1000 Mile Tarmac Ride
Words by Lael Wilcox, photos by Rugile Kaladyte and Trevor Raab.
Laboring up Mount Lemmon this winter with roadies on light bikes with rim brakes, I started thinking, I want a road bike! It rarely rains in Tucson, almost never in the winter. In the sunshine, rim brakes on carbon rims work fine. But what really is the difference? I was riding around on a Specialized Diverge, a performance carbon gravel bike with disc brakes and 38mm tires. I love the Diverge. It rides great. But I still had questions. What would a true road bike feel like? How would it feel after 100 miles or 200 miles or 1,000 miles?
This was part of an unresolved issue for me. I won the Trans Am on a Specialized Ruby in 2016. The Ruby is an endurance road bike with comfort features built into the bike. On bicycles, comfort often equates to extra weight. At the time, I figured for a 4200-mile race, I needed the comfort. The Ruby rode great. It had disc brakes. It had deeper dish aero wheels. It had an aero bar. To be honest, all built, the Ruby was kind of heavy, heavier than my fatbike. It left me wondering, would I have been better off on a standard road bike? This spring, I got my chance to ride true road.
With two weeks off between working at the pizza place and beginning work as a gravel camp guide for The Cyclist’s Menu, I flew from Tucson to San Jose to visit Specialized Headquarters in Morgan Hill, California. I picked up a new Women’s Tarmac, got fit to the bike and rolled out the next morning to ride 1,000 miles back to Tucson. From the stock 54cm Women’s Tarmac, I only changed the saddle. I stuffed a sleeping bag in a dry bag and strapped it to the handlebars.
I attached a Revelate Designs Viscacha to the seatpost for clothing and food and a couple of small bags to the top tube for tools and snacks. I mapped an 1130 mile route with Komoot, adding waypoints to ride Big Sur, climb the Nacimiento Fergusson Road, pedal over the Angeles Crest Highway out of LA and through Joshua Tree and end at the Kitt Peak Observatory, just west of Tucson.
10 days, 1,000 miles and 50,000 feet of climbing later I’m back in Southern Arizona, starting work for The Cyclist’s Menu today.
I have never been more comfortable on a bike. I think this has a lot to do with the pro fitting I received from Aaron Post at Specialized as well as running 28c tires on wide rims.
The weather was perfect: 70-80 degrees and sunny every day.
Rim brakes on carbon rims work fine, but I would never want to end up in the rain with them.
Road riding is fun and fast and feels like flying.
It sucks to ride in traffic without a shoulder in the dark. Some of my days were cut short because I didn’t want to put myself at risk. Daylight is definitely limiting at this time of year.
Komoot works really well mostly, but I did run into a couple private roads.
I slept under the stars, stayed with friends and in a couple motels.
Mixing up terrain, meeting people along the way and never knowing what’s next is why I love touring, oh and riding my bike all day long.
I should’ve raced the Trans Am on a Tarmac.
Follow Lael on Instagram, Rugile on Instagram and Trevor on Instagram.