The Top 10 Beautiful Bicycles of 2018

We shoot a lot of bikes here on the Radavist. A lot. From my estimates, including tradeshows, and events like the Chris King Open House, or the Moots’ Employee Bikes, and even the Speedvagen Build Off, we shot 220 or so bikes in 2018. That’s a lot of bikes. A lot of details. A lot of component selection, build styles, and uses. From road, to mountain, and everything in between, noting the permutations that exist in this ever-so-special era in the cycling industry, I really feel like we’ve shown you just about everything you could see this year.

Out of those 220 bikes, I looked at the data in the form of traffic metrics, social chatter, and comments to pick the Top 10 Beautiful Bicycles of 2018. While many bikes had a lot of comments, some had higher traffic or social media shares. Compiling all the numbers, a very compelling list was formed. Not included in this lot are bike reviews, of which Morgan’s review of the Midnight Special and Kyle’s review of his Chubby Cosmic Stallion took the highest metrics from all others on this list. I guess they’re in a league of their own!

At any rate, check out the complete Top 10 Beautiful Bicycles of 2018, in no particular order, below!

Tom’s Moots Routt 45

With a road geometry, clearance for a 45mm tire, longer stays and the zippy, lightweight feel of titanium, the Routt 45 is a contender for one of my favorite, production drop bar bike on the market. Over the years, we’ve seen Moots make large leaps out of the traditional, doctor and lawyer marketplace of high-end performance road machines into more back-country oriented exploration vehicle market. That’s not a great surprise either, as even the automotive and motorcycle markets have seen a shift from speed-centered experiences to more “adventure-driven” vehicles. People want to get out more, away from the crowds and away from the confines of asphalt-driven transportation.

Tom upgraded from a steel ‘cross bike that was a little short on him in terms of reach, had a higher bottom bracket, steeper angles and a shorter chainstay to Moots’ Routt 45 platform, a bike that addresses each of these geometric concerns with their own take on what it means to be a road bike tailored for all roads.

Scotty and His Nishiki

Scotty 2 Hotty is a local staple here in Los Angeles. He’s what I like to call an autodidactic raconteur or a self-taught man with lots of informative ramblings. For those of you who have ventured into Golden Saddle Cyclery, you’ll probably recognize him as a patron of the bike shop and literal sponge of knowledge. While Scotty is a farmer and a consultant for soil nutrition, his passions in life exist far beyond the liveliness of plants. His favorite subjects include but are not limited to fishing, gliders, obscure bicycle parts, firearms, fishing, boating, Shimano, both reels, and bicycles. His Nishiki is just another example of his keen eye for detail.

Ryan’s Rootbeer Rivendell Rosco Bubbe

Ryan might not be known too well in the cycling scene. Unless of course, you’re at Golden Saddle where he’s a regular to the shop, tweaking things on his bike, or figuring out where to bicycle camp, and just ride. He’s an accomplished skateboarding photographer though, which is the realm where he’s best known. Ryan traded his previous bike for this Rootbeer colored Rivendell Rosco Bubbe, which he swapped out a few parts on to make it his own. The details on this thing are exceptional, as are all Rivendell frames, but it’s the build kit that really stands out.

Scott’s Stripped and Raw Crust Bikes Romanceur

Scott’s Romanceur might just be my favorite Crust Bikes I’ve seen to date. Sorry, Poppi! So what makes this build so special? Well, for one, its build kit is well thought out, but not by any means standard. The components used are a healthy mix of classic and current, with a heavy nod to French constructeur builds. Gilles Berthoud is the brand of choice for all the leather work, yet the mix of Japanese drivetain components, updated with modern Wolf Tooth accoutrement. For instance, the Roadlink allows the use of older XTR derailleurs with cassettes like the E Thirteen wide range TRS+, all operated by a friction shifter. The classic Dura Ace cranks run a modern Wolf Tooth ring. From there, the build just gets better, with purple and blue anodized bits, including Phil Wood’s rear road hub and various bottle cage bolts. The front SON completes the hub selection, which are laced to Stans rims and rolling on Compass tires. These wheels are covered by Sim Works fenders with Gilles fender flaps. A Sinewave lamp is held to the Nitto rack by a chain ring mount hack. The Velo Orange bars are held by a Nitto stem, with a Cane Creek headset, and Mafac levers are paired with Paul Klamper brakes. One of my favorite details is the ultralight Tune skewer on the rear!

