LW ITT Update: Pinedale, WY


All images from Tents and teepees; the Great Divide Basin from my ride from Alaska to New Mexico, 2012.

Lael arrived at Flagg Ranch yesterday in pouring rain.  She continued through the afternoon over Togwotee Pass and up Union Pass, and mostly, the rain stayed away, returning as a series of showers through the night.  As she rode in the dark in the forests and meadows atop Union Pass, adjacent to the tall peaks of the Wind River Range, she was surrounded by lighting.  At about 2AM, she had descended off the pass and into the valley, and bivvied under a sign, which provided some additional protection from the weather.  She stopped in Pinedale to resupply at a real grocery store, and slammed a kombucha and a bottle of kefir on the spot.  Today she rides along the western edge of the Winds, around the south end of the range to South Pass City and Atlantic City, and into the wide open Great Basin.  She should be in Colorado tomorrow.

Lael describes a “career server’ at the Togwotee Mountain Lodge yesterday.  She walked in, browsed a tidy display of candy and chips, and asked the bartender if they had any quick food.  “How fast? 10 minutes, 15, 5, 2?” 

2 to 5?

French dip, pork sandwich, and quesadilla.

I’ll take the pork sandwich and the quesadilla.  And can you wrap that in foil?

Follow the yellow LW bubble on the Tour Divide 2015 Trackleaders page.




LW ITT Update: Ashton-Flagg Ranch Rd, ID/WY

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Tour Divide legend Jay Petervary drove up from Victor, ID to deposit a rental SPOT Trace device along the roadside for Lael.  Matthew Lee, Tour Divide organizer and Trackleaders affiliate, has a fleet of rental units and a few remained in Victor following the Fitz-Barn ride this week.  Collectively, Matthew and Jay have ridden the Divide twelve times. Photos: JayP.

Lael arrived in Lima late in the morning on Thursday, after the roads dried enough so that her wheels would at least spin through the frame.  The areas with sun were mostly dry, although shaded regions of the road were still caked in mud.  She resupplied at the store and washed in the bathroom.  Sunny skies and wide open gravel roads lay ahead of her as she exited the state of Montana for a second time this year.  Crossing the Continental Divide at Red Rock Pass into Idaho, she descended to a store just before close and proceeded onto a section of rail-trail which is famously sandy and corrugated.  Leaving the store, she rode one handed on the sandy trail and described how she almost quit yesterday.  

The weather stopped her progress entirely.  She faced a 24 hour gastric issue on the same day that forced her to stop every few minutes.  It was not her best day, and did not reflect the reasons which brought her back out on the Divide for a second time in one summer.  By the time she got to Idaho she had shifted her focus forward and was excited about the strawberries she had bought, her first fruit since Banff; the Cheetos she packed, reminding us of all the Nik-Naks sold in South Africa and Lesotho; and of the Monster Coffee energy drink she bought, which somehow signaled a commitment to continuing.  Although, she quipped, “I don’t want to eat anything ever again”.  These foods were just tokens.

This morning, Lael retrieved the plastic bag hanging from the sign of the Squirrel Creek Ranch containing a SPOT Trace tracking device and a few zip ties.  She cycled the power button several times, as Matthew prescribed, and continued riding into Wyoming.  The SPOT Trace is a newer device, mostly designed as an asset tracker for trucks, boats, and motorcycles, and is about half the size of the new Gen 3 trackers.  It functions as a full time tracker, without any customizable features and without an SOS button.

Great thanks to Matthew and Jay for collaborating to get another SPOT to Lael!  On his record-setting 2012 ITT of the Divide, Jay also lost his SPOT tracker and received a new unit in Lima, MT.

Follow the yellow LW bubble on the Tour Divide 2015 Trackleaders page.

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LW ITT Update: Lima, MT

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Memories from Israel; and Macedonia, Arizona, France, California, and almost everywhere else we’ve been. 

8/12/15, 8:11PM

“Hi, Lael is stuck in the mud but she is doing great.  We saw her on Medicine Lodge Road and she wanted us to pass this message to you.”

I received this message from two local fishermen, on a day trip from Dillon, MT.  They described muddy roads.  From the point where they met Lael, it took them “about an hour” to reach the pavement.  I’m not sure if that was simply a measure of distance from the road, or the challenging muddy conditions.  Lael has reported some clouds and occasional drops of rain since Banff, and a thunderstorm between Helena and Butte.  The fishermen reported thunderstorms in the vicinity yesterday afternoon, although they expect the conditions in the area between Polaris and Lima are clearing.  Reportedly, they drove into the storm on their drive home to Dillon.

I’ll update when Lael reaches Lima, MT.  There may be some walking. 

