I’ve been riding since 2006, touring since 2008 and racing since 2015. I’m setting out to ride the first 300 miles of the Arizona Trail on Christmas Eve for the Festive 500 on my Stumpjumper.

Specialized Stumpjumper Carbon Comp

As part of the Festive 500, I’ll ride the first 300 miles of the Arizona Trail on the Specialized Stumpjumper starting December 24.

Specialized Epic Hardtail Pro

In June 2018, I got second overall in the Navad 1000 in Switzerland– 1000 kilometers with 30,000 meters of climbing through the Alps on the Specialized Epic HT. Customizations include Hope components, Revelate Designs luggage, dynamo lighting (SP hub and Sinewave Cycles Beacon) and Ergon GP2 grips. In August, I modified the bike with a Lauf Trail Racer fork and aerobars to race the French Divide.

S-Works Tarmac

In January 2018, I flew to Specialized HQ in Morgan Hill, CA, picked up a Specialized Tarmac, got a professional bike fit and rode it 1,000 miles back to Tucson. In March 2018, I rode up the 6700′ Mt Lemon Highway every day for a week.

Specialized Diverge

In the summer of 2017, I rode all of the major roads in Alaska on a Specialized Diverge. The terrain was a 60/40 mix of pavement and dirt for 4,500 miles. I completed this project in a series of rides over 3 months. In the spring of 2018, I hosted the Lael Rides Alaska Women’s Scholarship where the winner received a Diverge to ride her own 1,000 mile Alaskan adventure. I also ride the Diverge for guiding endurance gravel camps for The Cyclist’s Menu in Southern Arizona.

Specialized Fuse

Nicholas Carman1-7

I rode a Specialized Fuse with a 130mm RockShox Pike fork and 27.5+ wheels on the Colorado Trail, the Reno-Vegas route and assorted rides through California. In January 2017, I switched the Pike for a Lauf Trail Racer fork for a tour down the Baja Divide. In March, I rebuilt the Fuse with a 100mm RockShox SID and 29×2.6″ wheels for my Baja Divide FKT.

Specialized Ruby Pro Disc UDi2

Nicholas Carman1-71

In 2016, I won the Trans Am Bike Race on this Specialized Ruby Expert. I also toured from Anchorage, Alaska to the start of the race in Astoria, Oregon and toured after the race in Connecticut, Vermont, New York and Montana. Customizations include Roval CLX64 tubeless wheels with an SP dynamo hub, K-lite dynamo lighting, custom Revelate Designs luggage and aerobars.

Specialized Fatboy Expert

Nicholas Carman1-6128

I raced and toured the White Mountains 100 on the Specialized Fatboy Expert as well as winter touring around Alaska and single-track riding in Anchorage.

Advocate Cycles Hayduke

Nicholas Carman1-5800

I rode the Advocate Cycles Hayduke for the investigation of the Baja Divide in the winter and spring of 2016. In the fall of 2016, I hosted the Lael’s Globe of Adventure Baja Divide Women’s Scholarship where the winner received an Advocate Hayduke to ride the 1700 mile Baja Divide.

Specialized Era Expert

Nicholas Carman1-5321

I rode a Specialized Era Expert on the Arizona Trail in 2015. Nicholas and I toured the route before I attempted an ITT along the AZT750.

Specialized Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29 World Cup


Returning to Alaska after ten months of touring in Eastern Europe, South Africa, and the Middle East, Nicholas and I built this bike for me to race the Tour Divide. I rode from Alaska to the start of the race in Banff, AB and established a new women’s record, finishing in 17 days 1 hour and 51 minutes. But on that ride I got sick and had to go to the hospital, and I knew I could do better. Later that summer, I rode to Banff again and challenged the record on my own, finishing in 15 hours 10 hours and 59 minutes.

We modified this bike with a rigid carbon Chisel fork, Profile Designs aero bars, an SP Dynamo and Supernova lighting. We installed a 36T chainring and more durable tires (29×2.2″ Specialized Fast Trak Grid/29×2.35″ Schwalbe Racing Ralph Snakeskin).

Nicholas Carman1-4986

Raleigh XXIX

Nicholas Carman1-4275

I toured on the Raleigh XXIX from 2012-2015, using it for the Colorado Trail, the Arizona Trail and dirt tours in Europe, South Africa and the Middle East. When I got a new bike, I gave the Raleigh to my friend James in Flagstaff, Arizona.


Salsa Mukluk 3


I rode the Salsa Mukluk 3 in Alaska for the winter of 2013-2014.

Cannondale Hooligan


I toured on the Cannonade Hooligan in Europe for the summer of 2012 and used it for commuting around Albuquerque in 2013. I loved this bike because I could pack it into a bag and take it on an airplane free of charge. I gave the Hooligan to my friend Jacquie to take to South America.


Surly Pugsley


I rode the Surley Pugsley in Alaska for the winter of 2011-2012. It was the winter that set the snow record and my first experience riding a fatbike.