Adam and His Sklunker

There are some bikes that deserve more than to be shot at NAHBS. That’s what I told myself anyway with this bike. When Adam brought his “Sklunker” to Connecticut this year for the show, he asked if I wanted to shoot it. My answer was “hell no! we’ll shoot it in Bozeman instead.” His face lit up since we had only briefly talked about hanging out in Montana briefly and already I was committed. Fast forward a few months and here we are, amidst the green grass and high mountains of this quaint little mountain town.

Adam had a good amount of scrap tubing laying around when NAHBS approached. Earlier in the year, he bought a tube bender to make unicrown forks, which he tested out before deciding to build the matching frame. He didn’t build this bike to bring to NAHBS, it just happened in a serendipitous way. So, he had the fork, and frame, but what about the parts? His buddy Corbin from Black Sheep makes these heat sink cooler hub shell clamp on jammers that prolong the lifespan of coaster brakes and reduces the wear and tear on the shell. They’re called Flat Out. They’re $100 and are pretty neat!

The Speedvagen GTFO

As part of the Vanilla Workshop Build Off is the Speedvagen GTFO, which is perhaps the most unique builds to come from the Speedvagen brand. The team began with the idea of the Urban Racer – a stripped down, fast-paced, innercity bike – and expanded on its usage to the city and beyond. After design meetings and prototype, the GTFO was born, a bike designed to get you out of the city as fast as possible for an overnighter.

The GTFO comes with Syntace dropouts, making it easy to run either geared or singlespeed, in two models; the PRO model comes complete with Andrew the Maker bags, a painted to match bullmoose cockpit, and ZIPP wheels, or the normal package, which comes sans bags, a standard painted to match stem, and EA70ax wheels.

Anna’s Gunnar Hyper-X

This bike has a lot going on and I love it for that very reason! I’ve seen a lot of bikes built around a theme, one where you wonder where the mind of the person wanders.  This bike is one of those.  Initially, an Ocean Air Cycles Stem Top sparked this build which then turned into one of the best uses for gold and blue ano on a bike.  The mash-up is so good, I had to double take.  Anna’s Gunnar is covered with matching Paul Component from top to bottom, but my favorite pieces are definitely the Klampers. From there its built with a wild set of Gevanalle shfiters, White Industries headset and a mix of SRAM components.

Austin from Austin’s Chumba Terlingua

The Land Run 100 draws people from all over the world, including Texas. Austin drove in from Austin, with his brand new Chumba Terlingua, ready to roll 100+ miles single speed. With no rain in the forecast – #RIPmud – he packed in a big tire and got ready to ride the rolling hills, through the red dirt countryside.

While there were many exceptional builds at the event, I have to say, this was one of the most original I saw. With Onyx Racing Hubs, an Absolute Black ringPaul KlampersHope RotorsWTB Riddler tires, matching spoke nipples and a mean, race fit, this bike looked as good in motion as it does sitting here.

My-ma-ma Manzanita Sklar All Road

While we tend to see a lot of experimentation with MTB geometry, specifically hardtails here on the Radavist, I feel like the good ol’ all-road and ‘cross bike geometries, for the most part, stay mostly the same. Sure, head tubes might steepen or slacken a half or so degree, and bottom bracket height can vary, along with seat tube angle, but for the most part, these bikes all look similar in profile. Is it a by-product of design perfection or longevity? Who knows but the bottom line is; I rarely see a road bike geometry that piques my interest and begs the question; I wonder how THAT rides.

Then Adam Sklar sent me an email, asking if I had any desire to review one of his “team” MX all road bikes. I glanced at the geometry, saw the top tube length and thought it was going to be too long for me, especially for how I’d use it. Adam informed me of this bike’s design philosophy, which is part ‘cross geo and part modern MTB. Paradoxically, in short, Adam lengthened the bike’s top tube, slackened the head tube and lowered the bottom bracket. The bike is designed to run a shorter stem, a 70mm, versus a 110mm and with a longer head tube, puts the riding position a bit more upright. The consensus after riding this bike all year is, it rips!

Firefly All Road

Much like this bike’s inspiration – a chopped and altered rat rod car – the Rad Rod shows use, not abuse, and now has a new found face as a 2x chubby road bike. The bike’s fit and build are perfect for dirt road rides in the mountains that surround my home in Los Angeles and beyond. Adapting this bike with Firefly to their new technology was a joy to watch and the bike itself has been a joy to ride!

Special bonus bicycle trade show feature!

Top NAHBS: Sklar and Ultra Romance Nutmegger

I mean… I know this makes three Sklar Bikes in this list, but look at this freaking bicycle!

