Our Reader’s Rig of the week comes from Dan Connell in California, who shares a look at his Tour Divide-ready Rodeo Labs Flaanimal 5.0 and the inspiring story of how an 80s mountain bike took him across South America and Africa. Learn more about Dan and his bike here…

Words and photos by Dan Connell

I’m Dan, and I live in Goleta, California, a seaside town nestled between the Channel Islands and the Los Padres National Forest. In the summer and fall months, I work as an expedition guide in Channel Islands National Park, taking people on various adventures, mostly in the form of sea cave kayaking and scuba diving. In the other months, I work at Trek Santa Barbara.

  • Dan Connell, Rodeo Labs Flaanimal 5.0
  • Dan Connell, Rodeo Labs Flaanimal 5.0

I initially found cycling as a means of travel after finishing up an undergraduate degree in mathematics at UC Santa Barbara. In 2017, after a lifetime of almost zero time spent on bikes, I picked up a well-used mountain bike from the 80s and rode it from my home in California down to South America, then took it to Egypt and rode down to South Africa. When COVID did its thing, I started touring within the USA and eventually got my first mountain bike and took it down the Great Divide. Four runs down the Divide later, mixed with a healthy dose of bikepacking in the Los Padres National Forest, I am now figuring out how I can maximize time spent bikepacking throughout the rest of my life!

Big cycling dreams include bikepacking in the Middle East (particularly in Iran), and I am currently planning on a run down the Baja Divide in Mexico and racing Transcordilleras in Colombia to kick off 2024. There is a 100% chance that I take my Flaanimal down the Tour Divide route for its third consecutive year this upcoming June. Riding my bike makes me feel more alive than anything else, and I use it as a key to unlock the wonders of humankind.

  • Dan Connell, Rodeo Labs Flaanimal 5.0

After racing the Tour Divide in 2021, I reached out to Steve Fitzgerald, the Chief Executive Intern at Rodeo Labs, and started up a conversation about my desires in the world of ultra-cycling and how it was my dream to align my journey with the principles that serve as the foundation of Rodeo Labs: to Ride, Explore, and Create. We agreed that the Flaanimal was the right tool for the job, and after setting it up with a flat bar and lifted aero bars, it became the do-it-all bikepacking rig of my dreams. The only major change I’ve made since the initial build was switching from mechanical Paul Klampers to the Hope Tech 4 X2 hydraulic system I have now. That change reflects my slow acceptance of “upgraded technology,” as I was used to riding 1980s MTB technology for so many years, and now I find myself with electronic shifting and hydraulic brakes.

Dan Connell, Rodeo Labs Flaanimal 5.0
  • Dan Connell, Rodeo Labs Flaanimal 5.0
  • Dan Connell, Rodeo Labs Flaanimal 5.0
  • Dan Connell, Rodeo Labs Flaanimal 5.0
  • Frame: Rodeo Labs Flaanimal 5.0
  • Fork: Rodeo Labs Spork 2.0
  • Rims: Rodeo 2.0, 32 spokes
  • Hubs: Rodeo 3.0
  • Tires: Vittoria Mezcal 2.1 (front) / Maxxis Ikon 2.0 (rear)
  • Handlebars: Race Face Atlas
  • Headset: Cane Creek Forty
  • Crankset: SRAM X01 Eagle, 36T Chainring
  • Pedals: Crankbrothers Mallet E
  • Cassette: SRAM GX 10-50T
  • Derailleur(s): SRAM AXS X01 Eagle
  • Brakes: Hope X2 flat mount
  • Shifter(s): SRAM Eagle AXS Controller + AXS Wireless Blips
  • Saddle: Brooks B17
  • Seatpost: Thomson Elite
  • Stem: Redshift Shockstop Pro Suspension
  • Frame bags: Class 4 Designs Frame Bag
  • Rear bags: Tailfin Carbon Aeropack w/ Pannier Mounts
  • Accessory bags: Apidura Backcountry Food Pouch x2, Revelate Designs Top Tube Gas Tank
  • Wearable bags: Dispersed Bikepacking Roll Top Hip Pack, Evoc Hydro Pro 3 Hydration Pack
  • Other accessories: Velo Orange Mojave bottle cage, Lezyne Macro Drive 1300XXL front light

Despite being fortunate enough to have a bike with all sorts of wonderful and fancy components, I firmly believe that almost any rig can be the do-it-all bikepacking rig of your dreams. The most important part is taking the initiative to turn one pedal in front of the other and get moving! All the magic happens once you get out of the front door, and I couldn’t feel luckier to experience that magic on my Flaanimal, which is set up to be so in tune with the style of riding I am interested in: long hours in the saddle on mixed terrain.

Dan Connell, Rodeo Labs Flaanimal 5.0
Photo by Eddie Clark

I recently loaded my rig up with a trailer for some slow touring, then dropped the trailer and rode 400 miles straight without stopping on mostly pavement along the California Coast to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders, and in both of those experiences, my bike felt just as perfect for the job as it has on various runs down the Tour Divide. Versatility… check!

You can follow along with Dan’s rides on Instagram.

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