January 21, 2020 7 min read
The decade of the 2010's saw a lot of changes in bike and component design. From clutch derailleurs and the rise of 1x derailleur systems to an overwhelming array of new bottom bracket standards and the rise of road bikes with disc brakes, bikes have gotten more widely differentiated across disciplines just as we find new ways to make them more versatile. Categories just seem to keep merging and dividing, but through it all, there have been some really cool bikes. We wanted to look back at the ones that we found to be most influential, innovative, or just plain beautiful, so take a look and let us know what you think should have been on the list!
So here goes, in no particular order:
Travis T's Falconer Klunker
We've long been fans of Cameron Falconer's Klunkers, but this one that Travis T, aka California Travis, built is exceptional. Travis, who works at Paul Component, got Paul Klampers, hubs, Tall and Handsome seat post, Set-N-Forget thru-axles, Boxcar stem, as well as Velocity rims anodized locally in Chico, CA. And then he convinced legendary painter Russ Picket (best known for his paint jobs on Mountain Goat frames) to paint the frame for him. The result is a bike that ties in all sorts of classic influences with its looptail rear-end and Pro-Cruiser-inspired fork design, but blends them with modern geometry to make sure it'll rip. It's also truly as much of a local build as it can be.
In addition to all of the made-in-Chico Paul components, it uses a Phil Wood bottom bracket, and a White Industries freewheel and headset–all of which come from Northern California (Falconer is based in Quincy, in the hills to the east of Chico). The Wheelsmith spokes and Velocity rims come from farther east in the USA, as do the Colorado-built Oddity bars. Somehow it seems really cool to build a bike that's made as close to home as possible–wherever home might be for you–and it's even better when the bike is as totally shreddy as this one! Check out more on this bike over at The Radavist, because it's definitely one worth exploring more.
Below: If ever there was a bike that said good times, this has got to be it. Classic lines, and details like the custom Hite-Rong seat dropper, Oddity ti bars, and custom anodized, made-in-USA just-about-everything makes us just keep coming back to look at it.
So much lightning! So metal!
Looptail rear end.
All of the parts were custom-anodized for the bike.
Speedvagen Singlespeed Cross
Sacha White's Vanilla Workshop and then his more race-focused (as well as faster turnaround and slightly more approachable price point) Speedvagen brands played an huge role the modern custom bike market that it at least partly defined by an incredibly high level of attention to detail and beautiful paint. When you take some time to really study almost any Vanilla or Speedvagen, you'll find details that most of us wouldn't even think to change: from the seat masts with their stainless steel clamping surface, to the cable routing straight through the seat tube, Chris King headset bearing caps that are integrated into match-painted custom stems, these bikes have elevated the custom bicycle world. While these bikes came on the scene before 2010, they still had a very large effect in this past decade, and this one, really epitomizes the brand by recalling the very first Vanilla Speedvagen from back in 2007.
The 2007 Vanilla Speedvagen VX07 Singlespeed Cross bike
Cannondale Synapse Hi-Mod Disc
Around 2012-2013 the road disc brake debate was getting hotter than a set of pads on a long descent, but at Eurobike in 2013 we saw a few models that used the new hydraulic road disc systems from Shimano and Sram, and like throwing gas on a fire, things got really hot for a minute (especially with Sram's first batch of brakes getting recalled), and then things settled down.
We had been seeing bikes from smaller companies with discs, but adoption by the larger brands hadn't yet happened much. One of the first bikes from the big players (and we note that because having the big bike brands involved went hand in hand with larger component manufacturers developing the parts) that went all-in with the disc road concept was Cannondale's Synapse. This Hi-Mod Disc version didn't just add disc brakes, but it also added a new bottom bracket standard–called BB30A (thanks guys!)–as well as a split seat tube and a clever–but clunky-looking–brake mount that allowed the seatstays to retain their give. While not everyone has accepted disc brakes on the road, it's pretty safe to say that they're here to stay, and it wouldn't be all that surprising to see them take over the big brand's lines completely (as they have in Cannondale's Synapse line). This bike and similar ones from the likes of Specialized and Trek, among others, helped find the nails to secure the lid on rim brakes' coffin when it comes to mainstream road bikes. We think there will always be people riding rim brakes (we love 'em on some bikes!), but the general trend of the industry is clear in this regard.
