Lael Wilcox Establishes Baja Divide FKT in 11:13:02

Nicholas Carman1 125

Lael crosses the impromptu toilet paper finish line in Plaza Mijares in historic San Jose del Cabo, the end of a challenging self-supported ride through the Mexican backcountry. Collin, Sue and Sam brought the party and also celebrated the end of their ride down the Baja Divide. Another rider was also present that had just completed the route.

———-

Lael Wilcox has established a fastest known time (FKT) on the Baja Divide route, arriving in Plaza Mijares in San Jose del Cabo at 6:14PM local time on March 13, 2017. She finished the ride in 11 days, 13 hours, and 2 minutes after departing Tecate, BC, MX in the early morning hours of March 2. She travelled 1546 miles of the Baja Divide route from the US/MX border to the southern terminus of the route, an adapted version of the full touring route. The Baja Divide is comprised of mostly unpaved backcountry routes, and ranges from decent quality dirt roads to rough 4×4 tracks. Sand is a frequent challenge while riding in Baja, along with loose rocky roads, sun and heat, and limited resources.

The complete Baja Divide route leaves the airport in San Diego and navigates the rider to the small border crossing at Tecate. From San Jose del Cabo in the south, the complete route also includes a return leg to La Paz which forms a circuit called the “Cape Loop”. Both segments are excepted for the purposes of a timed ride down the peninsula.

The Baja Divide is a free route resource that can be ridden at any time, although the best season falls between November and March. Riders are encouraged to tour the route at any pace that pleases them and six weeks is recommended to complete the route at an average touring pace. Any rider may challenge the existing FKT on the Baja Divide. To do so, visit the Records page on the Baja Divide website and contact Nicholas at bajadivide@gmail.com.

———-

I arrived at the airport hours before Lael rolled into town. I went straight to old town San Jose del Cabo and found a cheap motel near the plaza to prepare for Lael’s arrival. I then rolled back north along MEX1 a few miles, stopped for a seafood coctele at my favorite mariscos restaurant and waited for Lael to arrive. She dropped out of the mountains and onto the pavement at dusk, switching on her lights for the busy 8 mile ride to  the plaza in old town. I chased her through traffic to get a few photos. There were a lot of cars on the road and the energy of the evening was high in anticipation of the carnival that had taken residence near the old town. Mexican drivers are extremely courteous so the final miles into town were enjoyable. Lael was loving the cool night air and the end of what she calls “the hardest ride of my life”. She rolled into the plaza to a small crowd of friends and curious onlookers. Our friends Collin, Sue, and Sam strung a piece of toilet paper across the road and showered Lael in a can of Tecate as she finished. These three riders departed San Diego during the the group start on January 2 and are the final riders on route from that event. They are part of a small movement of riders who celebrate their chosen touring pace with the name DFL, which stands for “dead f——— last”. On the Baja Divide, all touring styles exist in harmony. Thanks so much for the finish line celebration!

Lael was riding a prototype Sinewave Cycles dynamo light on this ride which I mentioned in a previous post. I realized while editing these photos that the beam pattern and brightness are displayed nicely here, although minor changes in optics and output may occur before the production models are finalized. This light features a very bright beam, USB charging, and a unique battery power mode where the light can be provided additional power from a standard cache battery which allows for substantial light output at low speeds and while stopped. Dynamo lighting typically flickers and dims at low speeds, but with a battery backup the light remains bright even when walking the bike up a steep grade or churning through the sand at 3mph. Lael began her ride in Tecate with a 10,000 mAh Anker battery which was fully charged. She used it every night in addition to the power coming from the dynamo hub, and charged the battery from the light during the day. In ten nights of riding, she never plugged into a wall.

Nicholas Carman1 142

Nicholas Carman1 144

Nicholas Carman1 126

Nicholas Carman1 129

Nicholas Carman1 128

Nicholas Carman1 132

Nicholas Carman1 133

Nicholas Carman1 135

Nicholas Carman1 138

Nicholas Carman1 140

Advertisements

Lael Wilcox Baja Divide FKT: Los Barriles

Nicholas Carman1 84

Lael is 91 miles from the finish at San Jose del Cabo. She will finish later today, 11 days and some hours after leaving Tecate.

Lael called yesterday as she was riding into La Paz, I hadn’t spoken to her since San Ignacio. She sounded good, her voice was hoarse but her breathing was fine. She complained that her knees hurt, but then she said that they really only hurt when she was sleeping and that they warmed up during the day. I’ve noticed that her riding speeds have actually increased in recent days. I have a feeling she is happy that the nights are warmer. Lael planned to sleep early last night for another early morning start before racing to the finish today. I bet she will find a little extra energy as she gets closer to San Jose del Cabo.

I am boarding a plane from Salt Lake City where I attended the North American Handbill Bicycle Show this weekend. I’ll make it just in time to catch Lael at the end.

Follow Lael’s Baja Divide FKT attempt on Trackleaders.com!

Lael’s Baja Divide FKT Bike: Specialized Fuse 29

Nicholas Carman1 7

You know all those new 27.5+ bikes? They are all just 29ers in waiting. Lael customized her Specialized Fuse with new 29×2.6” Nobby Nic tires for her Baja Divide FKT attempt. Keep your eyes open for more 2.6-2.8” tires for 29” wheels in the next year.

Lael began riding a Specialized Fuse Pro last summer. She got it the day before setting off on the Colorado Trail. She had been riding a road bike all summer, the Specialized Ruby which she rode from Alaska to Oregon and raced in the Trans Am Bike Race, and subsequently used on a number of short tours. With the exception of a month of fatbiking in the spring, she had not been on a mountain bike since riding the Advocate Cycles Hayduke in Baja during the winter of 2015-16 when we researched and rode the Baja Divide.

However, the Fuse was a familiar bike as it is similar to the Hayduke, with some minor differences. Most notably the Fuse features a lighter aluminum frame. Frame geometry falls within the same range in most respects, including the 120mm Reba fork that was stock on both bikes. However, our initial iteration of the Fuse saw some customization, including a 130mm Pike fork and an aggressive Dirt Wizard tire up front. The bike worked well, and while the Pike fork was much appreciated, I think a 120mm fork would have served just as well if not better during much of the climbing that is found on the CT. Undoubtedly, when Lael sent the bike downhill her riding was more confident and inspired than before, best compared to how she rode on the Specialized Era, which is the only full-suspension bike she has ever spent time riding. Lael rode the Fuse in this format for the remainder of the year along the first half of the Colorado Trail and over a series of high passes to Grand Junction; from Las Vegas to Lake Tahoe along the new Reno-Vegas route; from the Tahoe Rim Trail to the Bay Area and south to San Diego; and  finally, in Baja for two weeks.

Returning to San Diego, we reconfigured the bike for touring the Baja Divide. There, we installed a Lauf Trail Racer Boost suspension fork— a short travel carbon fiber leaf spring fork. We swapped tires to Schwalbe 27.5×3.0″ Rocket Ron (R) and Schwalbe Nobby Nic (F) on new Roval Traverse Fattie SL carbon wheels which feature a nice 38mm internal width. These wheels strike a nice balance between width and weight for this category. Lael has ridden rim widths ranging from 30mm internal diameter to 45mm internal with 3.0” tires and has a strong opinions about rim width. Basically, she hated riding on narrow rims with big tires. Only a small center contact patch was engaged, sideknobs almost never touch the dirt, and the center of the tire wore rapidly. The i45 WTB Scraper that she rode on the Hayduke was very well suited to riding the Baja Divide. Tire volume is maximized, and tire sidewalls are well supported at low pressure. The 38mm internal width of the Roval wheels may have been her favorite all around rim— no doubt because it was made of carbon— but the width does well to provide a useful profile for both traction and flotation, while providing a slightly rounded profile that rolls nicely on narrow singletrack as well. In short, 38-45mm internal rim widths see to be best for 3.0” tires from our experience.

