The hosts of the Leadville 100 podcasts were super kind to invite Stephen Fitzgerald onto their show to discuss a question they’ve been hearing more and more from their audience: Can a gravel bike be raced successfully at the Leadville 100 mountain bike race? And even if it CAN be raced, SHOULD it?Continue reading
It’s no secret around here that we’re good friends with Matt Hawkins, the owner of the venerable Ridge Supply sock-and-rad-merchandise stoke company. We’ve done a special Ridge x Rodeo Traildonkey with Matt in the past, and Matt currently owns three Donkeys in different configurations which makes him a preeminent collector of Rodeo bikes. So I guess it came as no surprise that when Matt saw the Flaanimal 5.0 prototype at Philly Bike Expo in late 2019 he quickly said “I want one”. What did come as a surprise was just how long it took us to build and deliver the bike that he had in his head.Continue reading
For most of us, endurance lays on a glorious spectrum of absurdity; a hobby devoted to journeys and dedicated to adventure.Continue reading
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.
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
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
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!
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
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 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
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
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.
Utah’s White Rim Trail seems to be enjoying a bit of a popularity boom in recent years thanks in large part to repeated attempts to set new Fastest Known Time records by a non-stop stream of world class riders. While those efforts are incredible from a human achievement point of view they don’t resonate much with me as it relates to my relationship with this beautiful and incredibly unique part of the world. I come to White Rim with slower times in mind, and with thoughts of long miles spent undisturbed by life’s complexities.Continue reading
Rodeo Labs employees are well known and highly regarded for their incredible acumen and far reaching knowledge into the history of cycling. They are experts on everything, and rumor has it one of them has the secret to the life figured out. Here are their favorite gear picks, in no particular order.
Drew- paint guru, dog musher, beard grower.
Cerakote frame coating:
I just got my first frame with a Cerakote finish and I’m super impressed. Aesthetically, the finish is so good. What I’m really impressed with is how easy the low friction coefficient makes it to keep my bike clean. If you would have told me last year that I would have a light colored bike (white, even) with a matte finish I would have told you to get off my lawn. Just a hit with a hose and maybe some light degreaser and the finish looks brand new! It’s the little things that make a product like this so valuable to me.
Smith Optics Trackstand glasses:
After being a long time Oakley devotee and actually not a fan of Smith Pivlock glasses, I decided to give Smith another shot. I always say the best piece of equipment to me is the stuff I forget I’m using because there aren’t any pain points. When I throw these glasses on, the Chromapop tint actually gives you really good clarity and they sit on your face so comfortably. I throw them on and forget they’re there. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
PNW Coast Suspension Dropper Post:
Ten years ago this might not have made my list, but thanks to my aging back this seatpost has become a transcendiary piece of equipment. The suspension may seem a bit overkill (and sometimes it is), but I’ve just noticed that I’m more comfortable on the bike for longer before my lower back starts to act up if it does at all. I guess when you take micro-vibrations and dampen big hits it just helps your body stay more relaxed. An added and very fun benefit to this seatpost is that you can just drop it and put a foot down and stop lights as well. Work smarter not harder, kids.
Jenn- Shipping master, party queen, likes the Smashing Pumpkins
Oveja Negra Chuckbucket
An item that has accompanied me for 100% of my adventures is my Oveja Negra Chuckbucket stem/handlebar bag. This bag is super convenient because it’s right there in the cockpit and it’s open-top for easy access. It has carried Nalgenes, cell phones, extra kit, and half of an apple crumble cake for those really snacky days
Teravail Cannonball Tires:
I am currently using the Teravail Cannonball 700c x 38 tan wall tires. I live in the city so I have to cover several miles of road or paved path to get to any sort of gravel. These tires have been great for this type of riding. I don’t feel sluggish on the pavement and I am still able to rip over gravel, mud, and rocky trails once I get to them. Bonus: I’ve ridden hundreds of miles on these tires and not once had a flat.
The main staple of my cycling gear is my velcro shoe/flat pedal combo. Although some people refer to these kicks as my “geriatric shoes”, they are no joke. These exact shoes are (no joke) Kenneth Cole Reaction. They’re awesome. No strings to get stuck in the crank, super comfortable, and they allow me to go from bike ride to normal life in a split second-no need to change shoes!
