Rodeo is a slow company.

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.

 

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2018 Rockstar VA: The Stuff Legends Are Made Of

Preface

I’ve been on a long-distance off-road adventure kick the last few yeas (exhibit A, exhibit B,exhibit C, etc).  When I heard about the Rockstar VA bikepacking race, I decided not only did I have to ride it, I was all-in it to win it.  The course seemed to be right up my alley: long backcountry trails, rocks, ridge, suffering, hardship, or other words everything that makes an epic event.  At first I thought “hey it’s just a really long ride” but the more I dove into it I found it’s actually a whole different sport.  It’s actually a combination of land navigation, lightweight camping, nutrition planning, time management, hiking, and with some bike riding in there as well.

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Mount Evans in November

Words by @kaizergilroy, Photos by @denvercx & @kaizergilroy

I was pulled out of my morning reverie by a text from Peder – “Evans today. Interested?”

After a week of Thanksgiving gluttony, some singletrack shred, soaking in hot springs and live music, my palette was satiated, but I felt guilty at my weekly mileage total of 15.5. With no group ride intel for Sunday, I figured maybe I’d do some solo adventure. I would find more singletrack and laugh while descending something that would greatly benefit from a dropper post.

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Highline Midnight Rally

Beer, watermelon, cool air, way-past-midnight tacos, are the natural ingredients to fuel the night ride. When the light fades and the dark blankets the trail, some go to bed. Others heed the rally cries to pedal. We all came looking for something – what I’m not sure – but I reveled in mystery riding at night. Rarely do I feel lost while riding a bike. When your vision is dulled, your other senses heighten, and your sense of place is muddied. Throw in good company, old + new, and you have a night rally.

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“At least we’re here”

In August a group of Rodeoers in Colorado struck out on a ride through roads not-yet-ridden-by-us. The ingredients that make these sorts of rides are always dynamic. Peder had been brewing on a Mosquito Pass expedition for years, Jered was in town and wanted to do big high mountain rides, and I tossed out the invite to the team. Eight of us jumped in on the adventure.

The word “Adventure” is rapidly transitioning from an awe-filled catalyst to a very tired marketing word these days. Flip through any cycling magazine and you can’t go very many pages without seeing a tidal wave of products advertised as the very keys you need in order to unlock this mythic “new” genre of our sport.

And yet, true adventure is unimpressed by the collective marketing departments of our industry. True adventure has been happening for centuries and will continue to happen long after humanity has achieved singularity with holo-lenses and virtual experiences. Adventure just means pointing your willing self into the unknown and having the naivete, courage, or even audacity to proceed directly into it. No fancy gear required.

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The Five Stages of the Mount Evans Hill Climb

 

Ten years ago, when I was newer to Colorado, I naively signed up for the Mount Evans Hill Climb. I drove the course a few weeks before the race, having no idea what I was getting into. My body betrayed me with an ill-timed cold, which doubled as a convenient reason to bail on the race.

I chalked it up to the cold, but really I was just scared – of the elevation gain, the altitude, the exposure.

Most every summer since then, as the date of Mount Evans approached, I would think really hard about lining up in Idaho Springs, but could never bring myself to do it. Timing, travel, or total lack of training always seemed to be ready excuses.

Until this year, 10 days before the race, when – thanks in part to some encouragement from the Rodeo crew – I finally peer pressured myself into signing up for the 28 mile ascent of the highest paved road in North America.

I made it to the start line this time. And tried to weather the various mental stages of such a singular challenge.

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Point A to Point B

Bikes roll over things. This is due to the roundness of their wheels.

Early in the mountain biking days the bikes were simple and versatile. Suspension had not yet been invented. Technical skills were required for negotiating trails strewn with rocks or roots. As time went on mountain bikes became more specialized. They got better at going fast, they got more comfortable, they handled better. Along the way though both on and off road bikes seem to have gotten more discipline specific. If you want to go road biking you take your aero road bike, if you want to shuttle fast dirt descents you take your long travel full suspension bike. This is all great. But I think there is a style of riding that has become lost due to specialization: The Point A to Point B ride. Road, dirt, trails, paths, singletrack, doubletrack, bushwacking. The point A to point B ride is fundamentally about compromise. There is no perfect tire for covering all manner of terrain. There is no perfect geometry for both road and trail riding. Point A to Point B rides require a certain degree of adaptation and even discomfort from those who undertake them. On the other side of that coin though there is a reward: On these sorts of rides your route is limitless, your terrain variable, and your challenges constantly shifting.

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Rodeo Rally: Rollins Pass

Back in June, Nik Gilroy put out the call for a Rodeo Rally to check out some “roads” up above Rollinsville near the Continental Divide. Scott Downes joined him for the ride. And this is their account.  

Scott: “Those are the best days, when the ride is the day,” one of us said to the other over burgers and beers in the late afternoon shade. That was after we’d ventured up near the James Peak Wilderness and Rollins Pass area and spent the bulk of the day riding bikes under the hot June sun, wandering up and down burley jeep roads and dead-end double track. It was a good day.

Nik: It all started with a feeling – you know that feeling – takes hold of you and you have to acknowledge it. I wanted to get out of the normal day to day, to go somewhere I’ve never been before and to try something new. This nagging feeling would not let go. I needed to go into the mountains, to ride unchartered dirt and to get away from roads worn down by a virtual leaderboards. 

Scott: Up until this point, I had missed all previous Rodeo Rallies, many of which came down to me chickening out, because of fitness or fortitude. But I’d been uninterested in racing this year, bored with some of the same old riding, and anxious to do something different. And this would be that something.

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