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.
Words by Nik Van der W00ts, Photos by Brett Stakelin (@das_guy)
Cyclocross is a niche within a niche, but there is something I love about this high energy, gritty sport. I got started grinding my gears on the grass, sand, mud and barriers on the east coast. Some would cite this as the unofficial heart and home of American cyclocross. The days spent racing and volunteering in Gloucester and Providence were cold, muddy and certainly epic affairs. Those memories have stuck with me and often are the first that come to mind when I think of cyclocross.
After a hiatus from cyclocross (prompted by grad-school and a 2,000 mile relocation to Colorado) I re-tested the waters. I was in for a shock. The climate and terrain were unfamiliar compared with my first dirt-covered memories. Gone were the days of racing in parks with pristine grass that turned to rutted muddy lines. In Colorado if a race is on grass, it is spiky unfriendly blades. All the moisture is evaporated, leaving dusty loose conditions. Many a time I have come home from racing and felt like a miner, hacking up dust for the next few days. Some of the rugged courses tested my nerves on cantilever brakes and left my hands sore from trying to modulate my speed.
11pm. Buffalo Creek, CO
Photos by Jered Gruber
[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.
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.
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.
At first glance, Rodeo may seem like a bunch of guys who decided to one day purchase bikes and take pictures with them. Not only with bikes, but on them, of them, of themselves, and the places that those bikes take them. To some, this takes away a part of riding; The feeling of going out on a ride, fully immersing yourself in the surroundings and the feel of it all, and finally coming home to tell others about your journeys. What some fail to realize, however, is that Rodeo – all of those involved – have simply taken both and melded them together.
Photography is nothing new and has documented more about the world than anyone could care to remember themselves. Over the years – from enhancing personal, business, and romantic relations to simply documenting and sharing – photography has helped put an image to things that words may not have been able to accurately explain. This mindset is so much a part of modern society, in fact, that a majority of people require visual proof of something to feel assured or vindicated that something has actually happened. This combined with the easy access to portable cameras as well as the many avenues to share said pictures means it should come as no surprise that there are those who wish to share their world through pictures, regardless of what others think.
“What is Rodeo?”
That is the question I’ve received in my inbox quite a bit over the last year. It’s been a difficult question to answer quickly or clearly because the only constant I’ve been able to pin down with any certainty is that Rodeo evolved very quickly in 2014, and it’s definition seemed to be in a constant state of evolution. It has occurred to me then, over the past few months, that the most important question isn’t ‘what is Rodeo?’, it’s ‘why is Rodeo?’
So, as with the turning of the seasons, it reminds me of how life follows the patterns of nature. We’re talking about the diminishing of oneself and the tuition of our next generation. My son, B., has expressed continued interest in cyclocross, did a race last year, and successfully petitioned me to purchase him a ‘cross bike (Thanks Salvagetti for being so helpful!). When I told him about the, now 3rd annual, Colorado Junior Cyclocross Camp in Empire, CO, he was more than excited. So, I signed him up for the full weekend getaway and me as a parent chaperone and worker. A week from the camp, his great-grandmother passed away, and thus a hastily arranged funeral service would be arranged in Texas. Deirdre, the camp director and awesome BOSS, was very kind and offered to let B. come up to the camp after he returned to Colorado. So, up we were at 0600, threw the bike in the back of the 2002, and we were out the door for the camp in the mountains at 0645.