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Stephen Fitzgerald

Ride Report: Josh’s Ride On Rollins

By Adventures No Comments

Note: Josh came from the DC area to do the Ride On Rollins with us. He wrote this recap for his team blog / facebook group. When it was sent to me I asked Josh if he would allow us to repost it here and he graciously agreed. I like this report a lot because it has the perspective of someone doing this sort of ride with fresh eyes. I live inside the Rodeo / Colorado bubble but Josh does not so for me reading about his ride is so fun and rewarding.


By Josh Pierce.

Just before leaving last Friday morning, I texted my buddy Peder, “I was able to get in a last good ride, about 45 miles and about 2400 feet of climbing.” He texted, “we’re doing almost 9000 feet of climbing on Sunday but hey good work:).” I texted back “yeah, I know I’m walking in to a buzz saw jack ass!:)” That is exactly what it was…a buzz saw.

So just let me begin by saying thanks to everyone who helped get me to a place where I could even attempt this ride. It was tough, tougher than anything I have experienced on a bike. Thanks to Jay for showing me what a real workout means and getting me in to biking in the first place. Thanks to Dexter, Joel, and Hans for the encouragement and tips on riding at altitude, and thanks to Byron and Tom for helping me get back in to it after a few weeks off the bike with a challenging 5Bs. And thanks to Armstrong for lending me his bike for so long. I was truly thinking of bagging it but because I was able to get in a handful of rides, I felt good enough to proceed. On reflection, I am really glad I pulled the trigger.

I flew in to Denver Friday and like I am sure many people notice, EVERYONE is in good shape and everyone is in to the outdoors. I watched an elderly woman deplane in a wheel chair…with hiking poles. This tells you as much about my state of mind as anything about the folks in Colorado. I was looking at everything through the lens of this ride which I was a little terrified of. I jumped on the light rail and Peder picked me up. We grabbed some tacos and beer then went over to Rodeo Labs to grab my steed, a Trail Donkey 3.0. I was very excited to visit Rodeo Labs for a couple reasons; to meet the founder, Stephen Fitzgerald, and to see the facilities. It turns out that my buddy, Peder is very close friends with Stephen Fitzgerald. Back in 2000-something Peder and Stephen would get together over coffee to talk about cycling and the need to get away from the race-only mentality and towards more community focused gravel/mountain bike rides. During those talks, the idea for a Denver group ride was formed which they started. Later, the idea for a company came about which Stephen started in 2013 or 14, I think. Upon arrival at Rodeo Labs, I was struck by their size. The operating space is tiny. They had one admin assistant, a mechanic, Sheldon, Stephen, and one other guy doing something that I can’t remember. The space is smaller than the front desk area of Bikenetic and is situated downstairs of SloHi Coffee, which is closely affiliated with Rodeo Labs. SloHi, incidentally, is the confluence of two neighborhoods, Sloan Lake and Highland. The other thing, which is maybe not so surprising is that a steady stream of people came in the door from the time I arrived to when I left for all different reasons. So I was very thankful and slightly embarrassed when Stephen stopped what he was doing and grabbed my rental and looked it over before changing out the wheels to 650s himself for the ride Sunday. This may have had everything to do with him knowing Peder and nothing to do with some schmoe from DC who was out to do a ride he had no business doing. On the other hand, it could have had to do with Stephen wanting to make sure I had as painless a ride as possible. In any case, I got my first look at the Trail Donkey 3.0 with 650s, single ring in the front…which was actually oval, internal cabling, etc. We took it back to Peder’s house and I got it ready for the ride.

 

Saturday, Peder and I went out for a 25 mile loop on the North Table, about five miles outside Denver. It was a fairly vertical ascent and descent on rocky hiking trails, sometimes putting me at the edge of kinda severe drop-offs. Overall it was challenging, but we went slow and it gave me time to acclimate to the bike and to the elevation, which I felt even in Denver. The views from the plains on top were breathtaking. After a short descent, we arrived at New Terrain Brewery situated perfectly along a number of bike trails. The place was packed so we had to share a table and ended up chatting with a guy named Ted, a retired long-haul trucker. Ted knew Colorado well from his driving days and he shared a lot of information with Peder that I think was stored away for future rides. We told Ted we were planning to ride up Rollins Pass the next day, weather permitting, and he told us that he was actually thinking of driving up there for a hike and would keep an eye out for us. We said our goodbyes and headed back to Denver.

