While we were in Silverton this August we had an incredible brand partner on the trip with us in the form of the CBD recovery brand IKOR Labs. Ikor brought along Nicolas Tapia who shot and edited these partner / profile pieces on a number of riders who were along on the trip. We’re excited to share them here, and keep an eye out for our full short film on the trip to be released in 2020!
In April of 2019 we packed up and headed to Sea Otter Classic for our first ever expo / trade show. Over the course of that week in Monterey we had such a good time showing our bikes, meeting owners and new people, and sampling the local riding. As soon as we returned to Denver we set out looking for which expo we would attend next. With such a large contingent of owners located on the East Coast the decision was made to look for an expo on that side of the country. It didn’t take long to single out Philly Bike Expo as the show to attend. Philly has been a show we’ve enjoyed reading about in previous years and the vibe always seemed upbeat and friendly from afar. We asked around a bit and our thoughts were confirmed. Everyone said that Philly was the show to be at, so we quickly registered and pinned it on the calendar.
We didn’t have a plan for what we wanted to show or talk about at Philly initially but as the show neared we started gathering our thoughts. The show’s date on the calendar coincided pretty well with the development of our next generation Flaanimal 5.0 and we set a target for having a prototype preview ready to show, and we also asked ourselves what would be cool to do with the TD3 as a concept build. Two bikes began to take shape in our minds…
Also taking shape was the design of the booth itself. After our experience at Sea Otter we left with the sense that a lot of companies are entering the gravel / adventure space to cash in on the growth and opportunity. If you’re a corporation with a primary objective to sell as many bikes as possible then that is fine but for Philly we wanted to bring a booth along that showed that we’re equally interested in bikes, culture, and community. We decided to build a booth around our library of photos that we’ve collected over the last six years of riding, exploring, and making bikes. We asked owners to send in photos as well and we combined it all into a visual backdrop for our bikes that told our story without using many words.
For the Traildonkey 3.0 that we brought we wanted to do an out of the box build in a way that we hadn’t previously built one before so we worked with Fox to spec out an AX 40mm front suspension fork. A PNW Coast dropper / suspension post in the back provides 40mm of travel in the rear for a balanced feel. We asked Archer Components if they could build a drop bar specific version of their D1x wireless shifting intermediary. This allowed us to combine TRP Hylex RS levers with a Shimano XT 12 speed drivetrain which would otherwise not be do-able on a drop bar bike. Exile Designs created special matching frame bag / top tube bag / and Fannie Packer with custom printed local Table Mountain Topograhy on the main panels. The finished bike is pretty bonkers and started a lot of fun conversations. How far can a gravel / adventure bike go before it becomes a mountain bike? That seems to be a recurring question these days but to us it doesn’t even matter. Bikes are bikes. To us pushing the Traildonkey 3 platform about as far as we could was a blast, and the eventual owner of this bike is going to have quite a party when they throw their leg over it. (This bike is now available for sale, but with a GRX drivetrain instead of the pre-production Archer prototype shifting. Shoot us a note if you are interested)
By the time Philly arrived we were extremely excited to preview the Flaanimal 5.0 prototype and we barely finished the frameset in time. It was built only 24 hours before the show just like those hot rod shows that I’ve seen on TV. I always wonder why everything comes down to the wire on those shows if they know that they have months to prepare for the show but now I get it. Developing a bike is difficult to begin with but developing a bike and trying to get it just right in time for it’s public debut is another level of difficulty entirely. This new Flaanimal we showed at Philly is a bike we are extremely proud of. We’re advancing the core Flaanimal feature set by integrating creative solves for tire clearance, strength, and weight and we are not leaving behind the adaptability that the bike was originally about in the process. If you’d like to read the full exposition of what is new with Flaanimal 5 then head over to the exclusive preview that they have posted here.
Flaanimal 5 will be available Q1 2020. The bike we showed is just a preview and we are making final tweaks and locking specs as I type this. I couldn’t be more excited to show the final product when it is ready.
