The folks at Rodeo Adventure Labs are serious about gravel and adventure cycling. We’ve featured their capable TrailDonkey before, which received a 2017 face lift that swapped to a threaded T47 bottom bracket and 27.2mm seat post diameter. We also featured the 2.0 version in our World’s Funnest Bike 2017 series, detailed in Part 1 (overview), Part 2 (wheels and tires), Part 3 (cockpit), and Part 4 (drivetrain).  Overall, it’s a bike aimed at killing your expanding quiver – or giving you the capability for big miles on a wide variety of surfaces.

For 2019, the TrailDonkey received a much more involved series of updates, officially introducing the TD 3.0.  What was the overall goal of the project?  According to Rodeo Adventure Labs,

While we wanted to create a more capable bike, we did [not] want to turn Traildonkey into an overbuilt, drop bar mountain bike. We wanted to stay true to the original principles of the bike which required that it feel at home in the intensity of a competitive road group ride, a 200 mile gravel race, a winding ribbon of singletrack, or a multi-day bikepacking trip.

That doesn’t sound like an easy task, so let’s see how they set out to tackle it.

Rodeo Labs TrailDonkey complete bicycle with Spork 2.0 fork

TIRE CLEARANCE

Larger tire clearance was a top priority for the updated TrailDonkey.  The entire rear triangle is new, and features an asymmetric design.

Rodeo Labs TD 3.0 rear triangle 2019 update asymmetric

Overall tire clearance now sits at 650b x 2.25” (57mm) or 700c x 2.0” (50mm).  These inflated tire sizes assume internal clincher rim widths of 24.5mm and 24mm, respectively.

In addition to the improved tire clearance, the new rear triangle has other benefits: “We [took] the opportunity to refine and simplify the dropout design, brake housing routing, flat mount brake mounts, and derailleur housing routing.  When wireless eTap shifting is used on TD3, no residual housing protrusions are seen on the frame.”

NEW FORK

The TD 3.0 receives an all-new Spork 2.0 fork.  It has a claimed weight of 620 grams, with a 396mm axle-to-crown and 45mm rake.  The steerer tube is only available in tapered 1.5 to 1 1/8″, and it uses the flat mount brake standard.

The Spork 2.0 offers the same tire clearance as the frame with the graphic below showing the actual internal width of the fork legs (tire clearance plus at least 5mm of space between the fork and the tire).

Spork 2.0 carbon bicycle fork tire size

The new fork also gets an updated and refined version of their dropout system that allows for either 15mm or 12mm front thru axles.  Have an older wheel with quick release skewers?  Rodeo has you covered: “In addition to 15mm and 12mm axles we will soon make available an optional 9mm ‘Through QR’ set of axle endcaps which allow the use of legacy hubs such as older QR dynamo hubs that people may already own.”

Spork fork dropouts 15mm or 12mm thru axle

Like the previous version, the 2.0 supports a dynamo hub, headlight, and USB stem cap.

Rodeo Labs 2019 Spork carbon fork dynamo integration

It also features mid-leg eyelets for additional storage and dropout axle eyelets for fender mounting.

Rodeo Labs spork carbon fork fender eyelet flat mount disc

INCREASED MOUNTING OPTIONS

If you need to carry bags, bottles, and more, the TD 3.0 has some crazy capability.  According to Rodeo Labs, “On the rear triangle we include eyelets on the upper stays and just above the rear through axle dropouts. On the main triangle, the frame features two bottle mounts on the main triangle as well as one mount beneath the lower down tube. The top tube includes two mounting points for top tube bags or a standard water bottle cage.”

