Today’s journal post is a bit
different. As I sit here in Wilson, Arkansas, I keep reminiscing on what I am
missing back home in Virginia. I decided to take a slight step away from the
bike and putting a greater focus on places. I hope you enjoy!
Caught somewhere between history and modernity, Richmond, Virginia, sits on the banks of the rocky James River in grungy splendor that is hard to match. With a history stretching well beyond the confines of this nation’s past, the city is colored by one generational rejuvenation after the next layering on its own personality to the city and its streets. What’s left is a scrambled beautiful mess of buildings, art and people interlaced amongst the gridded streets and cobblestone alleyways of the city.
these darkest of dark times, it is easy and obvious to see the sadness surrounding
all of us. Every aspect of our lives has slid into a fearful state of
uncertainty. Concerns that kept me up three weeks ago haven’t crossed my mind
since I packed up my college dorm last Thursday, saying a premature goodbye to
a place that really became home.
despite all that has transpired – and that will continue for many days to come,
these last couple of weeks have brought me some truly incredible experiences. Just as the weight of uncertainty has crept
in to crush my spirit, life has given me a taste of joy that shows why it is so
important we as a worldwide community do all we can to come through this preserving
as much of our collective spirit as possible.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Every bike that leaves ends up being such a cool expression of it’s new owner. We don’t make the decisions for you. We ask you how you will ride the bike, we ask what your goals for the bike are, and we let your personalize as much as you’d like. This approach keeps us passionate about every bike that we build because each bike is built for a single person. Enjoy your new bike Joel!
Denver is a hub for Rodeo. Naturally as a lab we have evolved over the years, but what has remained constant is our desire for new roads, new mountains, and new friends. Many times we find ourselves on group rides with other local teams, so we decided to aggregate some of the most iconic rides in and around Denver. Our goal by creating a centralized place to find information on organized group rides that happen every week is to connect more riders and make new friends. Our team does extend out from Denver, as we become aware of planned Rodeo rallys nationally and internationally we will add these events to the calendar.
Today my Trail Donkey turned one year old. Not sure how many Donkey years that is, but it’s about 3,748.3 miles of adventures. Lots of people ask me what kind of bike the Trail Donkey is. I’m still not sure what to tell them, other than it’s a cyclocross-adventure-commuter-criterium-dirt-gravel-grinder-group-ride-fendered-fat-tire-road-racer-kind of jobby. Jack of All Trades, Master of Fun might be a better way to sum it up. Here’s what my Donkey’s First Year looked like.
Work and travel limited my holiday riding and delayed my start in 2017. Because of this, the first adventure of the new year had to be a memorable one. Riding through the Corrizo Gorge, along twenty-two miles of abandoned railway, was the perfect kick-off to the year of the Trail Donkey.
This particular stretch of the San Diego and Arizona Railroad has been dubbed “The Impossible Railroad”. Extreme temperatures, mountainous terrain, and damage caused by earthquakes and flooding make this a gnarly region. These tracks have not had a train pass in forty years, which has created the perfect location for adventure. The ride surrounds you with the beauty of wilderness, starkly contrasted by defeated machinery. An ever present reminder that the Corrizo Gorge could not be tamed.
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