The Rodeo Podcast: Sam Martin on the Tour Divide

How do you compare and contrast an effort, especially when one is by foot and the other by bike? That wasn’t the driving question when Stephen and I sat down with Sam Martin, but we couldn’t help ourselves and asked anyway. Sam is fresh off of the Tour Divide. From the outside looking in, he was unfazed by the preparation and inevitable supply chain delays. So drastic, that Sam rode the Tour Divide on a demo Trail Donkey while awaiting his Flaanimal pre-order. He took it all in stride. Good, bad, who knows? While on the trip, he would post to photo updates and amazed us with stunning, moody, and in my mind, images that represent a love letter to bikepacking. I saw the Tour Divide in a way I haven’t seen before. However, Sam’s path did not start here. During the summer of 2018, Sam thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. It became clear to Stephen and I that much of Sam’s “being unfazed” was due to his experience (gear and mindset) to prepare for an undertaking of this size. In some senses, while the medium was different, a lot could be translated.

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Rides Of The Herd: Andrew Patra

What’s your name?

Andrew Patra

Where do you live? Were you born there and if not what brought you to where you live today?

Living in Boulder, Colorado. Moved here from New York when I was a kid thanks to my dad’s job

What would you like to share about what you do for a living?

I work for a media company based in Boulder focusing on outdoor adventure sports!

What was your entry into cycling, and how did that ultimately lead you to owning a gravel bike?

I started cycling in college around 4 years ago just as a way to get around. I needed to upgrade my hybrid bike, with the only goal of getting a new bike with disc brakes. One of the guys at the bike shop I went to recommended looking at a gravel bike instead of a hardtail like I had planned. I wound up finding cycling quite fun while getting to class so I bought a pair of clipless shoes and some cheap kit. I evidently got really into the sport, and eventually found myself working in the industry at Rapha and meeting some of the Rodeo crew!

Do you have a go-to route that you hit when you want to have a sure-thing good ride?

Marshall Mesa and Flatirons Vista is a good mix of easy road to get there, mellow, flowing single track, and some technical rocky sections that really challenge your bike handling skills. Great pretty much all year round too. I’ve lead some folks around the loop too, and it’s a great way to get your friends into some kinda silly gravel.

How do you keep cycling fresh? How do you challenge yourself?

I like to avoid planning a route as much as possible, especially if I’m in a place I’m familiar with. Less structure to the ride let’s me follow whatever road looks like it could be fun. I’ve found great trails between houses, out on the plains, and of course, a few dead ends. But it’s always fun to explore somewhere you’ve never been.

Do you like to ride alone, solo, or do you like a mix of the two?

I mostly ride solo, but I do love riding with my friends and shooting photos of them while we ride.

What is the most sketchy ride or ride situation that you’ve ever experienced?

Recently I was in Grand Mesa, very unprepared for the altitude and the rain. The only communication I had was a walkie talkie that I just had to hope was in range of my friends back at the cabin. I found myself on some super sketchy 4×4 roads where the off roaders were having issues in the mud. I had to bail out after my wheels kept getting swallowed by it, and I’m thankful it was a cooler day out, otherwise I probably would’ve run out of water really quickly and been stuck at almost 11,000 feet and a long walk ahead. It’s always ok to say “nope”!

Do you have a singular favorite ride experience?

I think my favorite ride experience was the first time I was able to climb up Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder. At that point, even the smallest hills felt like a huge challenge, so being able to check it off the first time without having to walk really boosted my confidence and helped me prove to myself that I could actually be a serious cyclist, and even consider myself an athlete. Especially since I always thought of myself as a kinda wimpy kid in high school. Goes to show that you can always work at something and get better and prove to yourself that you can do it.

What would you like to see change about cycling as a sport, a way of transportation, a community, or a lifestyle?

