New ENVE Gravel Bits

 

First came the G23 and G27 wheels for the gravel-oriented. Now ENVE is upping the ante further with the new G-series handlebar and fork designed to meet the unique demands of off-road drop bar riding.

The new $550, 520-gram flat-mount compatible fork comes with a 50mm rake and a massive 50mm (😍) tire clearance. The 12mm thru-axle fork is also fender compatible, of course.

As for the bar, besides the 80mm reach and 120mm drop, the G-series bar has a 12mm outward flare at the drops for extra stability, plus a wider clamp area to accommodate accessories such as lights… or controversial items *cough* aero extensions. The $350, electronic-shifting friendly bar is available for $350 in four sizes ranging from 42-48cm, weighing 246-281 grams depending on size. Both the fork and handlebar are available now.


Grinduro: What A Difference A Year Makes

Grinduro 2018

Just a year ago on these actual pages I was lamenting my desire to build the perfect bike for Grinduro and while standing at the lunch stop in Taylorsville, California at this years Grinduro it is clear I was not the only one.

Grinduro 2018 Fabric saddles

The biggest change at this gravel/adventure/road/everything ride/race/ramble in the Gold Country north of the San Francisco Bay Area, actually north of Chico, was the number of bicycles built specifically for conditions experienced in these them-there hills.

There were “gravel” bicycles from the big players, including Trek, Cannondale, Felt, Open, Specialized and Giant. There were custom builders also weighing in on the genre, including bicycle from Caletti, Rock Lobster, SyCip, Speedvagen, Blue Collar Bicycle and many more.

The wheelbases are long, the tires are big, and I mean really big, brakes, for the most part, are disk and rear cogs are massive.

Grinduro 2018 Blue Collar Bikes

Last year it was surprising to see someone aboard a properly and purposely built gravel bike, but this year it was more odd to find someone riding a full-suspension mountain bike or a cyclocross bike. They were there, but their herd is getting much thinner and thinner.

Grinduro 2018

And this is where the story really begins.

The procurement of a proper whip.

Since my day job includes riding Pinarellos, it only seemed wise to start there. And I was lucky enough to land a “demo” Pinarello GAN GRS Disk from the lovely crew at Pinarello USA.

Grinduro 2018 Pinarello GAN GRS Disk

After a couple of shakeout rides, I decided I was going to need to swap a couple of items in order to feel more confident in my second attempt at this ridiculous, yet rewarding, shindig.

So I ordered myself the biggest cassette Shimano will let you pair with their Ultegra 2x setup, an 11×34. This would enable me to get a 34-34 as my easiest gear. A crucial situation.

I also pulled my workhorse Zipp 302s from my F10 Disk and mounted up a new pair of Donnelly X’Plor MSO 36mm tires to the beast.

Grinduro 2018 Ted King

I then set about testing the premise this bicycle was going to make my day in the mountains as pleasant as humanly possible.

This Pinarello rips on the descents, is admirably fast and functional on the road and handled the singletrack with aplomb.

If I had my druthers, I would probably have put on even bigger rubber and more gears, but all things considered, I was superstoked.

Grinduro 2018

Fast forward to the night before Grinduro and I’m sitting in my room at the straight-from-an-80s-movie Ranchito Motel in lovely Quincy, California, sipping a beer, watching Ted stuff his jersey pockets with maple syrup and brushing my teeth at an actual sink.

If you remember correctly, my whippy fast and delightful unprepared companion from last year’s Grinduro, Ted King, and I slept in a tent at the fairgrounds and thoroughly froze our asses off. So in a moment of pure wonder, we decided to get a couple of hotel rooms, with hot running water and a lock on the door. And other than marrying my wife and moving to California, this will stand as one of the greatest decision I have ever made.

In the great battle of tent vs. motel, motel wins hands down. At least in regards to fairground camping.

Grinduro 2018

Anyway, I am pulling together my kit and essentials for the next day, while one of my riding companions in the room next door is dialing in his very own Pinarello gravel bike. He was complaining of a noise in the seatpost, so he was adding a touch of lube and double checking the seat binder bolt.

Grinduro 2018

And then I hear it.

The sound.

That gut-wrenching sound.

The sound of someone’s day going horribly wrong.

The sound of a broken seatpost bolt reverberating through the innards of a carbon fiber frame.

