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All Cyclists Welcome: Lessons from Hawaii

I was fortunate enough to spend this past week in Hawaii, and observe a unique mix of professional and recreational cycling on the Big Island. My first day in Hawaii I noticed the sheer number of cyclists populating the road. I dodged badly adjusted beach cruiser rentals along Kona’s main drag and watched beat up hybrids ridden by tanned locals.  And, something I hadn’t expected to see; carbon fiber everywhere, riders tanned bronze and powering along the asphalt like the heat was nothing.

The first time someone rode by me on an S-works bike with carbon racing wheels I waved like a maniac and yelled a compliment. he moved past me so quickly I heard his “Thanks!” from a good distance away. The second time I was surprised- I rarely see two top-of-the-line fiber bicycles in Seattle on a good day.  After a few days I realized about half the cyclists I saw were preparing for something big. I hadn’t expected to see this many when the next Iron Man still months away, but there they were. Big events are rarely televised with a focus on the years and months of grueling work that going into a major race. In Kona, the preparation was already evident. In addition to all the shiny red fiber we saw, one of our trip leaders met a group of triathletes on an early morning swim at Hapuna Beach, readying themselves for the race ahead.

It was inspiring to see all the effort that goes into race preparations, and the dedication it takes to become a top athlete,  but I also found myself quietly impressed with the cycling skill of many locals. Our vans passed one man loaded down with panniers and various cargo strapped to his rack.   A few miles ahead we took a short detour. By the time we returned to the messily unpaved road he had passed us. The next time we saw him he was lounging at the end an unmaintained jeep trail with his bike beside him. He waved casually at our group when we caught up to him.

Seeing triathletes, tourists and locals share the same road reminded me of one the most important lessons in cycling:  you don’t always need to be the fastest on the road to enjoy cycling. I saw even the youngest locals getting in on the fun of open roads. There were kids on bikes just going everywhere and anywhere along the wide open stretches, no older than ten or twelve with no parents in sight. Living in the city, we often forget what it can be like to be able to travel freely for miles without passing another human, stoplight, or having to avoid a “bad area.” No matter where or why you cycle, freedom of the road is enjoyed by all.

By Linnea McCann, Editor