Lael just called from Lima.  She was just north of a massive storm yesterday, sunny and windy where she was, with very dark skies in front of her.  She continued riding onto muddy roads, which forced her to a stop.  She camped for nine hours by the roadside waiting for the road to become passable.  She reports that the weather is warm and dry today, although it still took several hours this morning for the road to dry enough to make the effort of overland travel worthwhile.  She sounds good, slightly disappointed by the setback, mostly indifferent about the whole thing.  She told me, “if this happens again, I might call it.  It’s not worth beating myself up for no result.”  I agreed.  With impending storms in the forecast, she suggested that she may make a big push to reach the Basin, so as not to get stuck on Togwotee and Union Passes, the two highest points on the Divide north of Colorado. 

The 907 number which texted me belongs to a guy named Jessie.  I mentioned that to Lael and she said he was from Eagle River, AK and works with our friend Jordan.

A plan is in place to get a SPOT tracker to Lael in Idaho.  Tour Divide legend Jay Petervary will deposit a tracker to a rural business along the route, south of the rail-trail.  Thanks Jay!

Continuing limited updates on the Tour Divide 2015 page on Trackleaders.com.

LW ITT Update: I-15 Underpass, MT

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The Limited Edition Josh Kato Tour Divide cycling jersey is available at REI and REI.com for the low price of $39.93.  Select the color “Exuberance” to look like your favorite Tour Divide Champion.  Lael is sporting an “Alaska Grown” cotton logo tee which she received for her birthday from her grandmother.

Lael passed through Butte around 8:20 PM on Tuesday night, reporting that Lava Mountain was pretty in the daytime, and the section from Basin to Butte was not as much work as she remembered.  A SPOT device was shipped to the Day’s Inn in Butte, although we now know that the Priority Express shipment was scheduled for the next morning.  Lael is outrunning the USPS.  Yesterday was a tough day of riding including three passes between Lincoln and Helena, some chunky tracks and climbing over Lava Mountain to Basin and Butte, followed by a climb out of Butte to cross the Divide.  Leaving Montana the road will open up for some big mileage days.  

Lael laid down near the I-15 underpass at 11:31 pm last night, about 30 miles past Butte.  Neil and Jay slept for a few hours here at the end of their fourth day as well.  In the morning, the route begins a prolonged ascent up to Fleecer Ridge followed by a famously sharp descent toward Wise River.  A nice paved pass connects Wise River to Polaris before returning to dirt for the climb over the Medicine Lodge- Big Sheep Creek Divide to Lima, MT.  Today will be her last full day in Montana before crossing to Idaho and Wyoming.

When we last spoke Lael wanted me to know that what she is doing is not easy.  “I am trying really hard”, she says.  “I’m doing my best.”

Matthew Lee and I have considered a few options to get her another tracker.  There may be someone who can pick it up from Butte this morning and deposit it in Lima before this evening when Lael arrives.  It is possible to forward the tracker to Pinedale, WY via USPS and have her pick it up in a few days.  Or, JayP has recently organized a small competitive ride called the Fitz-Barn Ride from Hamilton, MT to Victor, ID.  The 467 mile route shares a section with the Great Divide Route east of Lima, MT and a  handful of rental SPOTs remain from that ride in Victor.  Perhaps someone can deposit one along the track for Lael tomorrow.

Until Lael receives a new tracker we will continue to receive updates via phone when service is available, which will be posted manually to the Tour Divide 2015 Trackleaders page.  

Follow the yellow LW ITT bubble on the Tour Divide 2015 Trackleaders page.  Full SPOT tracking will resume in the next few days.  Meanwhile, Lael keeps cookin’!

LW ITT Update: Lincoln, MT

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The wheezing, gasping pink dot sucker punches the yellow dot, casting her SPOT tracker to the roadside atop a mountain pass in northern Montana.  But the yellow dot is unfazed, and keeps pedaling at almost 200 miles a day, a direct blow to the morale of the pink dot.  This morning, the pink dot labors up every hill in the Swan Valley north of Seeley Lake and Ovando, while the yellow dot cruises over a series of three low passes en route to Helena, more than a day ahead. Graphic provided by GW Neal via Microsoft Paint.

Lael has maintained a pace of almost 200 miles a day for three days.  She pedaled 219 miles on the first day to camp on the back side of Cabin Pass.  The second day, about 190 miles further down the track, she camped beyond Bigfork on the climb above Swan Lake.  At the end of the third day she passed Lincoln just after the gas station closed at 10PM, sourcing candy bars and potato chips for an overnight bivy and the ride to Helena.  I suspect she slept on the climb out of Lincoln.  She should be in Helena by early afternoon, and Butte by late tonight or tomorrow morning.  Lael rode and hiked over Lava Mountain in the dark last time, after leaving the hospital in Helena.  I’m sure she will appreciate the ride in daylight.

When she called from Lincoln, after I worried all afternoon that she was eaten by a bear on Richmond Peak, she asked, “Did I do good?”.  

