The Trail Donkey bike from Rodeo Adventure Labs epitomizes the idea of a Swiss Army Knife bicycle. It has huge tire clearance, off-road-focused geometry, a durable carbon lay-up, and mounts for just about everything. We were very excited to see a dual-purpose prototype from them at Sea Otter, featuring custom hydraulic and Di2 quick disconnects, two sets of bars, and two sets of wheels. When coupled with their new prototype custom frame bag, is this the most versatile gravel / mountain bike yet?

Rodeo Adventure Labs Trail Donkey 3.0 prototype gravel bike with hydraulic and Di2 disconnects

We love the idea of the Trail Donkey, and have kept up with its recent evolution into the 3.0 designation. In short, it’s a very versatile carbon fiber gravel bike with huge tire clearance, a high-ish bottom bracket, and real ability to tackle trails that go beyond smooth gravel. At a weight of about 1,300 grams for a frame, it has its sights set beyond short-duration race performance, with the ability to handle racks and other adventure gear.

We were pumped to find them at Sea Otter with a new prototype. Based on the existing TD 3.0 frame, it uses a custom setup of quick disconnects for the hydraulic brake lines and Shimano Di2 wiring, to quickly change from a gravel-focused drop bar setup and 700c wheels, to a flat bar setup with suspension stem and 650b wheels.

The hydraulic disconnects were made from a mash-up of parts, and the folks at Rodeo were up-front in saying that they’re not sure if it’s realistic to offer as a production bike. They demoed the disconnection process for us, and we witnessed zero leakage or other issues.

The brake levers are intended for a flat bar road bike (not mountain bike), so they’re fully compatible with the flat mount road-style hydraulic disc calipers on the bike.

The Di2 integration is another cool touch, using a junction box in the drop bar-end and on the mountain flat bar. Drop bar shifting is handled via Di2 buttons on the side of a TRP brake lever. Also note the Redshift elastomer stem used on the flat bar for a bit of micro suspension.
The bike features a Praxis crank and 1x ring, Shimano XT rear derailleur, and wide-range cassette from e*thirteen. Oh, and we found a couple special touches on the frame just for fun.

Rodeo Adventure Labs frame bag

This rig also showed off a new frame bag concept that perfectly fits the TD 3.0 front triangle. Details were slim, but it used bottle cage mounts to secure the bottom of the bag, along with elastic wrap around the seat tube and top tube. The bag has two main compartments that connect inside via a Velcro trap door.

Unfortunately, we don’t know if or when this bike will be available, nor the price. The frame bag seemed to be much more likely to see the light of day, and we’ll stay tuned for more availability information. For now, you can learn more about Rodeo Adventure Labs at the link below.

Rodeo-Labs.com

6 COMMENTS

  1. Check Rodeo’s IG feed for a story showing the swtich from drop bar to flat bar. I’m not a gravel guy and I generally despise IG stories, but this one stopped me and grabbed my attention. The hydro disconnects are pretty ingenious. Chapeau, Rodeo!

  2. I dunno man…….full suspension (Niner), suspension forks, dropper posts, off-road angles, wide tire clearance, flat bars, 1x drivetrains……….at what point do you call these bikes what they are……..mountain bikes?

    Not trying to be smart – just confused about the direction.

    • This bike is probably the exact opposite approach of the full suspension Niner. We can’t really speak to that bike, but this bike is just a continuation of us having fun asking “what if” and “would it work?”. 95% of the people on our bikes just want to go out and ride gravel roads and that is always going to be the sweet spot of the Traildonkey. But those of us at the core of Rodeo are generally into trying crazy ideas that hit us. It is genuinely fun for us to push ourselves and push the bikes outside of traditional boundaries and categories. What we aren’t saying with this or any of our bikes is “sell your MTB, our bike is better”. We also aren’t saying “don’t buy a MTB, buy our bike instead”.

      We all know a dual (or just front) squish MTB is going to be butter and super fun out on a good trail. But, quite honestly that story is already being told by 99.9% of cycling culture, media, and other bike brands. Does anyone really need to be told that a modern MTB is an amazing machine and you’ll be fast and comfortable if you ride one? I don’t think so. The TD3 Switch-Up exists because I want it to – for me – because I’m never not experimenting with our bikes. It’s super fun to say “could we make this?” and then make it, and then test it. It’s even crazier when the idea actually works. And if we can race the bike against traditional MTBs and kick some ass then all the better. We’re competitive too.

      It takes away from nothing and nobody to create a configuration of an existing bike that allows the bike to be used in a wider range of conditions. That is what this bike does. Or, perhaps even more importantly this bike simply brings the connector technology out of the shadows and gets people’s imaginations going. Very few people need a switch up bike, but a lot of people travel with bikes with hydraulic brakes and packing them is tough. If you can easily disconnect a handlebar / brakes with these couplers and more safely pack your travel bike because the bars are easy to move around then that’s a huge win. If you own a Ritchey Breakaway but couldn’t run hydro brakes on it, but you can now with hydro couplers like this then the TD3 Switch Up has done a good thing by getting people’s imaginations flowing about different ways to configure their bikes and make them more useful.

      The funny thing about these connectors that are at the core of this bike is that they were released in 2013 and I’m pretty sure just about nobody cared and even fewer people bought them. My understanding is that they are now discontinued. We bought the last four connectors in the USA and we couldn’t find any in Europe. The manufacturer essentially said “go away”. So this super useful technology came and went and nobody cared. Maybe the technology just showed up too soon and now that it is 2019 and more bikes have hydro disc brakes the time is right to put the product back on the market. We know another manufacturer is working to do exactly that right now.

      In my observation a lot of big bike brands tend to want to funnel us into categories and niches and sell us highly specialized machines tuned for max performance. That is totally fine! But Rodeo wants to make very un-niche bikes that are generally fun to ride and are used to re-interpret categories and terrain in any way that THE RIDER sees fit. This does seem to ruffle feathers of category die-hards but we’re no threat to traditional categories, we’re just out having fun and trying to inspire creative bikes and creative riding.

  3. Thanks for the coverage Bike Rumor! A few quick notes: We do intend to make this system available on our builds, we just need a bit of time to put more miles on it and make sure it is as reliable and repeatable as it has to be. We actually ran into another component manufacturer at Sea Otter who said “we make those connectors too and ours are nicer” so we intend to explore more options for the hydro disconnects in the coming months. In the mean time this bike is fully functional and performs excellently in all of the riding (and racing) we’ve done on it.

    The bags are near production for sure. We work with Exile Designs who is a local part of our community to develop and make them. The design is mostly complete – enough that we wanted to tease the bag(s) at Sea Otter. Exile is the maker, we’re just the collaborator on this project.

COMMENT HERE: (For best results, log in through Wordpress or your social media account. Anonymous/fake email comments may be unapproved or deleted. ALL first-time commenter's posts are held for moderation. Check our Comment Policy for full details.)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.