Posted by Miles Arbour
Now in it’s 5th iteration, the Flaanimal is what Rodeo Labs describes as “a multi-use steel adventure frameset designed and built around the themes of versatility and adaptability.” The latest version, the Rodeo Labs Flaanimal 5.0, is officially being announced today. We’ve put together an exclusive first look with help from Rodeo Labs’ founder Stephen Fitzgerald. Check out what Stephen has to say about the latest Flaanimal below, including photos of their prototype frame, set up with both 700c x 50mm G-One Speed and Maxxis Ikon 650b x 2.2″ tires, a Rotor Uno 1×12 drivetrain, and a mix of Ritchey and White Industries components.
Words by Stephen Fitzgerald
So, what is changing on Flaanimal 5.0? In short: tire clearance. But that’s an oversimplification if I just stop there. Tire clearance with road BSA (68mm bottom bracket shell) is a HUGE juggling act. To carve out more space into those rear chain stays, you have to make compromises and get very creative. For the Flaanimal to match the 700c x 50mm / 650b x 2.2″ spec on the Traildonkey, and stay at road BSA, I knew that we were going to need to go to a custom yoke design on the drive side stay.
This isn’t our first time designing a bike with a chain stay yoke. In 2015, Flaanimal 1.0 actually had a yoke as well. But we removed it from 2.0 on because chainstay yokes can add significant weight to a bike. The yoke we developed for 5.0 is significantly refined over the 1.0 yoke, and it is also significantly lighter. It did add some static weight to the bike, so we went looking for other ways to offset that. Removing weight from a steel frame is very difficult to do responsibly. You can decrease wall thicknesses on tubing, which quickly reduces weight, but we were actually at the thinnest wall thickness we were willing to go to on Flaanimal, so that wasn’t an option. Instead, we looked elsewhere grams and found the seat tube to be a good candidate for refinement. Flaanimal 5.0 will use a carbon seat tube instead of a steel seat tube, and that revision saves us some meaningful weight on just a single tube. Will steel purists balk at the idea of a bit of carbon in the mix on a steel frame? Maybe, but the Flaanimal has always used a carbon Spork, so to us it is a non issue and as a functional detail we’re very okay with it. Plus, it just looks super cool to have a bit of 3k weave peeking out.
Back to tubing for a second: instead of reducing the thickness of all tubes to save weight, we are actually increasing wall thickness on the down tube, and possibly the top tube. As we add to the capabilities of Flaanimal and tell people that it’s more capable of tackling even more rugged places, we feel we have the responsibility to make sure the engineering of the frameset keeps up with those promises. The down tube tubing revision is locked, and the top tube is still a point of discussion. By adding the two top tube mounting eyelets to 5.0, we’ve made it possible to mount a top tube bag more neatly, but that also means that as we add holes to a tube we need to think carefully about strengthening the tube. We’re still having final internal discussions about which is better between a heavier top tube with mounting eyelets or a lighter top tube that requires a strap-on top tube bag. We’ll listen to people’s feedback on this one to try to gauge the best final spec. Which is more important: static frame weight or frameset features and versatility? Leave a comment below to weigh in.
Flaanimal 4.1 had internal routing in the down tube and external routing along the chain stays. Flaanimal 5.0 will also route the shift housing internally through the chain stay. This is allowed by the design of the yoke. The yoke is also a dropped design to allow for the increased tire clearance that we wanted. Tire clearance on Flaanimal 5.0 has actually exceeded what TD3 offers. It is clear how easily the 700c x 50mm and 650b x 2.2″ fit, but we have a funny feeling that by moving the sliding dropouts back a centimeter it may be possible to run a tire as big as 2.4″ wide. Stay tuned for confirmation on this, but you can take your best guess based on photos.
Flaanimal 4.1 came with our original Spork 1.2 fork. Spork 2.0 offers more clearance and more versatility in every way over 1.2, but the profile of the fork was just too visually hefty to combine with the skinnier profile of steel tubes found on the Flaanimal. We set out to revise tooling on the 2.0 fork to slim it down but soon found out that it was better to just start from scratch and design an entirely new fork. Thus, Spork 3.0 was born. Spork 3.0 carries over of the functional details of Spork 2.0, including 12/15mm axles, optional eyelet kits, internal dynamo routing, generous tire clearance, and generous fender clearance, but it does all of that in a lighter, more visually slimmed down fork. We also sculpted the inside profile of the fork slightly and added a few more millimeters of tire clearance. Offset is still 45 and that is a number we still believe in for an all around adventure bike. Axle to crown stays at 395. Steer tube stays tapered. Load rating stays at 12.5 kilos.
What’s missing from 5.0 vs 4.1? On this 5.0, we removed the belt drive connect on the rear seat stay. We never had any issues with the belt drive system on any Flaanimal, but the yoke design on 5.0 is not very belt friendly and we saved a bit of weight by removing the connector, so we sadly had to sunset that feature. Also missing is our seat stay bottle opener, which never failed to endear and irritate people. Thanks to a new thru-axle design, the bike will have an optional bottle opener axle lever, so we haven’t abandoned our sense of humor entirely. Flaanimal 5.0’s design is quite far along but isn’t 100% locked. We still have a few concepts on the table for removing a bit more weight and one or two more feature tweaks to finalize before the bike goes into production. We’re relentless tinkerers and refiners and we want this bike to really shine when it hits the market.
The current timeline for Flaanimal 5.0 is for customer deliveries to begin in March 2020. We will begin accepting customer reservations in December. The current timeline for Rodeo Spork 3.0 to be available as a standalone fork either for our bikes or to other frame builders is January 2020.
Well, there you have it! Stay tuned for more details, which we’ll be sure to share as they become available. From what we can tell, the Flaanimal 5.0 has some serious bikepacking potential, and now meets the criteria to fit on our List of 650B Gravel Bikes. For now, head over to Rodeo-Labs.com to learn more!