Every once and a while I look back into my memory searching for the seed of it all. I can spend minutes sifting through troves of distant sequences of experience, trying to find the one – the trigger – that set me on the road less traveled that I am on today. Where oh where was my love of the bicycle born?
This past week sure was a good time with little work, many family and friends, lots of good food and a bunch of riding. Being Thanksgiving and a time for family traditions, we at Rodeo Labs have a southern tradition of our own, the Black Friday Rodeo Rally. This tradition started a few years ago between Jeff Thayer and me looking for an escape from Thanksgiving activities, the need for being outdoors and training miles for the upcoming Snake Creek Gap Time Trial Series.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
When we were thinking of how to launch Spork 2.o we knew pretty quickly that we wanted to make this about more than just Rodeo bikes. We wanted to have other builders involved. We posted a simple message on Instagram asking builders who’ve used our forks in the past to get in touch if they wanted to work on a special project with us. It was important to me that everyone we collaborated on this project with had previously built with our Spork 1 as a way of keeping the project “in the family”. A number of builders responded, but in one case a test rider for a builder reached out to us instead of the builder. He said:
“My name is Lanier Nichols and I test ride frames for Jay Sandefur, creator/owner/builder/brain/etc. of Wildcard Custom Bicycles. Jay doesn’t do social media, which is why I am contacting you and not him.”
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