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130 Miles Bicycle Touring Through Alaska: Team Mosaic on the Denali Highway

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130 Miles Bicycle Touring Through Alaska: Team Mosaic on the Denali Highway

The Denali Highway is often referred to as one of the loneliest roads in America. It’s a bumpy, and inconvenient road that spans more than 130 miles, mostly above treeline, along the Alaskan Range. I visited the Denali Highway for a brief time years ago and that visit stuck with me. I knew I had to go back and this past summer, with my husband and a small group of friends, we did.

As cyclists, perhaps it’s our nature to see a road and want to ride it. This specific dirt road lives just outside of one of the most famous national parks in the world, and while many confuse it as the road to the park, it no longer serves that purpose. It’s host to grizzly bears, caribou, ptarmigans, and moose. It’s old, it takes a while to get to, and even longer to drive across. In the winter, the road and almost all of the lodges along it succumb to ice and snow, leaving a very small window of summertime when it erupts in color and becomes passable to cars. At about 130 miles from end-to-end, riding its length or close to it seemed just long enough to feel like a tangible challenge to us: consecutive 100+ mile days, on fully loaded bikes, and on a road, we were all curious to see from two wheels. Our ride would be a two-day out and back between the towns of Cantwell and Paxson. I haven’t done much bike touring, and none of us seemed all that excited about tent camping in Grizz country, so we booked lodging along the way.

It seemed like the second we booked our tickets, my husband Aaron, who is also the owner, and visionary at Mosaic Cycles, drafted plans for a new adventure model, The GTX. This was a bike that he’d been scheming in his mind for years: a big-tired gravel bike geared towards adventure riding and touring. Most of our trips present new opportunities for Aaron to design and build our next dream bikes. Lucky me, I just get to ride them.

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Rapha’s Documentary on Lael’s FKT in Alaska

Earlier this year, Lael departed on an FKT on the Alaska Pipeline route. Rapha was there, documenting her efforts:

“Four feet wide and carried five above the ground by a seemingly endless series of stanchions, the Alaska Pipeline is, for most of its 800-mile route, the only mark humanity has made on the pristine wilderness of this last frontier. The only mark, that is, except for the road that accompanies the pipeline on its long journey south from the Artic outpost of Prudhoe Bay to Valdez.

For born and bred Alaskan Lael Wilcox, this lonely road has always held a special interest. In fact, she’s ridden most of it before. But this time she’s back with a new challenge to set a Fastest Known Time, or FKT, for the route and bring a new source of energy to the road. By pushing herself, she hopes to encourage other riders, wherever they live and however long they’ve been riding, to do the same.

But this is a record attempt not a race, so Lael’s number one adjective is to have fun. All you have to do is show up with what you have, ride with all your heart and see how it goes. Oh, and you need to eat like it’s your job! Created by an all-female crew, tune into this latest episode of Rapha Gone Racing to find out how Lael got on in the Alaskan wilderness and whether the rumours that she is quicker than crude oil are actually true.”

Check out this wonderful documentary here and see Lael’s gear breakdown in our Related Archives below!

Lael Wilcox’s Trans Alaska Pipeline Time Trial Gear List and Introduction

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Lael Wilcox’s Trans Alaska Pipeline Time Trial Gear List and Introduction

I was born in Anchorage, Alaska, as was my mother. My grandfather was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, as was his father.

Alaska became a state in 1959. It’s a complicated and very beautiful place. It’s home.

In 2017, I rode all of the major roads in the state— about 4,500 miles, a mix of gravel and pavement. By land, Alaska is huge— twice the size of Texas. The road system is very limited, many places are isolated. I wanted to ride my bike to connect as much as I could. I set out in a series of trips— riding for a week or two at a time and hitching back to town to work at The Bicycle Shop to fund the next leg. For the most part, I rode alone. It was a lot of freedom and I had the time of my life.