The 38mm rim width in particular would be perfect with the new range of  27.5×2.8” tires which are now available. For instance, Maxxis is making their famed DHF and DHR II tires in 27.5×2.8”, Specialized has a Butcher and a Slaughter in this size, Schwalbe does both Nobby Nic and Rocket Ron in 2.8”, and if you must have tan sidewalls Onza is making a nice looking 2.85” tire. On full suspension trail bikes, we will continue to see 2.8” and 2.8” tires in place of 3.0”. Most likely, 27.5×3.0” will remain most common on hardtails. But something is missing from this conversation— 29” wheels.

In the past year, riders and the industry have fallen in love with 27.5+ wheels. I enjoy riding that size and know how successful it has been in the bike shop setting, especially for new riders or anyone looking to get off the beaten path, so I consider this to be a positive and informative trend, but 29” wheels have been forgotten in the past year. The last time there was any great excitement about 29” wheels, the leading concepts were 2.0-2.2” XC tires, 2.2-2.5” trail tires, and the 3.0” plus tires. It is my opinion that true 29 plus wheels are too big for most riders, and most rides. I don’t expect 29×3.0″ to grow considerably. Bikes like the Trek Stache and Salsa Woodsmoke do well to make a 29+ bike feel a little less like a boat, and the new Salsa Deadwood SUS brings some extra attention to the wheels size in a full-suspension platform, but 2.6-2.8” tires are the future of 29+, or “large-volume 29” tires” as I like to call them. As such, I was extremely excited to see a 29×2.6” Schwalbe Nobby Nic at Interbike this past fall, and I just learned at NAHBS that Terrene is releasing a 29×2.8” tire this summer. I might have ridden that size in Baja this winter if the tires had been ready in time. They weren’t, and instead I finally put some miles on 27.5+ wheels on my Meriwether.

When Lael decided she wanted to do a fast timed ride on the Baja Divide, I presented a large-volume 29” tire as an option. Although 27.5+ felt more confident over sandy sections and large cobblestone chunk, I recall my 29” wheels feeling faster. The rollover argument that has always accompanied 29” wheels is still valid, I believe. I’ve notice Lael getting hung up on obstacles on 27.5+ wheels, where I think a slightly larger wheel would help. But was I remembering correctly? Are 29” wheels faster, and is rollover really that important? After much deliberation, we decided to rebuild the Fuse with wide 29” rims and 2.6” Nobby Nics.

Our parents visited us in southern Baja after touring the Baja Divide this winter, bringing most of the supplies needed to rebuild the bike. The challenge of organizing parts to be shipped to Alaska and New York was far greater than the actual build process, and in the end we dipped into San Diego for a day to pick up a new suspension fork from Cal Coast Bicycles, who were able to get final build parts for us in a day. They have been super supportive of the Baja Divide since our initial rides last season, and they built Lavanya’s Advocate Cycles Seldom Seen this winter. Working in our friend Cale’s workshop, we finalized Lael’s bike build. Almost everything here is exactly as we would have wanted it. I did have an SP dynamo hub for the build but couldn’t get a 28H carbon rim in time, so I bought a 32H SON hub from The Bicycle Shop in Anchorage and laced it to my well used 29” Light Bicycle rim, which features the same dimension as the Roval Traverse Fattie SL 29 carbon wheel used in the rear. Also, the bivy that Lael brought is a thin silnylon VBL, meant to be used inside a sleeping bag to increase warmth. We couldn’t find the other Mont-Bell bivy in Alaska– or at least the friend we had looking for it couldn’t find it— so we grabbed this one instead. Definitely not the best choice, as nights were cold for Lael in northern Baja.

Aside from the wheel and tire size, the other outstanding features of this bike are the light system with the new Sinewave Cycles dynamo light, the 100mm SID fork with the new Charger damper, and the Cirrus Cycles BodyFloat suspension seatpost. Lael also found her favorite cheap Cannondale saddle in a take-off bin at a bike shop in La Paz. This is the same saddle she toured on for many years and used to ride the Tour Divide twice in one summer, so we know it works.

Follow Lael’s Baja Divide FKT attempt on Trackleaders.com, she is 10 days into her ride and only 200 miles from the finish!

———-

Frame: Specialized Fuse, M4 Alloy

Fork: RockShox SID RLC 27.5+/29, 100mm, 51mm offset

Tires: Schwalbe 29×2.6” Snakeskin, Trailstar, TL Easy

Rear wheel: Roval Traverse SL Fattie 148 (30mm internal carbon rim, DT Swiss ratchet freehub, DT Swiss Revolution spokes, 3x)

Front hub: SON28 110mm 32H dynamo hub

Front rim: Light Bicycle carbon, 30mm internal

Front spokes: DT Competition, black alloy nipples, 3x

Stem: Specialized XC 40mm

Handlebar: Specialized carbon, 3/4” rise, cut to about 700mm

Grips: Ergon GP-2 with short bar ends

Seatpost: Cirrus Cycles BodyFloat, purple spring upper and black spring lower

Saddle: Cannondale take-off

Brakes: Guide RSC

Rotors: 160mm SRAM Centerline

Crank: SRAM S-2200 carbon, 30mm spindle

Chainring: Wolftooth 32T elliptical direct mount Drop Stop ring

Pedals: Shimano XTR Race

Bottom bracket: SRAM PF30

Shifter: SRAM GX1

Rear derailleur: SRAM XO1

Cassette: SRAM 1195

Chain: SRAM X1

Luggage: Revelate Designs custom Ranger framebag, oversize Jerry Can, Mag Tank, Viscacha seatpack, Feed Bag

Lights: Sinewave Cycles dynamo light with USB charging and battery input mode, 2x Black Diamond Icon Poler (helmet/handlebar), NiteRider battery taillight

Battery: Anker 10,000mAh battery for backup power to dynamo light at low speeds and while stopped, also for phone charging if needed

Accessories: King Cage top cap water bottle mount, 2x Specialized Rib Cage, 2x Specialized Purist water bottles, Specialized wireless computer, Garmin eTrex 20, ESI handlebar tape on bare section of bars, Stan’s Race Sealant, alloy tubeless valves

Clothing: Nike Pro 3” compression shorts (size XL for comfort), cotton tank top with custom Mexican embroidery patch, Patagonia merino long sleeve top, Patagonia merino bottoms, Patagonia Barely bra, Smartwool PhD lightweight socks, Patagonia midweight socks, REI down vest, Patagonia M10 shell, knit hat purchased in Tecate

Cycling equipment: Specialized Ambush helmet, S-Works XC shoes, Specialized Grail fingerless gloves

Sleeping: reflective windshield sunshade trimmed to size, Etowah silnylon bivy, purchased cheap sweatpants and plastic trash bag on route

