We Tried This: Electric Mountain Biking Behind Hawai‘i Island’s Anna Ranch Heritage Center
Big Island Bike Tours offers an e-bike ride around the historic property.
I’m banking hard, shifting my weight to meet the sloped dirt trail ahead of me. My balance doesn’t fail me, and I coast through the turn, only to have to lean left, then right as a series of tight corners puts my cycling abilities to the test. Finally, the path straightens out just enough to let me catch my breath and check behind me for my companion and photographer, Aaron Yoshino, who’s doing everything I’m doing, only with a camera on his back.
It’s a blisteringly hot but perfect day as I stare out over the foothills of Waimea, an endless blue horizon filling my vision. Small clusters of buildings are overshadowed by an immense amount of lush farmland, with far-off hills and mounds framing the expansive landscape. Stepping back onto my pedals, I snake my way up the trail once more. The view might be even better where we are headed.
We’ve only just begun working our way up Anna Ranch Heritage Center’s farmland on a tour with Big Island Bike Tours. Started by ex-pro cyclist Alex Candelario, who raced competitively in the U.S. Peloton circuit for 13 years, Big Island Bike Tours offers bike rentals and tours across Hawai‘i Island. One of its more unique offerings is an exclusive chance to ride an e-bike—it’s electric!—up the hundred-odd acres of land behind Anna Ranch’s historic residence. The check-in process is easy: You roll up to Big Island Bike Tours’ small bike-filled shack, sign a few waivers, learn how to operate an e-bike’s buttons and knobs—more on that later—and then set off with one of the business’s experienced guides.
Our guide, Jeremy Wagner, is a natural storyteller. Tanned by countless hours under the sun, guiding groups like myself up the slopes of Anna Ranch’s sublime cattle grounds—which are now primarily used for tours like this, however cattle do appear from time to time—Wagner makes the bi-wheeled excursion look easy. And it makes sense, the always-smiling, wisecracker grew up here in Waimea and the land is essentially his backyard. He’s also very familiar with the story of Anna Leialoha Lindsey Perry-Fiske, who took over her family’s ranch in 1939 and through innovative ranching practices and sheer hard work, rescued the business from nearly overwhelming debt.
While Wagner recounts the story of Anna Fiske—giving us a brief respite from biking the dirt trails that Wagner and Candelario made themselves, with the help of a small excavator—I take a moment to check on my bike. Two to three times heavier than a normal mountain bike, e-bikes compensate for their weight by adding “assistance” to your pedaling. This “assistance” comes in the form of pure speed, with each rotation of the pedal generating more forward energy and momentum than you would get on a standard bike. With the push of a button, I notch my assistance down just a tad, as you want to go fast—but not too fast—up the trail to make it around sharper cutbacks and turns. I do not, however, turn it off completely. I’m in no means out of shape, but this trail is steep—if I were on a normal bike, I would have given up 10 minutes into this three-hour jaunt.
To get a look at the flowing waterfall across the ravine from the trail and read the rest of the story, go to hawaiimagazine.com.
This story originally appeared as “Pedal to the Meadow” in the November 2020 issue of HONOLULU Magazine. Get your copy at shop.honolulumagazine.com and subscribe to the print and digital editions now.