Top Philly Bike Expo: Map 650b Dirt Disc Rando

This one really sizzled from Jarrod Bunk’s Philly Bike Expo reportage. People loved seeing a disc Map Bicycles with a carbon fork. Mitch might be best known for making his classic randonneuring frames, so perhaps that’s why? Did you dig this bike? If so, explain why below. I’d also like to send some love to Mitch, who lost his entire shop in the Camp Fire.


Thanks to everyone who made 2018 such an excellent year at the Radavist!

46 responses to “The Top 10 Beautiful Bicycles of 2018”

  1. White Mike says:

    3 Sklars huh

    • John Watson says:

      Every year someone has an issue with the list. It’s just data. If five Rivendells made the list, it’d just point that people really like Rivs. Sklar had a hot year and got a lot of coverage here – NAHBS, Bozeman coverage, etc. People like his bikes right now. Who knows, next year I could shoot a lot of Black Sheeps, or Oddities and they’d make the list multiple times too.

      • Ceol Mor says:

        Sklar is just the new Stinner… ;)

        On a serious note; John, you’ve put together the best cycling website I’ve had the pleasure of perusing. Like all things subjective (e.g. the most beautiful bike), we can disagree and have spirited debate. What I truly appreciate is that your website has introduced me to unique builders, products, locations, and other cycling related things that I would not have discovered on my own. Thanks for what you do. Here’s to another another successful year – cheers!

        • John Watson says:

          For sure! Builders have their hot moments, as do bikes. I found it really interesting to see how influential Benedict (Ultra Romance) has been on the industry as a whole. Two bikes on this list are his design. The Romanceur and the Nutmegger. Had Adam not built the Nutmegger, someone else would have.

          Other notes: I don’t like including my own bikes but they’re a part of the website and the discussion at hand. I was a bit disappointed to see no MTBs make the list.

          Thanks for the kind note! It’s a lot of work and it doesn’t always go as planned but that’s just part of it all. Our new site layout will make viewing the stories and bikes even better.

          • It would be cool to see a year end “Best of Mountain” and/or “Best of Road”. Maybe those are Top Tens? Just a thought. It did seem that there was a lot of road bikes reviewed in general this year here though. Just a thought. Good coverage though. There’s a lot of work out there by a lot of builders and companys.

          • John Watson says:

            Yeah I doubt we even shot 10 MTBs this year, outside of NAHBS / PBE.

          • That’s quite amazing. The trend industry-wide seemed to be pushing what I’d call “fat tire drop-bar builds”. 3/4 of my builds this year and in the past 3 have been mountain bikes however. I can count on one hand road bikes for clients that did not have large volume tires (40mm+) and slack geo since I started.

          • John Watson says:

            Totally. My truck has been getting work done to it over the past few months, so no driving to the MTB trails and in that time I spent even more time on my all-road bikes. Given normal conditions though, I’d rather ride my MTBs. :-)

          • I hear that! Mountain bike over road bike any day of the week. Get that truck fixed then! Sounds like it was cutting down on mountain bike coverage :)

          • The truck is fixed, Kris! It just needs to be more fixed!

          • HA! Projects like those are rarely finished.

          • John Watson says:

            First it was the gearing getting re-done to increase fuel economy. That takes a while and now, I’ve been tackling the injection pump rebuild, lines, nozzles, etc. Getting the pump timed with the engine (VE pump) is proving to be a bit difficult. A lot of trial and error that requires removing the timing belt each time.

          • John Watson says:

            I still rode to the trails plenty, but those are the times I leave the camera at home. :-)

          • Getting a ride in that’s pure and essentially “disconnected” is clutch. I feel so much closer and in the moment without distractions when I have those rides from the back door.

      • White Mike says:

        No issue with it my good dude Watson. Just didn’t expect to see 3 of one builder but you crunched them stats and they is what they shall be.

  2. CTDSAC says:

    I am surprised that the Sklunker is 650B. Albeit B+, but when I talked with Adam at Grinduro this past year he spoke of how he disliked anything but 700c/29″.

    Love all the bikes and great job on another successful year!

  3. Matt O'Donnell says:

    Pretty fun list. Your Sklar allroad is just stupid gorgeous. But my bike of the year has to be that Rosco Bubbe. I don’t know why it gets me the way it does, but it does.

  4. George T Rosselle says:

    I like all the bikes. But I think a steel fork looks ten times better than any carbon fiber fork, and they make the bike look that much better. More balanced. I already have a Rosco, so when I win the lottery I want a Sklar. Or may be a MAP. No wait, a Firefly…………dang too many choices. As long as it has a steel fork.

  5. says:

    I gotta say, Adam’s “Sklunker” takes the cake for me, though that Roscoe Bubbe is close behind.

