After months of prep and a whole lot of hush hush, I’m excited to finally spill the beans and offer a full breakdown on the Traildonkey 3.0 that I’ve built up to race next week at Atlas Mountain Race in Morocco. This bike is a lot of things to me. It has layers like an onion. So to simply put up the photos and list some gear would be to short sell the effort and consideration that it took to bring this build into existence.
61 Traildonkeys aren’t far out now. Tooling is done and frames are in production. If you’re lucky enough to be 6′ 4″ Drew you happen to work at Rodeo and you get advance access to our 61cm prototypes. It’s good to be Drew.
Staring down a 200-mile bike race is scary. REALLY scary.
Staring down a 200-mile bike race in January is just plain old silly.
For me the Sugarcane 200 will be my maiden odyssey into the wild world of gravel racing. I am excited for the challenge ahead, however, I really don’t have many wise things to say going into it. I know next to nothing about the competition, except that Ted King is one grade-A certified fast dude. I know next to nothing about the course, except it is longer than long and flatter then flat. Lastly, I know next to nothing about nutrition and tactics, except I need a lot of food and even more patience.
Every once and a while I look back into my memory searching for the seed of it all. I can spend minutes sifting through troves of distant sequences of experience, trying to find the one – the trigger – that set me on the road less traveled that I am on today. Where oh where was my love of the bicycle born?
Bryan has been orbiting Rodeo Labs for a couple of years. He used to just ride with us now and then. Later he adopted a 2.o Traildonkey and rode it to a 5th place SS at DK this year. After that act of valor it was time to reward his strength with actual gears. Instead of opting for 11 gears, Bryan chose 12.
In April of 2019 we packed up and headed to Sea Otter Classic for our first ever expo / trade show. Over the course of that week in Monterey we had such a good time showing our bikes, meeting owners and new people, and sampling the local riding. As soon as we returned to Denver we set out looking for which expo we would attend next. With such a large contingent of owners located on the East Coast the decision was made to look for an expo on that side of the country. It didn’t take long to single out Philly Bike Expo as the show to attend. Philly has been a show we’ve enjoyed reading about in previous years and the vibe always seemed upbeat and friendly from afar. We asked around a bit and our thoughts were confirmed. Everyone said that Philly was the show to be at, so we quickly registered and pinned it on the calendar.
We didn’t have a plan for what we wanted to show or talk about at Philly initially but as the show neared we started gathering our thoughts. The show’s date on the calendar coincided pretty well with the development of our next generation Flaanimal 5.0 and we set a target for having a prototype preview ready to show, and we also asked ourselves what would be cool to do with the TD3 as a concept build. Two bikes began to take shape in our minds…
Also taking shape was the design of the booth itself. After our experience at Sea Otter we left with the sense that a lot of companies are entering the gravel / adventure space to cash in on the growth and opportunity. If you’re a corporation with a primary objective to sell as many bikes as possible then that is fine but for Philly we wanted to bring a booth along that showed that we’re equally interested in bikes, culture, and community. We decided to build a booth around our library of photos that we’ve collected over the last six years of riding, exploring, and making bikes. We asked owners to send in photos as well and we combined it all into a visual backdrop for our bikes that told our story without using many words.
