Friday Group Ride #235

Friday Group Ride #235

I don’t know why I own a blue bike. I don’t like blue, but when I was talking with the builder, I asked what color he liked on his bikes, and he said, “We have this great blue,” and I was so in thrall to the idea of speaking direct to the source and getting something he thought was good that I said, “Sounds great!!” I wanted the silver, but he said that never came out as well as he wanted it to.

I have another bike which, until recently, was battleship gray, and Padraig gave me no end of grief, because that bike was titanium, and he said it was subversive to take a polished Ti frame and paint it a flat gray. I like gray. It speaks to me.

I’m having that bike repainted now and, shockingly, two of the colors in the new design are bright blue and mustard. Quite how I arrived, again, with blue and then doubled down with mustard, baffles me. The other colors are a deep, dark red and white. Somehow in that larger context, it makes sense.

I also have a green bike, a color that matches the ’68 Mustang hard-top my dad drove every day from October ’67 through late summer 1993. Green is my favorite color. I like it in almost all of its hues, although I confess, I’m not sure how well it works on a bike frame.

Of course, the bike industry has been selling us black/red/white for decades. There is a reason for that. It looks fantastic, if, at this point, uninspired. Likewise, matte black. Black never goes out of style, but it maybe isn’t always the most stylish choice either.

What is current, color-wise, on bikes, can be hard to pin down. I read a report from a painter friend of mine a few weeks ago that surveyed the palette of fashion week in New York, invoked the pigment sages at Pantone, and took note of the 2015 offerings from the major car makers, the ones that come after, you guessed it, black, white and red.

I can’t tell you what will look great next year. I can’t even tell you that my own bike, drying in the paint booth as I type, will look great (although it will look great to me). What I can tell you, is that it’s hard to paint a bike. The canvas is, relative to its size, quite small. There is not much visual space with which to make an impression. Solid colors are usually the most striking. The ability to carry off a multi-color scheme is a valuable commodity. It can also, in the swish and tide of style, be hard to drag public opinion in any one direction that isn’t black, white or red.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what is the best color for a bike? White seems silly for a machine that operates best when properly greased. Black is good, but not visible at night, nor does it exactly project personality. And red is bad, for the same reason red cars are bad, because it attracts too much attention and connotes a speed that may not actually be there. Those are my opinions, but then I don’t like blue.

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  1. Full Monte

    I’ve got an old GT mountain bike I picked up decades ago. It is kinda purple, with a black splatter finish over the base coat. It can be absolutely crusted in filth, and at a distance of five feet or more, you can’t tell. When it gets a deep scratch down to the metal, I just squirt some black spray paint onto a paper towel and dab some new “splatter” over the scar. So while it exudes early 90s fad styling (and dates its rider accordingly) it is the best color for a bike, period. My lack of bicycle maintenance cannot accurately be judged. And the frequency I manage to contact hard and immovable objects while riding the old GT can quickly and easily be camouflaged.

  2. Hoshie99

    I like too many colors to pick just one. I am stuck in a red / white / black scheme due to team colors but if I had to guess on the next frame which is likely custom, I’d say a lighter shade of blue (with gray undertones) with gold and white accents is what I’d do.

    If you have time to kill, Mercian has an online frame builder where one of the last steps is picking from their color catalog. Too much fun.

    Pink never looked so good.


  3. Harris

    My brother has a Yellow and White Dave Scott Centurion, which rules. Some time ago, I purchased the same Centurion, but in a Miami Vice-sque Pinkish-purplish and Yellow, which also ruled, but it was too big and I sold it to a buddy. I still think the coolest looking bike I ever saw was a Blue and Silver Raleigh Professional a friend of my dad’s bought when I was a kid in 1979.

    If it doesn’t grab your attention immediately, it needs to be a different color. Says the guy with a black, and a red. The best of my bunch, though, is that polished titanium. I get more remarks on that than anything. You may love grey, and it may suit you, but polished ti is a looker.