The sound of Grinduro heartbreak.

Grinduro 2018

Ok, so here’s the thing. I’m not really a nice guy.

But I was born in the midwest and with that comes certain obligations.

And so when push-came-to-shove, I gave up my seatpost bolt so my traveling companion, dare I say, my friend, could ride this event for the very first time.

So having cannibalized my beautiful steed, and in the process ending my chances of glory, off to bed I went.

Grinduro 2018

So instead of kitting up the next morning, I pull on some jeans and spend the next day hopscotching all over the course, cleaning rider’s filthy sunglasses, shouting support and eavesdropping on riders.

There were distinctly three categories of riders on the road.

First, those looking for glory.

Second, those claiming they were just here to enjoy themselves.

Finally, those who were just hoping to survive. With the course being 60 plus miles and almost 8,000 feet of climbing, no matter your fitness it is a legitimately difficult day in the saddle.

Grinduro 2018 Trek

As luck (and hard work) would have it my roommate, the rider formerly known as the King of Gravel, Ted King, took first place overall.

This changed our post ride party into a fest and made it a whole lot more fun: the band sounded sweeter, the beer tasted better and the pork rinds were all the more delicious.

Grinduro 2018

The one thing I think we can all count is there will be a Grinduro next, there will be more and more race specific gear and race tactics will play a bigger and bigger part in the outcome of the podium.

Grinduro 2018

And just when I think I have my “which whip?” issues all ironed out, it turns out Ted King, won Grinduro aboard Cannondale’s new mountain bike, The F-Si. I mean come on, what the what? And we’re pretty sure women’s winner, Lindsay Dwyer, was aboard her Trek mountain bike. Let the search and handwringing continue.

Grinduro 2018 winners

Cannondale Unveils Topstone Gravel Bikes

2019 Cannondale Topstone Gravel Adventure Bike

Cannondale dropped a new line of aluminum-framed bikes for the gravel/adventure crowd today. While the bikes, named Topstone, look great as one would expect from the storied Connecticut firm, the biggest selling point of the new lineup is perhaps its budget-friendly price.

2019 Cannondale Topstone Gravel Adventure Bike

With three models to choose from starting at $1,000 with Shimano Sora to the top of the line, $2,000 iteration with Sram Apex 1 hydraulic disc brakes and a dropper post, expect these to fly off the shelves… Oh and they’re available now.


A gravel-grinding gem from FiftyOne

We’re big fans of FiftyOne. They make custom frames and have a reputation for creating bespoke carbon beauties in Dublin, Ireland. In the past, we’ve drooled over their Conor McGregor bike, complete with 24-carat gold leaf. And we’ve chatted with the company’s founder Aidan Duff. So when news of this limited-edition gravel grinder came from Eurobike, we had to share.

Their latest project takes its name from Alphonse Steinès, the Luxembourgish journalist who served as assistant director to Henri Desgrange, the founder of the Tour de France. Steinès’ was mad about mountains, and felt that to really test the riders, the Tour had to ditch its mainly flat parcours in favour of something a lot more hilly.

“Very good road”

After some early success in the foothills of the Alps, Desgrange allowed his deputy to get creative, and so in 1910 he set off to the French Pyrenees. While trying to cross the Tourmalet in heavy snow, his car ended up in a ditch and he only narrowly avoided a frosty death thanks to a late-night rescue party. Undeterred, he sent an enthusiastic, and somewhat dishonest, telegram from the hospital: “Crossed Tourmalet. Very good road. Perfectly feasible.” The rest is history.

The bike has that quote emblazoned on the top tube, with some poetry on the down tube for good measure. And unlike their thoroughbred race bikes, this steed is ready to get rough on even the grizzliest of back roads. It’s a disc-brake frame with clearance for 43mm tires.

The wider clearances on a lot of gravel bikes means that you can’t always fit a standard road crank, but the Steinès will take a 52-tooth chainring. 1x might be a great option for a lot of riders, but it’s nice to have the 2x versatility on offer because it makes this a capable road machine too.

It’s a collaboration with Enve, to celebrate the company’s hot new G23 wheelset. They also make the tubing. If all that isn’t desirable enough, only 10 will be made – to the owner’s spec, obviously. We’ve started saving.

