Sklar Super Something Review: Proof of Concept
Taking design cues from their fully custom US-made gravel bikes but available at a more approachable price point, the Super Something is Sklar’s first production bike. It caught our attention with its clean aesthetics, curvy steel frame, matching fork, and generous tire clearance, and we were curious to see how it would handle everyday riding and loaded bikepacking. Find Miles’ Sklar Super Something review here after extensive riding around Oregon, Idaho, and Colorado this fall…
Additional riding shots by Lucas Winzenburg
Boutique Taiwan-made production bikes are an interesting anomaly that, up until recently, I hadn’t thought that much about. Over the last few years, we’ve seen a number of one and two-person bicycle brands take off while bigger manufacturers continue to downsize and lay off employees left and right. The success of small bike brands is partly due to their limited batch sizes and the fact that they didn’t get carried away during the pandemic-powered bike boom. While big brands are struggling to move excess inventory, many smaller brands have been flourishing.
Brands such as Wilde, Black Mountain Cycles, Crust, Tumbleweed, Stooge, Monē, and now Sklar have been busy releasing small-batch, Taiwan-made steel bikes that piggyback on their bespoke framebuilder reputation. In reality they aren’t producing anything that’s worlds apart from what Surly, All-City, and Salsa have been doing for longer—and for much cheaper. But there’s something to be said for supporting a smaller, potentially local brand with a unique aesthetic and relatable story. Especially when that brand is owned and operated by a talented, sought-after framebuilder. If I were heading out to buy a steel bike today, I’d lean strongly toward something from one of the smaller brands listed above, and I doubt I’m alone on that.
Say Hello to Production Sklar Bikes
Adam Sklar started Sklar Bikes in Bozeman, Montana, in 2014. Up until recently, Sklar was exclusively designing and building handmade custom bicycles, mostly gravel bikes, hardtails, and all-terrain-style rigs. Like most handbuilt bikes, a custom Sklar came with an exceedingly long wait time and a made-in-USA price tag. Sklar has developed somewhat of a cult following over the years while also winning several bike show awards, including “Best Mountain Bike” at NAHBS in 2017. As far as one-person, US-based, high-end framebuilders go, Sklar has some real brand power.
This made it even more interesting to learn that Sklar Bikes is officially transitioning away from custom bikes and focusing on small-batch production models instead. After talking to Adam about this, I learned that his move to production bikes will allow him to offer a more approachable timeline and price point and a product that is more in line with his own personal values. As a custom framebuilder, Adam has had a front-row seat in the bike world, working with customers directly and learning why people wanted new designs or tech integrated into their bikes. Adam explained, “Custom builders are the first to get requests for most things that eventually become norms—new tire/wheel sizes, new ideas behind geometry, gravel bikes, new-school mountain bikes, funky accommodations for bike touring. I was there designing and building some of the first of these things, and that was very cool and rewarding.”
However, at one point not so long ago, Adam found himself with a two-year waitlist and decided that wasn’t what he wanted the future of Sklar to look like. He stopped taking custom orders completely in 2021, took a step back, and decided that small-batch production bikes were the best way to get his bikes to people who previously couldn’t get on one. For now, Adam doesn’t have plans to offer custom frames again. He’ll continue building prototypes in his shop, including some micro-batch options like the new Performance Basket Jammer, but for now, his focus is building a production line and getting more Sklars out there to his customers.
Introducing the Sklar Super Something
The Sklar Super Something is Adam’s first production bike. The frame and fork are designed by Adam but manufactured in Taiwan by Maxway Cycles—the same folks who make Surly, All-City, Salsa, and others. Designed from the ground up, the Super Something is made from size-specific, double-butted, air-hardened 4130 Chromoly steel tubing with custom-forged dropouts and machined head tubes. At first glance, it has that unmistakable Sklar silhouette, including a generously curved top tube, classic lines, and a clean aesthetic. “Keep it simple” are the first three words Adam uses to describe the Super Something’s design philosophy, and it seems he achieved this.
