Summer Wanderlust: Cañon City gravel loop

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.

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Traildonkey 3.0 // Hometown Trails

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.

Traildonkey 3.0. Green Mountain. Denver, CO

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.

Traildonkey 3.0. Green Mountain. Denver, CO

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.

Traildonkey 3.0. Green Mountain. Denver, CO

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.

Flaanimal // Flaamingo 105 build

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.

Spork 2.0 // The SS Donkey

650b single speed donkey

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.

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Spork 2.0 // Wild Card Bicycles

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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Greg’s 650b dropper Flaanimal 4.1

How much of a bike’s design and build spec is hype and how much of it is function? Those sorts of questions get discussed endlessly on the internet almost by default every time a new product or specification is launched. “Gravel” is a hot word these days. Is it marketing or is it popular because people are having fun? Is 1x hype? Is 650b hype? Are dropper posts on drop bar bikes an incredibly desperate attempt to sell people new gizmos they don’t need?

It is very personally important to me as the founder of Rodeo that our bikes be grounded in function, not hype. But I’ll never be an impartial voice in the matter because by nature I want to sell bikes therefore I may be biased towards sales and profit. That said I sleep great at night knowing that every bike we sell is built exactly for each customer and that we only recommend how to build our bikes after we’ve had a great conversation with each customer about how they want to ride their bike and what they want it to do. You build a great bike not by telling a customer what they need, you do it by listening to the customer describe who they are, how they ride, and what their goals are for their bike.

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Flaanimal // Bleaux Deaux Classic build

Every bike that leaves ends up being such a cool expression of it’s new owner. We don’t make the decisions for you. We ask you how you will ride the bike, we ask what your goals for the bike are, and we let your personalize as much as you’d like. This approach keeps us passionate about every bike that we build because each bike is built for a single person. Enjoy your new bike Joel!

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Leadville 100 / Take Two

Leadville 100 Traildonkey

Writing the story of Rodeo is about writing a story of constant striving for new challenges and milestones. This year that striving took us back to the Leadville 100, this time with four Traildonkeys in the mix and ambitions to see how quickly we could complete the race aboard them. Taking a gravel bike to a mountain bike race is an arbitrary challenge on paper, but to us it is exactly the sort of challenge that we strive for on an existential level.

Photos by Brett Stakelin, Natalie Starr, Athlinks, and myself

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