I’d love to see other cyclists try to expand from their boundaries. There should be more mountain bikers on the road, more roadies trying gravel, gravel riders on track bikes. Sometimes we get too in our own niche, and the best way to improve as both a cyclist and a person is to try something new. Be bad at something for a little, you can only get better.

Tell us about your Flaanimal build? How did you narrow down the incredible amount of build options into what you are riding today?

My Flaanimal started as the most basic GRX build you could get when preorders opened. I was pretty bummed that I graduated in 2020 so this was my consolation prize, on a college budget. I wanted a bike that I could throw around and not worry about. Big rock in the trail that I hit? Oh well. Fell off the rack in my garage, no worries. It has a bunch of metal parts, big 700×45 tires, Silca titanium cages and a Silca X RCC frame pump (everyone deserves a treat) and of course the awesome steel frame. Bikes are meant to be ridden after all, and scratches just mean that the bike is personalized. 

Is there anything you would like to change about the frameset or the way that you have it built?

I plan on keeping this bike for years to come, so the best part about it is that there will always be something that will change on it. But the frameset will stay the same throughout, though I may get some custom paint on it to give it a bit of a refresh when the time comes.

Any final thoughts, observations, or points of inspiration that you’ve had as a cyclist or a person that you would like to share?

I’ve met so many cool people just because they stopped to talk about my bike or the fact that they’re also owners of a Rodeo or they ride too. There’s such an awesome community in cycling, and bikes are a great way to make friends, see cool places, and push yourself farther than you ever thought you could. 

Do you have any social media / strava profile that you would like to share if people want to follow along?

You can find me on Instagram at @andrewpatra!

1000 miles on Campagnolo Ekar

Before 2021 I had really only ever had one singular ride on Campagnolo components. It was during a cyclocross race in Portland, Oregon more than a decade ago. My bike was disabled with a flat tire so a friend lent me his Campy equipped steed for my race. Having spent the majority of my drop bar riding life on Shimano components the instant transition to this new Italian groupset was quite jarring. In short: I just couldn’t get the shifting right. The Campagnolo controls were somewhat reversed from the Shimano controls that I was used to, so throughout the race I repeatedly went to shift to an easier ratio for a hill, but instead the reversed controls had exactly the opposite effect: I dropped into a more difficult gear and stalled out. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. It wasn’t love at first sight and there weren’t any immediate plans to try Campagnolo again any time soon.

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Unbound preview: My Verdant Path of Neglect

I wrote this journal before starting Unbound on Saturday. I was going to post this on Friday, however, my hotel’s internet was toast, so here it is as a little preview of the big report. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this little insight into how the sausage was made!

A couple weeks ago I realized I made a huge mistake. As an unabashed fan of controlled chaos and the benevolence of mess, I cannot say mistake are uncommon. Mistakes are really more a consistent reminder of the progress I continue to make.

Or so I say to myself.

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In a year where the world will come back to each other, we cyclists have choices. From new tech, to new friends, to new races, we all have the power to pivot our focus and point our wheels towards pastures anew. For me, 2021 has produced the chance to fundamentally shake up my cycling horizons, and with that an opportunity to try and tell the story of a different path than what I have found before; a path that is as dirty and long as it is ambitious, creative and exciting.

After a junior and U23 career on the road, I feel that the time is ripe to shift focus to what truly speaks to me in cycling. While I will always love road cycling, and hope to continue it in some small capacity, the dirt, grit and endurance of gravel. From the tenacity required, to the rewards for the bold and the physiology required to excel, I believe that I have the tools to be successful. For the last couple years, I have felt this way, however with the stability of my road program and the lack of a sustainable gravel path for a less proven athlete to elite gravel racing I held off. Now, I am fit, I am excited, and I am ready. 

            With my bike partner Rodeo Adventure Labs providing the ultimate machine for the many different jobs, I hope to take on a calendar of races, activities and adventures which cover as many different shades as possible of pedals and two wheels, with the intention to highlight the variety of alternative options that cycling has to offer and how a bike like the Donkey, and a full send attitude like mine can offer. This means that I will be trying to get to the country’s fastest road events, the longest gravel races and some beefy bike packing and ultra-endurance events both home and abroad to get a fantastically rich perspective. 