The Super Something falls in between a big-tired road bike and drop-bar mountain bike, tilting ever so slightly toward the road bike realm. It blends the latest bicycle geometry developments into a classic package that still feels like a proper gravel bike, because, as Adam puts it, “There is something really fun about riding a road bike where you aren’t supposed to.” Above all else, the Super Something is designed to be versatile. The standard build is designed around a ~70mm stem, drop bars, and 700 x 42mm tires. According to Adam, it also plays nicely as a flat-bar bike with a longer (90-110mm) stem and has clearance for up to 700 x 55mm / 27.5 x 2.1” tires for those looking to stretch its capabilities even further.
Design Details and Specs
The Super Something’s Chromoly steel frame has a 68mm BSA threaded bottom bracket, uses a standard 1 ⅛” steerer, and rocker-style dropouts that allow for adjustable chainstay length and singlespeed setups. The frame and fork use 12mm thru-axles (142mm rear/100mm front), fully external cable routing, post mount or flat mount rear brakes (using the Paragon Machine Works rocker dropout inserts), and an ISO front brake on the matching unicrown fork. Folks who like to push the limits of what a gravel bike is capable of might miss internal dropper post routing, but an externally-routed post such as the PNW Cascade could get you around this.
The frame has rear rack mounts, fender mounts, two standard bottle cage mounts, and an additional set of bosses under the downtube that double as mounts for cable guides. Unlike most gravel bikes these days, which all seem to come equipped with three-pack mounts, the Super Something’s fork has crown, mid-blade, and dropout bosses that work with virtually any front rack. Although, in my mind, the added versatility of some additional fork blade bosses is worth the small hit on the bike’s overall aesthetics.
The Super Something is designed around 1x drivetrains but can accommodate 2x systems depending on desired chainring sizes. It uses a common headset standard that allows the use of pretty much any modern carbon fork or even a short-travel gravel suspension fork by swapping out the lower crown race. The frames ship with front/rear axles and a seatpost clamp, and they are ED-coated before painting to protect them from rust. According to Adam, complete builds have been coming out in the 22-25 pound (10-11 kg) range.
First Impressions and Geometry
I picked up the Super Something that Adam built up for this review at the MADE bike show in Portland a few months back. The build kit is based heavily on Adam’s Super Something he rode in the Tour Divide this year and ended up being one of his favorite versions of the bike. It’s a type of all-rounder tourer, but more on that later.
Beyond the massive main triangle that’s begging for a huge frame bag, a few things stood out to me on my first few rides around Portland. First, even the nominally 60cm frame didn’t feel nearly as long as the last few gravel bikes I reviewed here on the site, which is a geometry trend that seems to have trickled in from the mountain bike world. Second, it offered the perfect blend of sportiness and upright comfort that hit a sweet spot for long rides and riding trails. Right away, I noticed that I could ride comfortably in the drops, a position I rarely find myself in on more traditional gravel bikes, and I felt equally at home on the flats or hoods, where I was upright enough to look around at my surroundings. A favorable characteristic for bikepacking, in my eyes.
The Super Something’s geometry falls in between a relaxed drop-bar mountain bike and a racy gravel bike. Compared to the latest drop-bar mountain bikes, such as the Cotic Cascade, Otso Fenrir, or Chumba Yaupon, it has a noticeably shorter stack height (20-30mm shorter), more conservative head tube angle (~1.5° steeper), and a wheelbase that’s at least 70mm shorter. Comparing it to run-of-the-mill gravel bikes, the Super Something is a touch more slack (69.5°-70.5° HTA), has a slightly shorter reach, and maintains a comparable or higher stack for a more relaxed stance. As far as overall geometry and features go the closest competitors I found are the Crust Bombora and Soma Wolverine, which also both sport a near-horizontal top tube, long-ish reach, and medium-high stack. The Super Something has a head tube angle that’s 0.5° slacker than the Bombora and 1.5° than the Wolverine, which translates to 20-30mm of length at the front end, which should, in theory, help with stability while descending rough terrain.