Machined out of giant chunks of aluminum and then glued and screwed together, this bike looks downright bizarre to anyone who's accustomed to bikes looking anything like they have pretty much since the introduction of the safety bicycle until recent progressive mountain bike geometry trends changed things. Wherever you sit or stand on the modern mountain bike geometry debate, it's hard to argue with Pole's place in it. The company has been one of the leaders at the forefront of changes to mountain bike geometry, and while we're not ready to make blanket statements about it, we do think exploration in that area can't hurt. In any case, we would be remiss to not mention this feat of machining and bike design. The Pole's construction is unlike anything else, and while we're not quite sure about the use of material (aluminum is recyclable, but it does seem a little excessive nonetheless to machine the frame from giant blocks of it...), we can't help but admire the result. The bike's industrial look really seems to fit its outlandish–aka: super-progressive/modern–geometry. If space aliens rode bikes, it doesn't seem like much of a stretch to think they might ride this bike. And yes, we would be first in line to ride it ourselves.
Below: between the radical geometry, and the machined frame and exposed bolts holding the pieces together, the Pole is different at the very least. Photos: Pole.
If you haven't already seen it, check out the full post about this bike here. This is a true Southern Oregon bike, and like many of Mike Desalvo's bikes, it got a very custom paint job from John Slawta, of Land Shark fame. The paint was inspired by a set of very limited-edition Phil Wood hubs, and includes the Ritchey carbon bullmoose bars and Enve Gravel fork. To round things out, Kellan got a red Phil headset and seat clamp to round out the color scheme, while the Cane Creek eeWings tie in with the bare stays on this titanium gravel/allroad bike. If you've called to as about parts, you've probably talked with Kellan, and this bike is a perfect example of why you can trust that when you talk to him about color choices, he really cares, and enjoys helping other rides get the look they're after.
Plus bikes, anyone? While the clamor quieted down a bit as the decade drew to a close, Plus bikes ended up playing at out-sized role for much of it, and the Krampus really kicked that off. When the bike was announced in 2012, Surly brought out the very first 29x3" tire to go with it, and that tire allowed a whole host of smaller brands that hadn't had the funds to get a tire made to jump on the bandwagon. Not too long after, if your bike wasn't a 27.5 plus, it was hardly worth discussing. We're going to leave the Plus-tire debate to the side, because much like the progressive geometry debate we mentioned with the Pole, we feel like it has its place, but maybe that place isn't everywhere. The debate aside, we feel that Surly's Krampus really helped usher in a new era of bikepacking and mountain bikes, and opened minds about what was possible, or what should be possible with bike design.
Below: Mathias Dammer's incredible bikepacking Krampus build is a perfect example of what the Krampus made possible. Read more about this one here. Photo: Cass Gilbert/bikepacking.com.
The open was one of the first, and arguably the most influential, of the new crop of gravel/adventure bikes that put a premium on clearance for large tires and short chainstays. The dropped driveside chainstay, which swoops out of the way of both tire and chainring, has become a common sight these days, but when the Open first rode onto the scene, it looked pretty unusual and it helped clear a path that would end up blurring the line between mountain and road bikes quite a lot. Look at almost any gravel or adventure bike today, and you'll see influences that come from this bike.
Prova's Mark Hester is one of a new crop of builders that is pushing the limits of bike building in very impressive ways. Through his collaboration with Bastion Cycles, he has integrated 3D printed parts into his frames, allowing him to make shapes that are strong, lightweight, and shaped in ways that wouldn't have been possible with traditional machining. We're excited to see more builders using these technologies.
Prova Ripido Ti. Photo: Dave Rome
Well, we're going to leave it there. We know there's a lot more that could be discussed (electric bikes, for one, have sparked more controversy than just about any other new bike technology in recent memory), but we're not going to attempt to cover everything. We think this group of bikes represents some of the important developments in this last decade, and realize that there were others. What were your favorite and/or the most important bikes from this last decade? We'd love to hear!
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