skip to Main Content

Overcoming Barriers to Riding a Bicycle in Hawaii

One of my objectives with this website is to help people with an interest in bicycling overcome concerns and fears that may be prohibiting them from riding and reaching their destination. In this article, I address concerns that we may share and how I approach them. Ride on!

Road Blocks to Bicycling

Bicycling in Traffic

Before I started to ride in Hawaii, I had two big excuses not to ride: the roads and traffic were terrible and the terrain was daunting. I rarely saw bicyclists. The road space devoted to dedicated bicycle routes and lanes was paltry. There didn’t seem like alternative roads with less traffic. There have been slight in-roads to the space allocation devoted to bicycling.

Thanks to Hilo Bayfront Trails, we have a dedicated multi-use trail that runs in front of the ocean from downtown Hilo to Bayshore Park. Over seven years of dedicated work to get this project to partial fruition, there are plans to extend additional dedicated off-traffic paths throughout Hilo.

Other nods to bike traffic include Kapiolani extension, while extremely short, is a new road with pre-planned bicycle lanes. Other places within the city have lines redrawn to allocate roadways to bicyclists. City planning department has adopted a long-term plan “Downtown Hilo Mult-model Master Plan” to improve access. Feel free to contact your county and state representatives to further fund projects for bicycle travel improvements.

This map of Hilo bike routes shows more bike-friendly ways, either because they have wide shoulders, less traffic, Hawaiian-style sidewalks, or are off main routes. Obviously, cycling at non-peak hours is the best way to avoid traffic, but the ideal time may change depending on the route. Old Mamalahoa Highway scenic route gets busier when the Botanical Garden is open. Downtown Hilo is busier on Sat. and Wed. due to the Farmer’s Market. Paying attention to these considerations can give you guidance on what’s the ideal time and route for you to ride.

Bike Fitness

My other excuse was that I thought riding up all of the hills was just too much. Whether you are looking to get around town to shop, or set a goal for a century ride, getting the confidence to tackle the terrain will open up more riding opportunities. Start with these easier bike routes in Hilo until you get comfortable. Then expand new routes.

When I finally made it up Ainako without stopping, I thought I could tackle anything! Be kind to yourself, put the gear low and take breaks when you need it. Keep it enjoyable and your strength and confidence will grow! If an e-bike is the right fit for you, then do it. I would encourage you to get into habits and routines to ride each week. It’s a lot easier to ride consistently and maintain a level than it is to adjust to fits and stops.

Bike Gear for Hawaii

Being more visible had a huge impact on how motorists reacted to me. Once I got fluorescent and with a really bright light, I noticed a large difference in how close cars passed and whether they waited for my right of way. As with any physical activity, clothing that fits properly is important.

Must Haves

  • Helmet – a helmet with a visor and as many air vents as possible. If you get to cold weather at elevation, you can always add a skull cap.
  • Repair Kit – get an under seat pouch to carry a spare tube, a patch kit, and a multi-tool.
  • Bike Pump – this is essential and must be quality. I’ve bought two Specialized and they both failed. Failure is not an option. Or get CO2 cartridges, but that gets expensive.

Nice to Have

  • Really, Really Bright Bike Lights – Forward-facing and rear-facing bike light – the more visible you are, the better. Cars take you more seriously
  • Riding Jersey – You don’t always need a form-fitting, race-winning jersey, but the bright colors, quick-dry fabric and back pockets are super nice to have.
  • Rain Jacket – even a lightweight jacket can make a big difference in comfort during a downpour or heading down elevation.
  • Shorts/Bibs – Padded shorts help tremendously on any ride over ½ hour or leisure around town. Pearl Izumi makes good clothing, albeit expensive. Steep & Cheep is a good place to get discounted wears.
  • Bike Shoes – Soft soled shoes absorb your effort before it hits the pedal. Biking shoes have harder soles to better transfer your wattage directly to the pedal. Shoes come in flats, clipless SPDs (They are clipped in. The name is an oxymoron.) and the other kind that makes you fall over. It’s funny to others.
  • Riding Glasses – once you hit Steve McQueen speeds, you’ll want glasses to protect your eyes from road debris, rain and wind. If anyone can tell me how to keep raindrops off the lenses, please do! I’d use the windshield spray, but it says do not get in eyes.
  • Gloves – riding gloves help keep a firm grip when your hands get wet from sweat or rain, plus can add warmth when needed.

Women Bicycling Solo in Hawaii

I’ve dealt with angry drivers and disrespectful dogs, but I’ve thankfully haven’t had a personal violent incident. I know fellow bikers who have. Like many decisions women make, safety when riding solo is a concern. I always chose my routes and times with this consideration.

  • Learn how to fix your bike – flats, chains, derailers all break on route. Having the knowledge and tools to fix your bike will allow you to get riding again.
  • Many routes are often popular with pedestrians, dog walkers as well. Select community favorite routes.
  • Carry a phone and maybe pepper spray.
  • Bike companions/meet-ups – Most bike shops have a group ride. It’s a great way to meet people and safely ride in a pack. BikeWorks Beach and Sport in Waikoloa has a meet-up. MidPac Pacific Wheels in Hilo has a 7:30am ride every Sat., with the first Sat. of the month up Mauna Loa access road. For Mountain Biking on the Big Island, there is a Facebook Group that announces group rides.
  • There are fancy helmets with panic buttons and automated accident reports
Back To Top