Tools, etc.: Crank Brothers M17 multi-tool, Lezyne HP road pump, 2 oz. Stan’s sealant, Presta-Shrader valve adapter, Genuine Innovations tire plugs and tool, curved needle and thread, tube and patch kit, 11sp chain link, DumontTech Lite chain lube

Other: 6L MSR DromLite bladder, toothbrush and toothpaste, sunglasses, sunscreen, Revelate Designs Peso Pouch, 8000 pesos 

Nicholas Carman1 10

Nicholas Carman1 116

Nicholas Carman1 117

Nicholas Carman1 123

Nicholas Carman1 120

Nicholas Carman1 119

Nicholas Carman1 122

Nicholas Carman1 71

Nicholas Carman1 118

 

Lael Wilcox Baja Divide FKT: San Ignacio and Mulegé

Nicholas Carman1 67

Lael arrived in San Ignacio in the early afternoon. Although the elevation profile would indicate an easy flat ride from Vizcaino, the reality is that there is a lot of sand in this section. It is hardly ever unrideable, but it is work. When we toured the route over a month ago— following a particularly wet winter season for this part of the world— most of the sandy sections on route were riding really well. Now, dry weather and spring heat leave most sandy sections as they are expected to be— sandy and soft. Lael reports being able to ride almost everything, even on her 2.6” tires. From my experience researching the route last season on 2.4/2.5” tires on 30mm rims (ID), I know most of the route is rideable on these narrower tires, especially when lightly loaded, but it surely takes some finesse to keep the bike upright. In some cases it simply takes a flick of the throttle to get through a short sandy section; pause too long and the bike will sink. Sand isn’t the only challenge on the Baja Divide, and truly challenging sand is not actually that common.

Lavanya and Al, joined by their friend Derryn from Australia and another Baja Divide rider named Agus from Guadalajara, all rode out of San Ignacio to meet Lael as she entered town. The expansive sandy track from Vizcaino changes in the final miles near San Ignacio, entering a broad canyon with freshwater pools and date palms. There, the “road” is not much more than a faint suggestion, alternating between loose cobbles and sand, where fallen palm fronds provide improved floatation over the soft surface. The group rode about a mile backwards along the route to a lagoon where we could swim and wait. Lael arrived at a steady 3-5 mph, doing well to keep the bike upright over those loose cobbles. When fresh, this is a challenging surface to cycle. When tired, it must be maddening.

Lavanya walked to meet Lael on the track, and for a moment the two were laughing and crying and laughing. This fall, Lavanya Pant received the “Lael’s Globe of Adventure” Women’s Scholarship for the Baja Divide.

Walking as a group for a moment, Lael described the sweatpants she bought in Bahía de Los Ángeles and the trash bag she bought for 5 pesos which she is using for additional insulation at night. We continued into town and joined Lael as she resupplied at the grocery just beyond the mission church. San Ignacio is one of the most attractive towns in Baja, featuring a beautiful old stone church and a shady, Spanish-style plaza with a healthy but small touristic economy. The large freshwater lagoons and palm trees are enough to make you cry after many days in the desert. It is beautiful. 

Lael purchased and packed an impressive amount of food. She drank multiple yogurts and Electrolyte drinks, along with a Coke. She ate a slice of flan (custard) and some concha (lightly sweet rolls). Trying to pack her full bladder into the framebag along with all of the food she bought proved challenging, so she removed the bladder and gulped more than a liter from the bag. Once re-packed, fitting a bag of refried beans, sliced queso fresco, De La Rosa peanut marzipan, bricks of sweetened coconut, cookies, egg custard sweets, chips, Hot Nuts and more, she jammed the bladder back into the frambag and forced it closed. Overflow calories were packed into her seatbag, along with the trash bag and the sweatpants. Finally, she removed a little Lezyne pump and aired her tires for the 25 miles paved section ahead. The route out of San Ignacio follows a secondary paved road leading to Laguna San Ignacio, where it turns to dirt. Lavanya, Al, and Derryn were all packed to continue their ride and joined Lael on her way out of town.

The route continues on a series of dry lake beds along the Pacific to the fishing community of El Datil. Thereafter, it returns to the mountains on the second complete crossing of the peninsula. This section of the route from El Datil to Mulegé is described in our route guide as one of the most challenging sections of the route. Here, the Baja Divide follows a doubletrack up a canyon for about 40 miles, which like many other mountain drainages in the desert, includes alternating sand and loose cobbles. Thankfully, there are many water crossings along this section which provide opportuity for Lael to fill her bottles. By the time she gets to this part from San Ignacio, her food stores will be diminished and she will not have to carry more than a liter or two of water at a time, making the ride just a little easier. Cresting the Sierra de la Giganta at just under 2000ft, the route descends a roller coaster route to Mulege, another spectacular oasis and mission town on the Sea of Cortez.

Lael called from Mulege, just after dark on the day after she left San Ignacio. Watching her progress over hours and days is amazing, considering I know the effort that many of these sections require. But speaking to Lael reminds me that there is a person behind that blue dot on Trackleaders.com, and that person must summon the physical and mental power to make that dot move at more than 130 miles per day. She was planning to ride another hour out of town to sleep, before an early start the next morning. In keeping with her recent pattern, Lael begins sleeping between 8-9PM, and restarts her day between 1:45AM and 2:30. Then, her eyes and her body are fresh enough to tackle several hours of night riding. The feeling of riding through the morning sunrise is greatly energizing, she says.

The official Baja Divide route crosses Bahía Concepción from Mulege to ride a little used dirt track on the east side of the bay. For the purposes of an FKT attempt on the route, we have decided to allow an alternate along the paved highway. Thus, a rider is not stuck waiting for a boat for many days in the event of high wind or other weather. When touring the route, riders must visit the fisherman’s beach and negotiate a ride in a open fiberglass boat, called a panga. Since dozens and hundreds of riders have passed through Mulege this season, local fishermen are now well aware of the opportunity to make some money by ferrying riders across the bay. Whereas last season we had trouble convincing anyone to take us across the bay, riders are now solicited for rides as soon as they enter town. We’ve created a new industry! After days and weeks in the desert, being on the water is refreshing, For the touring cyclist, the ride on the east side of the bay is not to be missed.

South of Bahía Concepción, the route returns to the mountains in a section which features canyons, more freshwater, and several historic Spanish missions. Lael will be passing through Ciudad Consitucion sometime today. She is currently as route mile 1185 nearing the planned agricultural community of Ley Federal de Aguas Numero 1. Less than 375 miles remain to the finish in San Jose del Cabo.

Follow Lael’s Baja Divide FKT attempt ride on Trackleaders.com. If you are at NAHBS in Salt Lake City this weekend stop by the Knight Composites booth today at 2PM-4PM to talk about the Baja Divide. I will be giving a brief overview of the route project followed by an open Q&A session and my loaded Meriwether Cycles bike will be on display.

Nicholas Carman1 106

Nicholas Carman1 112

Nicholas Carman1 114

Nicholas Carman1 61 

Nicholas Carman1 63

Nicholas Carman1 65 

Nicholas Carman1 69

Nicholas Carman1 72 

Nicholas Carman1 75

Nicholas Carman1 76

Nicholas Carman1 78

Nicholas Carman1 79

Nicholas Carman1 81

Nicholas Carman1 82

Nicholas Carman1 83

Nicholas Carman1 86

Nicholas Carman1 89

Baja Divide at NAHBS in SLC, UT, USA /////// #bajadivideFKT Party in San Jose del Cabo, BCS, MX

Screen Shot 2017 03 09 at 3 38 29 PM

Come learn more about the Baja Divide at NAHBS in Salt Lake City this weekend. Photo by Gabriel Amadeus Tiller.

