When Phillip Kikukawa launched Molokai Bicycle in 1994, he’d sell at least two dozen children’s bikes every Christmas. That number started to decline in the mid-2000s, and he now counts himself lucky if he sells three.
“What are kids into these days? Video games, cellphones and social media,” Kikukawa said. “When I was growing up on Molokai, I’d play with sticks and mud puddles. Being fixated on a screen keep kids from going outside, enjoying nature and experiencing great activities like biking.”
So passionate is he about the sport, he runs Molokai Bicycle as a full-service shop (renting bikes, doing repairs and selling bikes, parts and accessories) in addition to working full-time as the student services coordinator at Molokai Middle School. He bikes at least 20 miles three times a week.
According to Kikukawa, Molokai is ideal for cycling. First, because the island is largely undeveloped, there’s not much traffic. Roads are in good condition, there are wide shoulders and drivers are usually courteous.
IF YOU GO: MOLOKAI BICYCLE
>> Address: 80 Mohala St., Kaunakakai, Molokai
>> Hours: Wednesdays, 3 to 6 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and by appointment
>> Rates: Start at $25 for the first day, $12 per additional day and $85 per week. All bikes come with a helmet, spare tube, pump, tools and a car rack.
>> Phone: 808-553- 5740 or 800-709-BIKE
>> Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
>> Website: mauimolokaibicycle.com
>> Notes: Pickups and drop-offs are $25 each at the airport and $35 each at Wavecrest and West Molokai Resort condominiums. You can also pick up and drop off bike rentals at Hotel Molokai, Kaunakakai Harbor and Molokai Shores condominium free of charge.
If you like hills, you can pedal up 1,700 feet in 9 miles on Kalae Highway to the Kalaupapa lookout in Pala‘au State Park. From Kaunakakai (20-foot elevation), you’ll reach Maunaloa town (1,400-foot elevation) on the west side in 16 miles.
Heading east from Kaunakakai, it’s a 900-foot ascent between mile marker 21 and Pu‘u O Hoku Ranch at mile marker 25. About half of those 4 miles is uphill.
Top riders can do all three of these climbs in one day.
“Be aware prevailing tradewinds blow out of the east, so you’ll be against the wind riding to Pu‘u O Hoku,” Kikukawa said. “You won’t hit a lot of wind until you’re about 8 miles from town. It’s a hard workout, and wherever you decide to turn around, you’ll probably be tired, but the tailwind will blow you back really fast.”
With or without hills and winds, biking’s benefits are numerous: It is low-impact, builds muscle, burns calories, alleviates stress, raises your heart rate, provides an aerobic workout and improves your mental state.
KIKUKAWA OFFERS the following tips for a safe, memorable excursion:
>> Wear a properly fitted helmet and bright, fluorescent clothes so car drivers can easily see you. Putting reflectors and flashing lights on your bike is also recommended.
>> The bike should be in top-notch condition. The tires should have enough air, the brakes should respond quickly and the chain should be free of rust and move smoothly and quietly.
>> It’s also important that the bike fit your body well (leg inseam, torso length and arm length are key measurements). That will help you pedal more efficiently and reduce the chance you’ll get sore during or after your ride.
>> Don’t wear earphones or headsets. You may want to listen to music or an audiobook while you’re pedaling, but you need to focus and hear everything around you.
>> If you’re in a group, ride in single file on the right side of the road and go in the same direction as vehicles. Obey all road signs and traffic laws.
>> Keep your eyes peeled for objects and obstacles that could cause you to lose control of your bike, including roots, rocks, cracks, potholes, puddles and storm-drain grates.
>> Bring lots of water and, depending on how long you’ll be out, snacks or lunch.
>> It’s best to start your ride early in the morning, before 7 a.m., when it’s cool. Have fun!