Yeah, you did really good.

Look for limited updates of the yellow LW ITT dot today on the Tour Divide 2015 Trackleaders page.  We should be back to full tracking mode by Wednesday.

Update: Lael checked in from Helena around 11AM MT.

LW ITT Update: Columbia Falls, MT

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Lael lost her SPOT tracking device today between Eureka and Whitefish.  In fact, for most of the afternoon her faded LW bubble was stopped at the top of of a pass taking in the sights at 0.0mph.  However, the real LW churned onward toward the Flathead Valley, Red Meadow Pass, Whitefish, and Columbia Falls.  She skipped Whitefish and called me on a paved section entering Columbia Falls.  Like a three year old that has knowingly soiled herself, her first word through the earpiece was “Oops”.  She had just realized the GPS transmitter was missing.  There are two plastic loops at either end of the device, which can be used to secure it.  One loop showed signs of fatigue after the Tour Divide.  Obviously the other wasn’t far behind and the object disembarked her bicycle without notice.

I contacted Matthew Lee and he suggested a provisional plan to maintain limited contact until we can connect her with a new device.  Lael will text Matthew whenever she has cell coverage and a communicable coordinate, such as Bigfork, crossing Highway 83, or Ovando.  Matthew will post the relayed data to the Trackleaders site.  In 2015 this seems archaic, but the early days of racing down the Divide include pay phones, call-in and lots of burgers and shakes.  The spirit lives on in MTB Cast, ten years later.  Maybe I can get Lael to “call-in”.

Since the SPOT trackers are considered “neutral equipment” and are primarily used to verify route “compliance” (and for all of us armchair spectators), Matthew has verified that shipping a SPOT tracker to a private residence or friend is acceptable if needed.  At the moment, we’re planning to ship to an address in Helena or Butte.  Helena may be too soon.  I’ve reached out to Rob Leipheimer at The Ourdoorsman in Butte for assistance.  

I spoke with Lael at length as she pedaled out of Columbia Falls.  Her legs feel great, she’s developed a minimal amount of phlegm due to the dust, but reports no breathing difficulties or coughing.  Last night atop Cabin Pass, she laid down for three hours.  She told me that she had lucid dreams through the night where she wanted to wake up and ride, but she convinced herself to stay down until her alarm sounded.  

The famous section in the Canadian Flathead that was inundated by water in June, is now almost entirely dry.  However, many roads are more severely washboarded than earlier in the summer.  The weather has been perfect thus far.  When I spoke with her leaving Columbia Falls at 7:30PM Mountain Time, she had already recorded over 160 miles for the day.

You can follow Lael’s ITT of the Great Divide at Trackleaders.com with limited updates for the next few days.  We should be back to full-strength LW tracking late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

The Lone Star Express: Lael vs. Lael

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Lael is riding to Texas, from Alaska, again.

And by now, Lael is over 260 miles and about 28 hours into her ITT (individual time trial) of the Great Divide, and is crossing the border into Montana from Canada.  She began on Saturday August, 8 at 6AM local time.  She ended her first day on the back side of Cabin Pass, about 219 miles into the route, deep in the Canadian Flathead backcountry.  She woke early to warm her legs for the steep climb up Galton Pass; she faced some of the most severe respiratory distress during the Tour Divide on this climb, just before the border, forcing her to walk.  Judging by every method and metric I have to interpret her yellow LW bubble, she’s flying.  

Lael arrived in Anchorage a week after the Divide.  She was full of stories which everyone was desperate to hear, asking the same round of usual questions we get on our bike tours, although now she actually has wildly engaging answers.  “What’s the craziest thing that happened?”  The white fox.  “The scariest?”  Not being able to breathe.  “The best?”  Being able to breathe, and riding over Lava Mountain in the dark.  “What do you eat?”  Fritos, anything in the hot case at the gas station, cheese, lots of juice, probiotic drinks, and a bunch of soda in New Mexico.  “How often were you able to shower?”  

You know the answer to that one.

Within the week, Lael was looking toward employment, likely returning to the restaurant where she worked last summer.  The space is nice, really nice.  The food is good, but not great.  The beer list is alright.  The service is pretty good, but the kitchen is slow.  Management is uninspiring.  The space is really nice though.  Oh, and one of the girls that she enjoyed working with has quit, and has filed a harassment lawsuit against the company.  Fuck that.  Mediocrity with a dash of harassment is no path in life.  