Read more about FiftyOne and the Steinès here.  


Canyon’s Grail CF Got This Handlebar We Can’t Stop Looking At

Canyon Grail CF
Photo: Canyon

It seems there’s a new gravel bike launch every week this year, but the Canyon Grail launched today made me do a double take to make sure it’s not some early April’s fools joke.

While the frame is unmistakably Canyon with numerous design cues found on other Canyons, it’s the integrated handlebar, named the Hover Bar that’s getting all the buzz. At first glance, the bar looks like a drop bar frankensteined to a double car spoiler. But according to Canyon, as radical and bold as it looks, the Hover Bar provides for better comfort and control.

Canyon Grail CF
The Hover Bar. Photo: Canyon

The addition of a lower bar which connects to the stem reminds me a whole lot of the engine bay strut bar in my car. Canyon engineers were able to selectively stiffen up the front end near the 7.5° flared ergonomic D-shaped drops while tuning the top bar (where your hands will go) for comfort as it goes uninterrupted from end to end with a bit of a wing shape in the middle. Despite its magically floating in midair look, the top bar is situated at about the same spot where an ordinary handlebar would be located. The lower bar will most likely open up more hand positions too.

But enough about the Hover Bar. The rest of the carbon frame is totally new too. Compared to their road counterparts, the Grail employs a longer wheelbase to go along with a 72.5° headtube plus room to run up to 42c tires. With the medium SLX frame tipping the scale at a claimed 830 grams and 1,040 grams for the lower-priced SL, it’s no slouch either.

Canyon Grail WMN CF SL 8.0
Canyon Grail WMN CF SL 8.0. Photo: Canyon

Seven complete models in seven sizes, including two women’s specific models will be offered ranging from $2,299 to $4,899. The flagship Grail CF SLX will also available as a frameset for $2,499. The higher-end models will come with Canyon’s own proven VCLS 2.0 split carbon seatpost that uses a leaf spring design to soak up vibrations and bumps.

Canyon Grail CF SL 8.0 Di2 with Topeak camping bags
Canyon Grail CF SLX 8.0 Di2 with Topeak camping bags. Photo: Canyon

Interestingly enough, Canyon has decided to spec all models with 2x drivetrains to avoid large gear jumps and is partnering with fellow German firm Topeak to make custom bags for those who like to go bike camping. We can’t wait to try one out.

www.canyon.com

Canyon Grail CF
Photo: Canyon

Trek Is Finally Making A Dedicated Gravel Bike

Trek Checkpoint
Photo: Trek Bikes

“It’s very much like a mountain biker’s road bike.” – David Studner, Trek product manager

After getting into gravel last fall with a half-baked Domane Gravel that’s more of a re-spec’d road bike with wider tubeless tires, Trek is finally going all in (a redemption perhaps?) with a new dedicated gravel line dubbed the Checkpoint. It’s a doozy one that incorporates some of the Wisconsin-based giant’s technical know how. It’s got fun and practical written all over it for the vast majority of us that don’t race, don’t want to race, and would like to have just one bike for everything because the whole N+1 rule is seriously getting out of control.

The new disc-only frame in either carbon or aluminum features a geometry with lower bottom bracket and higher stack than the cyclocross-specific Boone, 12×142 thru-axle rear, an adjustable Stranglehold dropout to allow 15mm of adjustment to further dial in the ride. The carbon framed model also comes with a non-adjustable IsoSpeed decoupler to absorb the bumps and rough edges.

There are also three women-specific models, hydraulic disc brakes for the entire line up, plenty of mounting points to haul gear, AND clearance for 45c tires. See that black piece of plastic on the downtube in the photo above? It’s integrated armor to protect your precious frame. It’s a SUV that doesn’t suck.

If that’s not enough to convince you, then the competitive price starting at $1,789 for the entry level aluminum Checkpoint ALR 4 and the flagship carbon Checkpoint SL6 at $3,799 might just win you over.

The Checkpoint is also available as a frame only with the aluminum Checkpoint ALR at $959 and carbon Checkpoint SL at $1,999.

www.trekbikes.com


Grinduro Returns For 2018

Grinduro
Photo: Colin Meagher

You heard the fun. You’ve seen the gnar, the fun, the party.