Game day started at HiSlo where the owner opened his shop at 6 for coffee and breakfast burritos. About twenty or so others were there. While Stephen gave a quick talk about the ride, Peder pointed out a few of the stronger riders. He pointed out Kristi Lindquist who placed second at Steamboat in the 40-49 and Brian Derstine, who placed second at Steamboat in Single Speed. At that point, I was beginning to realize that either this was a full on coffee ride or I would be riding solo or more likely just with Peder most of the day. I half expected Jeremiah Bishop to show up to punctuate the fact that I had no business being there. We headed out at 6:30am for Golden. There was much banter and joking. Everyone was clearly psyched. It was a gorgeous, clear, slightly chilly morning. I chatted with Kristi who is awesome and a guy named Woodrow from Newport News. Mostly I just made sure I was staying with the group which actually split quickly in to two.

Then we hit Golden Gate Canyon Road, a two-laner with few cars, at least on Sunday morning. It was lined with trees and rock walls that make you wonder if gravity is suspended in Colorado. It was maybe eight percent grade most of the way with one half-mile twenty percent section. There was one steep gravely descent for about a mile but otherwise it was 40ish miles straight up. It had some beautiful views but to be honest it was tough and I knew the tougher final ascent was coming and I needed to conserve energy. I was ready to get on to some gravel, come what may. As we arrived in Rollinsville, our B group of four saw the A group rolling out in the distance. We actually weren’t that far behind them! But honestly, we had no idea how long they’d been there. At an outpost/mom and pop market in Rollinsville, I had already depleted three water bottles and three bars. I was at only 8500 feet but was really feeling the elevation. My legs felt like lead but the fifteen minute break was very helpful. Our band of four grew to five when Sheldon arrived from Boulder to meet up with us. Peder had a mechanical and Sheldon fixed it, which also gave me a little more time to recoup. I drank a Dr. Pepper, ate a bag of chips, a bar, and drank more water. We rolled out of Rollinsville on to a flat, very packed, dirt road which wound around, under a bridge, across railroads tracks, and out a couple miles until we hit a sharp right on to the jeep road which began our ascent. The ascent was roughly sixteen miles up from 8400 feet to 11,660 feet. The average grade was 5%, I am guessing, but up to 15 in places and littered with progressively more and more rocks. 4-Wheel drive cars had a tough time on it. It was time to see what the Trail Donkey could do. Ok, and what I could do.

The good news was, strangely, my legs began to shake out. The bad news was instead of that leaden feeling, both legs began cramping pretty severely. Peder gave me a couple iodine pills and this seemed to help although I still cramped from time to time. As we ascended, I grew more tired which really affected me when I couldn’t find a line and was forced to just power over rocks. At these times, especially as we got closer to the top, I was forced to break out of my single-minded focus of “next step, next step, next step.” My mind wandered. I was exhausted, I was pissed, I was angry that The National hadn’t had a good album since 2008, I hated Chris Shue’s pink sock things he wears over his bike shoes in the winter, and the fact that Hans is always wearing a backpack when I ride with him. I knew that I liked mounds better than Snickers but I couldn’t remember why…OK FOCUS! Then I would kick back in to single-mindedness and keep going. It seemed to never end. Then the clouds started to move in. This was a psychological factor since we knew being up top with rain and wind would be brutal and possibly dangerous. As we approached the looping, final ascent around a gorgeous glass lake under a glacier, we ran in to some of the A group. They were bailing to get down to civilization before rain and hail hit. Lightning strikes were hitting out in the distance. I was almost too exhausted to worry. I also knew we had no choice but to go on. We were going to Winter Park to be picked up. The only way to Winter Park was over the pass and down. Going back also meant facing the brutal jeep road we had just come up and that just was not an option to me. So after a highly sketchy hike-a-bike on a dirt path over a now closed tunnel, connecting the road, Peder and I continued on. Side note; one of the A groupers rode down the path. I just cannot explain how insane this is. It’s probably a thousand feet down on one side and sketchy gravel and dirt (see the pic of me hiking). The others in the B Group bailed and joined the few A groupers who had summited. It was just Peder and I now and we were hurrying.