Thanks to all the people who came out and said hi at Philly Bike Expo. We loved visiting the city, shaking hands, talking bikes, meeting Rodeo owners, and sharing what we do. See you in 2020!
Travis is not a guy who moves impulsively on things. When we met him in 2018 at Belgian Waffle Ride he just like us had traveled there from Colorado. He recognized the Rodeo kits that we were wearing and struck up a conversation. He had been watching online and knew all about what we were up to. We rode the bulk of BWR with him that year and made plans to reconnect in 2019 for some riding in Durango. In the mean time Travis kept watching what we were up to and set his eyes on eventually adopting a Traildonkey. He didn’t do it quickly though. Every month or two he would ask about a detail or compare some notes on how he would build it. Eventually he ordered up the frame and made a special request. He wanted us to create an homage of our 2015 Elektrobunny kit on the frame. Elektrobunny is a kit we only made and released once, so you really had to be paying attention to even know that it existed and more so to remember it.
It was April or May when I registered for Unpaved Pennsylvania. Jason Malec, a friend and Flaanimal pilot form Philadelphia had invited me to the ride, or was it a race? I wasn’t sure. What I did know was that Jason said that the day would be super challenging, beautiful, and would fill up quickly. There wasn’t much time to consider whether or not to go so I made haste to put my name on the starter’s list.
Rider / Author: Joe Perry
Event: The Rift
Location: Hvolsvöllur, Iceland
Date: July 27, 2019
Just over 10 years ago I remember watching the film Heima by the band Sigur Ros, this was my first exposure to Iceland and I knew immediately I wanted to visit there. Fast forward to the Fall of 2018 and my good friend was telling me about a new gravel race that was going to happen in Iceland in the summer of 2019, he was going and I knew I wanted to get in on it as well. Gravel riding and racing is pretty popular in my area so I had been doing it for a while and had lately really enjoyed exploring by bike on more fringe roads and longer rides to get a better feel and understanding of an area and its landscape.
A couple of years ago we built a lovely Traildonkey 2.0 for Blaise. At the time it was easily the nicest Donkey we had built. Blaise kitted that bike out with XTR Di2, Easton EC90SL cranks, Rodeo 2.0 wheels, and pretty much all of the other nicest things he could find.
Blaise hammered his bike and rode it to its maximum through some pretty brutal, wet East Coast conditions. We’re not entirely sure how many bottom brackets he killed while riding the bike but suffice to say it was a lot.
Cut to two years later. Blaise’s TD2 found a home with a new owner and he came back to us looking to up the capabilities of his gravel bike with a TD3 build. This time he wanted to personalize more so the first task was to design a personalized custom paint layout for the bike. We weren’t in a rush because we were waiting for SRAM to make AXS Eagle and AXS Red parts available separately. Blaise requested some unique colors outside of what is being done in the mainstream these days so we pulled these colors from a photo of the sunset that he sent over.
The first draft of the layout was nice, but Blaise asked that we extend the design to the inside of the downtube and rear triangle. The completed design ended up here:
Blaise requested a few extra personalized details on this paint, one being his kid’s initials on the top tube near the head tube, and the other was to nickname the bike Trailwonkey in a nod to it’s Washington DC home. We sent the naked frame across town to Altitude Composites for paint and he executed the design wonderfully.
Next up: The build. AXS parts arrived as did a whole bunch of other generally lovely components. One of the most interesting things about AXS builds is how easy the bikes are to put together. The only lines that need to be routed are the brake lines and that makes these bikes a dream for Sheldon to have in the build stand.
The complete bike is a thing of beauty and before sending it off we were sure to cover as much of the frame as possible with custom cut 3M frame protector. Word on the street is that Blaise is pretty hard on his bikes…
Zeno and Mike came out to Colorado to do the Rollin’s ride and they sent in this ride report. It was a ton of fun for us to read so we are reposting it here. If you’re passing through Colorado and have some spare time to ride or say hi do give us a shout!