  4. Paul

    Road bike is black and white, Mountain bike is black and blue (appropriately)

    I like black best, then probably white, not that picky (or stylish) saw a sharp fluoro magenta? accented bike last week, just not me though.

    Color is pretty subjective, the same blue that looks good on a Bianchi doesn’t seem right on a Trek.

  5. B Mack

    Blue. My favorite bike has a metalic blue Waterford steel road race frame from the 1990’s. It is built up with contemporary Dura Ace components and a Deda cockpit. I get appreciative comments every time I ride it, especially when hammering along with a pack of carbon craving road hounds. Blue rocks.

  6. CBontheEVO

    I’ll take whatever color or finish Firefly puts out. Every one of their bikes is looking incredible. With the exception of the Bones bikes. Just not my thing.

  7. Mateo

    This is not just about frame colour, but what you wear as well,
    Reason why black/white/red, but also Ti/grey are popular is because they allow you to wear almost any combination of colours. Thank god eighties are over – we painfully learned that even with such a small canvas real abominations are indeed possible.
    I have the same thing with blue – I don’t like it on a bike, still my vintage Concorde is metallic blue, with chrome stays. I can only wear my Banesto gear on it 🙂
    My early-midlife-crisis Bianchi is grey/ white carbon, my full-on-crisis Wilier is
    matte black with red appliques. Probably these are the best colours for me, as I can wear anything with them and tune it to the weather or my mood.

  8. Ghost Rider

    I’m rather partial to Bianchi’s iconic celeste — lots of celeste, not just accents on a mostly black frame (which so many modern Bianchis seem to be).

    It pairs perfectly with dark blue accents…and even yellow, ala Pantani’s Bianchi years.

  9. Ghost Rider

    I’ve also been known to spice up a boring bike with a splash of Duplicolor’s “Effex” rainbow sparkle clearcoat. My primary bike is battleship grey with red accents, and a Bootsy Collins – like rainbow sparkle in the sunlight. No one ever accused me of having good taste, I must admit.

  10. Dave

    One of my bikes is painted in the T-Mobile colors, magenta, black and white, and it’s pretty striking, I guess, although if I cared about matching kit it would be problematic.
    My favorite bikes were all red or orange, I like bikes that look fast! Whatever the color, I really like bikes with the traditional white panels behind the text.

  11. Duncan Hall

    Red, white and blue. For me, that colour scheme cannot be bettered. I’m planning a new bike in a couple of years. Probably custom steel. I like pink, and I like Italian bikes, so that works well. I just know it’ll end up being red, white and blue, though!

  12. Michael

    Truly, I think the answer to the question is the color of whatever bike I happen to be riding at the time. I have owned, or still own, red, blue, black, yellow, white, green bikes, and even something I call pewter, which seems to have a hint of violet to it (though being a mountain bike it is usually dirty and I can’t tell anyway). I liked / like them all, and certainly never liked any of them less because of their color. I will say that my most recent build is green (my favorite color as well), and with its orange, white and black accents (components) I am especially digging it right now.

  13. Margaret

    I picked my bike because the price was right and the only choice left in my size was red and white which suit me just fine. Given a choice though, I like powder blue, apple green and/or orange.

  14. Aar

    Before choosing colors, I like bike finishes that feature the builder’s workmanship and the painter’s skill. I also like paint with visual depth like pearl coats and “candy apple” finishes.

    Choosing colors gives me fits. In the end, two tones of blue wind up being the idea that gains my greatest favor. I’d like to tell a great artist painter who matches colors well to use royal blue as the primary color and let them know that I like both cobalt and navy but they don’t need to use both and let them surprise me. I suppose I would be happy with two tones concept applied to any loosely defined color like red, orange or whatever…

    Great input from everybody else. Thanks, Robot, for opening the topic.