There are other restaurants in Anchorage, but Lael immediately contacted a friend and restauranteur from Santa Fe.  We worked in her second Vinaigrette restaurant in Albuquerque, a fresh salad bistro with attractive plates, a fun and digestible menu, good prices, inspiring decor, and management and owners that are passionate about the product and long-term success.  Erin is opening her third restaurant in Austin this fall, and has cultivated a small farm near the city to provide some of the produce to satisfy the seasonal menu.  Lael received an e-mail response offering employment.  No start date, no real details, but reportedly, “there is lots of work”.  So, we’re moving to Austin, Texas for the winter.  Lael has helped to open new restaurants in Annapolis, Tacoma, Anchorage, and Albuquerque.  She has worked in restaurants since the age of 16, when she was promoted from a dishwasher to a baker at the popular Middleway Cafe in Anchorage.  One of her strongest memories of cycling, in the time before we met, was riding her mom’s white Sekai ten-speed across midtown Anchorage at night to bake, returning home in the warm morning sun of an Alaskan summer. 

Lael decided that with a few months of summer remaining and a prospective fall start date in Austin, she would ride to Texas from Alaska.  The gears started spinning, and she soon realized that if she could recover in time, she could include a fast ride down the Divide on her way to Texas.  I told her to sit on it for a few days.  Every morning I’d ask how she felt about the idea.  By the end of the week, her mind was made up.  I booked a ticket on the Alaska Marine Highway System— aka the ferry– which would shorten her ride to Banff while giving her the opportunity to finally see Southeast Alaska.  The next seven days, like the week after we returned to the States from Israel, were busy with planning and preparing her bike and equipment, although this time a little easier and only requiring one late-night wrenching session.  For a week, Lael also worked at The Bicycle Shop to save a bit of money.  It was a new experience for her and in a short time, she learned a lot.

In the middle of July, Lael’s family gathered several times to welcome her home and send her off.  In this time, the family shared Lael’s 29th birthday, and her grandfather’s 92nd.  Her mom was thrilled to be able to recycle the numbered candles. 

On the evening of July 19, Lael, Christina, and I rolled out of Anchorage toward Girdwood.  We quickly pedaled the forty miles along Turnagain Arm, passing traffic returning to town from weekend activities on the Kenai Peninsuls.  We camped in a grove of trees in town, in the shadows of the Chugach Mountains.  Lael continued to Whittier the next morning to connect with the ferry.  She packed a jumprope, a yoga mat, and running shoes.  The trip from Whittier to Bellingham took four and a half days.  Cabins are available, but it is also possible to camp out on the deck of the boat.  There are reclining deck chairs that you can use, or you can set up a tent.  She spent the time aboard the boat jumping rope, writing a complete handwritten account of her Tour Divide ride, and reading Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer, an autobiographical account from the woman who famously ran the 1967 Boston Marathon despite the official ban on female participation.  However, it is Bobbi Gibb, who ran unofficially in 1966 in a time of 3 hours and 21 minutes, that was the first female marathon runner in the Boston Marathon.  The ferry stopped in Yakutat, Juneau, and Ketchikan.

From Bellingham, Lael connected to the Adventure Cycling Association’s Northern Tier route all the way to Sandpoint, ID, before turning north through Libby and Eureka, MT to Fernie and Sparwood, B.C. where she would retrace the Great Divide route back to Banff.  To arrive in Banff within her prospective schedule, she averaged a little over 100 miles per day from Bellingham.

Lael reported from the road:

“Northern Washington is western! Super cool western towns all the way across.
Concrete, Mazama, Winthrop, Tonasket, Republic, Chewelah, and more.  Lots of bike paths. 

I loved it. 

Lots of Mexicans= delicious tacos.”

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In Banff, she received a box with bike parts and equipment to prepare for another fast Divide ride.  She spent the week resting, planning, reading; running, riding, swimming, doing yoga, and jumping rope.  She weaned herself off coffee and hasn’t had a beer in weeks.  In her final days in Banff, she’d call me at any time of day with an energy that can only be described as seething.  On the night before departure, she found a hair trimmer at Keith’s house where she was staying and freshened the shaved panel on the left side of her head.  She has been doing this since Poland several summers ago.  Some of the girls there would wear their hair like this.  Anymore, the shaved panel is her “race face”.  She is ready.

I awoke at 3:30AM on Saturday to speak with Lael before the start.  She said, “I’m just going to put these dishes away and get on my bike.” 

Follow Lael’s ITT on the Tour Divide 2015 Trackleaders page.  Outside of the Grand Depart, riders are allowed to record times for solo rides throughout the summer.  Few riders choose to do this.  However, another female rider, Lindsay Shepard, will finish her ITT in Antelope Wells this afternoon. 

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Correspondence: Designing a custom Meriwether

 What type of FRAME do you want?

Modern trail hardtail 29er with clearance for large-volume tires (2.4” plus mud), and some special considerations for long-distance travel. Your orange 29+ bike is gorgeous, for aesthetic reference. I can live with less than 3.0” tire clearance, but I need real 2.4” clearance. Ardent/Hans Dampf/Minion DHF plus mud. That’s the idea. 

