Bike Check: Rodeo Adventure Labs Trail Donkey 1.0

Bike designed to tackle pavement, dirt, and anything in between

Cross Disc
Rodeo Adventure Labs Trail Donkey 1.0

This bike challenges traditional constraints on what’s possible.

Not everyone fits into cycling’s traditional niches. While some consider themselves pure mountain bikers or unabashed roadies, there are those who just want to ride their bike when — and more importantly where — they want.

That’s the underlying ethos of Denver, Colorado-based cycling team Rodeo Adventure Labs, which as team founder Stephen Fitzgerald puts it, “Started as a group of misfits that didn’t fit on a proper race team. We wanted to have a team where we don’t tell you how or where to ride your bike.”

Almost overnight the team and its ideals have gained a wide following. The core of the club is in Denver, but Fitzgerald says there are about 300 people all over the world who affiliate with the squad. A member map on the team’s website reveals a roster that includes riders from across North America, plus far flung locales such as Chile, Australia, South Korea, Sweden and South Africa.

“It’s pretty amazing to know that people from all over the world are wearing our team kit,” said Fitzgerald.

Check out this video that features members of the Rodeo Adventure Labs team taking on one of the toughest road cycling climbs in North America — on bike share bikes…

The same do-whatever-whenever mantra that’s attracted global interest also inspired Fitzgerald and the core Rodeo Labs team in Denver to look outside traditional channels for a bike that could serve their diversity of needs.

“We had started going on longer distance rides and were running into the predictable issues,” explained Fitzgerald of adventures on cyclocross bikes that included pavement, dirt roads, and occasionally singletrack. “The bikes we had were fine on the road, but on some trails the cantilever brakes just didn’t work very well. At the same time we were maxing out traditional road gearing when we were riding on the dirt. And we wanted to be able to run wider tires.”

Fitzgerald and company decided the easiest solution was to forgo traditional channels and design their own bike. After poking around the forums looking for advice and ideas, they sourced an open mold composite frame from Asia and had in fabricated with their desired design elements.

“We read about people bringing in their own frames and playing with them,” said Fitzgerald, a graphic designer by trade. “The frame we settled on was well regarded in the Mtbr forums, so we ordered a few painted up with our team livery, and asked if we could add dropper post ports and wider tire clearance.”

Rodeo Adventure Labs Trail Donkey 1.0

Adding a dropper post was one of the keys to making the bike more versatile.

The answer was yes and the Rodeo Adventure Labs Trail Donkey 1.0 bike was born. The name is an homage to the guiding donkeys that work the steep rocky trails leading in and out of the Grand Canyon.

“It’s sort of an unloved animal that’s not the fastest or the lightest,” explained Fitzgerald, who we ran into at a recent cyclocross race near Boulder where he’d just finished 11th in his category 3 race riding the go-anywhere bike. “The trail donkey is trusty and dependable. That’s what we were looking for in a bike. We wanted something that we could ride all over Colorado.”

Fitzgerald and his friends are already working on a 2.0 version of the full carbon bike and are even considering bringing the bike to market if there’s enough interest. We’ll keep you updated on that front. In the meantime check out the gallery below for a closer look at this unique bike.

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the / staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying time with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora.

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