  15. Pat O'Brien

    Two years ago I got a Soma Saga frame and fork and moved all the parts from a Trek 520 to the Saga. British Racing Green with tan accents. It is now my favorite color. I liked the Saga so much, especially the excellent paint job, I tried to order an Soma ES frame and fork in deep red. All out in my size no matter where I looked. Got it in silver, just like my old Trek pilot. Silver is OK, just barely. If it ever needs a paint job, British Racing Green. My Niner MCR is A&W Root Beer color. BRG for it too when it needs to be painted. But a Bianchi? Celeste and only celeste. Ti? No paint at all.

    1. Gary

      I do like the colors on that Soma. BRG: see my comment below on the repaint of my Raleigh. Redolent of old Jaguar XKEs.

  16. Steve Barner

    My first real high end bike was a black Paramount, back when they came with chomed, ornate Nervex luga, and six inches of chrome at the ends of the forks and stays. I’ve always thought that the combination was absolutely stunning, but really it was only bacuse of the contrast with the chrome. Otherwise, black bikes are boring, especially when fitted with black components. I do have an old Serotta that has been powdercoated black and I ride it as a crappy weather fast bike. I like the semi gloss, no decal look, as it makes me feel a bit safer locking it up when I have to, especially with its hodge podge of midrange parts. Certain bikes seem best when painted in their iconic colors. I love a classic Bianchi in Celeste, or a Gios in that electric blue, and the salmon red looks totally hot on a California Masi.

    I’ve got an old Richie Sachs that is a sweet maroon–very classy on a classic bike. I hopped onto a group ride last year and a guy I’ve known for decades said “I don’t know if you really should be riding that bike out where it might get hurt.” This was while he was on a new bike with Dura Ace Di2.

    In 1977, I bought a new Paramount touring bike in Flamboyant Red. The flamboyant colors were popular on Schwinns and many British bikes, and were a transluscent color coat over a white or silver base coat, often with a subtle, fine metal flake. I’ve always thought that these were amoung the classiest colors on bikes, and Craig Calfee has taken this concept to new heights with the transluscent colors applied directly over carbon fiber. It can make your heart jump when you see it.

    I like some bright yellows on bikes, which you don’t see very often. There’s a guy I pass once in a while who I see commuting on a flourescent yellow bike with matching rims. It’s so obnoxiously bright that I think it may just be ghe ultimate color fot a commuting bike. My wife’s Wareford Paramount mountain bike changes from reddish purple to blue, depenring on the direction of the sun–a beautifully cool effect. Finally, there is Ti, which really does look best without paint, though I’ve seen some two-tone versions that use a translucent color coat, to great effect.

  17. Emil

    I was having a custom road bike built and struggling to pick colors. Then I saw the movie “Days of Thunder” and was struck by the Green/Yellow paint scheme of Tom Cruise’s character’s racecar. The paint job on my bike was a base Dark Green with a fade to Primer Yellow. It turned out great. On my next custom MTB I stayed with the theme and did a Dark Green Metallic base with Primer Yellow spatters. Both fit the bikes well, as well as the era.

  18. jorgensen

    I have many more bikes than a rational person. Of the bikes I ordered or controlled at repaint Turquoise is the clear choice. Silver is my least favorite, but I have a Cinelli that I cannot see in any other color than that, save black. The Gios needs to be Gios Blue. I have a few white bikes. Of all, too many silver.
    I do have this school bus yellow Colnago from days gone by, the 70’s did provide much more personality than today.

  19. Jim P.

    The best color is whatever Mr. Pegoretti decides it is. Last weekend I saw a particularly gorgeous one in no less than green. It was a lovely medium green base peppered with a multitude of other-toned green squares. Actually, it might have been like this. Either way, quite striking. As for myself, my custom steel bike was originally a very pleasing shade of bluish-green, or greenish-blue, depending on who was opining at the time. After a big adventure I had it repainted a deep red with cream colored panels on the down and seat tubes. So classy. I never tire of just looking at it. On the other hand, I never cease to get compliments on my
    Tokyo Langster , especially from non-cyclists.