The hype is real and Grinduro, a combination of gravel road race and mountain bike enduro, is coming back for 2018!

Two venues will be available: July 14 at the Isle of Arran in Scotland and on September 29 at Grinduro’s birthplace Quincy, California.

Both venues will follow similar formats featuring live music, a handmade bicycle and art show, camping, plus of course, a mixed terrain course with a bit of pavement, gravel, and dirt combined in one giant loop featuring four timed segments (five to seven minutes each) for the race.

Grinduro Scotland
Grinduro Scotland. Photo: Satchel Cronk

It’s much more than a race, though. It’s the Super Bowl of bike parties or perhaps even the bike-specific version of Burningman.

Grinduro Quincy
Photo: Colin Meagher

Registration will open at  www.grinduro.com at 9am PST on January 2, 2018 for Grinduro Scotland and at 8pm PST on April 22, 2018 for Grinduro Quincy. Be warned, Grinduro Scotland sold out in 12 hours last year so mark your calendars!

Grinduro Quincy
Photo: Ian Stowe

SRAMmie Chris Zigmont loves himself some dirty adventure riding

I met Chris Zigmont a few years ago when he was running, the now defunct, Bicycle PressCamp (R.I.P.). I think it can be said that Zigmont is a bicycle geeks bicycle geek, so when I saw he was racing Grinduro I was curious to see what sort of rig he had brought to conquer the mountain. And I was not disappointed, but I’ll let him tell you all about it. If you don’t know Chris, you are in for a treat. Enjoy.

Can you tell me where you grew up: I’m a Connecticut Yankee. Born in Newtown CT, actually went to Sandy Hook Elementary (yes, that Sandy Hook) with my Brother and cousin Gerald. My Aunt taught there too. We moved to Avon in the Hartford area when I was a boy and finished growing up there.

Tell me your first recollection of riding a bicycle: My earliest memory was riding my older brother’s black Savoy at our house on Lyrical Lane in Newtown. Riding my brother’s bikes would become a theme and the spark for my cycling life.

How did you end up in the bicycle business: Strange path. We were always making Franken-bikes, rebuilding, swapping stuff. We were, we thought, getting pretty competent on bike repair. We weren’t well off, so shade-tree wrenching was a requirement After borrowing and wrecking my brother’s 1973 Fleetwing (with Campagnolo Valentino!), I needed to fix it. But it was this bike that drove my passion for riding. A few years later, I opened a neighborhood repair shop in a friend’s basement. Eventually, I rented a small business space down the road. I was 18. I failed and closed, but I learned a lot. From there I went to work at the region’s largest retailer, and I began managing one of his stores by 20. My leap to the manufacturer’s side came in 1985 when, chasing a girlfriend to California, I called Specialized Bicycle Components nearly every day for more than a month until they gave me a job in sales! The Stumpjumper was a new thing, Shimano Index shifting hadn’t launched yet. It was early days in MTB and a lot of fun.

Where are you living now and what does your current job entail: I am now in Chicago with my family, and I serve as the Global Road Brand Director for SRAM. In that role I manage the global marketing communication strategy for our road brand’s SRAM, Zipp, and Quarq. So that means everything from overseeing sports marketing, advertising, PR, social media and content, product launches, etc.

Do you believe there is such a thing as a one-quiver bicycle: There are amazing things happening right now with drop bar bikes. I’ve got three unique bikes in my garage that I feel I could successfully contest either a road race, a gravel race, or a CX race on; a 3T Exploro “aero Gravel” bike, a Canyon Ultimate road bike, and a Santa Cruz CX bike. They each offer a unique ride and approach to each of those ride/race opportunities and a little bit of compromise as well. Yet, paradoxically, bikes are also becoming more to the discipline. But I do believe rider’s can put one rig in the garage that would deliver smiles on a very broad spectrum of terrain and ride types.

I know you race cyclocross, what do you think of the new gravel bike racing trend: Love it. I’ve been doing more and more gravel and less and less road. But I do hope it stays focused on the rider’s experience. I believe its something to “do” not something to “see.” I’m generally not looking to sponsor gravel racers. But I do want to work with event promoters who are really focussed on the day’s experience.