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A series of letters with Whit Johnson, who meticulously designs and crafts Meriwether Cycles in Foresthill, CA in the foothills of the Sierras.  He specializes in modern hardtails, fatbikes and plus-sized bikes, big-tire road bikes, and bikepacking dream machines.  Whit has been kind enough to entertain over a dozen e-mail exchanges in the past week, some of them many pages long, to hone in on the perfect bike.  I was first attracted to his detailed exploration of frame design for big tires and adventurous rides.  These letters represent only a fragment of our discussion and are more about finalizing the details of the frame.  All images borrowed from Whit’s Flickr page, and all are recent projects. Visit the Meriwether Cycles site for more information, or Whit Johnson on Flickr for lots of half-naked bikes, and @meriwethercyles on Instagram.
N. Carman– 8/5/15: 
I rode the Kona Honzo yesterday, no ROS 9 in stock.  The Honzo felt good, nothing special, not as spry as I might have expected.  I think the ETT was 635.  Let’s stay closer to the Krampus and I will use a shorter stem if I want to change the seated position.  I’d rather subtract at the stem than add. You’re right, the longer TT lengths on these bikes is part of the feeling of security on the steep stuff.  How about 625mm, split the difference between the Krampus and the XXIX.
I meant that with changing standards, the single-bolt FD might become obsolete.  You know when you see a bike with a u-brake under the chainstay, or with roller-cams, that it was sold in 1986-87.  Just yesterday I saw a new FD mount on a 2016 Stumpjumper FSR that attached with one bolt from the back side.  
I have several issues with 1x gearing for my purposes.  I want to build my drivetrain on widely available cassettes, currently maximum 11-36T.  I would want to use widely available rings, and the 26/28/30T rings I might need for climbing don’t fit 104BCD.  Direct mount rings are impossible to find even in good bike shops in the USA, especially as there are something like six or seven different bolt and spline patterns for these rings.  If I leave the country for an extended tour I will replace my entire drivetrain at some point along the way.  I lost count, but I probably cycled through six chains last year, 2-3 cassettes, and two sets of chainrings.  I think we each went through two or three BBs on tour, although Lael has killed a few more on the Divide bike too.  Surprisingly, brake pads seem to last forever.  Perhaps that is due to adequate but not monster stopping power with the BB7.  Lael’s year in review includes– as of this week– a sixth bottom bracket, although this one is being replaced as a precaution for her ride.
So, DM front dérailleur.  Go ahead and do it however it needs to be done, but I intend to install my current SRAM X5 single bolt DM derailleur.  I will probably never stray outside the range of a 32-36T chainring on a double, although currently working to wear out the stock 38T ring that came on my Shimano crank.  I like 36/22 for most of my riding, and usually revert to 32/22 for a longer tour.
The hike-a-bike handle or portage bar is not the same as the brace on a Surly frame.  It should be lower than my current hand position (just under the seat post clamp on the seat tube) to require less arm strength and more straight arm lifting with my body.  On really tough stuff I reach down to the chainstay with the TT in my armpit and the saddle nose over my shoulder.  On easier stuff when I might still roll the bike I lift from the section of seat tube just under the seat post clamp, but my hand slips and it requires substantial hand stregth.  A horizontal hand hold is much better than a vertical tube.  Not sure about angle and placement exactly.
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Yes, the Advocate Hayduke does seem to have most of the numbers I am looking for.  I like the look of the dropout, wonder what the SS version looks like.
The True Temper DT looks great on your bike, very subtle.  I like the curved top tubes, a signature on many of your frames.  However, from the perspective of framebag design (and using off-the-shelf bags), a straight TT is better for me.  I really like the look of the wishbone stays, but I already get pretty cozy with my seatsays while descending so curved stays might be better in back.
I’ve seen Russell’s bike a few times but this time is really captured my attention.  Plus, the idea of using “normal” width 2.3-2.4″ tires on 35-40mm rims is exactly what I want to do.  Where do I get a Pike with those decals?  Awesome!
The current stats are: 430(+/-) CS, 625 TT, 68.5 HT, 51mm fork offset, 60mm BB drop.
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Whit– 8/5/15
Cool you got to try out the Honzo. It is by far the LONGEST front end out there. I’m sure it rips the down but I can’t imagine it climbing well. 

What about an E-type front derailleur? I’ve never used one but it would definitely make it look clean and simple and would be easily removable when you wanted to go 1x.  I have a Shimano XT that I could give you actually. I got it for a bike I was making and didn’t end up using it.

All good on the specs. I’ll assume a Pike 120mm axle to crown. I now just have to figure out how to get 3″ tire clearance using a double ring with 22/36. The Paragon Yoke won’t do it unless we go up to 450CS length, maybe 445. I was hoping that yoke would work for this frame but I think the only way will be to do a plate style yoke. I can try a different method than on my brown bike to make it stiffer laterally. This is always the crux of the frame and takes the longest to figure out and fabricate.  

