Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Day 8 over the top and Pali Tunnel

I woke a little earlier than I had the last week. After 7 rides on basically the same route, I was keen to do the “over the top ride” which entailed leaving the hotel, riding through downtown Honolulu and up the Pali Highway over the spine of mountains that dominate Central Oahu and down to the windy eastern shoreline of Oahu. From there I could head south and come back around the coast road past Hanauma Bay and Diamond Head which would be a large circular route.
The Pali Tunnel – narrow and windy!I had been keen to do this ride all week. In fact, I planned to do it each morning. However every morning except this morning, the mountains had been covered in a thick cloud of localised tropical rain. That , plus the fact that it was a main highway, with 3 lanes, missing any bike lane for a large part of the 6k climb to Pali lookout, and I would be riding it before dawn, not to mention that there were 2 tunnels with no cycle lane made it too dangerous to attempt up till now.

I woke earlier than the alarm, got up and dressed in the dark (as all good cyclists can do!) and headed downstairs into the Hotel lobby . Do I do the “normal ride” into a headwind out and tailwind home with 3 good climbs, or do I “go for it” and risk the ride over Pali Lookout. As the weather looked fine, I clipped in and pointed the travel bike towards Pali Highway. I thought that I would go and have a look and if it was too dangerous, I would turn and head back to familiar territory.
I knew it wasnt a popular route for cyclists as there was only 1 rider on Strava for the KOM!!

As it was a public holiday, the traffic was light. There was also street lighting the whole way, which alleviated my fears about riding on a dark busy highway. The climb was a bit windy, but steady and not too steep at a constant 6% gradient. I must admit, adrenaline got me up the climb. I was nervous about some driver looking at his phone not expecting a rider in this part of the island and cleaning me up. However, only about 15 cars and a bus passed me the whole way up, so I pretty much had the road to myself. As I go close to the summit, the wind picked up. Yet another headwind. I reached the top a little quicker than expected and the road turned downwards. I could see the first of two 500m tunnels that I had to ride through. These made me very nervous as they had only 2 lanes and were similar to riding through the Sydney Harbour tunnel. As I got close, I could see they were well lit. As it was slightly downhill, I put it into the big ring and rode as hard as I could to get through the tunnels before any traffic. I was just about to enter the tunnel, when a severe gust of wind hit me and almost took me off the bike. The wind was coming from the other side and as it hit the mountain, it funnelled directly into the tunnel as it faced me. I had never experienced a blast of wind like that before and struggled with the handlebars to keep the bike upright. Drama averted, I got through the most dangerous part of the ride and started the descent.

Part of the Kalanianaole Highway that runs around the coast of the island. Coming out the other side of the Pali tunnels, the wind was ferocious. The road is a very exposed to the weather and you are at 500m above sea level on an open windy mountain road with a bumpy surface. As it was still dark, I took it easy through a couple of hairpin corners. After 4 or 5k I reached the coast road and turned south. The road here is well made with a cycle lane almost all the way. The wind was a crosstail and I could easily sit on 35-37kph.
I was pretty pleased that I had made it over the climb and navigated the tunnels and settled into a nice rhythm. The bike had performed well all week and it liked this type of road/ride conditions (as did it’s rider!). As I traversed around the bottom part of Oahu, the sun came up. For the first time in a week I finally saw some other cyclists out enjoying the morning. Most were going the other way, so I gave them a friendly wave and moved on.
Sunrise - not good for the cars following you when the sun is this low!
As I reached the most Southern part of Oahu, I had turned more towards the East side of the island so that the gusty wind became a full-on tailwind. Nearly 30k to go and all of a sudden I am cruising along at 43-48kph. As I was moving along with this big tailwind behind me, an old surfer guy riding his cruiser on the footpath coming towards me gave me the famous Hawaii “hang loose” sign, which is holding the forefinger and little pinkie up with his wrist facing towards me. I had seen this “dude every morning at almost the same time/spot and as well as give me the hang loose sign, yells out “your moving this morning man!” as I go flying past!!!
As I come around Diamond Head, the last intersection before I hit Waikiki I have to go through is a busy one. Just as I am going through the intersection, a white ute with 3 “dudes” in it start to turn left in front of me. I am doing 50kph down a hill with the wind behind me. I don’t have anywhere to go and swerve quickly to avoid going over/under their car. As I go past, instinct reaction kicks in……F#*kwit, I yell without really thinking. All of a sudden, the ute does a U turn right in the middle of the intersection and they are yelling out of the car. They are after me! I think to myself that in hindsight it wasn’t a good idea to yell at 3 guys in a ute in the USA.

A couple of quick turns loses into a few sidestreets loses them and I roll into the Starbucks for a double shot Tall Latte.

So I did just on 500k for the week or so I was in Hawaii. Some good riding, but not enough diversity and the roads are a bit too busy. Back to Sydney, hopefully for a couple of good weeks of training/racing before FFT TDU 2011.

1 comment:

  1. I ripped out the same comment to a bloke in Mt Eliza a few days ago..He jumped in front of me then jumped on the brakes. I nearly ended up in the boot. The only difference was that i then chased him to knock his head off and he took off. Weak bastard.