This massive volcanic climb's got gravel, weather, and high altitude...oh, and it's in Hawaii. What are you waiting for?
Climbing aficionados agree that this mammoth volcanic monster on the Big Island of Hawaii is the hardest climb on the planet. You gain 4206 metres over 69.2 kilometres from the start in Hilo to the summit, and the road surface turns to powdered volcanic rock about eight kilometres from the top. Riders who have completed the route report that the final eight to 12 kilometres can take hours because you’ll need to take short breaks to walk or catch your breath.
“I’ve ridden Mount Washington [in New Hampshire] at least 15 times. Mauna Kea is so much harder,” says self-proclaimed hill junkie Doug Jansen, 55, of Pelham, New Hampshire. Most people who ride this climb strongly recommend doing it with support. There are few amenities on the route, and you'll want a reliable extraction plan if you start getting altitude sickness.
If you’re not ready to tackle Mauna Kea, consider Haleakala, a popular climb on the island of Maui. It’s still savagely long at 58 kilometres and 3048 metres of vertical gain. But it’s far more manageable—it’s fully paved and the steepest pitches top out at about 10 percent. And it offers some amazing panoramic views.
Regardless of which climb you decide to attempt, you'll need to strengthen your core. Supplement your off-the-bike core training by strengthening your midsection while you ride by performing low-cadence climbing. It helps fatigue-proof your hips, back, and abs, which will work overtime to keep you stable in the saddle for the hours it will take to reach the top.
Do it: Warm up for 10 to 15 minutes, then head to a moderate climb (about a 5 to 8 percent grade) that takes you roughly 10 minutes to ascend. Keep your chain in a larger than normal gear. For two minutes, push smooth, hard pedal strokes at about 50 to 60 rpm while staying seated. Your cadence should still be fluid—just slower and more forceful, and the effort shouldn’t be so hard that you’re rocking back and forth on the bike or mashing on the pedals. Recover for one to two minutes, and then repeat and recover until you reach the top of the climb.
:Here's a fun fact—one Mauna Kea, which averages just over a 6 percent grade and hits pitches of about 15 percent, equals nearly four Alpes d’Huez.