In a nutshell: Half the price of the competition, plus you won’t be herded like cattle.
Minuses: Riding on Maui’s narrow winding roads can be dangerous, especially if you haven’t been on a bike in a while.
Sound-bite: “We were so smug and thought ‘HA!’ every time we passed by one of the crowded guided tours…”
Downhill bike tours are one of the more popular activities and hundreds of visitors do it every day – that is exactly why Haleakala Bike Company got rated #1: because using them you won’t feel like the equivalent of tourist cattle.
Most of the companies who offer downhill bike tours accompany a fairly large group all the way down the mountain. Using those vendors means you don’t stop when you want, or get to be next to your honey (single file only please), or go at the speed you want – you’re lined up single-file in a pack of tourists, several of whom have no business whatsoever being on a bike.
The big tours also keep you in such a tight pack that you spend most of your time looking at the bike in front of you so you don’t hit it. If you see something interesting, you can’t stop to look at it. And unless you’re one of the very first in line, you won’t hear a word the guide has to say about the sights you’re seeing.
Now, if you do have business being on a bike, going on one of the cattle tours is not what you want. Haleakala Bike Company frees you of the herd, and puts you on top-quality well-maintained Gary Fischer mountain bikes. Being free of the herd means that you’re free to ride at your own pace and stop as often, and wherever you like.
The big plus of being on your own also comes with a word of caution: if you really don’t have any business being on a bike, a downhill bike tour with anyone can be dangerous! That is yet another reason these guys get rated number one: they will actually tell you that! Most of these other guys hide it and make it look as safe as getting on a Disneyland ride. Folks, it is riding a bike on a road. There is nothing extra safe about it because you’re on vacation not thinking about practical matters – these are the same risks you take on any road with cars. If you feel like you could veer into traffic unexpectedly because you haven’t been on a bike in a decade, then perhaps just renting the bike and taking it somewhere offroad would be a wiser choice – and you can do that with these guys too.
Haleakala Bike Company offers Haleakala sunrise tours which are the most popular (if you don’t already know, sunrise at Haleakala Crater can be absolutely spectacular.) Sunrise or not, most visitors opt to take one of the tour vans that take you up, and then coast back down the mountain using gravity. On the way up the guide gives you an important safety lesson and interesting info about all the stuff you’ll be seeing again on your way back down.
Unlike most other bike tours they also rent bikes by the day or week (car rack, helmet, tools and gear included.) If you opt to rent a bike without the shuttle, Haleakala Park also still permits non-guided bikers to begin their ride at the summit (with a shuttle you must begin your decent at the entrance of the park.) If you are an experienced biker you can even take a pretty cool alternate route from the summit “off-road” (kind of) down Skyline Road. (Dedicated Skyline article coming soon.) By renting the bike without the shuttle option you can also ride anywhere else you want on the island. That said, (and I’m sure you’d realize it sooner or later), if you’re going to do the Haleakala downhill trip their shuttle drop-off service is a lot less tricky than riding all the way down the mountain to realize your car is still at the top 😉