Overall, the geometry isn’t groundbreaking, but Adam did a good job at mixing elements from several sub-genres of drop-bar bikes, and I think it works. Adam called the specific build he put together for me the “all-arounder bike tourer,” which falls right in line with how I feel about it. Whether it was pointed up or downhill, the steerer was predictable and the ride was comfortable. That little extra stack also allowed me to get my bars nearly inline with my saddle, which is a real bonus for long rides and overnight trips.
|Metric||Sklar Super Something (58)||Crust Bombora (L)||Soma Wolverine (58)|
|Seat tube angle||74°||73°||73°|
|Chainstay length (Min)||424||425||427|
The 60cm frame I was testing has a 70.5° head tube angle, 626mm stack, and 429mm reach. It’s not as slack, long, or tall in the front compared to more off-road-focused drop-bar bikes we’ve seen, but it also felt far from being racy, which isn’t a characteristic I generally look for when riding drop bars. The chainstay length is adjustable from 424 to 450mm across all sizes–the longest setting being the most stable and perfect for riding off-road–and the relatively low 74mm bottom bracket drop (size 60cm) keeps things planted and reminds you that it’s still a gravel bike at heart. Compared to other gravel bikes such as the Surly Straggler or All-City Gorilla Monsoon, it has a slightly higher trail number and longer front-centre, which contributes to its ability to hold a straight line and feel in control even when things get rough. The Super Something relies on a fairly standard mix of angles and features combined in a way that’s somewhat unique and ends up being a home-run for someone like me who often has trouble finding comfort on drop-bar bikes.
Underbiking World Championships
I didn’t plan on spending most of my fall riding with my hands wrapped around curly bars. In fact, Emily and I had plans to dive head-first into mountain biking around the Western US, but one thing led to another, and I somehow ended up with no mountain bike and one Super Something. Over the last couple of months, we traveled from Oregon to Colorado in our van, working and riding our way through a variety of landscapes and terrain. Maybe I was set on riding singletrack, or maybe Emily wasn’t willing to ride gravel on her full-suspension trail bike, but for whatever reason, we didn’t spend much time on smooth gravel roads.
My first taste of underbiking came in the form of some moderately tame trails around Bend, Oregon. We got out on a scenic ride with Katy and Bryce of Old Man Mountain one day and rode in Phil’s Trails area the next morning. I’d consider both areas perfect for a hardtail mountain bike and, with the right attitude, also perfect for a drop-bar bike. The riding wasn’t technical or steep, but tackling it at speed with a rigid fork, drop bars, and 2.2” tires required concentration. Before dropping into a trail known as Phil’s Canyon, a couple rolled up, looked at my bike with concern, and quickly warned me that I would “absolutely need to walk my bike down a few sections” because I was on a gravel bike. Super Something, engage!
The Super Something handles singletrack better than I expected. Even as the terrain got chunkier and steeper as we made our way east toward Colorado, I found myself buzzing down the trails relatively comfortably. The gravel-esque geometry of the Super Something keeps things sporty enough that it doesn’t feel like a heavy touring bike. In fact, it’s not sluggish at all and has a playful feeling when riding with some momentum. It was a good reminder that just because a super long reach has gained popularity in the mountain bike world doesn’t mean it necessarily adds anything for a gravel bike, despite many brands leaning that way. Paired with the Crust Towel Rack handlebar, I was able to switch between riding in the hoods and the drops easily, shift my weight around the bike, and navigate some tricky features without feeling too out of place. It felt good off-road, so I kept pushing the limits.
I tackled a short day ride on a section of the Colorado Trail, climbed up to and descended from the infamous Pioneer Cabin outside of Ketchum, Idaho, and chased Emily around blue and black-rated singletrack for weeks. One ride of note was with our very own Lucas, following a challenging route up and over beautiful Rollins Pass near Boulder. The way up was chunky in spots, but totally rideable, and the way down was better suited to a long-travel full-suspension mountain bike. Despite the rough ride, the Super Something made it out alive on the other side. I was surprised at just how surefooted it felt navigating tight switchbacks and burly terrain. The conservative reach paired with the Towel Rack’s shallow drop allowed me to ride in the drops for long periods, which was a first for me. I found myself launching off little drops and rocks and generally having a good time everywhere I rode.