Note: Josh came from the DC area to do the Ride On Rollins with us. He wrote this recap for his team blog / facebook group. When it was sent to me I asked Josh if he would allow us to repost it here and he graciously agreed. I like this report a lot because it has the perspective of someone doing this sort of ride with fresh eyes. I live inside the Rodeo / Colorado bubble but Josh does not so for me reading about his ride is so fun and rewarding.
By Josh Pierce.
Just before leaving last Friday morning, I texted my buddy Peder, “I was able to get in a last good ride, about 45 miles and about 2400 feet of climbing.” He texted, “we’re doing almost 9000 feet of climbing on Sunday but hey good work:).” I texted back “yeah, I know I’m walking in to a buzz saw jack ass!:)” That is exactly what it was…a buzz saw.
So just let me begin by saying thanks to everyone who helped get me to a place where I could even attempt this ride. It was tough, tougher than anything I have experienced on a bike. Thanks to Jay for showing me what a real workout means and getting me in to biking in the first place. Thanks to Dexter, Joel, and Hans for the encouragement and tips on riding at altitude, and thanks to Byron and Tom for helping me get back in to it after a few weeks off the bike with a challenging 5Bs. And thanks to Armstrong for lending me his bike for so long. I was truly thinking of bagging it but because I was able to get in a handful of rides, I felt good enough to proceed. On reflection, I am really glad I pulled the trigger.
I flew in to Denver Friday and like I am sure many people notice, EVERYONE is in good shape and everyone is in to the outdoors. I watched an elderly woman deplane in a wheel chair…with hiking poles. This tells you as much about my state of mind as anything about the folks in Colorado. I was looking at everything through the lens of this ride which I was a little terrified of. I jumped on the light rail and Peder picked me up. We grabbed some tacos and beer then went over to Rodeo Labs to grab my steed, a Trail Donkey 3.0. I was very excited to visit Rodeo Labs for a couple reasons; to meet the founder, Stephen Fitzgerald, and to see the facilities. It turns out that my buddy, Peder is very close friends with Stephen Fitzgerald. Back in 2000-something Peder and Stephen would get together over coffee to talk about cycling and the need to get away from the race-only mentality and towards more community focused gravel/mountain bike rides. During those talks, the idea for a Denver group ride was formed which they started. Later, the idea for a company came about which Stephen started in 2013 or 14, I think. Upon arrival at Rodeo Labs, I was struck by their size. The operating space is tiny. They had one admin assistant, a mechanic, Sheldon, Stephen, and one other guy doing something that I can’t remember. The space is smaller than the front desk area of Bikenetic and is situated downstairs of SloHi Coffee, which is closely affiliated with Rodeo Labs. SloHi, incidentally, is the confluence of two neighborhoods, Sloan Lake and Highland. The other thing, which is maybe not so surprising is that a steady stream of people came in the door from the time I arrived to when I left for all different reasons. So I was very thankful and slightly embarrassed when Stephen stopped what he was doing and grabbed my rental and looked it over before changing out the wheels to 650s himself for the ride Sunday. This may have had everything to do with him knowing Peder and nothing to do with some schmoe from DC who was out to do a ride he had no business doing. On the other hand, it could have had to do with Stephen wanting to make sure I had as painless a ride as possible. In any case, I got my first look at the Trail Donkey 3.0 with 650s, single ring in the front…which was actually oval, internal cabling, etc. We took it back to Peder’s house and I got it ready for the ride.