Reflecting on my rides later, I wanted to go back to share my experience. Both with Rue, the love of my life, and with the public through photos and videos. This is something I have thought about since the fall of 2017.

“Lael Rides Alaska” 2021 Femme-Trans-Women’s Scholarship Winners!

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“Lael Rides Alaska” 2021 Femme-Trans-Women’s Scholarship Winners!

Please see Part 01 here: Top 11 finalist for the 2021 “Lael Rides Alaska” Femme-Trans-Women’s Scholarship: Part 01
and Part 02 here: Top 11 finalist for the 2021 “Lael Rides Alaska” Femme-Trans-Women’s Scholarship: Part 02
and part 03 here: Top 11 finalist for the 2021 “Lael Rides Alaska” Femme-Trans-Women’s Scholarship: Part 03

Design a 1,000-mile route in Alaska, tell me your plan, about yourself and what you need to make it happen. We’ll supply the bike, gear and a travel stipend and then you get to go do it this summer.

I am blown away by the honesty and ambition of this year’s applicants. They told true, sometimes hard, stories and hopes for the future. This has been a difficult year for everyone and I am deeply inspired by all who applied and shared openly about their experiences and their drive for adventure and challenge.

With the help of Cari Carmean, Natsuko Hirose, Kailey Kornhauser and Abigale Wilson, we narrowed the 126 applicants down to 11 finalists. I am beyond excited to announce that Dorothy O’Donnell and Olivia Juarez are the two recipients of the 2021 “Lael Rides Alaska” Femme-Trans-Women’s Scholarship…

Top 11 finalist for the 2021 “Lael Rides Alaska” Femme-Trans-Women’s Scholarship: Part 01

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Top 11 finalist for the 2021 “Lael Rides Alaska” Femme-Trans-Women’s Scholarship: Part 01

Top 11 finalists for the “Lael Rides Alaska” 2021 Femme-Trans-Women’s Scholarship

Design a 1,000 mile Alaska bike adventure, tell me about your plan and yourself and how you’ll make it happen this summer.

With the help of Cari Carmean, Natsuko Hirose, Kailey Kornhauser, and Abigale Wilson, we’ve selected 11 finalists from the 126 applicants. It has been extremely encouraging to read about women from around the world that want to take on this challenge and have so many unique approaches. I am honored to share a few of their stories. This has been a hard year for everyone. While highlighting positivity, there’s always an undercurrent of endurance and reflection. These are bold stories of perseverance, of finding connection, learning about ourselves and what truly matters.

I’m thrilled to share that we have the capacity to give out two full scholarships this year to outfit two different adventures this summer. Thank you so much to our generous and thoughtful sponsors.

The winners will receive either a complete Specialized Diverge with Easton carbon wheels or an adventure bike built up by SRAM, Revelate Designs bikepacking bags, Big Agnes camping equipment, PEARL iZUMi apparel, a premium subscription to Komoot, a Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM GPS, a $300 gift card for Competitive Cyclist, Rene Herse tires, an Ergon saddle, a year subscription to Bicycle Quarterly, Trail Butter, Hydro Flask hydration, and a $1,500 travel stipend provided by Easton, and the Radavist will also kick in a $500 travel stipend for one of the finalists.

Now’s the really hard part– we have to choose two winners. Announcements to come later this week.

Read on below for the first of three posts showcasing the 11 finalists…

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Lael Rides Alaska

After we featured various Lael Rides Alaska stories last year, PEARL iZUMi has sponsored this wonderful video project by Rue!

Lael Wilcox is a 4th generation Alaskan and an ultra-distance cyclist. In 2014, she began pushing her limits in her home state and dreamed that one day, she’d ride all of the major roads in Alaska– connecting the dots and traveling under her own steam to places she’d heard of but never seen. In 2017, after her first year running Anchorage GRIT, Lael spent the summer riding all of the roads, some 4,500 miles. She had the time of her life but rode mostly solo, and that experience was all her own. In reflection, she wanted to share more–to show people the beauty and truth of Alaska and inspire more people to ride there. The global pandemic of 2020 provided a unique opportunity to revisit this project–ride from home, spend time with her family, bring them along, and encourage others to pursue their own adventures.

