Sunday, February 06, 2005
On the island of Oahu, the weather is perfect for riding year round. If your favorite ride is being rained out, there is always another spot to ride that is dry as a bone. When I say rained out, I'm not talking about just getting wet. Hell, that's half the fun. The mud in Hawaii consists of deep red clay and makes riding absolutely impossible when it cakes on your tires. They won't turn one revolution and it instantly adds 15 pounds to your bike. Of course it all depends on the ride site. Most of the bike shops carry books with maps to trail heads. "The Mountain Biker's Guide to Oahu" is a fantastic book with very detailed information on each trail and good tips on which trails or parts of trails that inexperienced riders should avoid.
Hawaii is an absolutely fantastic place to ride with more trails in a relatively small area than you could ever desire. It contains many different styles of rides. It ranges from arid desert rides to deep forested rides with varying degrees of difficulty. From balls to the wall screaming downhills at 50 miles per hour to highly technical goat trails down a cliff face, the trails of Oahu will keep you on your toes. My favorite two trails are great rides that can be modified to accommodate beginners or experts.
For the first ride, you will need a guide who is familiar with the area. It begins near the prison, just south of Mililani. Take H-2 north from H-1 and take the first exit. Park on the first road to the left of the freeway, then ride your bike back across the freeway overpass. Follow the signs toward the prison. Just as the prison gate comes into view, a loooong way down the road, look for a large yellow metal gate. Pass the bikes on through, ride the goat trail through the saw grass until the trail opens up, and the main trail head will be on the right side. It is easy to miss, so don't panic. It is all one big circuit and someone will be along to show you the way. However, it is best to ride with a guide or someone that is familiar with the area. It's a large circuit ride about 22 miles long. It has several popular attractions such as the "roller coaster" or "whoop-de-do" that the motorcycles frequent. A good rider can catch monster air, however, I have seen several people attempt it and require a helicopter ride to the hospital. It's in the middle of the boondocks.
It starts out fairly dry and open and then enters the jungle and gets fairly wet and slippery. Ensure everyone brings lots and lots of water because there aren't any places to stop for refreshments. It takes the better part of five hours to ride providing 10-15 minutes of play time at the whoop-de-do. The unfortunate thing about this ride is that you are trespassing. As a result of the injuries people have suffered on this ride and the lawsuits that followed, the property is considered off limits to the general public. However, they don't make a big issue of it and we have never been chased off or confronted.
The second great ride is my personal favorite but it takes a little logistical planning. You will ride through some beautiful mountain scenery and see plenty of wildlife like wild turkey and peacocks (yes, they do have them in Hawaii!). You may even happen upon some wild boar or goats. First order of business is to visit the department of land management in Honolulu to get a permit. You will need to provide the number of people in your party and the number of vehicles. I recommend a minimum of two vehicles. The permit is good for two weeks and it is easily renewed. This ride should not be attempted when the weather looks gloomy, as the mud here is horrible.
Gather up your riders and bikes in the vehicles and head north as far as the road will take you. Up the Wainae coast there is a guard shack at the park entrance to Yokohama Beach Park. Check in with the guard and complete the paperwork. Leave one vehicle at the shack inside the compound fence, load as many people and bikes into the other vehicle as possible, and take them up the mountain. They will not let you ride your bike up the paved road. Once at the trailhead, drop these folks off then go gather up the rest of them. Be sure to find out where the trailhead is from either the guard or the department of land management!
Now it's time to hit the trail! At the 12 mile mark, the trail splits three ways. To the left is the advanced path that can be walked if you attempt it and discover you are in over your head. You can still enjoy the scenery as the forest gives way to a huge cliff about 1200 feet above sea level. You can see the ocean for 180 degrees and looking down you will see a small airport and glider field. The other side of the fork in the road carries the beginners and intermediates down the mountain a little more gradually, however, it ends with two miles of screaming high speed down hill. Watch for traffic and go easy on the brakes at this speed! It'll chew your tires to nothing really quick!
Once at the end of the trail, hit the road on your right. It will give way to a large dirt road which is bumpy as hell. It is best to stand on the pedals since you have about five miles of rough flat road ahead of you. There is a beach park on the way back. I recommend getting a drink and rinsing your bike, provided you have a bottle of lubricant with you. A wise idea in Hawaii. Ride all the way around the northwest end of the island (Kaena Point) and there is a gate that you can pass the bikes through (the gate is to keep motorists out). This is a wildlife preserve (open to mountain bikes) so stay on the established trail and tread lightly. Eventually, you will end up at Yokohama beach. Keep riding to the guard shack and let everyone stop and rest while the two drivers take the car up to retrieve the other. Bring both cars down, load em up, and go home. An absolutely awesome ride!
One note about riding in Hawaii. Become familiar with the appearance of the keawe (key-avie) tree and avoid riding near them at all costs. They bear large wooden thorns that will eat your tires beyond any hope of continuing your ride. You will never run over just one or two thorns; you will find dozens of them in your tire. There is generally one knucklehead that will ride through the thorns so leave him with the cars when it happens. Any ride in Hawaii is definitely enjoyable, just be aware of the elements, stay hydrated, tread lightly, and most of all, never ever ride alone. The trails are unforgiving and the vegetation will hide you until the wild boar finds you.