Friday, October 24, 2014

Prettiest Road Bikes?

Browsing some of the other bike blogs to see what's new in the non-retrgrouch world, I happened upon this video at BikeRadar showcasing the "Top 5 Prettiest Road Bikes." Hey, I thought - I like pretty road bikes as much as anybody, so I settled in to watch a little "pretty bike porn."

Wow, was I disappointed.

Nevertheless, for your viewing pleasure (or displeasure), here are the Top 5 Prettiest Road Bikes, as selected by BikeRadar:

De Rosa Scandium. Ok, first thing you should know is there are no bikes made of the rare-earth metal known as scandium. However, there is some scandium in the aluminum alloy mix, so bike companies that use the alloy take the liberty to label their bikes "scandium." Just looking for a little truth in advertising, that's all. Anyhow, I looked it up and supposedly the benefit of an Al-Sc alloy is that it yields a slightly different grain structure when heated (as in welding). Beyond that I don't know or care how it's different from plain ol' aluminum. Now, is the bike beautiful? It's welds are nicely smoothed, so it's got that going for it. And the paint job is pretty classy. But is it as beautiful as a 1980s lugged DeRosa in screaming Italian red paint? Please.

I'll give them credit for having some very smooth welds. That's about it, though.
Now THAT's a pretty bike. The model's pretty nice, too.

Deep-profile rims look totally out of place on that frame.
Ritchey Road Logic. The editors picked a steel-framed bike? Great. And I have some respect for Tom Ritchey, whose hand-built fillet brazed bikes from the old days are really elegant -- even the mountain bikes. This is not one of those bikes, however. Nope. This current Road Logic bears a label saying "Designed by Tom Ritchey" but the bike is cheaply welded, and if I had to say where, I'd guess somewhere in Asia.

The narrator of the video particularly admires the "skinny 1-1/8 steerer tube." Actually, the head tube, with its flared top and bottom sections that house an internal headset, is one of the things I find particularly atrocious. Of course, I also hate the look of a bloated carbon fork attached to relatively skinny-tubed steel frame. The proportions are completely wrong. And then there are the welds, which are just plain ugly. I know beauty is only skin deep, but there is no comparison between the smooth fillet brazing on a classic hand-built Ritchey and the minimally-finished welds on this newer version.

Sorry, nothing pretty about this.
2012 40th Anniversary Ritchey Classic -- hand-built by Tom with smooth fillet brazing. Clean, smooth, and beautiful.  And that steel fork has the right proportion for the frame. That is a pretty bike. (from

Lapierre Aircode: Carbon fiber with ridiculously over-designed tubing profiles. I'm not feeling it. "You'll have no excuse for a weak performance in the sprints," the narrator says. In other words, spend as much as you want on a bike -- if you sucked before, the bike won't help. The video narrator goes on to say, "Lapierre offer the Aircode in a variety of different build kits to suit different budgets blah blah etc. etc. . . . more importantly it looks very nice in this red color way." So, whatever the bike may offer for equipment and performance, and all of its weird melted-looking tubing, all it really comes down to is the paint job.

Tommasini Mach Titanium: I've got no problems with titanium as a bike-building material -- strong, light, durable, and rust-free. I do have a hard time getting excited about welding from an aesthetic standpoint -- welds might be strong and functional, but they generally aren't "pretty." Having said that, the welds on this Tommasini Mach Titanium are clean-looking (notice I didn't say "pretty"). The polished titanium finish is nice, and the Tommasini name is bead-blasted onto the down tube for a cool look without a decal. That's all fine. Then again, the bike has massive-diameter tubing for complete overkill. And worse, what is with that head tube?

That lower half of that head tube accommodates a 1-1/2 in. fork steerer, plus an internal headset. The outside diameter has to be close to 60mm! Sorry -- NOT PRETTY! And don't forget -- this is a road bike, not a downhill racer.

At least the welds are smooth.
I could do without the deep-profile rims, but Tommasini still makes some traditional bikes -- this frame with its slim tubing diameters, chromed lugs, and classic red with white panels is much prettier to my eye. (from

Scappa Il Corriero: I've never heard of Scappa. I have no doubt that the Il Corriero is an expensive bike, though. I like black and orange, but the massive, bloated-looking tube diameters, the huge tapered head tube, and oversized carbon fork all make the frame hard to distinguish from most other carbon bikes out there today. Apart from its color combination, what exactly makes it pretty? Again, since the frame is not much different from so many other carbon fiber bikes out there, the only thing that sets it apart is its paint job.

There you have it -- the Top 5 Prettiest Road Bikes. Or are they?


  1. I think we can all agree that red bikes go faster. It's science.

    That aside, all of these bikes have no contention for prettiest. Out of the current common production bikes that I'm aware of, I really like the look of Velo Orange bikes, some of Soma's frames (not necessarily "pretty", but nice), Mercian, and Rivendell (of course). Naturally, there are plenty of custom builders that do fine work, too.

    The carbon fiber bikes all look the same to me.
    A lot of the titanium bikes look fine, but they all want to use a goofy plastic fork.
    The bizarre head-tube configurations all look terrible. I am with you in finding deep-profile wheels to be terrible looking, particularly on a thin tubed frame. No sense of proportion.


  2. You nailed it...again. It's amazing how often you write exactly (but in a more organized and clear way) what I'm thinking. Keep up the great work!

  3. I would have chosen the Tommasini steel frame. Gorgeous lugs.

  4. If those are pretty bikes, I'm Angelina Jolie!

  5. I think carbon can go well with a classic steel frame, but maybe it's just me