Riding roads is feeling topography and weather, seeing history and reality, and experiencing everything along the way. If the finish line is home, how much farther can we go? If we bring along our loved ones, how much more will it mean?

This project is in support of the Anchorage GRIT project and the “Lael Ride Alaska Women’s Scholarship Program.”

Lael Rides Alaska: End of the Season

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Lael Rides Alaska: End of the Season

Alaskan summer energy, at its height, seems endless. You don’t need lights because the sun never sets. Schedules are mostly irrelevant— ride late, sleep in, take breaks, or never stop. It’s all possible.

Then the dark starts eating into the day. In late August, we start losing minutes that cumulate into hours over weeks. It’s hard to adjust. Night returns. And maybe that’s part of what makes it so special. That fleeting feeling of freedom that leaves, but not forever.

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Swift Campout Video Challenge Finalist: Trikepacking Some Assembly Required

the Swift Campout Video Challenge has been narrowed down to a few finalists, including this beautiful short from Alaska:

“Last winter Geoff purchased a Schwinn tricycle in the hopes of easing himself into riding a bike of the two-wheeled variety and embarking on health-conscious commutes to work. Geoff spent the brief but vibrant Alaskan 2020 summer familiarizing himself with his tricycle. A singlespeed grocery-getter in nature, the trike wasn’t the ideal candidate for someone’s first bikepacking steed but – a firm believer in ride what you got – I set out modifying the trike with Geoff’s first bikepacking journey in mind. These modifications included finding a home for a Hamerschmidt internal gear crankset (originally intended for Downhill MTB use) I’d had tucked away for just such a frankenbike undertaking.”

Check out more information at the Swift Industries Youtube!

Lael Rides Alaska: Alaskan Island Time

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Lael Rides Alaska: Alaskan Island Time

We continue our Lael Rides Alaska series with a beautiful story from a series of rides on some of Alaska’s islands. Check out more from this series in the ‘Related’ column below when you’re done reading this entry. Enjoy!

Staring at maps in 2017 on my mission to ride all of the major roads in Alaska, I was drawn in by a few remote destinations with more extensive road networks, specifically Nome, Kodiak Island, and Prince of Wales Island. In that summer, I made it to Nome and rode the three roads out of town— to the native village of Teller, to the river that leads to the historic gold mining town of Council, and to the active mining road that ends at the Kougarok River for a total of 230 miles.

Lael Rides Alaska: Touring the Dalton Highway and Gear Breakdown

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Lael Rides Alaska: Touring the Dalton Highway and Gear Breakdown

Dalton Highway

We land in Deadhorse on the North Slope of Alaska in the evening under sunny skies and drag our cardboard bike boxes out of the single gate terminal. We’re the only passengers on the flight not starting a two-week work shift on the oil fields. The wind is ripping so fast, it’s hard to put the bikes together. We help each other. We velcro bags to our bikes and load up our camping gear. It’s cold enough that we put on all of our clothing layers. We cram days’ worth of food into every pack. The workers at the airport are kind and helpful. A woman gives us directions to the shop where we can buy a camping stove canister and a can of bear spray that we couldn’t bring on the plane. She asks us to leave our bike boxes in storage. They always save the big ones for hunters.

