We promised we’d do this on January 31st, so it is time to spill the beans on the production spec Flaanimal 3.0 adaptable frameset.
Let’s start with an overview and recap. The Flaanimal adventure bike project has always been a bit of a younger sibling project to the Traildonkey. Insomuch as we never intended to release a carbon adventure bike, and then we did, we also never intended to release a steel adventure bike, but now we are.
A lot has happened at Rodeo Labs since my first review of the Trail Donkey 2.0, but most notably for me is that I now have a Donkey of my own (and only have to borrow one from Stephen when I visit him in Denver). This week my Donkey crossed it’s 1,000 mile milestone so figured I’d give an update on how things have been going. The TL;DR version is I couldn’t be happier.
Today is almost exactly the three year anniversary of when we started Rodeo Labs in 2014. On that day Peder Horner and myself had some beer and ate some pie at Denver Bike Cafe while dreaming up the beginnings of this circus. We scribbled some names on some paper and laughed a lot as we considered the possibilities that starting from scratch allowed us.
Fact: Every Traildonkey that we build can be specced exactly to the rider’s preferences. Many people are happy to go with our standard builds which are well thought out, but sometimes someone comes along and wants to put together something extra special.
This build is one such Donkey and we’re excited to send it out to it’s new home!
Phil: Brian and I have been riding bikes together for the last 10 years. Our escapades have included week long stage races in banana republics with more stray dogs and chickens on the road than actual pavement, big mountain rides in the pacific northwest, and week long training camps among the towering redwood trees and wineries of Santa Rosa, CA. Ever since moving to the front range area, I was excited about the opportunity to show him some of the roads in my new found backyard. Loose plans formulated early this summer for him to come out and suffer through the thin air, which Brian has historically not done very well with, in order to do some touring. With the promise of the unknown and adventure, Nik was also very interested in joining us for what was sure to be a great three-day trip in the high country.
Nik: Little did I know what was in store for me, it was a day full of emotions, the one that occupied most of my attention was how I felt like I bonked when the ride just begun; definitely not the best way to start a three-day tour.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Descending roads at 50+ mph, check.
Climbing switchback after switchback looking for the next corner of scenery, check.
Climbing and descending horrible washboard that makes your insides want to come out, check.
Being a pack mule so I can travel the gorge without fear of where I will find a water stop, check.
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).
[Ed. Note: Barry is a former Denverite who now is part of our east-coast Rodeo contingent. This was an unsolicited review for which he received no compensation. Actually, I still own him for the Burrito he bought me on our last ride.]
Like many of you, I’ve been watching the Trail Donkey evolve over the last year and have been eagerly awaiting the chance to actually ride one in person. So when Twinkie offered me the chance to ride a near-production Trail Donkey on my last trip to Denver, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I expected it to be a fun bike, which it certainly was, but in many ways it exceeded my expectations.
It is a funny and rare thing when everything converges. This year cyclocross season started a bit early with a season opener at Oskar Blues farm in Longmont. We’ve been a little bit quicker on our toes than last year so we already had our kits in-hand a few days before race day. On a lark I decided that I wanted to race the prototype Traildonkey as well. I’ve actually had this bike in storage since April because as a very early prototype it had a lot of imperfections in the design (which we’ve since revised and refined). I’ve been riding the Flaanimal prototype a lot lately and while I do love the bike and the feel of steel I wanted to go back and get re-antiquated with our first bike project, the one born at almost exactly the same time the team was in January 2014.
A new bike showed up at The Lab this morning. The first of 10 test Flaanimals has arrived. Originally conceived as the Unsinglespeed, this bike that we are working on was later named after the hearty animals seen when Rodeo went to Belgium earlier this year. The diversity, ruggedness, and beauty of the animals of Flanders made us laugh all week long, and a name was born.