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Vol. 17, no. 2
April / May 2014


Two Wheels to Waimea 

Story by Alan McNarie
Photo by Olivier Koning

It’s a crisp afternoon in Waimea, and Bruno Giovanoli is doing what he loves. He unloads a lightweight hybrid bike from the LifeCycle Adventures van for a client, then gets his own bike, with its graphite wheels and racing handlebars. LifeCycle’s tours are usually self-guided, but today Giovanoli, who runs the company’s Big Island operation, is going along. He adjusts seats, answers last-minute questions, and then the group heads out, hunching over their handlebars against the tradewinds roaring between Mauna Kea and Kohala mountain.

Hawai‘i Island, home of the Ironman Triathlon, has long been a mecca for hardcore cyclists like Giovanoli, a Swiss émigré with a lean frame and huge, biking-sculpted calves. But LifeCycle, a West Coast company that expanded to the Big Island last year, tailors tours for cyclists with a somewhat softer core. It books lodging, from inexpensive hotels to high-end B&Bs. It rents budget to thoroughbred road bikes (but no mountain bikes; LifeCycle doesn’t go off-road) for those who don’t want to schlep their own. A chase van, which follows bikers in case of a breakdown, delivers luggage to the night’s destination and will even pick up purchases if, say, a cyclist buys a painting at one of the island’s art towns.

Giovanoli’s favorite one-day tour is the Kohala Mountain Road, which climbs from coastal Hawï to over 3,400 feet before descending into Waimea: On this island the price of an incredible vista is often a long, steep climb. But there are also beautiful, less strenuous rides, like the jaunt from Waimea to Honoka‘a, which winds through pastureland and rainforest via Old Mamalahoa Highway. While many riders underestimate how long it’ll take to get somewhere and overestimate their ability, says Giovanoli, the typical LifeCycle client will be able to manage the Big Island’s long, hot stretches and uphill climbs. “They at least all like cycling or they wouldn’t contact us.”

This afternoon’s destination is Waianuhea, a luxurious rainforest lodge that serves gourmet dinners. Tomorrow the van will collect bikes after a short but spectacular run down to Honoka‘a, but Giovanoli will head back to Waimea tonight. “I’ll have the wind behind me,” he says.