When the trails got extra bumpy, I found the Super Something wasn’t the smoothest riding gravel bike I’ve thrown a leg over. As an example, the basic double-butted 4130 Chromoly steel tubing felt harsh when compared to the smooth-riding characteristics of the Ritchey Outback’s triple-butted Tange tubing I reviewed. Even with the tire pressure dropped way down, there were some noticeable jarring characteristics when riding through high-speed rock gardens and grueling washboard. However, take this with a grain of salt because I felt like the situations where this was most noticeable were far outside of the Super Something’s dirt-touring wheelhouse. I imagine thicker bar tape, more supple tires, and tweaked tire pressure would have helped alleviate some of this.
Bikepacking on the Super Something
While the Super Something might not abound with threaded bosses, it has all the necessary provisions and features needed for bikepacking. It’s hard to ignore the massive main triangle that comes with its long seat tube and curved top tube, leaving plenty of room for a big half-frame bag or monstrous full-frame bag. There are two standard bottle mounts in the main triangle on all frame sizes, and they’re positioned as low as possible toward the bottom bracket to leave plenty of room for bottles or bags above them.
There are threaded bosses along the underside of the downtube, the bottom three of which can also double as cargo cage bosses by using longer hex bolts to accommodate the bolt-on cable guides as well. There are also dedicated rack and fender mounts out back. As mentioned, the fork isn’t plastered in mounts but has just the right amount to provide some options. The mid-blade mounts and threaded crown make it compatible with most front racks, and there are additional bosses down near the dropouts for racks with vertical stays. I think the Super Something’s clean silhouette pairs perfectly with a small rando-style front rack like my well-loved Rawland Rando Rack (pictured here) or the Nitto M-18, which can both double as bag supports or basket platforms without adding too much weight to the front of the bike.
The Super Something felt at home loaded up with bikepacking gear, but is best suited to light loads. With heavier loads it started to feel a touch flexy so I might avoid running big heavy panniers and stick to medium to lightly loaded bikepacking setups when possible. With minimal provisions for a day ride or weekend bikepacking trip, the Super Something had a lively and springy ride quality that was a blast to rip around on. As mentioned earlier, it’s not the most compliant frame I’ve ridden but I think the mix of stiffness and suppleness probably makes sense for how most people will ride this bike–on long day rides, zipping around town, and the occasional bikepacking trip. At low speeds, the front end was a touch twitchy, but nothing too distracting, and it felt stable and surefooted while rolling along at speed. What I liked about it most was how it never felt sluggish, whether loaded or not, even on long and grueling climbs. It climbs like a little mountain goat and, despite its gravel touring roots, it’s surprisingly capable descending as well. I was constantly impressed by how well the bike navigated tight downhill switchbacks, which I attribute to its low bottom bracket, not overly long or tall front end, and comfortable handlebars.
The way I see it, the Super Something has two distinct riding positions, which is partly due to the Crust Towel Rack handlebar and its unique angles. Riding in the hoods or on the top of the bar makes for a slightly perched atop or out-of-the-bike experience, which I find perfect for multi-day rides when I’m often checking out the views around me. It’s also great for riding in town and commuting when having your head on a swivel is crucial for a safe ride. Riding in the drops, which is a position I don’t find myself in that often, is the real only way to descend on chunky terrain. The extra flex of the flared end of the bars combined with a slightly more aggressive and stable position is reasonably comfortable due to the tall front end and shallow handlebar drop. The resulting riding position was only slightly more aggressive than my normal mountain bike “ready position” with elbows bent, which allowed me to tackle trails much more suited to a mountain bike.