While I have every intention to approach everything with competitive intention and training, what I am really trying to accomplish is to bolster my storytelling capabilities and highlight the narrative produced by diverse and vivid cycling experiences. By overlapping the multiple forms of competition with a constant theme of travel, nature, and community I want to be able to foster a connective and cohesive narrative. One that ties divergent paths of cycling together in a story that would, hopefully, resonate with cyclists of every age and discipline and hopefully break down the stigmas and misrepresentations that have become all too present in the cycling landscape. 


My battle partner for the beefiest bike ride I have ever done: Ryan Hagen.

Rockstar Gravel FKT – April 3rd – Harrisonburg, Virginia

            On April 3rd, I will be kicking of the season with a proper doozy; the Rockstar Gravel FKT. With 250 miles of gnarly, ratchet and nasty gravel, the Rockstar FKT is the consummate Virginia gravel ride. From Harrisonburg to Roanoke, the Rockstar will be a proper 18-hour affair, with the legend Jeremiah Bishop holding the record now at a little over 18 hours. Alongside my longtime training partner Ryan Hagen, and my family tagging along as a crew, we will go after that time, as a prelim to the self-supported race that will start a week later. We will be working closely with the Virginia Endurance Series who promotes the event, in order to make this a truly roaring good time.  

Greenwood Gravel Grinder – April 10th – Abbeville, South Carolina

            The Greenwood gravel grinder is event number two of the southeast gravel series, a six-part show of the Southeastern gravel scene. With a new pro category and payouts totally $1,000 dollars for men and women, the series is an exciting opportunity to bring more emphasis to gravel racing in our southeastern neck of the woods. At 70-odd miles, this is quiet the different challenge than the Rockstar, but is nevertheless a challenge in its own right! 

Monster cross – April 11th – Chesterfield, Virginia

            Part two of the spring double header will find me back home at Pocahontas State Park just south of Richmond! Monster cross, an iconic local race, pits cross, gravel, and mountain bikes against each other on a blistering off road course that mends together the different disciplines of the sport in a love collage of two-wheeled bliss. Let’s call it NASCAR in the woods, for two wheels, and with knobby treads. 

Gaps and Hollows – April 24th. – Stokesville, Virginia

            My homecoming! After years of riding in the hills and hollows surrounding Stokesville and Staunton, Virginia, my vision of racing over those roads is coming true! Promoted by the great folks at Stokesville, Gaps and Hollows is a race that will test everyone on a course built for the hardy on one of most stunning weeks of the year in the area with the vivid greens, reds, purples and yellows of a budding spring dominating the visual landscape. Truly, the perfect culmination of the Virginia swing of the calendar. 

Falling Creek Pinnacle Creek Punisher – May 8th – Zirconia, North Carolina

Even though most of the season is filled with new (to me) events, adventures, and races, the Pinnacle Creek Punisher in North Carolina is a ~light~ redemption story. Last year, I went into the race with massive misconceptions of the course and of my equipment’s capabilities. With 60 chonky miles of rocks, dirt and even a little pavement. The perfect chance to build the speed towards the big events on the horizons, and a great temporary farewell to southeastern gravel. 

Armed Forces – June 5-6th, Washington DC

A little throwback action will be necessary come June, with a little return to the road for a hot second!

            My road season! This one cuts a little deeper. Since I started cycling in the mid-Atlantic “Air Force” has been king. While I have always been restricted to the minor categories, it stands alone in its regional importance. Sitting at 100km it is also the friendliest to my gravel grinder fitness and is an event I would be extremely sad to miss, so for the first week in June you can count on me being on that sweltering start line in the concrete jungle many, many miles away from the nearest small gravel roads that the year is about. Ya know, juxtaposition. 

Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder – June 23-27th – Sisters, Oregon

            Can you call it a homecoming if you have never lived somewhere? Absolutely, what even is a home? Sisters, Oregon, is as much a home to me as any of the towns I have dwelled in. The home to my grandparents for as long as I can remember, Sisters and the surrounding Cascade mountains are a mix of geographies that are starkly unique and equally beautiful. From the eastern slopes the mountains tilt out of the high desert. Littered with rugged pines, sagebrush and gnarled micro-canyons, the scenes of the east are straight from a spaghetti western. Conversely, cross the volcanic caps of the mountains and the vegetation transitions on a dime to lush scenes of the vibrant woods of the coast. Therein lies the mixed and mossy forests of splendor that ooze the life and soft comfort emblematic of the Pacific North West. 

`           It is an ecological juxtaposition I have never seen replicated, and a place that gives me endless satisfaction. While this won’t be my first-time racing in the Oregon Cascades, it will be a new and engaging way to integrate competition and community into an exploration of that familiar terrain. I am so excited to be a part of what is sure to be one of the best events of the year. How could an adult travelling stage race/summer camp not be?

St. Helens project – July 1st–July 4th – Washington 

Tully, in all his bike-packing glory!

            Continuing with the Western excursion, the Saint Helens project is a bike packing adventure through southern Washington, starting and finishing in Portland, Oregon. The summer four day trip is a continuation of sorts. Born out of last year’s trip that I did with my little brother through our old Idaho home, the St. Helens Project establishes summer overnighters as our Fourth of July tradition. This summer, we will take the trip one state to the east, from know turf to something new to both of us. While our roots run deep in Oregon, Washington is unexplored turf for us Jones-Wilkins boys. Beyond three days spent there last year, all I know are the lovely word of mouth tales of the great northwestern state. We are thrilled to get ~volcanic~ and enjoy what is sure to be an explosive trip in the Cascades!

The Tushar Crusher – July 10th – Beaver, Utah

            I am through and through a mountain western kid at heart and the Rocky Mountains will always have my soul. Therefore, in this year where the focus is on spreading the net far and wide, the mountains of Utah were something I simply could not ignore. The Tushar mountains have been a range that excites me and while the massive climbs may not be 100% a strength of mine, the challenge and status of the race is very exciting. With the high altitude of Ecuador on the horizon, the Crusher is the perfect place to start that preparation. Bring on the dust!

High altitude cycling is in my future!

Ecuador Expedition – July 28th-August 21st – Quito, Ecuador

This summer my riding and academics will center primarily around a project I have been planning for a very long time. In August, pending bureaucratic formalities and allowance, will take on a bicycle-based tour of Ecuador as a research tool for a long form investigative piece on Ecuador’s road infrastructure and all the drama, corruption, and success it has created. Additionally, I will produce a cycling based piece on my own personal journey, as well as photographs and videos from the expedition. In total, I will be in Ecuador for four weeks for school-funded research where I hope to cover 2,000 miles, from the Jungle, to the coast, and finally the spine of the Andes mountains. In stature, this is essential a DIY grand tour of unknown places and people. Noncompetitive, but even more epic, dramatic and chaotic.

Lake City Alpine 50 – August 28th – Lake City, Colorado

The view from Cinnamon Pass, on the Lake City loop.

            There are very few places in the United States that can effectively prepare a rider for the Lake City Alpine 50. Starting and finishing deep in the San Juan mountains of southwest Colorado, the loop takes on one pass of over 12k elevation and one of a stunning 13k. At only 50 miles the route is shockingly tough, with massive gravel (read: rocks) high altitude, exposure and gradients. For a sea level dweller, it’s a losing proposition. However, one place which can rival the mighty San Juan is the heights of…Ecuador. While the fatigue will be high, the acclimation and aerobic fitness will be a key to allow me to really take a good stab at this truly unique and stunning event.

