story by Lehia Apana
photo by Matt Mallams
New Orleans-born Donnie Arnoult was once a pro on the cycling circuit, pedaling around the world for his sport. In 1999 he moved to Maui to retire from that life and quickly discovered that the island was a cyclist’s playground, with lush scenery, great weather and miles of paved roads. He began riding more than ever.
“I’d always get these inquiries from tourists who’d notice the cycling tan line and shaved legs,” he jokes. “They wanted to get out there and ride, but there wasn’t really anything here besides the [Haleakala] downhill rides.”
Arnoult now fills that void with Go Cycling Maui, which specializes in tours for only the most serious of pedal-pushers. Unlike all other bike companies on Maui, which help riders coast down Haleakala, Go Cycling Maui helps riders take on the mountain from the bottom up, with top-notch gear including titanium Litespeed road bikes, matching team apparel and a support crew to cure anything from a flat tire to a rumbling stomach.
“A lot of people want to be tested,” says Arnoult. “They don’t always want things to be easy.” And easy it’s not: Riders climb thirty-six miles to the top of the 10,023-foot volcano, a course dubbed “the longest paved climb on the planet.” (As a comparison, the famed Mont Ventoux in the Tour de France is a mere 5,336-foot ascent over 13.6 miles.) For Arnoult himself, Maui’s “concierge of cycling,” leading rides means weekly trips up the volcano, a journey he’s made more than 400 times. “It’s still a challenge,” he admits. “You’re on the bike anywhere from four to six hours, and the conditions are always changing.”
An active member of the local cycling community, Arnoult also organizes races throughout the year, including the notoriously grueling Cycle to the Sun, a dash to the top of Haleakala. It may be torture on two wheels, but the race’s reputation is also its appeal, and it attracts riders from Australia, Europe, Canada and beyond. This year it happens Aug. 21. “There’s nothing else like it anywhere,” says Arnoult. “But we’ve got it and it’s right here on Maui.”