There are two abandoned train trestles to cross at the summit and as Joel had told me, height was actually never a factor. The trestles and the path on both ends are much wider than they appear and honestly, I was so fatigued, I hardly even noticed anything around me. I didn’t really notice the A groupers encouraging me, the joke Stephen made after seeing my face (he asked Peder if we were going to be friends after this trip) or that he handed me his winter cycling gloves for the descent…and I didn’t notice when Ted walked by me going the other way between trestles! Ted, the retired long-haul trucker, had made his way up the opposite way in his truck to see if we were going to make it! I waved as I rode by but only found out on the other side of the pass, that it was Ted. For some reason, I got choked up by this and I just turned and yelled “Ted!” as loud as I could back in to the pass. I like to think it echoed down and Ted heard it. At this point, we could see all the cloud cover now coming closer and in plain view. It was time to descend and fast. We stopped for one picture and then hit it. I have never moved this quickly on gravel. The back side jeep road to Winter Park is nothing like the one we had ascended. It was much smoother but still, if I’d missed one rock, I would have been over the handlebars at 15-30 miles an hour. The descent was brutal because even with Stephen’s gloves on, I couldn’t feel my hands. The temperature had dropped from 80 to 50 degrees. I got my brutalized body down the road eventlessly though and we rolled in to Winter Park. I ran to a public bathroom to change clothes before driving home and while in the bathroom, a flash flood started. We had somehow dodged the storm. I still don’t know how the others fared (they were going 140 miles to our 75) although I know Stephen didn’t get home until nearly 8pm, long after our brewery dinner and while I was in a hot tub nursing my ailments.

The ride was surreal, amazing, gorgeous. I was painful but I would do it again in a second. I wish I had been in better shape to enjoy it all perfectly but that is not how life works. You take it as it comes. It was something I will remember forever.

Ride On Rollins: A visual recap

By Adventures No Comments

Earlier this summer a couple of us made the ride from Denver to Winter Park via Rollins pass. The 90 mile ride crossed the Continental Divide at Rollins Pass, elevation 11,676ft. The ride was incredibly difficult but the views as we crested the alpine terrain of The Rockies left us exhilarated and left us wanting to share the experience with others. This is when the Ride On Rollins was born. On Sept 8th, 2019 we rode to Rollins Pass again, but this time with approximately 40 other people starting from either Denver, Boulder, or Rollinsville. Of the starters about 12-15 people made the summit. Some loved the ride. Some hated the brutally rocky conditions. The rain threatened and so many of us were nearly hit full force by afternoon thunderstorms.

As difficult and challenging as the ride was it was awesome to share the route and inspire so many people to try it either for the first time or one more time. To us adventure is about embarking on rides with uncertain outcomes. Such rides test our mettle and reward us with sublime experiences that we carry with us from that moment forward. These rides are the embodiment of calling ourselves an Adventure Lab, a way to stay true to what we are all about.

This post we leave behind as a visual record.

 

Traildonkey 3.0 // Hometown Trails

By Gear, TD3 No Comments

Having come back recently from Dirty Kanza I was struck by the sheer energy and growth that the gravel riding genre currently has. There were a number of new gravel bikes announced at the race itself, each eager to have or gain credibility in the genre. Watching it all made me think about our bike and the more I thought about it all the more I was amazed at how we’ve been swept along by this gravel wave. Reflection also reminded me that our bikes didn’t start with gravel, they started with Trail. Ours is a story that intersects with gravel but also but also deviates from it whenever a trail can be found leading away from a dirt road.

Traildonkey was born in 2014 in Denver, Colorado. At the time we were spending a fair bit of time riding on paved roads but had begun to detour onto the local trails in and around the foothills of near our city.