TD 3.0 frame mounting eyelet for bags racks fenders

GEOMETRY AND GENERAL UPDATES

Frame geometry is unchanged from the previous TD 2.1.  Four sizes are available: 52, 54, 56, and 58.TD 3.0 geometry chart 2019 sizes

Perhaps the most noticeable change is that the quoted weight of the 58cm frame has increased by 100 grams (to 1,350g for an unpainted frame).  What gives?  According to Rodeo Adventure Labs:

TD3 doesn’t pay lip service to strength and durability. When we upped the technical capabilities of the bike we were careful to also increase strength in critically stressed areas. In both lab and real-world testing TD3 is leaps and bounds stronger than any previous Traildonkey frameset. So many modern bikes are engineered with a disproportionate emphasis on light weight. We believe that the arms race to shave grams has resulted in a reputation for carbon framesets as fragile, almost disposable. With TD3 we have created a frameset that will reliably serve its owner over the long term and we back it with a lifetime warranty*. Our engineering culture is to integrate an excess of strength into the frameset; to create a frameset that will stand the test of time on road, gravel, and trail.

TD 3.0 with Spork fork on trail 2019

The frame set costs $2,650 and is available for pre-order now (shipments begin in February 2019).  You can also order a custom-built complete bike with a dizzying array of options in wheel sizes, drivetrain options, and brake systems.

Rodeo-Labs.com

13 COMMENTS

  1. Rodeo really gets it when it comes to making frames that can be platforms for however a rider wants to ride a bike. One of the most interesting bike companies in the country, for sure. Super admirable outfit and approach to design.

    • Straight from the TD 3.0 write up on their site regarding bb drop:

      “The bottom bracket on Traildonkey is slightly higher than some other bikes in the gravel segment because we prioritize function across wheelsets. A bike with a low bottom bracket may perform well on 700c wheels, but will drop to become excessively low on 650b wheels. This would result in more pedal strikes or chainring dings when riding aggressively. Clearance matters off-road and TD3 prioritizes off-road performance.”

      Reading.. It’s a thing.

      • So they make a bike ride ok for one wheel size, but increase the bb by a half inch for the other? High bbs on rigid bikes suck. What about the trail numbers? On most bikes, those are controlled to within a couple/few millimeters. With a half inch variability in bb height, the trail numbers go all over the place, changing the bike from stable to twitchy.

        By “prioritizing off-road performance” they have thrown out on-road performance, where the speeds and stakes are much higher.

        Speed wobbles due to high trail… It’s a thing.

        Not buying into marketing… It’s a thing.

        Sometimes “disruptors” in industry are playing by a set of rules that involve selling people an idea that can’t really be delivered on.

        • Most ‘gravel’ bikes are averaging a 70mm bb drop, these are 65mm. You’re really making this big a stink over 5mm and for a bike that in large part is designed for dirt? Ok, If high bb’s suck as bad as you’re whining about here don’t you think this company would be loosing customers instead of gaining? Apparently this stable and twitchy bb in the sky has been on the podium of DK once or twice, and a lot of other podiums in different disciplines from what I’ve seen. That should never happen according to your white paper, right? Looks to me over their past few years of existence they keep growing, something that’s not indicative of what you’re saying. But I digress.. haters are cute, they belong just like everyone else, and nobody ever said you won’t find haters and armchair critics in the comment section of BR. Thanks for showing up, this place is nothing without you!

      • I thought it was an interesting choice because another bike recently reviewed here had larger-than-normal BB drop to compensate for large tires on 700s. Different priorities, different approach.

        • Sure, there’s no right or wrong here. Ultimately we’re talking about 5mm difference. Pretty sure they’ve stuck with the 65mm drop on both frames since the beginning and it’s served them well.

  2. So awesome to hear a company talk about good engineering and forward thought AND understanding that we want to ride this and not worry about cracking something. Kudos.

  3. “Our engineering culture is to integrate an excess of strength into the frameset; to create a frameset that will stand the test of time on road, gravel, and trail.”

    Also, engineering frames that are both light and strong cost us more to manufacture, cutting into the profit margin.

    • How many other CF frames are considerably lighter that can be ridden off pavement AND have the ability to take a rack? That last part is important. You can buy an S-Works Epic HT with a frame weight of 800g, but it will not have the ability to take the loads imposed by luggage off-road (that weight doesn’t transfer to the bb and bars unlike your bodyweight).

      About the only one I can think of is a checkpoint and that is 1240g…so the same.

      CF is a nice material, but strength and impact resistance still requires more of it. Its not magical.

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