Evan- Sales master, truck driver, bike crasher
Jorts (DIY or otherwise)
As I’ve moved away from racing and began having more fun in the back country and riding for frivolity rather than speed, leaving the lycra at home has become more of an everyday thing. I laughed with a friend recently, “I only wear Lycra if I’m riding more than 6 hours” but it’s true. In a sort of rebellion against that past obsession riding is now for fun, so my favorite thing to ride in is my couple pairs of cut-off jorts. They’re hot, ripped everywhere, and make me feel less like a superhero when I end at a taco truck after long rides. Jorts are the new wave.
For my 21st birthday I was gifted a decent little mirrorless camera (Sony a6300 with 18-135 kit lens, you can find them on craigslist for $500). I quickly got lost in the settings menu and found the bicycle as a great medium for discovering new things to photograph and creating stories to share. Now you can find me descending mountains with a lens cap in my teeth riding one handed changing exposure settings and forgetting to use the brakes. I’ll die doing this one day, but hopefully the photo will be nice
I recently went flatbar by converting to a set of Nitto Bullmoose’s. They aren’t perfect, but man I love looking at them. They also fit my Orucase handlebar bag really well and get +150 style points.
Sheldon: Builder of dreams, grower of beards, takes a great photo.
One of the few seat bags that aren’t ugly and can carry all the things. I’ve been using the Speedleev Ranger and ranger plus for a few years now. One of the best parts about it is all of the individual slots it has for what I am carrying
Exile frame bag
I’ve owned A LOT of bags over the years. It’s definitely true you can’t beat custom. I worked with Matt the owner of Exile Designs on the design of the bag so it is exactly what I wanted. I love the velcro split in the middle. Being able to keep my water bladder separate from other gear was important to me. But having the ability to make it one large bag has been super useful.
Black Burn Tradesman Tool
I am very picky about the stuff I carry. I wanted a tool that could fix pretty much everything on my bike if I was stuck out in the middle of nowhere. The Tradesman ticked all of the boxes for me. What I really like is the quick link pliers as well as the link holder that is built in. It’s also decently lightweight for how big it is.
Stephen: Intern. Maker of quesadillas, keeper of messy desk.
Redshift Shockstop Stem
It is natural to look at any bolt on part that adds bounciness to your bike with skepticism. Most look super ugly, are heavy, and don’t really improve the ride of your bike very much. The Redshift Shockstop stem is the exception to those generalizations. When I first put one on years ago I at first thought it a bit bouncy for sure. It is strange when your handlebars float a little. But within a half hour I had started adapting to the feel and was soon hitting potholes and bumps in the road on my way to work intentionally. This stem really does take the edge off of impacts, vibrations, and washboard. Two years in and I still recommend this stem all the time. I’ve used it at DK in Kansas, at AMR in Morocco, and on countless adventures in Colorado and Utah including White Rim and Colorado Trail segments. Even better than the stem is the fact that you can install or uninstall it in about five minutes if you want to return your bike to a classic rigid feel for a spell.
Challenge Getaway tires
As far as tires go I am in a constant state of trying new ones every month or three. I’m so curious about how tires affect the ride of a bike that it’s a bit of a passion project for me to ride everything I can and form opinions about them based on personal experience. In the last year or two I’ve spent the most time on Gravel King tires and they are a truly great tire. They may not be the fastest or most “supple” but they work in a huge range of conditions and are incredibly reliable. When I heard Challenge was working on a new gravel tire I was skeptical. When I thought of Challenge I thought more of cyclocross than gravel, and when I did think of gravel I thought of Sven Nuy’s DNF at DK a few years back due to something like 10-20 flats on his Challenge tires. I just didn’t trust the brand for durability no matter how lovely they ride or how light they are. Well that has all changed with the new Getaway 40mm gravel tire that they announced late 2020. Challenge worked with feedback from actual gravel racers to develop the tread and features of the tire and they specifically added puncture protection strips to the casing to make the tires more durable in real world riding and racing. The tires are also hand made, 260tpi which directly impacts ride feel. When I got a set and put them on my bike I was blown away. I could not believe how much smoother, quieter, and quicker they felt than my Gravel Kings. These are probably the best feeling tires I’ve ever ridden in any genre of tire. I love them that much. I spend a lot of commuting miles on them on the pavement and they fly like a slick. When I go off road they feel grippy and fast. I am not a KOM sociopath in the same way that I was six or seven years ago, but I’ve enjoyed doing some damage to local leaderboards on these tires both on the pavement and the gravel since I put them on and I’m amazed that these tires can be competitive against road bikes on the road. I’ve yet to have a flat or a cut but I don’t have a season of racing under my belt on them yet so the jury is still out on that, but so far so good. I suspect that the wear life is going to be lower on these than other tires because the rubber compound is just softer (and thus better feeling). They are more expensive than a standard gravel tire but less expensive than many boutique gravel tires that have emerged in the last few years. If you want to upgrade the quickness and feel of your gravel bike this year I would highly recommend giving these a chance.