Traildonkey 3.0. Green Mountain. Denver, CO

Green Mountain, Mount Falcon, Lair Of The Bear, Colorado Trail, and Table Mountain. These were our original Lab. These were all singletrack playgrounds that factored more and more into our regular rides. Why? Because variety breathed fresh life into what would otherwise have been routine. At first we took our road bikes off road because these were road ride detours. Then we took cyclocross bikes because we needed bigger tires and better gearing out in the dirt.

Traildonkey 3.0. Green Mountain. Denver, CO

Eventually we decided that we wanted to have a go at developing a bike around the exact style of riding we were doing: A little bit of road, a little bit of singletrack, and anything else that looked fun. We wanted quick on the road and agile on the trail.

Traildonkey 3.0. Green Mountain. Denver, CO

We developed Traildonkey around Colorado riding and Colorado trails first. We made it for ourselves and only later decided to start a bike company so that we could offer the bike to others who had since started eying their local dirt and needed a worthy steed.

Since then gravel has caught on in a big way and we’re excited about all of the people and diversity that it has brought into the mixed terrain genre. Traildonkey loves gravel riding and racing but here in Colorado we still continue to ride them on our local roads and hometown trails exactly the same way we did when we started in 2014.

Every bike has an origin story. This is ours.

Childish Things

By Adventures No Comments

When we were children we spoke as children, we understood as children, we thought as children; but when we became men, we put away childish things. (That last part is a massive bummer).

On Tuesday nights we pull childish things back out and it feels great.

6pm at SloHi on 29th. 30 miles mixed terrain. Intermediate pace. Lights required. Rain or wet trails cancel.

Sometimes we have 25 riders, sometimes five or six. Sometimes we have 4-6 women, sometimes none join us. All are welcome!

Build Profile: Caletti Scrambler + Rodeo Spork 2.0

By Gear No Comments

One of the best parts of running Rodeo is being able to make it a company that is a part of a community. That community is made up of team mates, bike owners, and ALSO other bike makers and builders. On one hand it could be said that we should be pushing what we make as hard as we can to the exclusion of all “competitors” but I disagree with that entirely. I think we should make bikes and parts that we love and believe in and that we shouldn’t make bikes for everyone out there. Other bike companies make different bikes with different vibes and different ethos for different people. Weaving plurality into our brand makes us stronger, more creative, and gives us a much better story to tell.

When I ride alone I don’t tend to push myself very hard, but when I ride in a group it raises the level of my riding as I try to keep pace with the larger peloton. I think something similar happens when you’re a part of a community of other builders instead of feeling like you are at war with them. In the same way that you can high five a friend for sticking a breakaway or winning a bunch sprint it is also possible to high five another builder for making a bike so beautiful and rad that you wish you could have built yourself.

So with that in mind we’re featuring this Caletti Scrambler on our site. The overlap between Rodeo and Caletti on the bike is that it uses our 2.0 Spork – which makes me super happy to see, but beyond that the bike is worth nerding out on in all of its detail and glory.

Caletti sent over these images, but then we noticed that they did a writeup on the bike as well on their site so we’re reposting it here. Caletti’s contact info is at the bottom of the page if you’re interested in having them build something like a Scrambler, or many other types of bikes, for you.

Caletti hand builds each of their bikes, from scratch, in Santa Cruz, California.

Photos by Peter Thomsen

 


Scrambler!

The mixed terrain rambler.

This Donut Box Pink Scrambler has been released into the wild and it’s new owner has already gotten it dirty on some long mixed route rides. It’s like a cross or gravel bike, but designed for flat bars with a longer top tube and appropriate head angle – quite a different animal than just slapping a flat bar on your old designed-for-drop-bars cross bike.

Sometimes we use an Enve Gravel fork, and sometimes we use this Rodeo Labs Spork. Both fit big tires (700x50mm Schwalbe pictured), but the Spork has bottle bosses on the legs, which make it great for bikepacking, with capacity for extra water or use a “many things” cage to carry gear.

These new Santa Cruz X Chris King carbon wheels are super nice: wide and only about 1400g for the set, while still very strong, they make the bike extra quick. The shallow profile keeps it comfortable.

Even with a dropper post this bike is only 21 pounds without pedals.