The Rockers will help with mud clearance, as you pull them back you’ll have more tire room, obviously. The green bike you sent a photo of has very little tire clearance with a 2.4 on the 38mm rim. He initially said he was going to use a 2.35 Ikon on a 35mm rim but changed it later to a 2.4″ on the Light Bicycle 38mm rim. Not a huge difference but he says there’s only a few mm’s of space to the chainstay. No mud clearance basically! That is with 420 CS, single direct mount 32t ring, and a 142×12 non adjustable dropouts. 
He did the color coordination on the Pike, isn’t that cool? He ordered them from someone, not sure but I can ask if you’re interested? It turned out really nice. That bike weighs 24.7lbs as seen and is a strong frame since he is an all-mountain rider that is almost 200lbs.  

Just to make sure i have the standover set ok, is 840 the MAX you can tolerate? I’m erring on the bigger front triangle size for a bigger frame bag. A 115 head tube will help and your 3/4″ riser bars would be pretty much level with your saddle with 30mm of stem spacers. This is assuming a 531mm axle to crown on the 120 version of the Pike.  I’m finding either 536 or 531 for the Pike.  How much sag do you run on the Fox? 20, 25, 30mm? I think the Pike is recommended to be at 25% so that’d be 30mm.

That is insane you go through that many drivetrains! I can see why but that’s just nuts. Definitely do NOT go with XX1 then. They’d last a couple of weeks!

Finishing a frame up this week, could start yours this weekend.
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N. Carman– 8/6/15
Regarding 3″ tire clearance.  I don’t feel inclined to use 3″ tires at this point and I do not need or want to use 29×3, probably ever.  What I really want is a 29er that rides/handles better than the Krampus and fits up to 2.3-2.4″ with some spare room, even if this requires some adjustment via the dropouts.  I could run the wheel forward most of the time (let’s say, about 430mm, when trails are dry or when using 2.3), then run the wheel further back if I am on bigger tires or it gets muddy.  The target rim and tire is 35mm rim and 2.4″ Ardent.  I have considered ordering some 40mm rims, but I will probably skip it for now.  It would only be an incremental gain, for a good bit of money.  I am happy with the 35mm rims.   
I’ve never put 3″ tires on the Krampus and the only time I wanted to in the last year was in Jordan, in Wadi Rum, but even then 2.4″ Ardents on 35mm rims at 10psi got me through some deep sand.
If we can build 27.5+ compatibility into this design, let’s do it.  If not, skip it.  I don’t care that much about it right now and I know I’d be able to wedge some 2.8″ Trailblazers in there if I really wanted.  I am really liking my 29.5″ wheels.
I’ll probably cover my fork in electrical tape and bottle cages, or hose clamps, although those custom decals look awesome.  I’ll get back to you on paint.  It is kind of hard to pick from the digital representations on their site.  
I’d prefer a direct mount FD.  E-type requires a cable stop and tire clearance probably isn’t as good as with direct mount.  Shifting is also better with DM.  Go ahead and braze that little square mount to the frame.  Not a problem at all.  When I go 1x in the future I can order one of those fancy plates to cover it up.
Max 840 sounds about right.  I measured 780-840 along the middle of the TT on the Krampus, Surly calls it 830.  This works pretty well although I could give up a little standover for framebag space.  My PBH was 840, without shoes.  
Yeah, 8 and 9 speed drivetrain is where its at for us.  I’ve used 8sp stuff for a long time but anymore the low quality cassettes that are available wear out too quickly.  Lael was tearing though cheap 8sp cassettes while my Deore 9sp cassette lasted much longer.  I’ve also recently come to prefer the performance of Shimano chains, at least for my 9sp system.  They are stiffer laterally, resulting in crisper shifts.  
Thankfully, we’ve got a friend working at SRAM in Indianapolis who has helped Lael with a series of XO1/XX1 drivetrain parts for her Divide bike.  Before the TD he shipped a new ring, chain, cassette, and pulleys to replace the one she rode from AK.  Surely, it wasn’t that worn, but I thought it best to start fresh. Just this week, he shipped another load of drivetrain parts to her in Banff.  She loves that stuff.
I can’t wait to build this thing up and ride it.  I hope to tour for about a month this fall before riding east to Austin where we will spend the winter.  Looking at returning to Arizona and maybe, finally riding most of the AZT.  I’ve got friends in NM.  Still thinking about spending the weekend with Eric and Dusty at Interbike talking to people about bikepacking and Revelate.  I guess I could hopscotch from your place in the Sierras down to Vegas, AZ, NM, TX.  This is kind of how we plan things.
Time to start thinking about paint.
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Tour Divide Press #ladyshred #notimeforfinedining #isthatrealink #thatredtruckmustbeEddie #tourdivide2015