Saturday, Peder and I went out for a 25 mile loop on the North Table, about five miles outside Denver. It was a fairly vertical ascent and descent on rocky hiking trails, sometimes putting me at the edge of kinda severe drop-offs. Overall it was challenging, but we went slow and it gave me time to acclimate to the bike and to the elevation, which I felt even in Denver. The views from the plains on top were breathtaking. After a short descent, we arrived at New Terrain Brewery situated perfectly along a number of bike trails. The place was packed so we had to share a table and ended up chatting with a guy named Ted, a retired long-haul trucker. Ted knew Colorado well from his driving days and he shared a lot of information with Peder that I think was stored away for future rides. We told Ted we were planning to ride up Rollins Pass the next day, weather permitting, and he told us that he was actually thinking of driving up there for a hike and would keep an eye out for us. We said our goodbyes and headed back to Denver.
Game day started at HiSlo where the owner opened his shop at 6 for coffee and breakfast burritos. About twenty or so others were there. While Stephen gave a quick talk about the ride, Peder pointed out a few of the stronger riders. He pointed out Kristi Lindquist who placed second at Steamboat in the 40-49 and Brian Derstine, who placed second at Steamboat in Single Speed. At that point, I was beginning to realize that either this was a full on coffee ride or I would be riding solo or more likely just with Peder most of the day. I half expected Jeremiah Bishop to show up to punctuate the fact that I had no business being there. We headed out at 6:30am for Golden. There was much banter and joking. Everyone was clearly psyched. It was a gorgeous, clear, slightly chilly morning. I chatted with Kristi who is awesome and a guy named Woodrow from Newport News. Mostly I just made sure I was staying with the group which actually split quickly in to two.
Then we hit Golden Gate Canyon Road, a two-laner with few cars, at least on Sunday morning. It was lined with trees and rock walls that make you wonder if gravity is suspended in Colorado. It was maybe eight percent grade most of the way with one half-mile twenty percent section. There was one steep gravely descent for about a mile but otherwise it was 40ish miles straight up. It had some beautiful views but to be honest it was tough and I knew the tougher final ascent was coming and I needed to conserve energy. I was ready to get on to some gravel, come what may. As we arrived in Rollinsville, our B group of four saw the A group rolling out in the distance. We actually weren’t that far behind them! But honestly, we had no idea how long they’d been there. At an outpost/mom and pop market in Rollinsville, I had already depleted three water bottles and three bars. I was at only 8500 feet but was really feeling the elevation. My legs felt like lead but the fifteen minute break was very helpful. Our band of four grew to five when Sheldon arrived from Boulder to meet up with us. Peder had a mechanical and Sheldon fixed it, which also gave me a little more time to recoup. I drank a Dr. Pepper, ate a bag of chips, a bar, and drank more water. We rolled out of Rollinsville on to a flat, very packed, dirt road which wound around, under a bridge, across railroads tracks, and out a couple miles until we hit a sharp right on to the jeep road which began our ascent. The ascent was roughly sixteen miles up from 8400 feet to 11,660 feet. The average grade was 5%, I am guessing, but up to 15 in places and littered with progressively more and more rocks. 4-Wheel drive cars had a tough time on it. It was time to see what the Trail Donkey could do. Ok, and what I could do.
The good news was, strangely, my legs began to shake out. The bad news was instead of that leaden feeling, both legs began cramping pretty severely. Peder gave me a couple iodine pills and this seemed to help although I still cramped from time to time. As we ascended, I grew more tired which really affected me when I couldn’t find a line and was forced to just power over rocks. At these times, especially as we got closer to the top, I was forced to break out of my single-minded focus of “next step, next step, next step.” My mind wandered. I was exhausted, I was pissed, I was angry that The National hadn’t had a good album since 2008, I hated Chris Shue’s pink sock things he wears over his bike shoes in the winter, and the fact that Hans is always wearing a backpack when I ride with him. I knew that I liked mounds better than Snickers but I couldn’t remember why…OK FOCUS! Then I would kick back in to single-mindedness and keep going. It seemed to never end. Then the clouds started to move in. This was a psychological factor since we knew being up top with rain and wind would be brutal and possibly dangerous. As we approached the looping, final ascent around a gorgeous glass lake under a glacier, we ran in to some of the A group. They were bailing to get down to civilization before rain and hail hit. Lightning strikes were hitting out in the distance. I was almost too exhausted to worry. I also knew we had no choice but to go on. We were going to Winter Park to be picked up. The only way to Winter Park was over the pass and down. Going back also meant facing the brutal jeep road we had just come up and that just was not an option to me. So after a highly sketchy hike-a-bike on a dirt path over a now closed tunnel, connecting the road, Peder and I continued on. Side note; one of the A groupers rode down the path. I just cannot explain how insane this is. It’s probably a thousand feet down on one side and sketchy gravel and dirt (see the pic of me hiking). The others in the B Group bailed and joined the few A groupers who had summited. It was just Peder and I now and we were hurrying.