Dewey’s Ridge Supply inspired TD3

By Uncategorized No Comments

Dewey has been a rider who has caught our eye since he first took delivery of his Flaanimal 4.1 in 2018. Having spoken to him last week I was surprised to learn that he wasn’t even really a “cyclist” before getting that bike. He is a mountaineer, climber, Judo practitioner, and a functional anatomy instructor. So basically he moves around a lot and does rad stuff.

 

When I learned about all of his athletic background it became less of a surprise that right out of the gates he started doing some pretty insane rides on the local logging and forest service roads in his hometown which sits near the Coast Range in Oregon. Dewey rides a lot of the same sorts of rides that we love around here: Huge vertical gains, lots of getting lost, rain, sleet, snow, and some walking. Type 2 fun. Dewey also takes some lovely photos along the way. If it’s starting to sound like Dewey is built from the same DNA that the core of Rodeo is built out of then we would wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. With that in mind I reached out to Dewey as we were winding up development and preparing for the release of TD3. I knew that the new Donkey would have some design features that would be a bit more adapted to the type of crazy exploratory rides that Dewey was riding. Bigger tire clearance was the most important feature to consider because those Pacific Northwest logging roads get very rugged very quickly. At times the roads get entirely tilled up and overgrown within a matter of months even though they are still visible on the map. We build Dewey’s TD3 with 47mm Terenne Elwoods, but I wouldn’t be surprised to eventually see him try out some 650b x 2.2 tires on his most rugged rides.

 

A lot of hoopla is made of running big 650s on gravel bikes but in my opinion most people don’t need big 650b tires for about 90-95% of typical gravel riding. Most large volume 650b tires don’t really feel all that amazing on the pavement and the rotational weight is certainly higher than most average 700c gravel tires. For my riding the 650b x 47mm and larger tires get put on the big for aggressive gravel and trail riding. These are the sorts of days when you need to know that you will have the compliance and grip that such large tires afford. Exhibit A: Dewey’s Oregon rides.

 

 

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Found the sugar stash. ❄️

A post shared by Dewey Nielsen (@deweynielsen) on

 

People ask quite frequently if they can be a Rodeo Labs ambassador and get a free or discounted bike. I definitely appreciate that people like our company and want to represent it but on a personal level I can’t get over the idea that we are being cold-call asked to give people something so that they will help hype what we do. Without fail these requests are answered with a “thank you” and a “no”. Rodeo doesn’t hire ambassadors, and we don’t pay people to like, ride, and talk about our bikes. To me the rationale for saying no to those sorts of requests is very simple: I very much want Rodeo to be a genuine company, and only want people to ride our bikes if they value them and genuinely like them. If we give our bikes to people in exchange for exposure, cachet, influence, or visibility then there is no way for me to know if those people passionately align with what we are all about or if they are just riding the free stuff train.  I need to know for sure if people that “officially” represent Rodeo are genuine. I think the word of mouth from an owner who likes (or even dislikes) our bikes is worth 100x the word of mouth that we would get from someone that we’ve incentivized to like our bikes. Ambassadors to me aren’t about bike sales, they are about genuinely conveying our collective passion for the sport. To me the only way to genuinely recruit ambassadors and factory riders is to recruit from within the family of people who chose to ride Rodeo without prior compensation. I personally run the Rodeo social media accounts and I keenly follow owners who tag us in photos and talk about us online. I read all the photo captions and comments because I want to know if they are liking the bike they bought from us or if they have any complaints. I love seeing where the bikes go and what sorts of adventures are had astride them. Staying in contact with so many of our owners through social media and email is a great way to learn about how people outside of the core Denver Rodeo crew are riding and using the products that we make. Notes on fender clearance and fit tend to come from people who live in rainy states. Notes on rack fit tend to come from people who do more touring and bikepacking than many of the Denver people are able to do. Notes on the Flaanimal slider bolts rusting came from people in wet oceanside states and we used that feedback to switch to stainless steel slider bolts moving forward. Our community makes us and our bikes better and and they tell our story to the larger world of cyclists in the most genuine way that I can think of.