Can you tell us about your Grinduro build and what you think you might do differently, if anything: Ha! You bet. The first thing I would do differently is ride it before arriving! But, seriously, not much different. We built out a 3T Exploro in a 650b configuration with Zipp’s new 303 tubeless ready 650b wheels. I ran SRAM Force 1, with a 42t ring and a 10-42 cassette in the back. Zipp SL Speed stem and their new carbon SL-70 Ergo bar. It was quite perfect and good enough for 8th place in the old man’s category. I ran WTB Byway tubeless tires, 650×47. Not much tread, so I was nervous. But it was actually quite good. I only ran about 27-28 psi, so the float and grip was ideal.

If you had to guess, what trends do you think we will see in the future: From where I sit, we see lots of interesting advances in cycling. Other than l’Eroica, I don’t know if we will be seeing rim brakes for too much longer. We are seeing broad acceptance of disc brakes from Triathlon to the Tour de France. So look for more discs on more types of bikes at more price levels. Certainly the trend in “any road” bikes will continue its blossom. I think the root of this is the desire to get off the paved road with cars.

Is gravel going to kill the road bike and mountain bike industry: Good question. We will see. I don’t think so though. Road is going though its own maturity as is MTB. Its changing and refining. Road participation at gran fondos is better than ever. Grassroots MTB, NICA and Regional Enduro are strong. I just see continued diversity. Ebikes will drive much of that as well. E-road bikes are coming in a big way and we’ll see couples and friends riding together that could before for example.

You’ve had a chance to ride in some pretty amazing places, can you recommend a couple for us: I’ve been very lucky to ride in some cool places, usually shoehorned in around work. The Lost Sierra from Griduro should be explored by all. But additionally, I feel I keep finding “amazing” hidden among the pedestrian. Places that folks take for granted or don’t recognize the beauty in front of them. Some of the one that come quickly to mind are the Franconia region of Germany, near Würzburg. Endless ribbons of pavement and forested gravel, vineyards and farms. Really amazing. Another fun one is on big island of Hawaii, riding down to Captain Cook/ Kealakekua Bay, where said Captain made his final miscalculation of the locals. The ride is stunning, with a wicked descent on the south side, and if you plan right with a pair of trunks and swim goggles, you can swim among the most beautiful fish and some dolphins. Finally, for me, I guess I’m missing New Hampshire and the pastoral rides I’ve had there working your way Northwest from the Seacoast, there are so many hidden gravel and asphalt gems. There are many great places yet to ride but those three are top of mind.

Tell us one thing most people probably don’t know about you: Hmmm, Id say most people don’t know that I am a cancer survivor. I’ve twice battled Lymphoma. So far I am winning. Cancer changed my life. I absolutely work to drink in life every single day. I work to live it as much as, and as hard as, I can. I’m only now working to learn on the savoring. Making the moments more valuable and felt.

Top: The morning’s opening climb at Griduro. Photo/Colin Meagher Middle: Sitting 3rd wheel in the high-powered Ted King Train on Stage 3. Photo/Colin Meagher. Bottom: Chris Zigmont at Bicycle PressCamp. Photo: Billy Michels.


Ibis Unveils Hakka MX

Photo: Ibis

If you could only have one bike, be sure to take a hard look at the new Ibis Hakka MX.

For the past few years, the spotlight on Ibis has largely been focused on iterations of the Mojo and the Ripley mountain bikes. And that’s for a good reason as they’re incredibly fun to ride plus they have some of the best customer service one can count on.

Scroll through all the mountain bike offerings on Ibis’ website and you’ll find the Hakkalügi sitting near the bottom of the site. First launched in 2009 with cantilever brakes, then in 2012 with updated geometry and ditching the cantilevers in favor of disc brakes. The Hakkalügi arguably didn’t get as much buzz as its mountain bike brethren but it has garnered a solid reputation as a competitive cross steed that also excels just about everywhere you’d like to take it to.

As good as it is, though, the Hakkalügi is getting a bit long in the tooth in the presence of the ever-growing market of gravel, aka the latest buzz type riding where all the cool kids are taking over and wanting to find a bike that can do it all.

So Ibis set out for a redesign. And the Hakka MX is it.

Ibis Hakka MX in fireball red
Ibis Hakka MX in fireball red. Photo: Ibis

The Hakka MX has a carbon monocoque frame that is said to be some 150 grams lighter than the already respectable Hakkalügi. All cable routings are internal, be it Di2 or mechanical.