Southeast Gravel Final – October 2nd – Abbeville, South Carolina

             The last of the “local” gravel will serve as a tune up for the final push. This will be a repeat offended, a second stab, at the first gravel race of my year and provide a short opener to the final phase of my season, and my most competitive. 

UnPAved is simply lovely. Cannot wait to return!

UnPAved of the Susquehanna – October 10th – Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

            The hits just keep coming! Two weeks later, in the heart of the Pennsylvania mountains, is possibly the brightest hidden gem of the gravel world. UnPAved is nothing short of stunning. Coming during the panicle of Pennsylvania’s gloriously vibrant fall, the race earns its slogan “easy on the eyes, hard on the legs.” What’s more, the short, punchy climbs and distance are the features I dream about. In many ways, UnPAved is the perfect event for the type of rider I believe I am and is absolutely a top priority of the year.

Big Sugar and Chinkapin Hollow Gravel Grinder– October 23rd – Fayetteville, AR

A summer day in the Ozarks! While it may look different, the gnar will be quite present!

            The second of the two big goals of my late season and (pending lottery results), the new kid on the block in the hills of the Ozarks. After spending quarantine in Arkansas and taking a few escapes to the Ozarks I can say I am truly dying to return. Those yonder hills are as small as they are harsh, replete with rocks that act as shrapnel and unrelenting undulation that creates some of the hardest terrain I have faced. Pair that understanding and appreciation with form that will be peaking, and I hope the results will follow. But that is not all! With the 109-mile Chinkapin Hollow Gravel Grinder to follow, the weekend in Arkansas is shaping up to be one massive, rowdy experience. 

Belgian Waffle Ride Kansas – October 31st – Lawrence, Kansas

I have no photos of Kansas, so here is Montana. I hope Kansas is like Montana. I have heard this is not the case, but I can Hope!

            Last of the triumvirate, and the final race of the year, is BWR new race in the gravel heartland. My first throwdown in the heartland of gravel seems a very fitting way to finish my first season delving into the waters of gravel. I do not know much about this event, or the stories that will come from it, but it seems to have all the ingredients for a fantastic final showdown. 

Starting Anew By Coming Home: Stokesville Strade

Home is a powerful thing. For many it is one place that exists throughout time as the bastion of their childhood. For others, it is something more fluid, something that develops as they do. I, for one, subscribe to the former.

Glorious early spring day in the valley. In a months time the rolling hills will be a vibrant green, the the roads supplying a nice ribbon of contrast. Now, the land remains in its slumber but its rippling beauty still shines through.

For me, home is something that exists in a purely daily context, depending on where I place my head. I chalk it up to my family’s nomadic habit; Arizona to California; California to Idaho; Idaho to Virginia; Virginia to Arkansas. Home was never a building, a bedroom, or a state; Home was a place where I could feel the love of my family; home was a place where I could appreciate those around me; home was a place that I enjoyed being.

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One Rodeo of a Year: One Year Review

In general, I don’t love things.

I love people; I love places; I love activities, memories, and journeys. But things? Things are good only for the utility to foster euphoric externalities. I would rather make do with less than do less with more stuff. Things like multiple pairs of shoes, pants, devices just never get me jazzed.

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The Grandest Tour: Home on the Road

I didn’t have a lot, but it was enough.

I didn’t have a lot of food, but it was enough. I didn’t have a lot of comfort, but it was enough.  I didn’t have a lot of money, but it was enough. I didn’t have a lot of gear, but it was enough. Last of all, I didn’t have a lot of time. But it was enough.

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The Grandest Tour: Wheeler Peak Mountain Duathlon FKT

See a mountain, summit a mountain.

A simple proposition, but one that can entail so many different things. Some mountains are best tackled by a lightweight road-bike, others call for a machine that is a bit burlier, and some can only be conquered by one’s own hands and feet. However, every once and a while there comes a certain summit that calls for blurring the lines between those spheres of separation.

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