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A Little NAHBS Trip

Last weekend was the annual gathering of bike porn fetishists known as the North American Handbuilt Bike Show. It’s an eclectic gathering of every corner of the bike industry, all hand made, all passion, all personality. Of course there was a modern penny farthing. Colorado was well represented with bamboo commuters with 2-speed kickback hubs from the Container Collective, titanium full suspension from Moots, carbon fiber road rockets from Alchemy, and the uniquely retro museum pieces on display from The Pro’s Closet.

Getting there

I packed up the Vanagon and set out for Salt Lake City early Thursday morning, scooping Steven from VeloZephyr along the way in Boulder. We got a relaxed start, following the ingrained Spring training route out to Carter Lake before heading out to 285 and taking the scenic way to Laramie. It was beautiful, but slow. By Laramie I was excited for the highway, even if the van only does 60mph on a good day.

Unfortunately this wasn’t a good day, and we soon had to content with a stuttering engine. I drove like that for a bit, but it kept getting worse and eventually we pulled over in Rawlings. Some interneting revealed that it probably had something to do with the archaic fuel injection system and wasn’t something we wanted to mess with hours from home. I had less-than-positive association with Rawlings already from my bike tour to Yellowstone, so I wasn’t surprised when the van died and wouldn’t restart pulling into a grocery store. After a half hour it started enough that we limped to a Walmart parking lot and begrudgingly went to sleep.

We tried driving again in the middle of the night, got sidelined once more, and eventually made it to the convention center with 20 minutes before the show opened. Whoohooo! Steven helped throw the booth together, we had jams cranking from a local radio station that had the booth next to us, and a copious amount of caffeine from the boys at Reeb Cycles had us ready to go.

All the cool things at NAHBS

The show was awesome – we got a great reception and had a lot of conversations with people interested in American-made bike gear. I wish I had some sort of “All the cool things at NAHBS” recap, but the downside of a lot of attention is that I barely got to leave the booth.

After the show, in a perfect visual analogy, we packed up the 30-year old Vanagon in a sea of brand new Mercedes Sprinters. But while most of them were racing back to the office, or off to the next expo show, we were headed to Fruita to ride bikes!

18 Road

It seemed the van would drive about 4 hours without incident, and since Fruita is halfway between SLC and Denver it struck us as a great opportunity to ride. We got there pretty late and cruised up 18 Road to a secluded camp spot for our quietest, though coldest, evening of the trip. In the morning we rolled to the trailhead, took a couple business calls from the newly dubbed “mobile office,” and then met up with the guys from Ground Up Speed Shop and their mind-melting glitter-painted bikes. They’re like the Schwinn Homegrown’s Bass Boat finish turned up to 11.

Some quick laps on Joes and Zippity made for a perfect morning before settling back into the van. Even though we were still 5 hours away, the road between Moab and Denver feels as familiar as the roads in my neighborhood. The van wasn’t stoked about Vail Pass or Eisenhower Tunnel, but with some good karma from picking up a hitch hiker we evenually made it home to sleep in our beds Monday night.

February camping

James BusLast weekend my friend James sent out an invite for some bike riding and van camping in Buffalo Creek. I worked with James at a shop in Boulder for a bunch of years, and though it’s still winter here in Colorado we get a couple opportunities to run up to the mountains during surprisingly warm spells so I took him up on the offer.

On the way out of town I learned I had just missed Dane and Alders up there, but they’ve done some work with us so I’ll shamelessly plug them anyway. Check out and (Do it.) Instead, I picked up my buddy Jaden and his dog Fischer, because the only thing that makes mountain bike camping trips better are dogs and more friends.

Fischer the dogJames and Shep were posted up around a campfire when we arrived, relaxing after a long ride that day. I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve hung out with Shep, at least a couple years, but as I rolled down the window to get a better view of where I wanted to stop the car he calls out “Just park the fucking van!” Strange as it may seem, there’s something comforting about that level of harassment.

We spent the night hanging out by the fire, listening to Shep’s encyclopedic knowledge of everything from TSA to metallurgy, before leaving him to fend for himself in a tent as we all retired to vans.

In the morning we kitted up after breakfast, and I was quite happy I had brought a Merino Tee jersey as a base layer under the Western Shirt Jersey cause it was a bit chilly. Once we were riding though the temp was perfect. I’m loving riding my Waltworks singlespeed during the winter and it was ideally geared for the trails we were on.

With a good ride under our belts I packed up and enjoyed the beautiful drive back to the Front Range.

Making a sandwich

Wrap the Vanagon

The VanagonMatt’s grandparents got a Volkswagon Vanagon a couple years after he was born and it’s been in the family ever since. It hadn’t run in about a decade, but he was really excited about reviving it so after a stunning investment of time and money it now seems to be moving fairly well.

The last major issue is that it has the original paint which has seen better days. Instead of painting over it, we’re planning to put a vinyl wrap over the whole thing and looking for design ideas. Do you have some? Shoot us an email at and we’ll get you the details. There’s no limit to submissions, and if your design ends up on the Vanagon you’ll get a fresh new Conation Collective kit (shorts, liner, and jersey)!