Ibis Hakka MX Internal cable routes
Internal cable routes to keep things tidy. Photo: Ibis

Further, the Hakka is compatible with both 700c and 27.5 wheels with plenty of clearance to spare (up to 40c in 700c and 2.1″ in 27.5), a 142 rear thru-axle spacing to stiffen up the rear end, and an ENVE disc cross fork up front to handle the steering.

Ibis Handjob fender mount
The iconic Ibis “Handjob” post is back as a handy fender mount. Photo: Ibis

There are even fender mounts too if you decide to throw some fenders on. From the race course to daily gravel riding, commuting, and the occasional bike packing trip, Ibis really means it when they say they design the Hakka does it all.

Ibis Hakka MX in bike packing mode
The Ibis Hakka MX in bike packing mode. Photo: Ibis

In addition, the Hakka features a T47 bottom bracket, a 1.5″ taper head tube, compatibility with dropper post, and the ability to decide whether to run a 2X or a 1x drivetrain without being forced to ride a particular set up. The choice is yours.

Flat-mount hydraulic disc brake in the rear
Flat-mount hydraulic disc brake in the rear. Photo: Ibis

“You can seriously haul ass in the dirt: think road bike speeds on singletrack. So. Much. Fun.” Says Ibis engineer Andy Jacques-Maynes.

The Hakka MX will be available in five sizes in either fireball or coal finish on the last week of November. The Hakka MX is $1,999 as frame+fork while complete bikes will start at $3,299 with SRAM RIVAL 1 and $6,499 with Shimano Ultegra Di2. Since the bike is compatible with both 700c and 27.5 wheels, a selection of wheels will also be offered as upgrades. It’s nice to have choices and the holidays just can’t come any sooner.

Ibis Hakka MX
Photo: Ibis

www.ibiscycles.com


Getting Down with the Donkey

I keep mulling over the perfect Grinduro bike build. There are so many options, and that’s awesome, but choice can be a burden, too. For help, I thought I’d reach out to some experts to see what their thought are about bikes, gravel, riding and where they see the genre going.

To my mind, for a discussion about all of this, there was no better person to start with then with super bicycle-nerd and all-around-nice-guy Stephen Fitzgerald of Rodeo Labs. Anyone who knows him will not be surprised to hear that he had some really interesting things to say. Normally I would edit quite liberally for content, but I’ve pretty much left his responses intact because he has given me a lot of food for thought, not only about what kind of bicycle I want to build, but who I want to be as a person and as a person who rides a bicycle.

What’s the future of gravel?
Gravel and adventure riding is maturing pretty quickly. And that maturation is driven in a large part by the prospect of large brands finding new ways to sell bikes. We’re all going to get hammered by cliché, dumb products, and tired storylines as the voices shout over each other for attention.

This could be bad for the sport, but in spite of that I’m not really worried. Adventure riding is really based around riding your bike in new places. Seeing new things. Testing yourself in new ways. As soon as we all put our phones down, close our web browsers and get on our bikes for ourselves we can experience the appeal of it all first hand. That’ll always be fresh.

Tell us about your first memory of riding a bike. 
Does a bigwheel count? If so it would be doing burnouts in a cul-de-sac in Cincinnati, Ohio when I was very very young. If bigwheels don’t count it would be riding bikes with my brothers in Vancouver, WA. We had a big hill at the end of our street and we built a jump at the bottom of it. We had to push our bikes up the hill, then we’d flip around and nail the jump full send. Injuries resulted.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up mostly in a small city outside Portland, Oregon called Vancouver, Washington. Vancouver was a sleepy little town but that sleepiness meant that we could pretty much go as far as our legs could take us on bikes and we rode EVERYWHERE from grade school through high school.

Our parents trusted us, curfews were minimal, and bikes were freedom to go and do as we pleased. I had a paper route, which I did by bike. I made $125 per month on the route and spent 100% of it on my mountain bike. I’m sure I was the only kid doing a paper route on a mid ’90s dual suspension downhill race mountain bike.

How did you end up in the bike business?
I arrived in the bike business completely by accident. The bike ambushed me. In 2014 I started Rodeo as a bit of an un-structured anti-team. We were just some friends from Denver who were sick of the rules that governed roadie culture so we made matching kits and threw up a WordPress website to shout our exploits to the world.