Surly Long Haul Trucker


I toured on the LHT from 2009-2011 in the US, Canada, Mexico and Europe. After our first trip riding down the east coast in 2008, I traded my 1982 Bianchi road bike towards credit for an LHT because I wanted to be able to carry more gear. When I got into mountain biking, I gave the LHT to Deja in Flagstaff, Arizona.

45 thoughts on “Bikes

  1. Ian says:

    Hi. I noticed that you mostly have straight handlebars with little back sweep paired with short stems on the mountain bikes you rode. How does this affect your hands and arms during very long rides?

    • laelwilcox says:

      I really like the position and handling of a short stem and either a flat bar or a bit of sweep. Ergon grips are also essential for me. During really long rides, I typically use Ergon grips with bar ends and like to set up some kind of an aero position. I used aerobars for the Tour Divide and a wrapped a little bar tape around the central portion of my handlebar for my Baja Divide FKT. During my long rides, my pinky and ring finger typically go numb at some point, but gloves help a lot.

      I also really like drop bars for road riding because they have a variety of hand and body positions.

      • Bike endlessly says:

        Hi what about the golden hubs that were on your specialzed epic hardtail? What are they!?

        and what are the blue hubs on your epic now?

        Also lastly, what tires are you running most recently? Size and make?

        Thanks so so so much! Your an inspiration!!

      • laelwilcox says:

        Thanks for writing! The front gold hub is a custom SP dynamo hub that I pair with a Sinewave Beacon headlight. The rear blue hub is Hope Tech. I rode the 2.25″ Tufo tires all summer.

  2. Ian says:

    Excellent. Will look into the same handle bar set-up. Ride safe!

  3. Dillon says:

    Hi Lael, Thanks for sharing your journeys. I’m looking to buy a used raleigh XXIX, based on your and Nicholas’ recs. I’m about 5″7″, around the same height as you I believe? Did you ride a small or medium frame? Thanks, and keep up the inspirational riding and writing!

  4. Todd Murdock says:

    Lael: I wonder if you’ve ridden a Salsa Cutthroat? or if you think it might have advantages over a traditional mtb set up?

  5. tomshooter says:

    You’re an inspiration Lael, I learnt about you via the Wired video on Youtube and am blown away with your story. I am a proud owner of a Surly LHT, love it to bits but your insights above about your different bikes have given me food for thought for my next tour, so thanks!

  6. Amer says:

    Hi lael,

    Thanks for being a wonderful inspiration, I will teach my children about you!

    I am wondering what do you think would be a good tire size that would work well for daily use, given I plan to bike in the snow 4 months a year, and I will carry about 20lbs

    • laelwilcox says:

      Is it deep snow or packed snow? Typically a mountain bike is the best solution for an all terrain bike– 29″ wheels with at least 2″ tires. If you’re riding through soft snow, you might want to look at a fatbike (4″ tires) or a plus bike (3″ tires).

      • Amer says:

        It is for a folding electric 20″ bike, I need to drive in and out of new york city, and tuck the bike under my desk at work.
        The amount of snow is usually not that much, but there is more ice on the side walks, and I do a little off roading to make much commute to work less boring

      • laelwilcox says:

        In that case, fit the biggest tire that you can. Maybe consider studded tires for winter riding.

  7. sahil says:

    dear mam

    just fews days back i saw u in a video on youtube!!! ur passion for cycling is faboulas and also u r motivating other girls to do it!!
    mam im from Jammu and Kashmir (India) its kind of mix terrain steep hills and trails smooth roads in patches and rough roads in patches which bike will be suitable along with specifications plz guide me through this and y dont u open ur own cycle brand specially for touring and u can also give master classes on 1. how to motivate urself to go through a long ride?
    2. fitness both physical and psychological
    3. basic repair and modifiying cycle according to requirements
    and mam when are u coming to INDIA i would love to c u here!!!!


  8. Shu Yang says:

    Hi Lael,
    I wonder what’s your thoughts on the new Specialized Roubaix – they have this new “future shock” suspension on the front. I am a newbie so I am not sure if this bike would be a good one for a long tour?

  9. Shane Dawson says:

    Your my hero!!! Tour Divide for me in 2019. Maybe yoyo the route…..slowly though lol

  10. Mary Folkerts says:

    Hi Leal, Everyday you are an inspiration to me to push on and do more Thank You, I am looking to buy a bike that fits me better and is comfortable for all round use mostly I’m on paved trail now some gravel and a few cow paths but not as extreme as mountain which bike would you suggest?

    • laelwilcox says:

      Hi Mary!

      Thanks for writing.

      As an all around bike, I definitely recommend a hardtail mountain bike with 29″ wheels– like the Specialized Chisel (the Expert 1x is a little pricey, but definitely an awesome build).


  11. David Butler says:

    Hi Lael, I’m really interested in your impressions of the Lauf fork compared to conventional suspension on gravel and mellow singletrack. Best of luck on the French Divide and the Silk Road!