 

 

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Resistance Training ™️

A post shared by Dewey Nielsen (@deweynielsen) on

 

I’ve noticed that a certain portion of our owners are essentially super ambassadors. They ride our bikes amazing places, they have incredibly great adventurous attitudes, they write great words, and they take great photos. They don’t do this because we paid them to do this they do it because they want to. Almost every single one of them had to buy our bike at full price and then decide that they liked it and THEN they had to be kind enough to let Rodeo be a part of their visible online story. It’s the coolest thing for me to discover these people and get to know them over time. At first I just say thanks for adopting our bikes and for letting us do this for a living. Over time if the people keep it up some of them get an invite: “Would you like to join the factory crew?” I ask them. To me the factory crew are the people who ride our bikes the hardest and with the most gusto. None of the factory crew are professional cyclists but they all LOVE riding bikes hard, they love telling stories, and they’ve each contributed to what Rodeo is in a meaningful way. These are the people that we do offer discounts, factory pricing, or even free things to. These are the people who’s adventures and trips we’re excited to support. These are the people who ride our next gen prototypes and give us useful feedback. These are the people who organize group rides and keep an eye out for the community. These people have made real personal investments in Rodeo and we in turn start making investments back in them. It isn’t forced, it isn’t a one way street, and it isn’t a fee for service. It’s a relationship.

 

 

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No-bike Sundays don’t mean no-bike-pic Sundays. #flaanimal #rodeolabs

A post shared by Dewey Nielsen (@deweynielsen) on

Dewey is one of the “factory crew” now. We’ve only met once but he feels like bike family. I want his feedback on what we make, I love his enthusiasm, and I’m grateful for his support. His rides inspire me to try to be more adventurous.

When we set Dewey up with his TD3 we removed profit from the equation and made a small investment in our shared cycling futures. But let the record show: Dewey first made an investment in us and we’re always going to be grateful for that.

Here is a gallery of his fully custom TD3 in all of it’s new bike day glory. For Dewey’s bike we re-visited the Ridge Supply pallette of 2018 but re-worked the layout to come up with something fresh for 2019.

Soon this bike will be filthy no doubt, tearing it up in the hills of the Oregon Coast Range. I can’t wait to see where Dewey takes it.

Flaanimal // Flaamingo 105 build

By Gear No Comments

We’re expecting our 2019 Flaanimals to begin arriving in Denver the first week of May, so we thought that it would be a great time to post a gallery of this 2019 Flaamingo build that we brought to Sea Otter Classic for display at our booth.

The Flaamingo color has a tan main frame color so we thought it would be cool to accent the build with polished Ritchey Neo Classic and Shimano 105 components. Natural bar tape and saddle colors also flow nicely with the overall aesthetic.

A Flaanimal 4.1 can be built in the lower $3,000 range. As shown the build would climb another thousand or so with our 2.0 carbon 650b rims laced to pink anodized White Industries hubs and we now offer our 2.0 factory hubs in a similar shade of pink anno.

We shot this bike in the middle of the desert in Nevada on our way to Sea Otter. What better place to shoot a Khaki bike than in the desert?

That Ritchey Classic saddle pairs so nicely with those WTB Venture 47mm 650b tires.

It is amazing how good Shimano 105 has gotten with this latest release. The shifter ergonomics are so excellent, and Shimano’s hydro brake feel is tops.

We see so many black parts on bikes these days, but three cheers for silver / polished if you want your bike to stand out from the crowd.

Our Ride. Explore. Create. icons are on the the top tube of every bike we make.

That’s a proper stance. Brooks bar tape has got to be the best looking tape out there and it feels and wears very nicely.

We went with solid painted head badges on our 2019 framesets to make them just a bit more in your face. This pink pops!

Flaanimal is a mythical winged alpaca AND a creepy dude standing in the middle of a desert road.

The Gravel Ride Podcast

By The Lab No Comments

Craig Dalton of The Gravel Ride podcast invited Rodeo founder Stephen Fitzgerald to the show to talk about Rodeo’s origins and the evolution of the Traildonkey from 1.0 to 3.0. We’ve embedded it here after the break. If you don’t know where Rodeo came from this covers most of it.

Header photo by Greg Besaw.

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