Get a taste of the Baja Divide at the Knight Composites booth this weekend at the North American Handbuilt Bike Show (NAHBS) in Salt Lake City, UT, USA. The show runs from Friday to Sunday (3/10-3/12) and is open to the public, featuring the most exciting and skilled custom bike builders of the day. On Saturday from 2-4PM, I will be giving a brief Baja Divide introduction followed by an open Q&A session, so be sure to think of some really good questions. Note, “How does Lael do it?” is really hard to answer, so think of something else.

The Knight Composites booth #234/236 will feature images and curios from the Baja Divide all weekend. Stop by to soak in the sunlight and prick your finger on a real piece of cactus. Knight Composites is a Bend, OR based company manufacturing some of the highest quality rims available. I rode the new 27.5+ Knight rims in Baja this winter, which feature a 45mm inner rim width yet weigh only 450 grams. I originally built the wheels with DT Swiss 240 hubs and Sapim CX-Ray straight-pull spokes, although the front hub has since been replaced with the new 110mm Shutter Precision PD-8X dynamo hub. One of my dusty wheels will be on display at the show. 

———-

Screen Shot 2017 03 09 at 3 37 21 PM

Meriwether Cycles is also showing at NAHBS for the first time ever! Whit Johnson has been building bikes for many years, yet his reputation has recently grown to put him in an elite category of builders making the most purposeful and beautiful bikes anywhere in the world. He built my pink bike a year and a half ago, and has also recently built a series of groundbreaking short-chainstay ultra-fatbikes for Mike Curiak and Pete Basinger—two legends of the sport— with tire clearance for Vee 2XL tires which measure over 5.1” wide and require the use of custom-width rear hubs. On display at NAHBS will also be a brand new bikepacking frame for my friend Jill from Anchorage, AK. Jill’s bike is painted like Merle Haggard’s guitar, featuring a sunburst woodgrain pattern and a bright white pick guard. Take a peak at Whit’s Instagram page at @meriwethercycles to see what he has been up to.

———-

Nicholas Carman1 11

Join me in San Jose del Cabo on Monday or Tuesday, 3/13 or 3/14, to welcome Lael to the finish of her Baja Divide FKT ride. She is on track to finish her ride in about 12 days, and has averaged over 130 miles a day since Tecate. She is currently at route mile 965 and has less then 600 miles to go. Go Lael!

If you are in the vicinity of San Jose del Cabo just keep your eye on Trackleaders.com and meet at Plaza Mijares before she arrives. There should be a couple of other Baja Divide riders there as well. 

Follow Lael’s Baja Divide FKT attempt at Trackleaders.com.

Lael Wilcox Baja Divide FKT: Vizcaino

Nicholas Carman1 485

The Desert del Vizcaino is a vast and sandy place. Lael will pass this junction this morning en route to San Ignacio.

Lael called this morning while riding the pavement out of Vizcaino. She sounds good, and since I’m always listening for that raspy voice that gasps for air, I listen closely. I don’t hear it, but I can tell she has suffered. Her voice is that of an aged woman, but her energy is high this morning. She is proud to report that her most recent strategy is to sleep at any time of night, even early in the evening, and set her alarm for 4 or 5 hours later. Since there are a requisite number of dark hours she will ride every night, it is more efficient and more rewarding to rest early and tackle the night riding after a few hours of sleep. She has done this several night consecutively and last night she bedded down at 8:15PM and awoke at 1:45AM, a total of about 5 hours of sleep. Last night was the first night that it wasn’t truly cold. Most other nights have left her shivering, forced to curl up into a ball despite tight joints and muscles. Lael says that it would be more restful to be able to stretch out at night. She wishes she had brought her sleeping bag after all. At some point in the last few days she bought a pair of sweatpants and a plastic garbage bag for more insulation. Days and nights will be warming as she continues south. However, she said yesterday was really hot.

Passing El Arco last night puts Lael into the southern state, Baja California Sur, and into the Mountain time zone. This morning, just beyond Vizcaino, she crossed the half-way point of her ride. Thus, the greatest hurdle has been met and the remainder of her ride will be framed as a countdown to the end. No less effort will be required, but mentally, Lael should soon be able to envision her finish at the plaza in San Jose del Cabo.

Trail conditions are surprising in some places. Compared to January and February when we toured the length of the route, most sandy sections are now very soft. Aside from some heavy rains in the north around the first of the month, the south has been dry for weeks. Once the sand becomes dry, it only takes several vehicles to loosen up the sediments and make them very challenging to ride. By lowering her tire pressure, even on somewhat narrower 2.6” tires, she is able to ride most of it, but not without great effort. From years of riding in the snow in Alaska and in deserts around the world, riding in soft conditions is a strength. Oddly, the sandiest section on route from El Arco to Vizcaino wasn’t bad, she said. This is a famous 7-10 mile track of deep sand along a perfectly straight line. Apparently it was mostly rideable.  

Lael also reports that her bike is awesome— especially with the 100mm RockShox SID fork and the BodyFloat seatpost. Both pieces of equipment were chosen to provide an efficient and capable platform. The SID fork is highly active, and does well will the high frequency-low amplitude obstacles found on much of the route such as washboard roads and dirt tracks strewn with cobbles. However, the newest SID also features a Charger damper, borrowed from the Pike fork, and provides extremely controlled suspension for those more technical sections. For instance, riding at night takes a certain amount of faith in your skills and equipment, and Lael trusts this fork for those times. She toured the route recently on the Lauf fork, a simple and extremely lightweight carbon fiber leaf-spring design. For fast riding on average quality dirt roads, she loved it. For the rough stuff, it would not have been the best choice for this particular type of ride, especially considering how much night riding she would be doing. Lael will likely to ride the Lauf on longer tours in the future, and would surely use it on something like the Great Divide Route or if racing the Tour Divide. The Baja Divide is substantially more rough and technical than the Great Divide.

The BodyFloat seatpost is a new take on the suspension seatpost concept. Rather than a vertical telescopic suspension post, it shares the parallelogram concept of a Thudbuster, but is unique is most other ways. Whereas the Thudbuster often has loose bushings right out of the box, the BodyFloat does not have any play, yet moves very freely as intended. Rather than using one of two elastomers to tune the ride, the Bodyfloat comes with four different spring options coded in different colors. The design actually uses two springs in concert, and of the four available spring rates, those can even be mixed and matched for further tuning. A tool free adjustment dial is also included to adjust the travel and feel of the post on the fly. Mostly, once it is set, you leave it. But for greatly different terrain, a rider can make minor adjustments while on a ride.

So what is a suspension seatpost for? Surely, comport is paramount in almost all kinds of riding, and keeping your butt and your body happy while pushing close to 150 miles a day on rough terrain is important, but there is an even greater reason. By isolating the rider’s weight from the rear wheel, suspension losses which result from each impact are reduced.  Lael can also focus more on pedaling the bike forward, rather than managing the impacts which are translated through her frame to her body. In theory, there are merits to having a full-suspension bike for this ride, as well as a standard hardtail. Our best estimate for this particular endeavor is this bike, where the simplicity and efficiency of a hardtail is preserved but rider comfort is maximized and suspension losses are minimized with the BodyFloat. Considering the amount of food and water that Lael is carrying on many sections, the framebag space on her hardtail Fuse is very important. She packs a up to 6L of water in a bladder in the framebag, along with as much food as can fit. Overflow food is packed into the Mag Tank, oversize Jerry Can, and the Viscacha seatbag.