We’ll be putting the designs up for review in the next couple weeks so stay tuned for voting!


It’s time for development and prototyping again so we headed into the shop to start working on some new patterns. And new pattern drafting can only mean one thing – be on the lookout for new product updates as we move into the spring!

Sketching Drafting
Cutting Sewing

Winter Road Trip

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It’s winter time in Colorado so we’re having a bunch of fun enjoying the winter wonderland in the mountains. I’ve been trying to get the Vanagon farther and farther from home in preparation for Moab trips this spring, and a trip to Aspen for X Games and the Chainsmokers seemed like a great opportunity. But we couldn’t do just that..

Backcountry Hut

Friday night my friend was working late, so I met her around 10pm in Golden to go hike into a backcountry hut my friend Alex had reserved. We dropped her car in Empire and took our chances getting the Vanagon over its first true mountain pass on the way to Winter Park. I was a little worried about it, but the van did great until it stalled out in the trailhead parking lot. That’s as far as we wanted to go anyway so we left it there, got dressed, and started skinning/snowshoeing.

We got into the hut around 2:30 – about when we expected – and collapsed into bed. I was excited to wake up without an alarm, but less than 5 hours later we were awoken by a different high-pitched beeping as people checked avalanche beacons in the kitchen. I was unstoked.

After breakfast I went out with Alex and a friend for their second backcountry lap of the morning. I was breaking in new BC boots that hurt so bad I thought I was going to puke for a minute, but the snow was amazing! We cruised through some trees with rock drops in the middle of the run, and then hiked back to pack up the hut.


We skied out of the hut around noon, with Alex and I hopping in the Vanagon and heading to Aspen. After a stop in Frisco for food, and battling a fuel pump on the fritz, we made it to Carbondale to meet up with Holly and Brian. We got of tour of their new house from Holly, but she said Brian was driving a 4×4 Sprinter van limo all night so we headed up valley to  Aspen to meet up with him.

We parked the whip and met up with Brian for a bit before catching a ride to X Games at Buttermilk. The Buttermilk scene was about as crazy as I expected from X Games and we checked out Skier Big Air before heading over to the Chainsmokers concert sans ticket. I’m not going to go into how we got in because it involves questionable legality, but the point is we watched an awesome show until crowd antics shut it down. So we retreated to THE pizza spot in Aspen to refuel before retiring to the Vanagon for the night.


There’s something so empowering about sleeping in a van in front of 5-15 million dollar homes that’s difficult to capture in words. I would not be opposed to sleeping in a 15 million dollar house, don’t get me wrong, but the idea that we drove our house to Aspen and had the same access to downtown, the same access to X Games and the Chainsmokers, maybe even better access because of the relationships we’ve cultivated through a tenure in the bike industry, made me feel so much better about passing out next to a crazy adventure buddy in a van in Aspen.


In the morning we woke up, got some breakfast in town, and cruised down valley. We didn’t really know what the day would hold, nor did we particularly care. A second epic backcountry ski trip on Sopris? A day of resort skiing to balance out our dirtbag activities of the weekend? Hours in I70 traffic? We knew we weren’t doing the latter, but the rest of the trip was open to improvisation.

After a few hours or cruising along at (Vanagon) highway speeds (55mph) we decided to pull over and catch a few laps at A-basin’s infamous East Wall. I had been excited about grabbing a tee shirt supporting the Avalanche Rescue dogs, so despite throbbing ankle bones from the BC ski boots, I strapped in for another couple weekend runs. We got the shirt, skied the wall, and still caught the end of the US Men’s soccer friendly against Serbia

Loveland Pass at night

As the sun started to set we headed back to the van for a quick organizational effort. It had been a long weekend and the van was just a dumping spot for gear. Snowshoes, skins, jackets, beacons, sunglasses, everything was scattered so we took a minute to repack before continuing the journey. With the lodge closed and traffic diminishing we decided to head over Loveland Pass, the 6th mountain pass of the weekend for a 30 year old van. At the top Alex hopped out to get one last run – a moonlit solo sojourn down to a hairpin in the road where I picked him up and we rolled back to Denver.

Conation Collective cruising in Cuba

(Hover over video for color)

It’s no secret that we like to travel – Matt’s bike toured between Boulder and Yellowstone, and Aspen to the Grand Canyon to Aspen, pedaled the long way from Paris to Switzerland, and led mountain bike trips around Colombia for a few months. We love seeing the world from a bike seat – getting to know a culture and community in ways that just aren’t available going 70mph.

Matt took the first round of Conation Collective samples when he was guiding in Colombia – riding 10 hours a day through sweltering humidity seemed like a good way to stress test the designs. So when he got the chance to hop a flight to Cuba, subjecting Conation to another round south of the border seemed natural.

Matt says “Merino wool and lightweight fabrics make for great travel gear when backpacking around an island, and I was stoked with how well the pieces crossed over.” Enjoy a little clip from aboard our moped in the Unesco World Heritage site Valle de Vinales!

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