    • laelwilcox says:

      I think of the Lauf as rigid plus. It’s more similar to rigid than suspension, but it does give you a little more comfort and give on rough gravel. Also, it’s extremely light weight. I used a suspension fork for the Navad 1000 route in Switzerland because it’s more of a mountain bike route and I used a Lauf for the French Divide (not sure if this was 100% the best choice, but it worked pretty well).

      • David Butler says:

        Thank you! This is super helpful.

        And I really enjoyed the vid of the Navad 1000. I can’t imagine having such fortitude.

  12. It’s amazing the passion and effort you put in your life and biking. I’m following you at French Divide. Bravissima!!! 🙂

  13. Mariya says:


    Since writing this article, have you changed to having more than one bike at a time?

    I’ve currently got a roadie that I’ve transitioned into using for commuting, but I want to build up a more rugged commuter/tourer… Not sure if I should sell my bike and take the plunge (financially and physical-space-wise). How do you deal with this? 🙂

    • laelwilcox says:

      Hi Mariya! I currently own two bikes– one mountain bike and one gravel bike. I’ve been using the mountain bike for racing and touring and the gravel bike for guiding. It’s a little more complicated now because I don’t have anywhere to store the extra one. It’s currently at my parents’ house.

  14. Rachel Blount says:

    Hi Lael, I am working on a children’s educational book about Cycling sports for girls and would like to use an image of you with one of the bikes you ride, perhaps your latest one in the book please? Are you able to send me a hi-resolution image to use? We will of Course be able to credit you and the photographer for the use of the image. I hope you can help.
    Many thanks!

  15. Allan says:

    Hello Lael, could you comment on your gearing, specifically the 1x chainring? What size ring and cassette do you use? I’m looking for a 29er mtb for some easy jeep trail riding and to use for some road touring with 38mms slicks. Its easy to switch tires and I didn’t want to buy a touring bike. I’m 63 yrs old and wondering if that 1x will get me over the Rockies. Thank you.

    • laelwilcox says:

      Hi Allan,

      My gearing definitely depends on the ride. For racing the Navad 1000, I used a 30T chainring with an 11-50 cassette because it had so much steep climbing. For the French Divide, I switched to a 34T chainring. On my gravel bike, I run a 38T ring. For the kind of riding you’re talking about, I’d recommend a 34T or 36T chainring with a wide range cassette. I’m always more focused on getting up the climbs than pedaling down descents.

  16. Selena says:

    Are thicker tires easier to ride on any terrain, or do you change them out?

    • laelwilcox says:

      thicker meaning wider? Wider tires definitely help with rough, loose terrain. I change out tires depending on what I’m riding. In general, narrower tires are faster on smooth terrain.

      There are also tires with thicker sidewalls– these are best for rocky rough terrain as they will hold up better to the abuse.

  17. Angela Hammond says:

    Hi Lael,
    You are an inspiration and I would love to live your lifestyle. How do you afford all the bikes, gear, airfare etc?

    Best always,

    • laelwilcox says:

      Hi Angela,

      Thanks for writing. From 2008-2015, I paid for travel and equipment by working half the year in restaurants, bars and bike shops and saving money for travel. In the fall of 2015 (after racing Tour Divide twice) I started getting sponsored by Specialized for bikes. I continued to work to fund trips. I am super grateful that for the past two years, I’ve been fully sponsored (by Specialized, PEARL iZUMi, Hope, Komoot, Revelate Designs, Ergon, Wahoo) so I no longer have to work a side job. Now, I have more time to ride and run programs like Anchorage GRIT and women’s scholarships.


  18. Jim Big says:

    Hello Lael,
    I have recently watched a few of your bikepacking race videos, which is something i am looking to get into and am curious about your choice of chain lube for these adventures. What do you use/recommend and why? Thank you for your time,

    – Jim

    P.S.I love the videos, especially when cooped up in doors like we are now.

    • laelwilcox says:

      Hi Jim,

      Thanks for writing! The two chain lubes that have worked best for me are Dumonde Tech yellow (Lite chain lube) and the Finish Line green (wet) lube. I can’t say exactly why, but I feel like these two lubes keep my chains going longer with less noise and need to reapply lube. Hope that helps!


  19. Lee Rout says:

    Hi Lael,

    Been a fan for a long time and have loved the articles, podcasts and films you’ve been featured in. I hope you and Rue are safe and well during this strange time we find ourselves in. Have you got any more plans for film projects over the next year or two? ‘I just want to ride’ is something I watch regularly and look forward to the next chapter in your racing and travelling career.


    • laelwilcox says:

      Hi Lee,

      Thanks for writing! We have 2 film projects in the works– the first will be about our route building project in Colombia with and Conservation International. The second will be about my project to ride all of the roads in Alaska, my home state. We got back to Alaska on Saturday and are excited to get out riding and be able to share this story. It is such a beautiful and remote state!

      Thanks again for being in touch!

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