I caught up with Lavanya yesterday, who is the recipient of the “Lael’s Globe of Adventure” Women’s Scholarship for the Baja Divide. Lavanya and her partner Al, along with their friend Derryn from Australia will greet Lael in San Ignacio today. Lael and Lavanya have never met. Another Baja Divide rider from Guadalajara named Agus is also in town waiting for a replacement fatbike tire from Ensenada. The second half of the ride from Vizcaino to San Ignacio is very sandy right now, and finishes with a two mile ride/hike through the date palm oasis that makes this town famous. Lael will be happy to get to San Ignacio, which is followed by the longest section of pavement on route, a pleasant 25 mile pedal on a quiet secondary road to Laguna San Ignacio, a shallow lagoon on the Pacific coast. Lael reports that her knees hurt at times— it comes and goes, she says— and often there is something that hurts enough to conceal other aches and pains. For no particular reason, Lael also says she is bleeding everywhere. Scratches from cactus and perhaps the occasional tumble, along with daily nosebleeds from the dry air, have left her looking a little uncivilized. She arrived in Misson San Borja a few days ago and while filling water in the plaza, a man began asking her questions. He finally pointed out that she was bleeding from both of her legs, unbeknownst to her.

Follow Lavanya’s ride on Instagram at @lavlavish and Al at @redeyesgreenthumbs.

At the time of writing, Lael has ridden 800 miles on route with less than 750 miles to go. Aside from a few miles of pavement beyond San Ignacio, she will also look forward to miles and miles of fast flat riding on the dry lake beds from Laguna San Ignacio though El Datil, assuming the winds are working in her favor.

Follow Lael’s Baja Divide FKT on Trackleaders.com.

Nicholas Carman1 472

Nicholas Carman1 481

Nicholas Carman1 490

Nicholas Carman1 491

Nicholas Carman1 492

Nicholas Carman1 494

Nicholas Carman1 511

Lael Wilcox Baja Divide FKT: Santa Rosalillita

Nicholas Carman1 13

Lael’s modified Specialized Fuse with 29×2.6” tires was completed just a day before she departed Tecate. Just over 4 days later, she is 560 miles into the Baja Divide.

Lael passed Santa Rosalillita this morning, which is 543 miles from Tecate, safely completing the longest section on route without resupply. The way she chose to navigate the available resources— avoiding the 11 mile round trip for services in Cataviña— she would have needed to carry enough food to cover about 140 miles from the roadhouse at San Augustin to Santa Rosalillta. Water is available at Rancho El Cardon, about 125 miles into that ride. For the touring cyclist, resupply in Cataviña is essential. To accomplish this, Lael planned on hauling a lot of food from San Quintin and augmenting it with whatever she could find at the roadhouses along MEX1. Incidentally, she arrived in Santa Rosalillita this morning at daybreak, likely before either of the two stores in town were open. Her tracker indicates that she stopped for a moment, probably to get some water and continue to the next resupply point about 20 miles away at Rosarito, where the route once again crosses MEX1.

Two days ago, Lael rested for three and a half hours just a few miles away from the Pacific Ocean near Nueva Odisea. Knowing that cool damp air is common along the Pacific, I assume that is was a chilly night to be laying on the ground with minimal gear. She rode until 1 AM that night to finish a section of beach riding and begin the inland route, in hopes of avoiding the worst of the overnight dew. However, her early departure signals that she might not have been all that comfortable. Despite a late night, Lael was back on the bike before sunrise and spent most of the morning climbing into the mountains, eventually gaining over 2000 ft on a rough jeep track which leads to valleys of towering, leaning cirios trees. Cirios— which is the Spanish word for candle— have such a whimsical character that in America they are called boojum trees, a name taken from a fictional character in the Lewis Carroll poem “The Hunting of the Snark”. The entire region is protected in the Valle de los Cirios conservation area. Cirios trees are part of the ocotillo family and are only found in Baja California and in small parts of Sonora.

The Baja Divide crosses MEX1 a few miles outside of Cataviña, thereafter descending to the coast along an undulating path while passing a changing cast of plants. Individual plant species are easy to identify in the desert, especially the cardon cactus and cirios trees that stand tall. Climbing and descending from one valley to another often leads to notable changes; cirios may be especially abundant in a place only to be replaced by towering cardon in the next valley. This ride to the coast also features some of the highest plant density on route. Lush doesn’t seem like the right word to describe a mostly thorny environment, but this section is a veritable forest of desert plants. At the coast, the land is surprisingly barren.

The route contacts the Pacific Ocean at a small fishing community called San Jose del Faro. There a small collection of homes adjacent to an estuary provide shelter from prevailing wind and weather and vantage for their trade. However, getting these fish to market is no easy task, requiring a challenging drive back to the highway and many miles of paved transport beyond that. Continuing south from San Jose del Faro, the road accesses a series of famous remote surf breaks called The Seven Sisters. There are few residences along this section of coastline and the first section after San Jose del Faro is quite rough. Occasionally, camper vans and trucks can be seen parked along the sandy beaches on the south side of each point. Arriving in Santa Rosalillita, the road becomes more defined and better used, but is increasingly washboarded.

Passing Santa Rosalillita, Lael will begin a crossing of the peninsula from the Pacific Ocean to the Sea of Cortez, a route mostly shared with the popular Cruzando La Baja MTB event held in April. This group ride is organized by our friend Salvador at FASS Bike in Vicente Guerrero, and is expected to host over 300 riders this year as they tackle the 110km ride across Baja. The event begins with a group camp on the first night at the beach, a ride on day two followed by a party and group camp in Bahia de Los Angeles. Registration is now open for the Cruzando La Baja which takes place on April 29-30, 2017. Registration is $50, sign up now at www.cruzandolabajamtb.com.

While Lael has enjoyed clear weather for her ride, cool to average temperatures have resulted in some chilly nights along the Pacific. Going forward, as she crosses to the Sea of Cortez and continues south down the peninsula, temperatures are destined to be warming in her favor. However, the forecast also calls for a spike in temperatures later this week, resulting in highs above 90°F. Despite growing up in Alaska, she loves the heat.

Follow Lael’s Baja Divide FKT attempt on Trackleaders.com. Also, follow the video link below to see the crowd of people that were waiting for Lael in Vicente Guerrero at the end of day 2.

Nicholas Carman1 6004

Nicholas Carman1 420

Nicholas Carman1 438

Nicholas Carman1 432

Nicholas Carman1 443

Nicholas Carman1 445

Nicholas Carman1 450

Nicholas Carman1 454

Nicholas Carman1 457

Nicholas Carman1 459

Salvador from FASS Bike has been a huge advocate of the Baja Divide and has succeeded in sharing the details of Lael’s ride to the local riding community. A diverse group of people from the area gathered to meet Lael as she arrived near town. This is the best reality TV you will see all day.

