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.
Having come back recently from Dirty Kanza I was struck by the sheer energy and growth that the gravel riding genre currently has. There were a number of new gravel bikes announced at the race itself, each eager to have or gain credibility in the genre. Watching it all made me think about our bike and the more I thought about it all the more I was amazed at how we’ve been swept along by this gravel wave. Reflection also reminded me that our bikes didn’t start with gravel, they started with Trail. Ours is a story that intersects with gravel but also but also deviates from it whenever a trail can be found leading away from a dirt road.
Traildonkey was born in 2014 in Denver, Colorado. At the time we were spending a fair bit of time riding on paved roads but had begun to detour onto the local trails in and around the foothills of near our city.
Green Mountain, Mount Falcon, Lair Of The Bear, Colorado Trail, and Table Mountain. These were our original Lab. These were all singletrack playgrounds that factored more and more into our regular rides. Why? Because variety breathed fresh life into what would otherwise have been routine. At first we took our road bikes off road because these were road ride detours. Then we took cyclocross bikes because we needed bigger tires and better gearing out in the dirt.
Eventually we decided that we wanted to have a go at developing a bike around the exact style of riding we were doing: A little bit of road, a little bit of singletrack, and anything else that looked fun. We wanted quick on the road and agile on the trail.
We developed Traildonkey around Colorado riding and Colorado trails first. We made it for ourselves and only later decided to start a bike company so that we could offer the bike to others who had since started eying their local dirt and needed a worthy steed.
Since then gravel has caught on in a big way and we’re excited about all of the people and diversity that it has brought into the mixed terrain genre. Traildonkey loves gravel riding and racing but here in Colorado we still continue to ride them on our local roads and hometown trails exactly the same way we did when we started in 2014.
Every bike has an origin story. This is ours.
When we were children we spoke as children, we understood as children, we thought as children; but when we became men, we put away childish things. (That last part is a massive bummer).
On Tuesday nights we pull childish things back out and it feels great.
6pm at SloHi on 29th. 30 miles mixed terrain. Intermediate pace. Lights required. Rain or wet trails cancel.
Sometimes we have 25 riders, sometimes five or six. Sometimes we have 4-6 women, sometimes none join us. All are welcome!
Sheldon our lead mechanic wrote up this handy post about prepping your tools / gear for Dirty Kanza. Thinking through possible mechanical issues ahead of time can be the difference between a 10 minute pause and a DNF. Take a look at this list and take that time to think ahead and get dialed!
One of the best parts of running Rodeo is being able to make it a company that is a part of a community. That community is made up of team mates, bike owners, and ALSO other bike makers and builders. On one hand it could be said that we should be pushing what we make as hard as we can to the exclusion of all “competitors” but I disagree with that entirely. I think we should make bikes and parts that we love and believe in and that we shouldn’t make bikes for everyone out there. Other bike companies make different bikes with different vibes and different ethos for different people. Weaving plurality into our brand makes us stronger, more creative, and gives us a much better story to tell.
When I ride alone I don’t tend to push myself very hard, but when I ride in a group it raises the level of my riding as I try to keep pace with the larger peloton. I think something similar happens when you’re a part of a community of other builders instead of feeling like you are at war with them. In the same way that you can high five a friend for sticking a breakaway or winning a bunch sprint it is also possible to high five another builder for making a bike so beautiful and rad that you wish you could have built yourself.
So with that in mind we’re featuring this Caletti Scrambler on our site. The overlap between Rodeo and Caletti on the bike is that it uses our 2.0 Spork – which makes me super happy to see, but beyond that the bike is worth nerding out on in all of its detail and glory.
Caletti sent over these images, but then we noticed that they did a writeup on the bike as well on their site so we’re reposting it here. Caletti’s contact info is at the bottom of the page if you’re interested in having them build something like a Scrambler, or many other types of bikes, for you.
Caletti hand builds each of their bikes, from scratch, in Santa Cruz, California.