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The lady’s legs in Del Norte, CO.  The Revelate Designs temporary tattoo had survived 2000 miles and 12 days, and remained on her left calf as she arrived at the Mexican border.  Photo by the legendary Tour Divide correspondant Eddie Clark

As the final riders of the Tour Divide 2015 arrive at the border at Antelope Wells, NM, the top finishers near two full weeks of recovery.  Some riders, like Jay Petervary and Alice Drobna are refocusing their bodies and bikes for the Colorado Trail race which begins on July 26.  Both riders are attempting to complete the Triple Crown of Bikepacking by finishing the three most prominent bikepacking racing in the country: the Arizona Trail Race (AZTR), the Tour Divide (TD), and the Colorado Trail Race (CTR).  Alice will be the first woman to complete all three in one season.  Along the way she set a new women’s record on the AZTR, finishing in 9:13:53; and a new singlespeed women’s record on the Tour Divide, finishing in 19:22:04, over two days faster than her 2014 finish in 22:06:36.  Jay is on track to set an overall Triple Crown record, calculated by adding the total time on all three routes.  Alice will set the bar high for other women.  The Triple Crown of Bikepacking must be completed in one season.  Bikepacking ultra-records are published and maintained by Scott Morris at Bikepacking.net. 

Bethany Dunne, from Australia, finished the Tour Divide in 19:02:37, an hour faster than Eszter Horanyi’s record time from 2012.  Her husband Seb, who suffered a broken fork in Northern New Mexico, rejoined Beth along the route for the ride to the finish.  Seb sourced a carbon Niner fork with help from Andy Peirce, a Del Norte, CO framebuilder.

Over ninety riders who left Banff (or Antelope Wells) for the Grand Depart are expected to finish in under 30 days.  The sole tandem team of Billy Rice and his daughter Lina, comprising the self-named Team Rice Burner, are likely to finish tomorrow.  In recent days, seasonal monsoons have muddied many New Mexico roadways.  Lina’s video updates from the back seat of the tandem are priceless.  

In this past week, a flurry of media has surrounded the finishers of the Tour Divide.  Click the images below to link to lots of great reading.  Thanks to Eddie Clark at Mountain Flyer for his summaries of the Tour Divide 2015; Mitchell Clinton, a Silver City based freelance photographer; Aaron Gulley at Outside Online; Logan Watts and Virginia Krabill at Pedaling Nowhere; and Neil Beltchenko and Lindsey Arne at Bikepackers Magazine.  Eddie has followed the Tour Divide for years, traveling the west in his dusty red pick-up truck to capture riders along the route.  The other three articles are interviews with Lael.  Aaron’s interview, recorded live in person while Lael was in Santa Fe, is particularly candid.  The other two provide unique perspectives, exploring both racing and touring perspectives.  

The last two links are to local publications in Silver City, NM and Anchorage, AK.

Also, check out the stream of stories coming from Lael’s Globe of Adventure.

Mountain Flyer: Tour Divide Final Report (Eddie Clark)

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Outside Online: How Lael Wilcox Crushed the Tour Divide (Aaron Gulley)

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Pedaling Nowhere: Q&A with Lael Wilcox on the Tour Divide, Travel, and Life Off-Route (Virginia Krabill and Logan Watts)

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Bikepackers Magazine: Lael Wilcox–The Queen of the Tour Divide (Lindsey Arne and Neil Beltchenko)

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Silver City Daily Press: Un-Slowable: Meet the New Female Tour Divide Record Holder (Jennifer C. Olson)

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Anchorage Daily News/Alaska Dispatch News:  17 days and 2745 miles after starting, Anchorage cyclist sets record in Continental Divide race (Beth Bragg)

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Landing rubber side down, Antelope Wells to Alaska

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Lael departing the Ted Steven’s International Airport on her blue Raleigh XXIX.  She will begin work this week.  We hope to be back on the bikes full time this fall.  There will be more stories from the Tour Divide on Lael’s Globe of Adventure, as well as several other media outlets.   

Lael arrived at the Ted Stevens International Airport just before midnight on July 3.  She told me the day she finished the race that she wanted to be home by the 4th of July.  She hadn’t seen her sister and her family yet, in almost a year.  Fourth of July in Alaska– even though it wouldn’t be in Seldovia where she spent this day throughout her childhood– would be her homecoming.  I booked a flight from Silver City to Albuquerque, and from Albuquerque to Anchorage via Salt Lake City.