A Dirt Touring Build Kit
As I referenced earlier, the build Adam put together for me is based on his 2023 Tour Divide setup. It is built around a wide Crust Towel Rack bar, 29 x 2.2” Teravail Sparwood tires, and a wide-range 1×12 SRAM AXS drivetrain. It was no surprise to see some high-end bits sprinkled in, including White Industries hubs, cranks, and headset and a stubby matching SimWorks stem. This specific build would retail for around $5,100 USD, which is certainly on the expensive side but pretty well-equipped for the price.
It’s rare to have major build issues with well-specced bikes these days. Even low to mid-range components are so good that finding anything to criticize about wireless drivetrains, massive cassettes, and boutique made-in-USA parts feels close to impossible. It was great to finally ride a drop-bar bike with proper gearing for loaded bikepacking, which is often overlooked. The Crust Towel Rack bar is a new favorite and played a big role in my overall experience and comfort. Of course, the big, fast-rolling Sparwood tires also contributed to the bike’s ability to handle rough terrain and maintain traction on steep pitches, but 2.2” tires are about as big as I’d comfortably run. For even more street cred, you could work with Sklar to include their new titanium seatpost or the Super Stem Thing, which are designed specifically to match the overall aesthetic and functionality of the Super Something.
- Frame: Sklar Super Something, Ocean Blue (60cm)
- Fork: Sklar Super Something
- Rims: Astral Wanderlust
- Hubs: White Industries
- Headset: White Industries EC34mm/44mm
- Crankset: White Industries, 36T
- Bottom Bracket: White Industries BSA 68mm
- Tires: Teravail Sparwood 29 x 2.2”
- Derailleur: SRAM GX AXS 12-Speed
- Shifter: SRAM AXS Rival
- Brakes: SRAM Rival
- Handlebar: Crust Towel Rack, 66cm
- Seatpost: SimWorks Beatnik, 80mm
- Stem: SimWorks Rhonda
- Saddle: Reform Seymour
- Versatile geometry hits a sweet spot for everyday rides, bikepacking, and all-terrain touring
- Designed by a talented custom frame builder and inspired by much more expensive bikes
- Clearance for 29 x 2.2” tires, rack mounts, sliding dropouts, and a steel fork check a lot of boxes we like to see
- Get a Sklar without waiting two years
- Big main triangle for bottles and bags
- On the expensive side for a double-butted steel gravel bike
- Not as smooth-riding as other production gravel bikes with higher-end tubing
- Some folks might miss triple pack mounts on the fork legs
- No internal dropper post routing
- Model/Size Tested: Sklar Super Something, 60cm
- Weight: 23.9 pounds (10.8 kg)
- Place of Manufacture: Taiwan
- Price: $1,600 USD frameset / ~$5,200 complete build as pictured
- Manufacturer’s Details: SklarBikes.com
After nearly a decade of custom-only bikes, it’s exciting to see Sklar available at a more accessible price point. Technically speaking, the Super Something might not seem like anything revolutionary, but it’s the end result of years of high-end custom framebuilding and bicycle design, which is surely worth something. More importantly, the Super Something is a proof of concept for Sklar. It represents a versatile and super-capable platform that can be built up in a variety of ways depending on your preferences and needs. Tour Divide-ready dirt touring rig? Single-speed urban commuter? Speedy gravel bike? Check, check, and check; the Super Something can do all that.
Yes, it’s more expensive than comparable Maxway-made frames from established brands such as the Surly Straggler, Soma Wolverine, or All-City Gorilla Monsoon, but I can only assume Sklar is kicking things off with small batch sizes, which undoubtedly affects what kind of pricing they can offer. It’s also more expensive than similar bikes from other boutique brands, such as the Crust Bombora, any of Black Mountain Cycles’ offerings, and the Wilde Rambler. The big question is, do you get what you pay for? This ultimately depends on what Sklar means to you and what kind of bike you’re after. If Adam and his brand are something that you jive with, then it might just be worth the extra cost if you’re on the hunt for your next dirt-touring bike. Taking all the factors outlined above into consideration, it earns my seal of approval.
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