There are two abandoned train trestles to cross at the summit and as Joel had told me, height was actually never a factor. The trestles and the path on both ends are much wider than they appear and honestly, I was so fatigued, I hardly even noticed anything around me. I didn’t really notice the A groupers encouraging me, the joke Stephen made after seeing my face (he asked Peder if we were going to be friends after this trip) or that he handed me his winter cycling gloves for the descent…and I didn’t notice when Ted walked by me going the other way between trestles! Ted, the retired long-haul trucker, had made his way up the opposite way in his truck to see if we were going to make it! I waved as I rode by but only found out on the other side of the pass, that it was Ted. For some reason, I got choked up by this and I just turned and yelled “Ted!” as loud as I could back in to the pass. I like to think it echoed down and Ted heard it. At this point, we could see all the cloud cover now coming closer and in plain view. It was time to descend and fast. We stopped for one picture and then hit it. I have never moved this quickly on gravel. The back side jeep road to Winter Park is nothing like the one we had ascended. It was much smoother but still, if I’d missed one rock, I would have been over the handlebars at 15-30 miles an hour. The descent was brutal because even with Stephen’s gloves on, I couldn’t feel my hands. The temperature had dropped from 80 to 50 degrees. I got my brutalized body down the road eventlessly though and we rolled in to Winter Park. I ran to a public bathroom to change clothes before driving home and while in the bathroom, a flash flood started. We had somehow dodged the storm. I still don’t know how the others fared (they were going 140 miles to our 75) although I know Stephen didn’t get home until nearly 8pm, long after our brewery dinner and while I was in a hot tub nursing my ailments.
The ride was surreal, amazing, gorgeous. I was painful but I would do it again in a second. I wish I had been in better shape to enjoy it all perfectly but that is not how life works. You take it as it comes. It was something I will remember forever.
Earlier this summer a couple of us made the ride from Denver to Winter Park via Rollins pass. The 90 mile ride crossed the Continental Divide at Rollins Pass, elevation 11,676ft. The ride was incredibly difficult but the views as we crested the alpine terrain of The Rockies left us exhilarated and left us wanting to share the experience with others. This is when the Ride On Rollins was born. On Sept 8th, 2019 we rode to Rollins Pass again, but this time with approximately 40 other people starting from either Denver, Boulder, or Rollinsville. Of the starters about 12-15 people made the summit. Some loved the ride. Some hated the brutally rocky conditions. The rain threatened and so many of us were nearly hit full force by afternoon thunderstorms.
As difficult and challenging as the ride was it was awesome to share the route and inspire so many people to try it either for the first time or one more time. To us adventure is about embarking on rides with uncertain outcomes. Such rides test our mettle and reward us with sublime experiences that we carry with us from that moment forward. These rides are the embodiment of calling ourselves an Adventure Lab, a way to stay true to what we are all about.
This post we leave behind as a visual record.
I remember seeing this ride pop up on Nick’s Strava in 2018. Phantom Canyon? Where is that? Out of nowhere he took off on a bike ride with some friends and came back with a huge load of beautiful images and a ride title to the effect of “So beautiful my eyes hurt”. I got that sort of bike envy that we all get when friends go off and do awesome things without us.