For the Traildonkey 3.0 that we brought we wanted to do an out of the box build in a way that we hadn’t previously built one before so we worked with Fox to spec out an AX 40mm front suspension fork. A PNW Coast dropper / suspension post in the back provides 40mm of travel in the rear for a balanced feel. We asked Archer Components if they could build a drop bar specific version of their D1x wireless shifting intermediary. This allowed us to combine TRP Hylex RS levers with a Shimano XT 12 speed drivetrain which would otherwise not be do-able on a drop bar bike. Exile Designs created special matching frame bag / top tube bag / and Fannie Packer with custom printed local Table Mountain Topograhy on the main panels. The finished bike is pretty bonkers and started a lot of fun conversations. How far can a gravel / adventure bike go before it becomes a mountain bike? That seems to be a recurring question these days but to us it doesn’t even matter. Bikes are bikes. To us pushing the Traildonkey 3 platform about as far as we could was a blast, and the eventual owner of this bike is going to have quite a party when they throw their leg over it. (This bike is now available for sale, but with a GRX drivetrain instead of the pre-production Archer prototype shifting. Shoot us a note if you are interested)
By the time Philly arrived we were extremely excited to preview the Flaanimal 5.0 prototype and we barely finished the frameset in time. It was built only 24 hours before the show just like those hot rod shows that I’ve seen on TV. I always wonder why everything comes down to the wire on those shows if they know that they have months to prepare for the show but now I get it. Developing a bike is difficult to begin with but developing a bike and trying to get it just right in time for it’s public debut is another level of difficulty entirely. This new Flaanimal we showed at Philly is a bike we are extremely proud of. We’re advancing the core Flaanimal feature set by integrating creative solves for tire clearance, strength, and weight and we are not leaving behind the adaptability that the bike was originally about in the process. If you’d like to read the full exposition of what is new with Flaanimal 5 then head over to the exclusive preview that they have posted here.
Flaanimal 5 will be available Q1 2020. The bike we showed is just a preview and we are making final tweaks and locking specs as I type this. I couldn’t be more excited to show the final product when it is ready.
Thanks to all the people who came out and said hi at Philly Bike Expo. We loved visiting the city, shaking hands, talking bikes, meeting Rodeo owners, and sharing what we do. See you in 2020!
Travis is not a guy who moves impulsively on things. When we met him in 2018 at Belgian Waffle Ride he just like us had traveled there from Colorado. He recognized the Rodeo kits that we were wearing and struck up a conversation. He had been watching online and knew all about what we were up to. We rode the bulk of BWR with him that year and made plans to reconnect in 2019 for some riding in Durango. In the mean time Travis kept watching what we were up to and set his eyes on eventually adopting a Traildonkey. He didn’t do it quickly though. Every month or two he would ask about a detail or compare some notes on how he would build it. Eventually he ordered up the frame and made a special request. He wanted us to create an homage of our 2015 Elektrobunny kit on the frame. Elektrobunny is a kit we only made and released once, so you really had to be paying attention to even know that it existed and more so to remember it.
A couple of years ago we built a lovely Traildonkey 2.0 for Blaise. At the time it was easily the nicest Donkey we had built. Blaise kitted that bike out with XTR Di2, Easton EC90SL cranks, Rodeo 2.0 wheels, and pretty much all of the other nicest things he could find.
Blaise hammered his bike and rode it to its maximum through some pretty brutal, wet East Coast conditions. We’re not entirely sure how many bottom brackets he killed while riding the bike but suffice to say it was a lot.
Cut to two years later. Blaise’s TD2 found a home with a new owner and he came back to us looking to up the capabilities of his gravel bike with a TD3 build. This time he wanted to personalize more so the first task was to design a personalized custom paint layout for the bike. We weren’t in a rush because we were waiting for SRAM to make AXS Eagle and AXS Red parts available separately. Blaise requested some unique colors outside of what is being done in the mainstream these days so we pulled these colors from a photo of the sunset that he sent over.
The first draft of the layout was nice, but Blaise asked that we extend the design to the inside of the downtube and rear triangle. The completed design ended up here:
Blaise requested a few extra personalized details on this paint, one being his kid’s initials on the top tube near the head tube, and the other was to nickname the bike Trailwonkey in a nod to it’s Washington DC home. We sent the naked frame across town to Altitude Composites for paint and he executed the design wonderfully.
Next up: The build. AXS parts arrived as did a whole bunch of other generally lovely components. One of the most interesting things about AXS builds is how easy the bikes are to put together. The only lines that need to be routed are the brake lines and that makes these bikes a dream for Sheldon to have in the build stand.
The complete bike is a thing of beauty and before sending it off we were sure to cover as much of the frame as possible with custom cut 3M frame protector. Word on the street is that Blaise is pretty hard on his bikes…
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sheldon our lead mechanic wrote up this handy post about prepping your tools / gear for Dirty Kanza. Thinking through possible mechanical issues ahead of time can be the difference between a 10 minute pause and a DNF. Take a look at this list and take that time to think ahead and get dialed!
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