Maui is sure to leave some souvenir stains on your kit. After a session in the forest you simply must go to Polli’s. It is a local institution, has been in business since the beginning of time, and is quite simply the best Mexican food on the island, hands down!
BIKE PARK MAUI & SKYLINE TRAIL
While I was there for two weeks I didn’t get an opportunity to ride the bike park. Not for lack of trying though. On occasion it will close due to rain or high winds. If not from the weather, they are probably hard at work building and improving the various trails and features in the park. I missed out on two planned days to ride the park due to both the above mentioned variables, so I can’t personally comment on the riding. However it does look amazing.
Bike Park Maui caters to groms and intermediate riders, but seems to have everything a shredder would want all wrapped up in a super progressive, professional and buffed out package. Founder of RockShox, Paul Turner, owns and operates this beauty of a park on his own land just a five minute drive down Baldwin Ave. north of Makawao. Cost is $15 dollars per day.
Another area I have lusted to ride (for years now) is the infamous Skyline trail starting at 10 000 ft. atop Mt.Haleakalaa National Park. Littered with desert fauna and prehistoric plants, the trail descends some 7000 ft. into Poli Poli State Park in the Kula Forest Reserve. It requires a shuttle run to ride, so you’ll need a couple of vehicles and some early planning to make it work. An inquiry with the fellas at Krank could find you shredding with the locals on one of their shuttle missions.
This is pretty much the DH trail we all dream of. Views from the top are nothing short of spectacular (on a clear day you can faintly make out the curvature of the earth), and the trail itself descends through several different climate zones. Pads and full face helmets are recommended. It has been prone, over the years, to getting worked over by rain and the occasional tropical storm. This is mainly the reason I’ve missed out on riding it. One year (2012 I believe) the trail was completely wiped off the map by rain and wind fall. That year even the crater trails in the dormant volcano of Haleakala were destroyed. The passion the locals and trail workers have just won’t let them die though. Actually, for the hiker in you, the crater trail system is a once in a lifetime trek through the Mars-like environment of cinder cones and lava rock. There is a network of trails and backcountry huts which you can book, but be warned it is some very heavy hiking I’m told, so be well seasoned! There are also some super fun zip line operations, galleries, and local farms (including a lavender farm) to check out on your down days when you’re not riding, surfing, golfing or doing what ever else you’ve traveled to this one of a kind island to enjoy.
Maui is not just a surfers paradise anymore.
Red Earth Brah
Black Devil Disco Club – Bee Boop
Blue Hawaii – Lilac
One thought on “MTB Hawaii: Krank, Maui-Mex and Red Pow”
You rock Tony. Mahalo for the props. But will there be a “threepeat”?