  6. C.Silver says:

    All unique and beautiful builds. My 3-way tie for top spot: MAP, Sklar All-road and Firefly

  7. Bryan says:

    Psh, and people say drop bars are dead…

  8. Keith Reed says:

    Thanks for a fun summary. Love that the Nishiki made the big dog dance. On a selfish sidenote, it’s too bad you ran across my cargobike in the dark when you were in town for LandRun, ‘elsewise you’d really have some diversity on here ;) ha.

    • John Watson says:

      That thing was gorgeous!

    • Daniel Smith says:

      Keith, is yours the yellow Scissortail cargo bike? Dewayne makes some really nice bikes, and he’s a really nice guy, too! I’ve had the chance to chat with him at Land Run and Buchanan Bikes in Norman.

      • Keith Reed says:

        Yep. You need to ride either mine or Dewayne’s first chance you get. They are a hoot!

  9. Peter Chesworth says:

    Amazed that the JP Weigle bike from NAHBS did not score a mention. Fully knitted out 20lb bike with fenders, lights and rack, and used hard. Beautiful to boot. Oh well, despite so many having no taste whatsoever, has been another terrific year on this site. A happy 2019 to all, from the blazing bloody hot southern hemisphere 🚴🏼

  10. Richard says:

    Thanks for another fantastic, drool-worthy year of bikes, John. This is an outstanding list, and there were so many more that offered so much – especially so much hope for the future of bike building! Cheers and Happy New Year!

  11. Owen P says:

    I really like the Map because it injected a lot of personality in to what has become what has become the generic tig’d, carbon fork’d gravel bike. The Chumba, Gunnar, Speedvagen, Moots (ti but still), and Firefly (to a lesser extent) are almost interchangeable ignoring the build kit. Ok, a pretty unfair, simplified view for this specific group but you know what I mean? A lot of people are making tig’d gravel bikes, same angles, same forks, same details, yeah.

    Then this thing shows up with the same purpose and silhouette, but gorgeous thin tubes, subtle lugs, killer unique details: Headtube! Stem! Seat cluster! Compass Light! The perfect blend of very traditional (lights, lugs, leather, Herse) but with discs, carbon fork, thru axles, ergos, etc.

    Pretty much my ideal bike except i’d go for a silver drivetrain. And I’m not sure I could stomach the carbon fork at the end :)

  12. Andy-bmore says:

    that MAP was probably my favorite bike at Philly. The Rando world is super cool, but the bikes are so refined at this point that despite the love and work that goes into each one, they tend to come off feeling kinda same-y to me in terms of overall impressions. That’s where the MAP shines imho, is incorporating a lot of modern tech, but only where it really makes sense: thru axles, discs, crabon fork, some shifty bits. Plus it’s still got the really nice detailing that typifies fancy rando bikes; my personal favorite is the symmetry of the two-bolt clamps on for the seatpost and the stem.

  13. Adam Sklar says:

    Wow! Lots of awesome bikes up here, thanks for all the great stories this year!

  14. Xander Dolan says:

    hybrid bikes are making a come back!

  15. Daniel Smith says:

    Great year end top ten. Mine would have to be the Moots and Firefly, as I think Ti may be the best bike frame material, atmo. Then your Manzanita Sklar and the Chumba are pretty awesome, too. Really surprised to see no MTB’s, especially since so many of your ride/trip reports were done on mtbs. Also, one of my personal favorites of the year was the 25th anniversary Sycip all road.

  16. Alan says:

    That Moots!!!

  17. Ryan says:

    Austin had a matching personality; that Chumba was a beacon.

  18. Thomas Yeates says:

    10 bikes, 3 of them are Sklar’s. For good reason!

  19. Andrew Demack says:

    My favourite bikes this year other than the Weigle and MAP randos, were the bikes from Blue Collar. Both outstanding, rainy day bikes for blue sky days as well.

  20. rickyk76 says:

    That Romanceur is a beauty and gives me some ideas for my own that I’m currently building up. Great list. Love that Sklar got so much coverage as they are making some wonderful bikes.

  21. Richard Bear says:

    Lovely bikes all around. Thanks as always for photographing them so well and sharing. Glad to see the kook bike contingent represented and I’m especially excited to see more well charactered bin-builds in the new year. Cheers!

  22. Speedvagen GTFO for me. Love the colour, ISP, deep rims, colour-matched stem and ATM bags. The Nutmegger would be next, mostly ‘cos I want to have a ride!

  23. Laurence H Grant says:

    Coveted a Nishiki Alien frame/bike since the late 80s. I think I may have just discovered my 2019 next build project!