Wednesday, April 8, 2015

10 Most Beautiful Bicycles?

I love articles like this one from BBC Autos: The 10 Most Beautiful Bicycles. Or rather, I love to make fun of them. It's pretty clear to me that automotive writers and editors have very different priorities, and a very different interpretation of beauty. I might describe some of the bikes listed here as "interesting," and in some cases, "useful" or "utilitarian," but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

So here's the rundown of the 10 most beautiful bicycles to a bunch of automotive editors.

BSG Wood.b Duomatic. Made in France out of plywood and aluminium, the BBC Autos editors call it "closer to art than machinery." Whatever. Wood bicycles seem to be all the rage right now. Why? Sustainability? Okay. Wood can be constructed beautifully, but this isn't. It has all the beauty of a junior-high woodshop project, and it gets even uglier when you find out that it costs over $4200. I'm guessing from the name "Duomatic" that maybe it has 2 speeds? Just a guess.

Pashley Parabike. Now this one is a classic -- or more correctly, classic-inspired. Based on the old BSA paratrooper bikes used by British soldiers during WWII, the Pashley version keeps the bowed multi-tubed frame, but lacks the folding frame of the true paratrooper bikes. Beautiful? Maybe. I prefer to call it "interesting."

Vanmoof S Series: There's something very Mies van der Rohe about the Vanmoof, which might work for modern architecture, but I don't think it makes for a beautiful bicycle.The oversized top tube, which intersects the seat and head tubes (and contains integrated head- and tail-lights) completely dominates the look of this bike, which some people seem to want to declare as the ultimate urban commuter bike. Sorry. Keep looking.

The Donky Bike is appropriately named. With 20in. wheels and cargo platforms front and rear, the Donky is supposed to be a compact alternative to much larger cargo bikes. Utilitarian, and potentially very useful to some people. But not beautiful.
Viks Urban Cycle. Designed by Estonia's Velonia studio, the Viks is best described as industrial minimalist -- right down to its seat-tube-less frame design. Its shape is formed out of two large steel tubes that join together at the head tube. Given the extra wheel-following curve at the "down-tube," it seems like they've more than made up for whatever weight they lost with the lack of a seat tube -- while further reducing structural integrity at the same time. According to the designers, brakes would be very tricky to fit. In other words, this is better suited for hanging on the wall than actually riding.

GreenChamp Original: Made in Singapore out of bamboo (technically a grass, not a wood) that has been infused with honey (?) the GreenChamp is a balance bike for teaching kids to ride. The BBC Autos editors call it "a triumph of design." Why? Kinda looks like a bike that a kid might make out of Lincoln Logs. 

Cherubim Hummingbird. In sort of an art-deco inspired streamliner sort of way, the Hummingbird is, I'll admit, kind of beautiful. From a functional standpoint, well, I suppose it is rideable art, with the emphasis more on "art" than "rideable." One of the truly unusual details is the arching top tube that blends into the handlebar stem (visually - not physically), and continues out over the back wheel. I've never seen it in person, but I understand it is exquisitely made.

Faraday Porteur. It doesn't look like it at first glance, but the Faraday Porteur, from Portland Oregon, is an electric-assist bike. It has a hub motor, with batteries packed into the frame tubes, and offers up to 15 miles of electric assist. The Porteur's look has a certain industrial functionality that makes it better looking than most e-bikes I've seen -- but I don't think I'd call it beautiful, either.

Engeenius Cykno. Made in Italy, the Cykno makes me think more of vintage motorcycles than bicycles. I can't tell if that's stainless steel in the frame, or what, but the forks, as well as the radial-spoked wheels, are carbon fiber. It's another e-bike, weighing in at 57 lbs. Lucky that its 500-watt motor and battery pack (tucked inside that leather-wrapped central compartment) give a 37-mile range. Getting stranded with a dead battery on this thing would mean a pretty brutal pedal home. Again, I might describe the look as "interesting" but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Oh - by the way - this thing sells for about $22,000.

World Bicycle Relief Buffalo. Proving that there are multiple ways to define beauty, the Buffalo is perhaps beautiful for what it does or what it represents, more than how it looks. Basically not much different from any typical utility bicycle, the Buffalo is designed to help provide relief in Africa. The U.S.-based charity World Bicycle Relief provides the bikes to facilities in several African nations where they are assembled by local workers, and donated to various organizations, or sold cheaply to consumers who need them for transportation. 

Well, there you have 'em. The 10 most beautiful bicycles. Any thoughts?


  1. Hm... functionality apparently doesn't count. Same in politics.

  2. The only one that pleases me, aesthetically, is the Cherubim Hummingbird. It's graceful in the way certain bridges are. But I'm not sure I'd want to ride it.

    As for the others, the Donky Bike might have, and the Buffalo certainly has, a real purpose. And the Pashley is useful, though it doesn't seem to fulfill any need that can't be met by some other bike, and has, as you say, an "interesting" look.

  3. It looks like they chose their picks by doing a Google search for "interesting bicycles". Nary a true classic to be found. But then again, BBC Autos should have nothing to do with bicycles anyway.

  4. The editors need to stick with cars.

  5. Beautiful? Was this article published on April 1st?

  6. I think budnitz do a more attractive version of the parabike (again no folding):