Posted by: Ian | March 31, 2013

Oprah spoiled my Maui bike ride

When you look at a map of Maui there are two rides that call out to be done:


The first is the ascent of the 10,023 foot volcano in the middle of the main part of the island. I’ve done this a couple of times now and wrote about it on my last post. The normal route rises from sea level at Paia in a path that has a monotonic and very even gradient when viewed in profile but looks windy on the map:

Haleakala route

The second obvious route is a circuit around the entire coast. This ought to be the opposite of the Haleakala ride: very many miles but largely flat. In reality, the coastal road at the north west headland isn’t flat at all, but you get the idea.

The problem with this ride is that the coastal route disconnects at the south west. The roads south through Kihei and Wailea all fizzle out at around the Makena State Park and don’t hook up with the stretch of the Piilani Highway heading east to west or its continuation, the Kula Highway, heading south to north. According to the maps. But they do connect in real life as this piece, and several others on the internet, describe:

More recently, local residents have been worried about a 165-acre parcel, formerly part of Hana Ranch, that has been owned by media mogul Oprah Winfrey. Winfrey bought about two thirds of the land in 2002 and the remaining lots in 2005. She originally planned to build three homes, but nothing has been built to date and no permits have been issued. In fact, Winfrey has been praised by local officials and residents for being a good steward of the land. However, much bitterness has been engendered among Maui residents by her construction of  a private road through her Upcountry land in the district of Kula. Unlike most nearby roads, Oprah’s four-mile, 12-foot-wide road is fully paved. It stretches from Piilani Highway in Kihei to Keokoa, near Kula Highway. Locals have been waiting for such a road for 40 years, as it offers a potential solution for traffic congestion in Central Maui, if only the public could use it, which is currently impossible. Instead, they have to drive some 30 miles around:


So the gates that close off Oprah Winfrey’s private road kill the full island circuit.

In the absence of this there are a couple of other smaller worthwhile circuits. The smaller of the two is the circular ride around West Maui (the head-like part of the island to the north west). This is a stunningly beautiful ride of about 60 miles that I wrote about once before.

I rode the larger of the two partial island circuits yesterday:

round maui

The point at around 80 miles where the route heads north-east and away from the coast is where you’d ideally like to drop down to the west and connect with the main drag around Wailea – and where Oprah Winfrey owns and has denied access to the only available route.

To be fair, I’m not sure that opening up that link would be good for the island. Now, the road running across the south of the island is almost deserted, making things very tranquil for anyone that puts in the effort to get there. A convenient route from the tourist areas of Kihei and Wailea would immediately put an end to that.

There is also another disincentive for anyone who wants to explore this route…

The road from Paia out to Hana is smoothly surfaced and passes through lush Hawaiian forests, with the coastline to the left, pools and waterfalls to the right and fruit stands along the way. There are enough bends to discourage too many cars and coaches but nonetheless you see a few of them crawling along.

Here’s where I stopped for coffee and lemon cake:

lemon cafe

I asked the shack guy whether I’d be able to buy food on the other side of the island and he was astonished that I was cycling round, claiming that he’d never heard of anyone doing it.

Beyond Hana the traffic stops. The roads get sketchy and, not uncommonly for that part of the island, it started to rain. It felt like a tropical version of home and I loved it. I’d been a little bit concerned about online reports of vertiginous drops but there was nothing troubling when on a bike; on a car it may have been different:

beyond Hana

For a while it was heavenly. Then the roads started to get worse, at first breaking up, then turning into mogul fields of pot holes and then becoming free of tarmac altogether. By now the rain, which I had expected to ease off, was becoming torrential. The occasional section of reasonable tarmac only made the riding more treacherous as I’d build up speed only to hit another stretch of utterly ruined surface. The scenery was still stunning but finally the road, as well as being pot-holed, shaley and wet also became heavily corrugated and within seconds my front wheel found a hole and I was off the bike.

Apart from the inevitable grazes and bruises, and the shifters being twisted round my bars, there was no real damage to bike or body. Unfortunately, though, my Rapha rain jacket, which I love, got shredded and my Canon pocket camera took a beating and will probably need to be replaced. After popping a couple of neurofen, twisting my shifters back and taking a few moments, I rode on a few miles, cursing the impossible road, to the store at Kaupo. The girl who served me had an air of ennui as though she was drearily used to serving cyclists covered in grit and blood, although I bet hardly any road cyclists pass through. I managed, at least, to buy a Snickers bar, a soda and an antibacterial wipe.

The roadway after this got, if anything, worse, reverting back to an uninterrupted mogul field of pot holes with absolutely no clear runs of tarmac for another five or six miles. The few vehicles that I saw were all pick-ups jacked up above massive tyres – a type that almost always looks absurd but here was just the ticket.

At around 65 miles smooth carriageway resumed in time for the ascent back inland up the shoulder of the volcano. The rain continued but, without the horror of the unmade road, it was again a beautiful ride.

The 10 mile stretch of shale and broken tarmac and the disconnectedness of the highway system effected by Oprah’s gates make no sense at all. It’s almost impossible to believe that an American state can be so hostile to the needs of its car drivers. But I’m glad of it.

The other absurdity that I’m snagged on is the non-waterproofness of my Garmin Edge 800. I copy/paste from the forum post of someone else who had exactly my problem:

Having exact same problems after today’s showers. 

“The USB cable is connected to the wrong adapter” 
“This accessory is not supported” 
“XM receiver not supported” 
Asking me to calibrate the screen.

Then, and this is the kicker, the device wont mount on my computer so I can’t upload my ride. As well as a couple of different types of reset (though none that would lose my ride details), I’ve tried blasting the USB port with a hair dryer, leaving it under a fan overnight and for the past couple of hours it has been sun-bathing. The next step, and the final one I know, is burying it in rice for a while to absorb the moisture that seeped into it when it rained.

I see no mention of a fix for this on the promotional materials for the new Garmin Edge 810 model, although I guess if the damn thing is permanently uploading the details of my ride life onto Facebook, which is its headline feature, the scope for data loss is reduced.




  1. […] about my Maui circuit (and spill) the other day I referenced some broken stuff. Here’s an […]

  2. Perhaps you can use Rapha’s repair service for your rain jacket. I had my 3/4 bib shorts patched up after a spill in January. They did an excellent job.

    • Good idea! By coincidence, I posted about that just now as your comment arrived. I thought the jacket was too damaged for that but it turns out that it probably isn’t, they tell me.

      • Good news then! I hope they manage to do it.

  3. Hi Joerg. Yes, it was a relief that the R3 was okay. As well as anything else, it would have been a real pain to get back to Paia, where I’d parked, if I hadn’t been able to ride from the crash. It was the absolute middle of nowhere.
    I hope that you’re not getting deluged with jokes about awaiting an overdue release.

  4. Hi Ian,

    Sorry to hear about your rain jacket but at least it appears that your R3 made it through save. I didn’t know that there are that many ways to try to dry a Garmin Edge. Fortunately, I haven’t had that issue yet, even on the constant rain day for “Freipass” last year. Maybe warm water is the problem 😉

    Still all quiet back here in “Australia”,


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