All About Lael Wilcox’s Around-the-World Bike

The bike Lael Wilcox chose to attempt her around-the-world cycling record on has a deep 10-year history. Learn more about the backstory of the Specialized Roubaix she’s currently pedaling on her 18,000-mile, three-and-a-half-month circumnavigation of the globe and find a video documenting the build and more here…

Photos by Rugile Kaladyte

On Sunday, ultra-endurance athlete Lael Wilcox set off on a monumental trip, aiming to cycle 18,000 miles over three and a half months on an around-the-world record attempt. There’s an interesting backstory to the Specialized Roubaix that Lael chose to take on this grand adventure. In a nutshell, it’s (almost) the same bike model she rode when she began her ultra-endurance journey back in 2014. At that time, Lael started pedaling long distances on the paved roads of Alaska using a 2005 Specialized Ruby she borrowed from her mom (the women’s-specific version of the Roubaix).

  • Lael Wilcox Tour Divide 2015
  • Lael Wilcox, Trans Am Race, Winner 2016
Left: Lael at Antelope Wells on the 2015 Tour Divide; Right: At the finish of the Trans AM race in 2016

She was working in a restaurant in Anchorage at the time and squeezed in as much riding as she could during her days off. For her first significant ride, Lael hopped a train to Seward and rode 127 miles back home. She was hooked. Her trips got longer and more ambitious, and after ticking off several massive rides in Alaska that year, she signed up for the 2015 Tour Divide, where she set the record in just over 17 days. In 2016, Lael got a new Specialized Ruby of her own that she pedaled across the US in the Trans Am race. I remember following that race live and being blown away by Lael’s performance as she passed the men’s leader in the middle of the night of the last day and won the event overall.

  • Lael Wilcox Around the world bike, Specialized Roubaix
  • Lael Wilcox Around the world bike, Specialized Roubaix

To make a long story short, which you can dig into in the podcast linked below, Lael didn’t expect to be on a Specialized Roubaix for this ride. She initially planned on riding a Crux gravel bike, but realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t the right bike for this particular effort. “It’s too rigid. I need more comfort. I need to feel like settled into this bike for long distance,” Lael mentioned. Her contact at Specialized suggested the Roubaix. With clearance for larger 37mm tires and the future shock, it’s built for maintaining comfort during endurance road cycling events.

The Build

Her bike was built by Brook Fowler, the technical marketing manager at SRAM. Brook put it together it at the Madrean workshop in Tucson, and SRAM made this video to document the process. Watch below and scroll down for build details and more about Lael’s kit choices.

  • Frame: Specialized Roubaix
  • Suspension: Future Shock 3.3 with Smooth Boot
  • Saddle: S-Works Power
  • Seatpost: S-Works Pave
  • Stem: S-Works Future
  • Handlebar: S-Works Shallow Bend
  • Tape: Ergon
  • Front Brake/Shift: RED AXS
  • Rear Brake/Shift: RED AXS
  • Bottom Bracket: SRAM DUB BSA
  • Front Derailleur: RED AXS
  • Chain: RED AXS
  • Crankset: RED AXS 46/33t, 172.5
  • Rear Derailleur: RED AXS
  • Cassette: RED AXS 10-36T
  • Front Tire: Specialized Mondo 700×35
  • Rear Tire: Specialized Mondo 700×35
  • Front Wheel: Zipp 303 Firecrest on SON Dynamo hub
  • Rear Wheel: Zipp 303 Firecrest
  • Pedals: Time XPRO 12
  • Lael Wilcox Around the world bike, Specialized Roubaix
  • Lael Wilcox Around the world bike, Specialized Roubaix

Some of you are probably wondering why Lael chose to use electronic/wireless shifting on this trip. The main reason is to save her hands. The first two times Lael rode the Tour Divide route in 2015, she had a mechanical drivetrain. However, after riding 8,600 miles in three months, first pedaling to the start of the grand depart in Banff from her home in Alaska and proceeding to race down the spine of the Rockies, Lael’s right thumbnail turned black and fell off from the constant trigger shifting. This was on a mountain bike, where actuating derailleurs is a bit easier on the hands than shifting with road levers. Mechanical road shifting requires more hand movement since the levers are like paddles and a considerable movement from the fingers and wrists is needed to actuate the derailleur. Lael switched to electronic shifting in 2016 for the Trans Am race because she was using a road bike, and she hasn’t looked back.

