Biking Hawaii Part 1: Kona and the Lazy Ironman

Although my face definitely felt the brute of the 16 degree wind chill this morning riding down Mass. Ave, my mind was wandering elsewhere, into the warmer, more tropical regions of the world, like the Big Island of Hawaii, where I took a vacation to this past December.

I was staying in the Kona region, where the Annual Ironman Triathalon Championship is held. For those of you unfamiliar with the Ironman, it’s a 2.4 mile swim followed by 112 mile bike ride followed by a 26.2 mile run, vs. the “Olympic distance” (0.93 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike ride, 6.2 mile run). And here I am thinking a century ride alone (100 miles) is a big deal. SoI was glad to have the honor of visiting the location where Julie Moss famously (and quite literally) crawled to the finish line of the Kona Ironman in 1982, and where countless Triatheletes push their body to the limits every year.

The big Island is also where, in 1974, a lava flow completely covered “Chain of Craters” Road, now a hikable attraction in the volcano park:

But pushing my body to the limits wasn’t what I was here for. Aside from checking out the volcanoes, I just wanted to ride bikes and get to the beach, so, for $20/day, I rented a beach cruiser from the nearest bike shop (A Specialized Globe), and ventured off on a little not-so-triathlon of my own.

Being a volcanic series of Islands, the major connecting roads are all highways along the coast, so that’s where the Ironman route is and that’s where I found myself riding with my beach cruiser, alongside plenty of spandex-clad roadies and triatheletes in training. I’ll admit, coming from Boston, where bike-commuters silently race each other all the time, I could not resist the urge to pass these spandex/lycra-clad cyclists while riding an unsuspecting upright beach cruiser wearing swim-shorts and a t-shirt. It was a funny feeling, since, unlike in Boston, where the race is short, and usually one person makes a turn, this guy was behind me for the entire stretch, haunting me.

This funny feeling subsided, however, when I ran into a funny sight that struck a chord close to home; Behold, the Wrong-Way-Highway-Fixie-Rider:


It was nice to see not much is that different, even five-thousand miles away from home. I was also happy to see some marked bike-lanes

and a spray-painted sign for the next nearest bike shop.

(bike shop…next right)

The scenery along the Ironman route of the highway was admittedly a bit of an eyesore, as much of the surrounding land was just dried up lava flows, which looks a little like riding through the tropical pits of Mordor:

After two hours of riding north on the same road the Iron Man triatheletes ride, I decided to head back after getting soaked in a flash tropical downpour.

But not before venturing inland, which, in Kona, means an immediate, steep two mile incline up a volcano. My legs soon cried mercy after a 1000ft climb on the 3-speed, but thankfully, the payoff was beautiful,

and getting back to the beach was all downhill. Thanks to the 80 degree breeze, by the time I reached the bottom, I was completely dry and ready to be soaked, but this time, by a dip in the welcoming pacific.

All in all I biked a little over 50 miles and swam a few laps along the beach before retiring to the breezy sunset, my rental 3-speed beach cruiser and I.

(Part 2, about biking on the island of Oahu, is soon to come)

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One Response to Biking Hawaii Part 1: Kona and the Lazy Ironman

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