Thanks to Monica and Lucas for picking Lael up at the border at Antelope Wells, and for housing her, clothing her, and feeding her in Silver City.  Lael borrowed a bike in Silver City to get around town, and to visit Jamie at The Bike Haus, and friends Chloe and Tim.  Lucas expertly packed her bike into a box, although she was forced to cut the box to pieces to fit it onto the 8-seat airplane to Albuquerque, operated by Boutique Air.  Lael arrived in Albuquerque where she had arranged a ride to Santa Fe for the evening, catching a few moments with Jeremy, Rusty and Melissa, Owen, and John.  These are old friends who now comprise the Santa Fe crowd.  Sadly, Nancy and Sage were out of town until the next day.  We lived in Albuquerque in 2012-2013 for about six months.  Lael borrowed Jeremy’s Jones 29er to roll around town, and to meet Aaron Gulley in the AM for an interview.  Incidentally, Josh Kato also rolled through Santa Fe on his way back to Washington state.  Lael seems to think that Aaron was shocked by some of the details of her ride.  Coupled with her excitement for retelling the details– like the white fox in the night that stole her food, or the day she left the hospital and rode and hiked into the night over Lava Mountain, or the 275mi push to the finish– she seems like a crazy person.  The fact that she enjoyed the ride and is fueled by this kind of energy, is a large part of her success in long-distance events.  Not that there wasn’t some suffering, but as she says, “that’s not the point”.  

“Fueled by positivity.”  That how we describe it.  Why is excellence so often entwined with suffering?

Lael borrowed Susan’s Surly Ogre in Albuquerque to roll around town visiting old friends from Vinaigrette where we worked and Old Town Farm where we lived.  Dan and Susan were our first contacts in town, who we met through Warmshowers.org in 2011 when Lael first rode a chunk of the Divide on her Long Haul Trucker in late October and November.  We’ve since kept in contact and seen each other almost every year, and Dan gave Lael a ride to the airport the other day, almost four years after our first meeting.  Dan and Susan have advanced from supportive parents of a post-collegiate cycletourist, to participating in organized group tours, to their first unsupported bike tour in Maine this year.  We’ve also maintained contact with their daughter Jacquie, who is the foster parent to Lael’s old Cannondale Hooligan.  Jacquie used the bike to travel to South America.  We are lucky that through our travels, we have friends like family all over the world.

A group of nine wait for Lael next to the frozen yogurt stand at the exit of the terminal in Anchorage.  Seven of us arrive by bike, lifting our bikes up two flights of stairs to securely stash them inside the airport, within sight.  Lael’s parents pack her trusty blue Raleigh XXIX; they will trade for her boxed race rig.  She will ride home with us.

Lael’s mother Dawn, a schoolteacher, has raided the art room at Russian Jack Elementary and painted a six foot banner celebrating Lael’s ride.  Seventeen pink LW dots line the spine of the Rockies.  Each of us are given a pink LW bubble to hold above our heads when she arrives.  Lael exits the airport wearing borrowed denim, carrying a Cormac McCarthy novel and a powdered turmeric supplement in a clear plastic bag.

We load her boxed bike into the Prius, and slide the front wheel back into the Raleigh.  Lael pulls up her hood and pedals ahead of us.  “Bluie is riding great!”  I describe to her that I’ve installed a lightly used 8-speed cassette from a repair with a new $6 chain (at my cost).  I cleaned and tuned the bike as best as possible, removing layers of calciferous mud from Israel.  I left a mounded pile under my work stand that night.  Underneath the framebag and the mud, is a frame painted in a weathered layer of blue paint, large sections missing from the headtube and the down tube, replaced by the hardened patina of rust polished by luggage.  Underneath the shiny exterior of her Stumpjumper, there is this weathered blue bike.  Underneath the smile and the pony tail, is a girl who can sleep in the dirt, ride all night, and stay focused.  But there is one thing that never changes, she is not serious. 

While walking up Galton Pass on the second day, in respiratory distress, Chanoch Redlich comes pedaling from behind with Rob Davidson.  Chanoch, a friend from Israel, instructs Lael that she must sleep more, sound advice from his three days of Tour Divide racing in 2012.  Chanoch leans to Rob and says, “she’s good, but she won’t listen”.  That is probably also true.  She has her own way of doing things.

The group rolls away from the airport, talking in small groups along the shoulder of International Airport Boulevard.  We stop for a celebratory beer at a picnic table on the shore of Lake Hood, an active aerodrome for float planes in the city of Anchorage.  There, we enjoy the midnight sun coming from the north side of the lake, the mounded head of a Westmalle Dubbel shaken in my framebag, poured into enameled steel mugs; and Kevin’s technical prowess on his new Trek Stache+ wheelie machine.  She’s back, the race is over, life continues.

Thanks to Kevin, Nathan, Jordan, Jim, James, and Christina to riding to the airport.  Thanks to Dawn and Paul for the awesome banner and LW bubbles.  Thanks to Dan and Susan in ABQ; Zach, Blakely, Wyatt, Sierra, and Sam in ABQ; Jeremy, Rusty, Melissa, John, and Owen in Santa Fe; Lucas and Monica in Silver City; and to Lael for keeping it real.   

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