The Road to Missoula; Baja Divide presentation at Free Cycles, July 14

Nicholas Carman1 149

We’re in Missoula for Adventure Cycling Association’s Montana Bicycle Celebration which coincides with their 40th Anniversary.  Lael and I will be presenting about the Baja Divide route at Free Cycles on Thursday, July 14 at 7PM.  Here, Lael crosses the Manhattan Bridge.

From the end of the Trans Am Bike Race in Yorktown, Virginia to New York City, seaside Connecticut, a tour through Nutmeg Country and the Berkshires of Massachusetts to a corner of Vermont and the Adirondack Mountains of New York to the St. Lawrence River, a plane from Ottawa to Bozeman and a quick six day tour to Missoula via the Trans America Trail.  That’s less than a month, 5 trains, two short distance car rides, one plane, and about 600 miles of casual (mostly) paved old-fashioned bike touring.

In the days following Lael’s finish on the Trans Am Bike Race we awaited several other finishers including Steffen, Evan, and Kai. 

Nicholas Carman1 157

Race organizer Nathan Jones was in town for the day, before beginning a return car trip to Portland, OR.  Driving the route in reverse, he encountered most of the racers still out on the course.  Here, Steffen, Nathan, and Lael at the finish.

Nicholas Carman1 154

Lael enjoys her first sit-down meal in 18 days, and is most excited to be able to order breakfast at 5PM.

Nicholas Carman1 155

Kai Edel, of Germany, arrives a day and a half later.  I peeled Lael out of bed at 6AM to ride back to the Yorktown Victory Monument to meet Kai.

Nicholas Carman1 108

Nicholas Carman1 99

We brought coffee, strawberries, muffins, Gatorade, and beer.  As you’d expect of any German bike-messenger cross-county bike racer, Kai is more than happy to crack a brew at 7AM.  Let the record show that Kai is the first finisher to enjoy a beer at the finish line.  Nathan, any chance there can be points or colored jerseys next year for riding a 17 year old carbon fiber bike, or finishing a beer at the finish line at 7AM?  

Nicholas Carman1 161

Nicholas Carman1 109

Nicholas Carman1 114

Saying goodbye to the Yorktown monument for the last time, Lael, Kai, and I board an Amtrak train north to New York City. 

Nicholas Carman1 163

We arrive at Penn Station at 2 AM, reassemble our bikes, and part ways.  Kai is a regular in NYC and plans to ride for a few weeks as a messenger, to pay all his debts from eating gas station food across America

Nicholas Carman1 164

Nicholas Carman1 115

Lael and I navigate pubic transportation to reach Brooklyn that night where her brother is living.

Nicholas Carman1 166

Nicholas Carman1 120

We enjoy a short visit and a long walk around town.  Asian pastries for breakfast, tacos for lunch, a haircut for Lael at a Mexican salon.  Brooklyn is rad.

Nicholas Carman1 126

Nicholas Carman1 132

Nicholas Carman1 125

We roll over to Manhattan to connect with an MTA train to Connecticut where my brother is living.

Nicholas Carman1 131

After a brief visit in Stamford, we board another train to meet a mysterious man further up the coast of Connecticut.  The train slows as it enters a region known as Nutmeg Country.  

Nicholas Carman1 152

There, a shirtless bearded man greets us and leads us into a small cave full of collectible and very well-used Shimano equipment, Made in the USA curios, and an assortment of odd Asian imports.

Nicholas Carman1 198

We recognize the print on his denim jersey, a sketch celebrating his bike gang, the Hot Bod Rando Boyz.  The sketch was done by our mutual friend Yuval from Jerusalem.  

Nicholas Carman1 148

The bearded man lures us to an old commercial pier with a lone lobster roll eatery.  There, a group of bicyclists await.

Nicholas Carman1 199

The group rides through an expansive television set made to look like a quaint New England town, c. 1998.

Nicholas Carman1 200

The group converges at the crossroads between several manicured dirt roads, all rideable on Lael’s 28mm tires.

Nicholas Carman1 140

The least machismo arrangement of shirtless men ever assembled gather to talk about the way they dress their bicycles, while the women drink beer and talk about nothing important.

Nicholas Carman1 139

Nicholas Carman1 137

Roads grow rougher, until finally the group dives into the pizza portal.  Our fearless leader promises the most exquisite margherita on the other side, which is convincing enough to send Lael down a rooty singletrack trail on carbon fiber aero wheels.

Nicholas Carman1 203

The promise of margherita pizza comes true. We empty our framebags of all the pesos and shekels we can find and ride away into the night. 

Nicholas Carman1 136

In the morning, our sage host grinds a roasted bean from a distant continent and brews a potent black elixir.

Nicholas Carman1 134

At our request, as I long to visit my family in the distant land of New York, far up north near Canada, we are led to one of the few portals out of Nutmeg Country.  To pass, we bath in the algal stream below this bridge and ride as a causal pace through a tunnel of trees.

Nicholas Carman1 143

Nicholas Carman1 146

Out the other side, we find ourselves in a place called Massachusetts, where railroad tracks are converted to bike trails.  The East Coast is pretty great.

Nicholas Carman1 217

Nicholas Carman1 205

Crossing through a small corner of Vermont, we meet The Professor on his home turf.  We’ve crashed his honeymoon in Prague, forced him to almost miss an important dinner in Santa Fe, and shivered through a wet night on the frozen Yenta river together this March.  Meet Joe Cruz, who turns everything into an adventure.

Nicholas Carman1 247

Entering into my home state of New York always feels familiar, even though I’d never visited this part of the state.  Something about New York, as soon as we cross from Massachusettes, briefly through Vermont… something feels different.

Nicholas Carman1 209

Nicholas Carman1 211

Nicholas Carman1 210

Nicholas Carman1 212

Nicholas Carman1 213

Nicholas Carman1 214

Nicholas Carman1 216

Nicholas Carman1 218

Nicholas Carman1 220

Nicholas Carman1 223

Nicholas Carman1 222

Running short on time, my parents agree to pick us up so that we can spend the holiday weekend with them up on the St. Lawrence River.  We spend time on the water and pack our bikes to fly from Ottawa to Montana the following day.

Nicholas Carman1 224

We arrive in Bozeman, an hour after our friend Christina arrives from Anchorage.  Christina has joined us for segments of our travels in Israel, Baja California, and now Montana.  She is an ever-ready adventure partner in Alaska as well.

Nicholas Carman1 226

Leaving Bozeman, we camp at Norris Hot Spring on the first night before connecting with the Trans America Bicycle Trail in Ennis, en route to Missoula, MT.  Our aim is to to reach Missoula for Adventure Cycling Association’s Montana Bicycle Celebration from July 14-17.  Lael has been invited to speak at the event on Saturday night and we will be hosting a presentation about the Baja Divide route project at Free Cycles in Missoula on Thursday, July 14 at 7PM.  

Free Cycles is the most high-functioning bike co-op or community bike shop I have seen anywhere.  Bob Giordano founded Free Cycles 20 years ago and the organization has had a profound impact on the community of Missoula.  They have just funded the down payment to purchase the expansive compound which they have been renting for many years.  Learn more about FreeCycles and donate to support the future of their mission.  Several years ago, after less than a few hours in the shop, Bob offered me a key to the building and allowed to sleep at Free Cycles for several nights.  We shared several engaging conversations about bicycles as vehicles of change, about urban planning, and travel.  Bob has also founded Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transport (MIST) which is a “citizen based nonprofit organization” which aims to support “active walking and cycling cultures”.