The team took off a like a rocket and took over my life. I realized that Rodeo was as much a creative outlet as it was anything else. Any ideas that we had we could try. One of the first ideas was the Traildonkey, one which caused the team to become a business and has since become my full time job nearly four years later.

The Rodeo Labs Traildonkey 2.0

You seemed to have a been an early innovator for the idea of an all-around bike or a gravel bike. What was the initial response to this idea and how have you seen that evolve?
If we were an early innovator in the gravel bike space it was completely by accident. We certainly don’t claim to have invented the genre but we did start working on our bike before we knew that gravel was going to be a thing. We pursued this style of riding because in Denver’s Front Range you have some great road rides and some great dirt rides and we saw an opportunity to blend the two and to create fresh riding loops.

I’m a product of 1990s MTB culture and I fundamentally believe in attacking a trail with technical skill more than technology. In Denver in 2012-2013 we just happened to be challenging ourselves to ride bigger and bigger trails on our cyclocross bikes and we eventually found the limits to the current offerings at the time. Canti brakes just couldn’t handle Colorado trail descents. 11-28 gearing couldn’t really get you up the trail. 32mm CX tires weren’t very forgiving in rock gardens. Etcetera. Etcetera. This is why I started working on Traildonkey 1.0.

I wanted a bike that blended MTB, CX, and road genres. When I made one for myself my friends saw it and wanted one too. Then the internet saw it and after 9 months of inquiries I decided to pause my career and start from scratch with Traildonkey 2.0. The timing of it all was serendipitous.

There were plenty of other people all over the world re-discovering the freedom that can be found by ignoring traditional bike categories so interest in our Traildonkey project was high. I say re-discovering because modern day gravel and adventure riding is not dissimilar from 80s and 90s era mountain biking and “hybrid” bikes. It’s just all come back into vogue and the industry is now hyping it as the next big thing.

Is there such a thing as a one-quiver bike?
Broadly speaking, one-quiver bike is a bit of a sensationalist idea to me. Sure, you can road ride, tour, cross ride, gravel ride, and even trail ride on a modern day adventure bike, but for a large part of the cycling population that isn’t the best way to have fun.

Are you really into touring? You should get a touring bike with durability, comfort, and stability engineered into the frame.
Are you really into mountain biking? You should get a front or full suspension rig with a bunch of gears and big tires and go enjoy the mountains at maximum comfort, maximum speed, and maximum air time. Road riding or racing? You should get a bike tuned for road handling, light weight, light weight, aero considerations. CX racing? You should get a light bike with good mud clearance and cantilever brakes! (for crying out loud!)

BUT… if you are like me and you don’t care about going fastest off road, being aero on the road, you tour a week or two out of the year, and you only do a half dozen CX races per year… then yes you can do it all on one bike and you can have a lot of fun doing it. The important distinction here is that while I claim N-1 is true for myself, I do not suggest that N-1 is best for everyone.

Can you give me the spec sheet for your dream Rodeo?

  • Traildonkey 2.0 frameset
  • Easton EC70 AX bars and EC90 stem
  • Easton EC90 Cinch crankset for quick 1x chainring swaps. 40t. (and Cinch power meter because I’m a nerd)
  • TRP Hylex RS hydro levers and calipers (which have the best ergonomics and brake feel across all brands)
  • Shimano Di2 / TRP climbers switch shifting mod on left and right levers so I can shift up or down with either hand and take photos with the other
  • Shimano XTR Di2 rear derailleur
  • eThirteen 9-44 rear cassette
  • Brooks C13 cutout saddle
  • Cane Creek 110 integrated headset
  • KS LEV dropper post for getting all the way rad on the trails and also for straddling the bike flat footed at stop lights. Both uses are important
  • Rodeo 2.0 carbon wheels. 700c x 24 spoke set for road and light gravel use. 650b x 28h spoke set for bigger off road days
  • Current favorite tire changes hourly!
  • Crank Bros Candy Ti pedals. I have a love hate with Crank Bros but I love 4 sided entry even more.
  • Supacaz bar tape.