Bags and Water

Lael has the Roubaix equipped with a fairly minimal bag setup from Revelate Designs. A Spinelock Seat Pack takes the rear bag position, which is carrying all of her clothing. Up front, she’s using the new Pitchfork Aerobar System that I covered at Sea Otter and you can see more photos of here. The detachable dry bag in the Pitchfork is storing a sleep kit, and its two massive pockets are reserved for snacks, sandwiches, burritos, and all other forms of road calories that she’ll consume on this massive journey. She’s also using the new Revelate Designs Mag Tank with the TPU liner for food, “so I can actually wash it out and I won’t have muffin crumbs stuffed into the bottom of my bag. This is gonna be a lot more civilized than it used to be, so that’s good,” Lael added. No frame bag for this ride; instead, Lael simply has two 26-oz water bottles in the triangle.

Lael Wilcox Around the world bike, Specialized Roubaix

The Cockpit

There was one dilemma that resulted from the use of the Pitchfork Harness. The system takes up all the room on the aero bars that she normally uses to mount lights and navigational equipment. To solve this, Sean Small from Ruckus Composites designed and machined an aluminum plate that bolts directly to the ends of the aero bars. This provides mounting points for her Wahoo ELEMNT Roam and the SON dynamo light. An additional custom carbon plate above the bars offers a Quadlock mount for her phone.

  • Lael Wilcox Around the world bike, Specialized Roubaix
  • Lael Wilcox Around the world bike, Specialized Roubaix
  • Lael Wilcox Around the world bike, Specialized Roubaix
  • Lael Wilcox Around the world bike, Specialized Roubaix

Batteries and Charging

Since Lael is using electronic shifting, she had to plan on keeping the batteries charged. She expects the derailleur batteries to last about 350 miles each and is carrying a power bank to keep them topped off. Otherwise, the dynamo should keep the Wahoo and other electronics charged, and she should be able to keep the battery bank charged, too.

  • Lael Wilcox Around the world bike, Specialized Roubaix
  • Lael Wilcox Around the world bike, Specialized Roubaix

Maintenance

Lael’s goal is to ride 170 miles per day, which would allow her to finish the ride in about 110 days, breaking Jenny Graham’s current record of 124 days, 10 hours, and 50 minutes. That will add up to 18,000 miles over three and a half months, amounting to over five years worth of use on the bike and all of its components during a very short window of time. Bikes are fairly durable, but this is another level of wear and tear. How long are all these components going to last, and when will she have to replace them? The chain will need to be swapped out every 2,500 miles. The cassette, maybe every 5,000 miles. She expects the tires to last around 3,000 miles and has planned a few stops to have the bike serviced, but she’ll likely have to replace everything on the bike over time.

Lael Rides Around the World
  • Lael Rides Around the World
  • Lael Rides Around the World
A few captures from day one on Sunday as Lael rode from Chicago into the countryside of Illinois on her way to NYC

At the time of this writing, Lael has gone about 500 miles from the start in Chicago en route to New York, where she’ll fly to Europe on May 31st. She’s currently riding ACA’s official Chicago to New York City Route and will continue from Porto, Portugal on a custom route designed for this trip to Tbilisi, Georgia. There’s a lot of riding yet to come, and we wish her the best! You can see where Lael is on the map here, listen to the daily podcast on Spotify here, and get a sense for the route making decisions in this episode here.

Further Reading

Make sure to dig into these related articles for more info...

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