Nicholas Carman1 168

Nicholas Carman1 228

Nicholas Carman1 231

Nicholas Carman1 227

Nicholas Carman1 229

The Trans America Trail is a well-travelled route from Virginia to Oregon.  Small towns have embraced the cyclists who pass, and cyclists develop a camaraderie along the route, often sharing campsites and stories.  

Nicholas Carman1 234

In Twin Bridges, we arrive at the Bill White Bike Camp at the public park along the Beaverhead River.  Five other Trans Am cyclists are staying in Twin Bridges for the night.

Nicholas Carman1 233

Nicholas Carman1 239

The donation based bike camp offers shelter, power, hot showers, and toilets, as well as tent sites adjacent to the structure.

Nicholas Carman1 237

White boards inside the shelter show signs of many inspired rides along the Trans Am.

Nicholas Carman1 238

Nicholas Carman1 232

Nicholas Carman1 177

Traveling toward the Continental Divide, each pass leaves us a little higher in elevation.

Nicholas Carman1 241

Nicholas Carman1 242

Nicholas Carman1 243

Nicholas Carman1 245

We rejoin several riders from England that we first met in Twin Bridges.  Just up the road, we meet two riders from Texas who are section-riding the Great Divide Route.  This is one of several places where the Trans Am and the Great Divide routes meet, and the two actually share several miles of pavement just south of Polaris, MT.

Nicholas Carman1 185

Nicholas Carman1 190

At that junction, with the help of a few text messages in areas with little phone service, we manage to cross paths with our friends Thomas and Mary from Anchorage, AK.  I first met Thomas about three years ago when I sold him an older Salsa Fargo which we had on sale at The Bicycle Shop.  He used the money he saved on the bike to build a dynamo wheel along with a lighting and charging system.  Last summer, after Lael’s two Tour Divide rides, Mary purchased her well-travelled Specialized Stumpjumper, but not before I replaced the broken frame!

It is a point on the route about 50 miles south of here where Lael got stuck in severe mud and wore a hole through the carbon frame in a matter of hours. 

Nicholas Carman1 194

Nicholas Carman1 193

Nicholas Carman1 195

Lael’s old Tour Divide bike is now Mary’s Great Divide touring bike.  Lael is enjoying her Specialized Ruby once again.  For a minute, she was about ready to throw it into the Atlantic Ocean.  Now that she’s rested, none of us can keep up with her.  I’ll say it out load, Lael is faster than me.  That has almost never been true before, but 6,000 miles of road riding seems to have helped.  Now that she is fast on a bike— and we know she can sit on that thing for a long time— imagine what she can do.

Nicholas Carman1 197

Weathering a wind storm with Thomas and Mary that night, we encounter cold wet rain the following day and make a short ride to Jackson.  The following morning we awake to snow, but clearing skies allow us to proceed.  Not what I was expecting on July 11.  Maybe shorts and Birkenstock sandals were not the best idea.

Nicholas Carman1 246

As the weather clears the following day, we meet this cycling family from Hamilton, ON on the south side of Chief Joseph Pass.  It is so cool to meet people like this riding bikes.  There are always a few cold shoulders on routes like this, but the majority of the people we meet are awesome.

Nicholas Carman1 250

The snow level the day before was somewhere around 7000ft.  We bundle up for the 3000ft descent to the Bitterroot Valley.

Nicholas Carman1 248

 A friend meets us to camp at Lake Como on our final night before Missoula. 

Nicholas Carman1 249 

The last day of riding is mostly along the new Bitterroot Bike Trail from Hamilton to Missoula.  State paving crews are putting the finishing touches on the trail prior to the ribbon cutting event this weekend.

Nicholas Carman1 252 

Of course, our first stop is Adventure Cycling Association.  We’ll give you a full tour after the weekend.  If you aren’t already a member of ACA, join now.  They do good stuff.  Come visit us at Free Cycles on Thursday night if you are in town!

Nicholas Carman1 251

Lael Wilcox finishes Trans Am Bike Race 2016 in 18 days 10 minutes

 

Nicholas Carman1 74

Lael arrives in Yorktown in 18 days and 10 minutes.  She is the first American to win the Trans Am Bike Race, her time is the second fastest time in race history, and it improves upon the old women’s record by nearly 3 days.  

Departing from Astoria, OR on the morning of June 4, 2016, an international field of over 60 riders raced to Yorktown, VA in the third annual Trans Am Bike Race.  The self-supported Trans Am Bike Race was founded in 2014, building on the growing style of self-supported bikepacking races like the Tour Divide, and popularized in a documentary film by Mike Dion called “Inspired to Ride”.  In 2014, both men’s and women’s records were set by high profile ultra-endurance athletes—Mike Hall finished in 17d16h and Juliana Buhring in 20d23h.

Lael rode to the finish on Wednesday morning, June 22, 2016.  She arrived a the Yorktown Victory Monument at 11:10AM, 18 days and 10 minutes from the start line in Astoria.  Her time improves upon the old female route record by almost three full days, and hers is the second fastest time recorded in the race, after Mike Hall.  She is the first American to win the Trans Am Bike Race.  

Lael averaged 235 miles per day for 18 days, resting an average of 3-5 hours of sleep per night.  On the final two nights of the race, Lael scaled back sleep to ride over 400 miles in about 33 hours.  Her efforts put her within 20 miles of the leader, Steffen Streich, who awoke from a 2.5 hour sleep on the last night and made a fatal mistake.  He got on his bike and began riding the route backwards.  The two met soon thereafter, on a dark road in rural Virginia near the community of Bumpass.  Here is her account of the meeting.  

Lael asked, “What is you name?”  

“Steffen.”

The two had never met, although Lael knew that she had been chasing him for over 4000 miles.  She started hammering on the pedals, and for a period of time, Steffen made chase and the two rode side by side.  Lael made a wrong turn amidst minor roads and farm fields.  Steffen indicated her immediate error, and waited at the junction with a proposition.  “We’ve been racing hard for two weeks. let’s ride to the finish together?”

“No way”, Lael said with immediate conviction.  “This is a race.”  She took off and Steffen never caught her.

As soon as she pulled away from the former race leader, her Di2 battery died.  The electronic shifting systemenables fast, crisp shifting and minimal hand fatigue over thousands of miles.  But it requires a battery, and Lael had struggled to keep it charged for more than 3 days at a time.  The system is designed to power down in sequence, losing the most power hungry functions first.  The front derailleur stopped shifting, and the rear derailleur is spared a few dozen shifts before doing the same.  Lael found a comfortable gear and singlespeeded the bike into Ashland, VA, where she switched to her spare battery, hiding behind a wall at the Sheetz gas station to avoid being spotted by Steffem.  Unable to remove the battery from her seat post— it is fit with a rubberized press fit— she simply unplugged the old one and reconnected it to the new battery and jammed it all into the frame of the bike.  It worked, and after some struggle with the proprietary seatpost wedge (clamp) on her bike, she was riding again toward the finish.  Steffen had nearly caught her at the Sheetz.