What is your definition of the perfect bike?
The definition of a dream bike is that it is the best bike that you can get. There isn’t any harm in dreaming for the best. But I will say that you can build a $3,500 Traildonkey and you can build a $9,000 Traildonkey and both bikes can pretty much do the exact same stuff at the end of the day. The amount of performance gained for the extra $5,500 is not nearly more than double what you get for $3,500. More so, if you really want to save some money and just go have fun on a bike I’ll bet you can find a really capable adventure bike down in the $1000-$2000 range.

What differentiates what you are trying to do, from what everyone else is trying to do?
Rodeo’s differentiation is our story. Our products are a genuine and validated as a result of the rides that we do and the places that we go. We share our story openly, both the successes and the failures. Even though we have a pretty small audience in the world of bikes, the people who are aware of us and do follow our story know that our brand is driven by an authentic quest for adventure.

Pound for pound, we do bigger and more adventurous riding than pretty much any other brand out there. I know that is a bold claim, but I think our Journal backs that up. We are relentless with sharing the fun and the beauty of the places we go by bike.

Our stories aren’t “content”, they are personal experiences from people like me who are out of their mind excited to be allowed to see what we see and go where we go. The bikes aren’t created by product planners, they are honed and iterated based on first hand experience and feedback from our community at large. And our brand is also based first on a team and a culture of inclusion. We welcome all riders on all brands of bikes to ride with us and be a part of what we are doing. We are not trying to overwhelm the other teams and brands in the industry, we’re simply trying to achieve sustainability and be a part of the family. If we could take our pick we’d prefer to be the red-headed stepchild.

Where do you see this whole idea of adventure riding going and is it going to kill the mountain bike or road bike market? And with so many “pros” coming over to the Gravel Grinders, is the adventure being replaced with competitive testosterone?
This is a multi layered question. It needs a few answers. I don’t have a crystal ball but here’s my guess: Adventure riding is going to keep evolving and keep maturing but I think it will have a couple of narratives. One narrative will be marketing driven. Product planners will seek to differentiate their bikes in an increasingly crowded playing field. Brands will attempt to validate their feature distinctions through sponsored content and sponsored riders.

“You need this shock, you need this drivetrain, you need these brakes, you need this geometry, you need these features. Etc Etc. Why do you need this? Because we invented it, and then we put our pro rider on it, and then they won a big race on it. You want to win big races, you want to beat your friends, you want to cause envy in your local posse. Buy our stuff.”

Marketing driven adventure riding will go where the money takes it. To the victor go the spoils. There will eventually be an adventure bike backlash. People will get tired of hearing this message. Perhaps a lot of people will move on to whatever the next big marketing thing is.

There will be other narratives though. Other narratives will be driven by the quest to see what is possible on an adventure bike, or where the bikes can take us. Those stories won’t be driven as much by gear but by the terrain, the images, and the adversity overcome. That sort of adventure riding will show a whole spectrum of creativity. It’ll be genuine. That sort of adventure riding won’t get old. We’ll all be inspired by it no matter what bike people ride. That sort of adventure riding will birth new features to overcome new challenges.

For our part Rodeo at its kernel is going to be driven by bigger and more absurd rides. We’ve all gone to the marquee gravel events and I’m sure some of us will go back but gravel is only one subset of adventure riding. We will look for new places to go, new peaks to bag, and new stories to tell.

Adventure biking won’t kill road bikes or mountain bikes. I won’t be surprised if road biking continues to contract in the USA but that is probably as much due to crowded roads and angry drivers as it is anything else. If I tell my MTB friends that my adventure bike is going to kill mountain biking they’ll laugh me in the face. If you look at the level of progression going in in mountain biking these days you know that they’ve not nearly mined the vein. As long as MTB stays inspiring and amazing it will be immune from encroachment by any other genre of bike or any other sport.

Are pros going to change the gravel or adventure riding landscape?
Yes, but that isn’t all bad. Gravel racing will get faster and faster and average joes will get further from the podium. If you need a case study look at Leadville. The pros blow the amateurs out of the water. But does that keep people away? No. Leadville keeps selling out, everyone wants to take a swing at it. The big gravel races will be like that and the small gravel races will continue to be pretty friendly and grass roots. On the adventure riding side of the spectrum I think pros will start doing more and more next level rides and we will all be inspired and entertained by their exploits.

Photography by Ashley and Jered Gruber

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