eeSilk Suspension Seatpost
Wait, hold on. Another bolt on bouncy bit? Yes. Another one. Remember everything I said above about the Redshift suspension stem? Well just take all that and apply it to the eeSilk suspension seatpost. There are a lot of suspension seatposts out there but the eeSilk is the one that gets the most love from third party reviews based on what I’ve read. More importantly my butt and back also love it. Back in the day when I first put it on I was suffering some serious compressed disc problems that were leftovers from snowboarding injuries. I could never seem to fully heal from those. I’d do a long ride and the next day I could barely bend over to tie my shoes. After I put the eeSilk on the difference was night and day. My back was progressively less sore and these days I suffer from almost no back soreness, even after the 750 mile Atlas Mountain race which I used this post for. In 2020 the eeSilk was out of production while they iterated to a newer, improved model and that was a major loss for cyclists everywhere. Just recently Cane Creek announced the new version with improved construction and pivots and I’m super glad this option is back on the table. If you’re going to hit rugged terrain on your rigid bike do your back a favor and bolt one of these puppies on.
Selle Repente Quasar saddle
This recommendation may be a bit self serving because we sell this saddle and spec it on all of our bikes now. But the this saddle is worth recommending because I quite frankly love it. Similar to tires I’ve ridden a lot of different saddles over the years and almost all of these saddles were pretty decent and even great. Repente has been swapping saddle notes with us for years and has been sending us samples to ride. I’ve liked everything that I’ve ridden that they make but they’ve never felt universally comfortable and built in such a way that I feel like they were right for most of our customers as a default saddle. That all changed when I got a Quasar to test and started logging miles on it. When I first sat on it I had an “oh wow” moment where it just felt like a superior platform from which to pedal and spend many hours. Was it the wider fit, the flatter profile, or the shorter nose? No idea. I just know what feels good to me and this saddle feels great. I’m just about 2,000 miles into riding the Quasar and am still loving it. I still have the excellent Ritchey WCS Ti saddle on my Donkey but I have the Repente on both of my Flaanimals now. When I switch back and forth between the bikes there is always a moment where I first sit down and start pedaling and think “oh yeah wow this does feel better”. Interestingly the 164 gram Repente with stainless rails is lighter than the Ritchey WCS Ti saddle. I’m not a weight weenie but the Repente is light! I’ve done a 200 mile gravel / road ride on the Quasar and just last week finished the 100 mile White Rim Trail in Utah on it. The saddle got very high marks from my derriere on both rides, and thus I’m recommending it as one of my favorite pieces of gear in recent memory.
In what seems to have become a ritual around here it has come time to write a transparent and in-depth update on the status of our frames, forks, and complete bikes for 2021. I’ve penned updates like this regularly over the years as one challenge or another seems to regularly interfere with our best laid plans to get our bikes out the door at earlier and earlier dates every year. With each year that passes we get increasingly good at logistics here at Rodeo, but we also discover more things that can derail or delay our plans.Continue reading
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.
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.Continue reading
No, I have never nor will I ever ride the Tour de France.Continue reading
Across multiple industries, COVID-19 created an initial dip in demand as factories shut down, people quarantined. Global supply chains halted. Now supply while restarted cannot meet the demand. In the bicycle industry, COVID-19 is creating lasting changes and certainly repercussions to business operations. In the meantime, Stephen and I did not see a lot of discussion around what is happening. Some news articles discuss the limited supply of bicycles. As a result, we knew this would be the perfect topic for the podcast.