From video logs by race organizer Nathan Jones on the TABR Facebook page, Steffen spent a nearly equal amount of time at the Sheetz, eating and drinking.  Lael grew her lead to the finish, reaching Yorktown about two hours before 2nd place finisher, Steffen Streich of Lesbos, Greece.  Third place rider, Evan Deutsch, or Portland, OR, arrived on the same day, about seven and a half hours later.  All three competitors were riding within a hundred miles of each other for most of the race.  Steffen is a veteran of the TransContinental Race across Europe, and the TransAfrika Bike race across South Africa, Swaziland, and Lesotho.  Evan Deutsch is a veteran of the Trans Am Bike Race and the Tour Divide.  Lael has completed the Tour Divide and the Holyland Challenge in Israel and brings extensive cycletouring experience to ultra-distance racing. 

Follow the remaining 51 riders of the Trans Am Bike Race on Trackleaders.com.

Many thanks to Nathan Jones creating the Trans Am Bike Race.  Thanks to the Adventure Cycling Association for developing the Bikecentennial route 40 years ago, and for supporting cycling in America.  Thanks to Anthony Dryer and Nathan Jones for providing photos and video from the route from their humble “media car”.  Thanks to Revelate Designs for the best luggage in the world and the stars and stripes framebag; Mike Shupe and The Bicycle Shop in Alaska for continued support and seasonal part-time employment; Specialized for the Ruby Pro Disc UDi2 and the tubeless-aero CLX 64 carbon road wheelset with custom dynamo front wheel; the bike is a super comfortable ripper; Patagonia for the M10 shell and Alpine houdini rain pants; Intelligent Design Cycles for the SP PD-8 dynamo hub; and K-Lite for awesomely powerful dynamo lighting.  Thanks to Tailwinds Cyclists in Pittsburgh, KS; Newton Bike Shop in Newton, KS; Bill and Shawna in Afton, Lucas and Monica in Oregon, Kevin at River City Cycles in Portland, Jessica and Justin in Portland, Skyler in Vancouver, and Evan Deutsch for being an awesome friend.  Lael says “Thanks to my parents for thinking my ideas are good.” 

 Nicholas Carman1 70

Nicholas Carman1 53

Nicholas Carman1 60

Nicholas Carman1 61

Nicholas Carman1 58

Nicholas Carman1 80

Nicholas Carman1 63

Nathan Jones, race organizer, and Anthony Dryer raced across the country in a late-model sedan to capture images from the road.  Support their efforts by donating to the Trans Am Bike Race Media Fund.

Nicholas Carman1 49

Steffen Streich of Lesbos, Greece, finishes second in 18 days 2 hours 18minutes.

Nicholas Carman1 90

Nicholas Carman1 89

Nicholas Carman1 91

Evan Deutsch of Portland, OR finishes third in 18 days 7hours 44 minutes.

Nicholas Carman1 92

Follow the rest of the Trans Am Bike Race on Trackleaders.com.

Nicholas Carman1 96

Trans Am Bike Race 2016 Update: Ashland, VA

Screen Shot 2016 06 22 at 7 37 40 AM

Lael leads the Trans Am Bike Race 2016 with 90 miles to go.  Photo courtesy Nathan Jones and Anthony Dreyer via the Trans Am Bike Race Facebook page.

7:30 AM EST, Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The three leaders of the Trans Am Bike Race began the day in a familiar standing, with Steffen out front by about 50 miles, Lael in second, and Evan about 40 miles back.  Evan put a few miles on Lael in the night, taking one less hour of sleep and closing the gap for second place to 30 miles.  Steffen persisted with a short sleep on that night and was down for less than two hours.  All three riders were anxious not to lose ground, and all three riders were excited to try to gain some distance on the others, if possible.  Heavy thunderstorms arrived on Tuesday afternoon as Steffen, Lael, and Evan summited the Blue Ridge Parkway from Vesuvius to Afton.  

Continuing on to Charlottesville, it appeared that Steffen was either lost or looking for something.  He followed a unique route into town, the nature of the detour unknown considering the severe weather in the area.  It is now known that he had suffered a series of flats in the past few days.  From a brief video log on the TABR Facebook page, he verifies the flat tires yet indicates that he did not replenish his supply of spare tubes in Charlottesville, a bustling college town home to many bike shops.  Reports from race organizer Nathan Jones also suggest that Steffen was dealing with a failing GPS device, an internal issue more complex than a dead battery.  

Steffen continued out of town and kept pace into the evening.  He settled down by the side of the road just beyond the community of Beaverdam, south of Lake Anna.  He rested for about 2.5 hours and awoke at 2AM.

Lael continued out of Charlottesville several hours after Steffen, keeping pace into the night.  As he hit the ground to sleep, she continued pedaling, gaining on the leader.  Eventually, her tracker stopped for a period of about 45 minutes.  She called when she awoke to tell me that she had slept, was feeling good, and was gunning for Yorktown.  In concert with a shot of 5 Hour Energy, she was riding high into the night.

What happened next stunned all that were watching.  When Steffen awoke at 2AM, he began pedaling backward along the route.  He was riding right towards Lael!  She had closed the gap to 20 miles, and the two were now racing toward each other.  Eventually, the pink dot and the blue dot collided near the community of Bumpass, VA.  One can only imagine the brief conversation they had, and the heartbreak of learning that you have just lost a lead won over 4100 miles in a mid-night mishap.  Steffen righted his tires and rejoined the race to the east.  Both of their trackers transmitted intermittently during this period.  It took some time to see who would come out of this situation ahead.  Surely, Steffen has proven to be a much faster rider throughout the race.  But Lael recovers well and remains rested, at least as much as can be expected after a 250 miles day and a 45 hour nap.  This was her first night with very little sleep.  

Race organizer Nathan Jones reported seeing both riders together right around this time, but once the trackers transmitted, it was clear, Lael was in the lead.  As more regular tracking resumed from both devices, Lael maintained a narrow but consistent lead.  Steffen stopped briefly at one of the first junctions after their meeting, which indicated that he was indeed having issues with his GPS.  But he managed a series of turns along the route thereafter, so he had some means of navigation.

Evan stopped in Charlottesville for several hours, although it is difficult to determine his exact stopped time.  He rolled out of town around 3AM EST.

At the time of writing, just east of Richmond, VA, Lael leads with only 70 miles remaining to Yorktown, Steffen is 10 miles behind, and Evan is about 80 miles back from the leader.

It is too soon to speculate much about Steffen’s error, although a few things are known from a series of rambling video logs from Nathan Jones on the TABR Facebook page.  It is known that Steffen has suffered a series of flats and is riding without a spare tube to the finish.  His GPS has been failing him, likely requiring frequent restarts or other manual manipulation.  He is tired, as is expected.  He has been riding fast and far, and has tapered his sleep over the last few days.  It is an unfortunate error, much like Sarah Hammond’s deviation from the route in Montana.  It is a feeling that Lael knows well, as she deviated from the official track in the 2015 Tour Divide, following an older course.  Officially, she was disqualified from the race, although her time was considered valid.  As a result of this error, and the risk of GPS failure, she carries two Garmin eTrex 20 units, each loaded with maps and the race track.  She is not carrying maps.  

I will be at the finish line today as our three riders cross the line.  Over the past 17 days, we’ve come to know the way they sleep and the pace they ride, we often know what and where they eat and what kind of company they keep.  I look forward to welcoming Evan, Steffen, and Lael, along with Kai, Sarah, Benjamin, Janie, and anyone else that will arrive in the next few days.  A least for a minute, I don’t think Lael and I are going anywhere fast.  

Follow the Trans Am Bike Race 2016 on Trackleaders.com.