“At least we’re here”

In August a group of Rodeoers in Colorado struck out on a ride through roads not-yet-ridden-by-us. The ingredients that make these sorts of rides are always dynamic. Peder had been brewing on a Mosquito Pass expedition for years, Jered was in town and wanted to do big high mountain rides, and I tossed out the invite to the team. Eight of us jumped in on the adventure.

The word “Adventure” is rapidly transitioning from an awe-filled catalyst to a very tired marketing word these days. Flip through any cycling magazine and you can’t go very many pages without seeing a tidal wave of products advertised as the very keys you need in order to unlock this mythic “new” genre of our sport.

And yet, true adventure is unimpressed by the collective marketing departments of our industry. True adventure has been happening for centuries and will continue to happen long after humanity has achieved singularity with holo-lenses and virtual experiences. Adventure just means pointing your willing self into the unknown and having the naivete, courage, or even audacity to proceed directly into it. No fancy gear required.

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The Road Not Taken

 

A poem by Robert Frost

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 Photos by Stephen Fitzgerald and Galen Stiglebauer / Colorado Cycling Adventures:

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Life with a Donkey

Words and photos by Rod Hart. Washington State, USA.

A summer spent riding a Donkey and relearning that where the pavement ends, fun and adventure usually begins!

Donkeys, aka Asses, are very versatile, loyal, stubborn, and long living animals. In Animal Farm, Benjamin, the donkey, refuses to join the rebellion knowing the one type of tyranny will ultimately be replaced by another. My donkey, aptly named Donkey, has been extremely loyal, versatile, and stubborn…qualities I possess, making us great companions.

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My adventures on Donkey began at the Dirty Kanza 200. I had yet to see my donkey, but I knew that we would be fast friends and lifelong companions. As soon as Donkey was unboxed and assembled I was in love, and ready to challenge myself at DK200. Unbeknownst to me, Donkey knew quite a bit about me. Donkey knew that I had been injured all spring and unable to train, Donkey knew that I was going to be stubborn, and Donkey knew that I was ill prepared for the challenge ahead…Donkey was also willing to push the limits to help me try and achieve glory. Sadly, through a series of misfortunes, Donkey and I were unable to finish DK200. We did give the good fight, and managed to ride nearly 60 miles without a rear derailleur.

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Over the course of my DK60, Donkey carried me across the Flint Hills of Kansas. The hills consisted of mud, hard pack, dirt, gravel, dry riverbed crossings, and actual river crossings. Donkey was able to swiftly carry me up the steep gravel grades, and with stability and agility down ludicrously fast gravel descents. Hitting a 1-2 foot deep, dried gravel creek bed, at 35 mph could normally be a recipe for disaster, but not for Donkey…Trail Donkeys are designed for tough conditions, conditions that others would wither and crack in, conditions that make others want to curl up into a ball and cry. Donkey not only passed the test multiple times, Donkey kept jumping at the challenges and passing each one. Sadly finishing all 200 miles was not meant to be, but I learned quickly that Donkey was up for any challenge.

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Once back in Washington, Donkey and I have continued to forge our relationship. We travel deep into the mountains on steep paved roads. We travel through small towns looking for adventure. We travel deep into the windswept Columbia River Gorge exploring gravel roads with steep ascents and descents. All of these are prime riding locations for Donkey, and Donkey has successfully conquered each of the conditions. I have yet to find something Donkey does not excel at:

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Descending roads at 50+ mph, check.

 

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Climbing switchback after switchback looking for the next corner of scenery, check.

 

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Climbing and descending horrible washboard that makes your insides want to come out, check.

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Being a pack mule so I can travel the gorge without fear of where I will find a water stop, check.

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It has only been one summer, which isn’t even over yet, and I already know that I am in love. I am always excited when I see Donkey ready to go each morning, ready for some adventure that I am ill prepared for, and knowing that whatever conditions lie ahead I will surely come home safe with a good story and a picture (or 1000).

Point A to Point B

Bikes roll over things. This is due to the roundness of their wheels.

Early in the mountain biking days the bikes were simple and versatile. Suspension had not yet been invented. Technical skills were required for negotiating trails strewn with rocks or roots. As time went on mountain bikes became more specialized. They got better at going fast, they got more comfortable, they handled better. Along the way though both on and off road bikes seem to have gotten more discipline specific. If you want to go road biking you take your aero road bike, if you want to shuttle fast dirt descents you take your long travel full suspension bike. This is all great. But I think there is a style of riding that has become lost due to specialization: The Point A to Point B ride. Road, dirt, trails, paths, singletrack, doubletrack, bushwacking. The point A to point B ride is fundamentally about compromise. There is no perfect tire for covering all manner of terrain. There is no perfect geometry for both road and trail riding. Point A to Point B rides require a certain degree of adaptation and even discomfort from those who undertake them. On the other side of that coin though there is a reward: On these sorts of rides your route is limitless, your terrain variable, and your challenges constantly shifting.

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Mount Evans Nocturne

I’ve only ridden my bike to the top of Mount Evans once. It was a wild day spent riding and laughing with friends.

Even though I live in Denver and the 14,240 foot peak is relatively close I’ve never gone back and done it again. Evans is a bit of a rite of passage for local cyclists around these parts. The annual hill climb race is well attended and on any given weekend streams of riders can be seen striking out for the incredible summit via Squaw Pass or Idaho Springs.

Many serious cyclists ride the peak yearly or even many times per year but I’ve never felt the draw to go back and ride up it again. I think maybe I’m just a bit scared of the whole thing and maybe I have such good memories from the first ascent that I don’t ever want to go back and try to top it.

Sometimes though life conspires and mixes together just the right elements in a way that motivates you to do something that you had no intention of doing. On this occasion the events were a full moon, persistent invites from friends, and my own personal funk.

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Prototype: Flaanimal Ti

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The Lab is a restless place. A lot of ideas get tossed around. Good ideas get made, bad ideas get dust binned.

The Flaanimal is an idea that we have been brewing on for a while. It’s roots can be traced back to the Traildonkey, Belgium, and Texas (affectionately known as Tejas). Conversations swirled then turned into action. We made a Version 1 design, tested it, then moved on to Version 2 with refinements, added features, new tubing draws, and reduced weight. The choice of materials that we use for the project has always been a point of discussion. 853? 725? 525? Custom? For Flaanimal the go-to option was always steel, but we kept saying “what if”. What if we built it out of titanium? Steel is amazing, but Ti has some special properties that steel doesn’t have. It doesn’t corrode like steel, it’s stronger and lighter than most steel blends, and it has it’s own lively feel that is distinct from other materials.

Enter the Flaanimal Ti. Flaanimal Ti is a continuation of the Flaanimal project. It uses the same geometries and basic specifications of the Flaanimal but keeps the conversation going.

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