Lael Wilcox’s Kenai 250 2021 Specialized Epic Evo Pro with Hope Tech

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Lael Wilcox’s Kenai 250 2021 Specialized Epic Evo Pro with Hope Tech

The Kenai 250 is a 257-mile, self-supported mountain bike race in the Kenai peninsula, the only area in Alaska with a large network of singletrack trails maintained by the forest service. The race organizer, Michael Braun, stitched together a route that connects the trails with highway miles. It’s 60% singletrack and 40% pavement. The race has been going on since at least 2013. This year, with 36 starters, it’s a record setting year for participation. This will be my first time racing it. I grew up in Alaska. It’s amazing to have the opportunity to ride and race in my home state. A couple weeks ago, Rue and I went out to tour the trails– several of which I’d never ridden. In a single day, from my bike seat, I saw a moose cooling off in a pond and both a lynx and a grizzly bear crossed my path. Alaska is still very wild. I’m really looking forward to riding through the night and experiencing this full route in one go. It would make a great multi-day tour as well.

Back In Alaska to Share the Story of the Roads: Lael Wilcox Rides Alaska

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Back In Alaska to Share the Story of the Roads: Lael Wilcox Rides Alaska

My dream was to ride all of the major roads in Alaska and I did in 2017. I’m fourth-generation Alaskan. It’s where I got into endurance riding on my mom’s Specialized Ruby in between bartending shifts in 2014. Examining the map and fitting in the biggest rides I could on my two days off led me to the goal of riding them all, imagining what the 2D map could look like in real life and why the roads existed in the first place. Three years later, I had a wide open summer and I was ready for an open-ended adventure. Four thousand five hundred miles took me past Wiseman to the north slope at Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean, through Chicken to Eagle on the Yukon River, to the three hot springs north of Fairbanks, into Denali National Park and across the Denali Highway to Paxson. I used The Milepost, the local guidebook that chronicles every mile of Alaskan road with conditions and services. If the road is listed in The Milepost, I had to ride it. About two-thirds were paved and a third, high-quality dirt.

Readers’ Rides: Matt’s Ol’ Gary Fish tASSaJARa

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Readers’ Rides: Matt’s Ol’ Gary Fish tASSaJARa

Matt bought this classic Fisher MTB frame for $50 with the hopes of having a good ’round towner. Like all bikes, it’s going through various iterations over the years, with what you’re seeing now being the most current and arguably the best. I guess it depends how the parts bin and jewelry box are lookin’ ya know? 

Anchorage GRIT: Girls Riding Into Tomorrow

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Anchorage GRIT: Girls Riding Into Tomorrow

Traveling by bike is inspiring and stimulating. From the saddle, you have time to think and dream. It’s dynamic. Pushing the pedals pumps blood. You breathe more air. you are enveloped in nature. There is so much to experience and interpret. If you’re riding with friends, you share ideas and maybe you build dreams together– layers of big ideas, feelings, details, reality, time, reflection and how you can really pull it all off. A great idea is very different from execution. You don’t have to be the best or the most organized to do something good. And you don’t have to know every possible outcome from the start. Adventure is stepping into the unknown. It’s scary and exciting and always requires more work than you really want to put in, but you follow through anyway because you have guts and you care.

In the spring of 2017, while riding the Baja Divide, Cait Rodriguez and I hatched the idea for Anchorage GRIT.

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The Friendly Arctic Trailer

In the summer of 2019, Bjørn Olson and Kim McNett completed a fat-bike and packraft route, entirely above the Arctic Circle of Alaska – Kotzebue to Point Hope. Enjoy the trailer for the upcoming film about this human-powered expedition.

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Bjørn Olson: Iglaak

The latest video from Bjørn Olson is not to be missed!

“Alaska’s Seward Peninsula lies just below the Arctic Circle. The protuberant peninsula is the millennia old home to the Inupiat Eskimo, situated in the northwest of Alaska – a land that stirs the adventurer’s spirit and kindles the insatiable. Visions of paleo-Arctic ancestors, sweeping tundra, rugged mountains, winding rivers, compacted beaches, intact ecosystems, and a land before contemporary time excite the Iglaak – the traveler, stranger, and visitor.

This three-minute film is a snapshot of a fat-bike and packraft tour through the Imuruk Basin, the villages of Mary’s Igloo, Brevig Mission, Teller, and Nome.”