Of course if you go to Kona and you get a chance to ride the Ironman course or part of it - Just do it!
The course is fast, exposed, undulating with many long false flats and equally long gentle descending slopes. Of course you also have the heat and wind to factor in too. It’s a popular route year round for all cyclists. A majority are on their tri bikes and deep dish rims-with set up’s like this everyone looks like a pro rider. Come to think of it, when we visited in September 2015 there were many pro triathletes arriving and acclimatizing early for the Ironman. It’s ideal if you can get there 3 -5 weeks before hand but I really admire those week end warriors who only arrive a week before IRONMAN .
With such wide shoulders and smooth roads it is a relatively safe ride out to Hawei and back. Be mindful of the loose chunks of rubber from truck/car tyre's as they do have exposed sharp bits of wire that can easily pierce your tyres. Unlike NZ the edge of the lane has deep grouted rivets that are harsher to ride over than riding over our cateye's here in NZ-keep an eye out for these.
Be mindful that from the turn run off onto the Akoni Pule Highway to Hawei you are gently climbing and undulations are sharper and shorter compared to the long drawn out undulations you have experienced up until now.
NOTE: You don’t have to ride the full course. There are plenty of options to turn back earlier and still get a good workout or embrace the atmosphere. For example-turn back at the airport or Kiholo Bay turn off.
Safety: Unlike NZ you must keep right at all times. Be predictable and use your hand signals. In built up areas eg Ali’I drive be mindful of cars and people as there are some narrow spots. If in doubt at intersections slow down and get eye contact with drivers. Generally drivers in Hawaii give you time and space. Don’t forget to smile and say thanks-embrace the Aloha spirit.
If you don't bring your bike you can hire one. Contact Bike Works Kona. Connect with them early as IRONMAN Kona week is flat out. You’d be surprised at the amount of pro riders that take care of everything and leave the bike to the last minute for a check.
Coffee? A must stop is the Island Lava Java. The place to be for the tri-cyclists etc Grab a coffee, cold drink, something to eat and watch the world pass you by. Mind you there are plenty of places.
It really is a must ride if you get a chance to do it.
Here is a hill option as opposed to doing the Ironman ride. Please note: from sea level you climb straight up then drop down to the cove and then return the way you went out. It is a solid ride with x2 good climbs and some good descending to recover.
From the town area head out along Alii Drive and pretty much follow the road that links on to Ali'i Highway and then connects to the Mamalahoa Bypass road. The only turn off is when you turn right onto Napoopoo Road. Follow this road that drops to Kealakekua Bay.
The Napoopoo road is narrow and windy with plenty of foliage and natural fauna that can hide you from oncoming traffic-Keep right!! Keep your wits about you too and scan the road. Towards the bottom of the cove the road can be quite uneven and rough-watch out for this especially if you are not confident at descending or like to let it go as hitting a bump or a rock can be trouble. At the very bottom of the road turn right.
The climb back out is gentle but windy similar to Ngauranga Gorge or the Akatarawa climb from Waikanae. There are spots where you can stop to admire the view too. You will really appreciate just how tough the ride out is when you descend back along Napoopoo Road and Alii Highway. It is straight and super fast! Remember to keep right, hold your line and if you are with others keep an even distance between each other. Be predictable. If your not too flash on descending regulate your breathing, stay loose and feather your brakes. Try to ease into it and not use the vice like grip. Head up and follow the line of the rider in front as a guide
NOTE: A great time to ride is first thing in the morning before the heat kicks in. Take plenty to eat and drink as there aren't many handy places to stop at for a drink etc.
#RideAloha #RideAlofa #RideAroha