Editor’s note: Zach sent us this post in an email and I enjoyed his story so much that I asked him if we could share it. He kindly agreed. What I like about this the most is that it is about someone discovering cycling from the outside. It isn’t about someone trying to add the new It-Bike to their collection, it’s about starting from zero and discovering it all fresh for himself. If you’ve got a Rodeo owner story that you would like to share please shoot us a note. We love hearing from our owners.
It’s been a minute since I’ve sent y’all an email, but I wanted to once again send you all my thanks and an ownership report from D.C. I read The Rodeo Journal, it helps me live out some of the adventures vicariously, and I know you like to hear about your bikes from happy owners. I’m writing this email because obviously we’ve all got a bunch of time and space to think about things these days.
My brother worked half a dozen or more summers at Joe’s Bike Shop in Baltimore and mountain bikes with a Salsa El Mariachi Ti single-speed, and my dad road bikes to work with a Specialized Roubaix Expert Di2. I lead with this information because both are lifelong cyclists and have hassled me longer than I can remember to get a bike, (probably rightfully) calling me a lazy scrub for not doing so.
I live in D.C. and don’t own a car, and though I absolutely love walking and public transit, but it can only get me so far, so fast in the city. I decided some time early last year that I wanted to buy a bike. But here’s the thing: I’m about to turn 28 and haven’t owned a bike since middle school. I had no idea what I was going to get, and I didn’t even know if I’d remember how to ride, but I feel like it’s a mistake to not plan purchases carefully and figure out exactly what I want – if I got a bike I didn’t, it might put me off biking forever, or at least make me constantly think of what could have been.
As a complete biking novice trying to figure out a bike for a city with crap roads and a long, gravel towpath, I figured gravel would be the thing to build for. I wanted to minimize exposed parts and maintenance while maximizing utility and durability. I don’t know exactly how I found Rodeo Labs, but I think I did some very deep Googling for every compatible frame after finding out about belt drives.
The website said “Flaanimal is meant to be built and ridden any way that you like. Each of its primary design details are intended to leave key decisions about function up to the owner.” Perfect.
I’m not new to esoteric hobbies and saw the preliminary budget I’d set for myself was about to implode, but if I got one bike that could to do it all, it’d be worth it.
I got this one built from District Cycle Works just before winter and was an absolute lazy scrub about getting it (and myself) out the door and moving. First I had issues getting the wheels to hold air, then it was too cold or rainy (it rains all the time in DC), then I was too busy at work and took weekends to “just relax” (hindsight 20/20, biking would have been relaxing). I was too afraid and kept putting it off and I barely rode it a few mile a month.
When the stay at home order came in months ago, I realized this bike may have been the best purchase I’ve ever made. I don’t know what the average Flaanimal rider does with it, but mine does everything now. It brings back food and drinks from restaurants and grocery stores. It explores neighborhoods and parks both familiar and new. It helps me exercise and experience just being outside. It lets me ride up stupid crumbly, rocky, muddy hills around town and full send all the way back down again. I thought I’d be avoiding potholes and rough spots, but I feel incentivized to aim for them.
My longest ride so far is still under 20 miles, but when things get better (and I get it together), I hope to ride longer and longer on the C&O and other local trails.
Thanks again for making cool stuff and making it possible.