Lael’s 2019 Silk Road Mountain Race Rig and Kit
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Lael Wilcox set off on the rugged and beautiful Silk Road Mountain Race early this morning. Following our race rigs coverage from earlier this week, here’s an in depth look at the bike Lael’s riding, her complete gear list, and answers to a few questions we had about what she packed and the choices she made…
Photographs by Rugile Kaladyte
Along with 140 other riders, ultra-endurance athlete Lael Wilcox started the 2nd annual Silk Road Mountain Race from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan early this morning. The course features 1700 kilometers of rugged doubletrack, gravel, and other surfaces climbing nearly 25,000 meters through the incredible Tian Shan mountains. To put it in perspective, when we initially scouted the route that this race is based on, we took 21 days to ride it. But being the competitor that she is, Lael is challenging herself to finish in 7-9 days. The current record is held by Jay Petervary who completed it in 8 days, 8 hours, and 15 minutes last year. To dig in to the equipment she’s using to make such a run, here’s a detailed look at Lael’s bike and gear list, plus her thoughts on why she made the choices that she did for this particular race.
The Bike (Specialized Fuse)
Wheels and Tires
Hope rear hub
SON dynamo front hub
Roval carbon Control SL 29” rims (25mm internal)
Specialized Fast Trak 2.3” tires
Drivetrain and Brakess
Truvativ carbon cranks
30 T chainring
10-50t Eagle cassette
Brakes: Hope Race Evo X2 with 180mm rotors
Logan: You decided to ride an aluminum hardtail, vs. your carbon epic from the Tour Divide. What’s your rationale?
Lael: My aluminum Specialized is almost brand new and set up exactly how I’d like it for the SRMR. It was a replacement for the red Fuse I used for two rides down the Baja Divide, the Colorado Trail, the Vegas to Reno route and many other rides. I rode that bike hard and it got pretty beat up. This spring, I found a small crack in the seat stay of the red Fuse frame. I’m having it rebuilt for my sister as a commuter—I think it’ll hold up fine on bike paths and around town. I asked for a new Fuse because I loved the old one so much. Compared to my Specialized Epic Hardtail, it has substantially more tire clearance (better for mud) and a slighter long travel suspension fork (120mm instead of 100mm).
After touring the route on this bike, the only thing I would change is the frame material. I lent Rue my old carbon Specialized Epic Hardtail and she’s been touring on it. Every time I hop on that bike, it just feels like it has so much more give. And it’s extremely lightweight.
However, my new Fuse is in much better shape than the old Epic. Everything is working perfectly— crisp brakes and shifting, a fantastic wheelset and custom Revelate bags. I’m really happy with it and feel confident it’ll hold up for this rough route.
Ergon GP2 grips with bar ends
Profile Designs T3+ carbon aerobar
Wahoo Bolt (ELEMNT review)
Sinewave Cycles Beacon dynamo light
Garmin Etrex20 (powered with AA batteries)
King Kage top cap bottle cage mount with Specialized rib cage
2x Purist water bottles
SRAM Eagle shifting (review)
Hope headset & stem
XT half clipless half platform pedals
Hope carbon seat post
Ergon SR saddle
Logan: Last year’s SRMR saw a large percentage of scratches. Some of these may have been a result of kit choices. One of the oddest decisions by many riders, including the winner, was the use of skinny 42mm gravel tires. Based on my own experience on this route, I applaud your tire choice. What led to that decision?
Lael: Even from the short teaser trailer that SRMR race director Nelson Trees made prior to last year’s race, the roads looked pretty rough. Whenever touring dirt internationally, I always opt for a hardtail, usually with a suspension fork. When I don’t know the terrain, I’ll run 2.1” or 2.3” tires. This is the tire size I typically race on the Tour Divide. The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route could be successfully ridden on a gravel bike because the road surfaces are fairly smooth. However, no one has ever won the Tour Divide on a gravel bike. Physical fatigue over time wears on the body and comfort is essential for endurance performance. The SRMR is considerably rougher than the Great Divide. I’m very happy to have large volume tires. I might even consider racing a cross-country full suspension bike, like the Specialized Epic, on this route. I definitely don’t think I’d ride faster on a gravel bike.
I’ve heard many of the scratches last year were due to stomach and digestive issues. Last year also had some pretty serious weather with a couple of snowstorms on high passes during the race. The weather here seems to change very quickly and is unpredictable.
Tools and Repair Kit
Valve core remover
Bags and Luggage
Revelate Mag-Tank 2000
2 x Revelate Mountain Feedbag (review)
Revelate custom dyneema framebag
Custom Revelate XL Jerrycan
Prototype Revelate seatpack
Clothing and Kit
Lael is carrying more layers and clothing than usual (full down suit and rain suit, neoprene gloves and socks, sandals for stream crossings and hike-a-bike) to push through bad weather and storms, of which there are many in the high mountains of Kyrgyzstan.
PEARL iZUMi Blvd Merino ¼ zip & t-shirt
Summit WxB jacket & rain pants
Half-finger aero gloves
X-Alp Elevate shoes
2x Wool socks
Patagonia down sweater jacket
Western Mountaineering Flash down pants
Endura neoprene gloves
Lizard Kross Ibidro shoes
Other personal items: Sunscreen, SPF lip balm, Debit card, Cash, Passport, 2-liter water bladder, Baby wipes, Toothbrush/toothpaste
Logan: It seems like you’re bringing much more significant clothing kit than usual. From my experience, the fickle Kyrgyz mountain weather merits over-preparation, but does your current kit feel substantially heavier?
Lael: At most, I’m probably carrying an extra three pounds of clothing and sleep kit relative to my Tour Divide set up. It really doesn’t feel much heavier. I guess the biggest difference is that I’m carrying a front roll (Revelate Designs Pronghorn, size medium). I usually avoid this set up for racing, but have been touring with it, so it feels really normal. My entire sleep kit (sleeping pad, sleeping bag, bivvy, down jacket and pants) is packed up front.
Last year, temperatures during the race ranged from 12F-100F (-11C-40C) during the race. I’m prepared for this range, rainstorms and potential blizzards. If I get too cold while racing, I feel like I lose all of my energy and it’s really hard to come back from that. I think the three pounds is well worth it.
Lael is running mechanical shifting and primarily devices that require AA or AAA batteries to avoid relying on electricity.
USB-micro charging cord
iPhone charging cord
AA lithium batteries
Planet Bike taillight
Black Diamond Polar Icon headlamp (AA batteries)
Unlike the Tour Divide, she’s carrying a sleeping bag rated to freezing temps, an inflatable sleeping pad, and a substantial bivvy to deal with cold and possibly stormy nights at elevation.
Big Agnes Flum UL 30 sleeping bag
Thermarest NeoAir Uberlite sleeping pad
Mountain Laurel Designs FKT bivvy
Logan: What’s been your favorite part of Kyrgyzstan so far?
Lael: I loved the valley after Kegety Pass—so green with beautiful flowers and so much fresh water. I really loved the climb out of Baetov. Riding out from Eki-Naryn up the canyon at sunset was a real treat. Arabel was stunning and kind of scary in a storm. Riding high passes in Kyrgyzstan is exceptional.