Photos by Peter Thomsen
The mixed terrain rambler.
This Donut Box Pink Scrambler has been released into the wild and it’s new owner has already gotten it dirty on some long mixed route rides. It’s like a cross or gravel bike, but designed for flat bars with a longer top tube and appropriate head angle – quite a different animal than just slapping a flat bar on your old designed-for-drop-bars cross bike.
Sometimes we use an Enve Gravel fork, and sometimes we use this Rodeo Labs Spork. Both fit big tires (700x50mm Schwalbe pictured), but the Spork has bottle bosses on the legs, which make it great for bikepacking, with capacity for extra water or use a “many things” cage to carry gear.
These new Santa Cruz X Chris King carbon wheels are super nice: wide and only about 1400g for the set, while still very strong, they make the bike extra quick. The shallow profile keeps it comfortable.
Even with a dropper post this bike is only 21 pounds without pedals.
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.
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I live in a tiny town of about 2,000 people surrounded by vineyards & farms with access to the Oregon coastal mountains right out my front door. Sometimes I feel like I should pinch myself to make sure it’s real that I get to be surrounded by so much beauty and what feels like my own personal outdoor playground. Today was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had on a bike and I didn’t have to drive anywhere to have it…. it was right out my door. ❤️
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
We’re expecting our 2019 Flaanimals to begin arriving in Denver the first week of May, so we thought that it would be a great time to post a gallery of this 2019 Flaamingo build that we brought to Sea Otter Classic for display at our booth.
The Flaamingo color has a tan main frame color so we thought it would be cool to accent the build with polished Ritchey Neo Classic and Shimano 105 components. Natural bar tape and saddle colors also flow nicely with the overall aesthetic.
A Flaanimal 4.1 can be built in the lower $3,000 range. As shown the build would climb another thousand or so with our 2.0 carbon 650b rims laced to pink anodized White Industries hubs and we now offer our 2.0 factory hubs in a similar shade of pink anno.
We shot this bike in the middle of the desert in Nevada on our way to Sea Otter. What better place to shoot a Khaki bike than in the desert?
That Ritchey Classic saddle pairs so nicely with those WTB Venture 47mm 650b tires.
It is amazing how good Shimano 105 has gotten with this latest release. The shifter ergonomics are so excellent, and Shimano’s hydro brake feel is tops.
We see so many black parts on bikes these days, but three cheers for silver / polished if you want your bike to stand out from the crowd.
Our Ride. Explore. Create. icons are on the the top tube of every bike we make.
That’s a proper stance. Brooks bar tape has got to be the best looking tape out there and it feels and wears very nicely.
We went with solid painted head badges on our 2019 framesets to make them just a bit more in your face. This pink pops!
Flaanimal is a mythical winged alpaca AND a creepy dude standing in the middle of a desert road.
Craig Dalton of The Gravel Ride podcast invited Rodeo founder Stephen Fitzgerald to the show to talk about Rodeo’s origins and the evolution of the Traildonkey from 1.0 to 3.0. We’ve embedded it here after the break. If you don’t know where Rodeo came from this covers most of it.
Header photo by Greg Besaw.
It is about 4pm on Friday (Date). Nick and I have just completed a seldom or never ridden dirt and gravel ride over three remote Colorado mountain passes approaching or exceeding 12,000 feet above sea level. We’re smashed. Smashed, if you are unfamiliar with the term, is a word that the kids these days use in place of “exhausted”. I think it’s a great descriptor.
The fourth featured build for Spork 2.0 is an in house build.
When we moved into our new office in January 2018 I found an old prototype Traildonkey 2.0 frameset that hadn’t been seen any use in over two years. Putting a perfectly good albeit old frame out to pasture seemed like a huge waste to me so I thought that it would be fun to simply use it as a canvas on which to experiment with paint. I spent a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon sanding it back down to raw carbon, a process I found strangely therapeutic. When it came time to lay down some paint I hit a wall. I had no idea what I wanted the frame to look like or what I wanted to use it for.