  20. peter lin

    maybe I’m weird, but I actually don’t really care about the color of my bike. the only thing that I care about is how it operates. No squeaking, no weird sounds, shifts when I need it and responds when I push. As long as the paint job was good and isn’t horrendous, I really don’t care what color it is.

  21. Pingback: The black bike conundrum - Page 3

  22. Michael

    I am colorblind and can’t say I pay very much attention to my bike’s color. Because others sometimes do, I always ask the fellow who builds the frame to choose the color. As I understand it, I have a red bike, a green bike, a blue bike and two that are some sort of purple (although distinct shades), plus a red tandem and a black commuter. What is important is the paint covers the steel on the steel bikes, and I do patch it with some clear nail polish as needed. And I am afraid I have never understood the idea of colors either going well together or clashing, so cannot match my kit with the bike. Don’t ride with me if you are bothered by such things – I simply cannot figure that stuff out!

  23. Peter Kelley

    Love Bianchi Celeste but only on a Bianchi, and Merckx cannibol orange. Love Richard Sachs’ new orange cross bikes. Loved the garish Mapei Colnagos. Had a British racing green & brushed Ti Serotta once, and liked that.

  24. Derek

    As a mechanic I did not like the white phase that came to MTB’s until I started to work on the bikes. Once clean, frame inspection is much easier and quicker on a white part. More work to keep looking good. Performance before convenience.

  25. Jay

    Yellow is the best color for a bicycle frame (IMO). Since I was able to specify colors for my Spectrum, I chose a bright yellow frame accented with Rabobank orange. The Spectrum logo looks great against that background.

    1. Frank

      Great combo Jay. My Spectrum frame looks fantastic in bare Ti except for a yellow background band for the Spectrum logo on the downtube. With no clear coat (despite Tom’s recommendation) all the other Spectrum logos have worn off.

  26. Shawn

    I have never chosen a bike based on color. But I know people who have. In fact, several of them paid a premium for a lesser quality bike because of its color scheme.

    I recently bought a Niner Jet 9 RDO. I don’t care that much about color, and it’s not like I’m going to start beating my wife if the color scheme on the team kit that i wear (and pay nearly retail for) clashes with my bike. Anyway, I chose Vanna White. Of course these bikes are mostly black, so i basically only chose panel color. I showed up at the shop a couple weeks later to pick it up and saw a liquidy-new Niner (Kermit) Green bike all prepped for me. WTF? Only one thing to do: throw a leg over and shred it!

  27. Gary

    I’m having a Raleigh frame repainted. When I bought it new in 1971 or 1972, it was a very pretty lavender. Quite unusual, and I have only seen one photo of the bike in that color; nothing in the Raleigh catalogs. Later on I had it painted red. This time I chose British racing green. Seems fitting. The bottom halves of the fork blades were and still are chrome, and still are servicable. I have made lots of changes to the components over the years, but the original Brooks saddle is still good.

    I wonder (no, I really don’t wonder) how many people buying carbon bikes today will still be fiddling with them 40 years from now.

  28. Tom in Albany

    I have a Serotta Ti bike. I left it unpolished. The fork is a bright red. My old Schwinn is blue. I like blue. I think the frame in the top photo looks great! I don’t want a red bike. Pretty much ever. And black bikes look unimaginative. What? You couldn’t pick a color? So, why didn’t I paint the Serotta back in ’99? I was a hardcore weight-weenie. Didn’t want to add the extra grams or spend the $$$.

    Nowadays, if I went custom, I would take at least a month figuring color scheme. However, if you lay down on the ground on a sunny day and look up at the sky, THAT’S my favorite shade of blue. I don’t know if it’d work on a bike though..

  29. David

    I can’t believe only one person has mentioned Molteni orange! That being said, regretfully neither of my bikes are orange.

  30. Dan Murphy

    Around 1990, I was lusting over a Serotta Colorado in the classic red/yellow fade. That was the sexiest bike I had ever seen. I ended up spending less on a Colorado TG in a gorgeous hot red with yellow lettering. Loved that one.
    These days, I really don’t care and my main bike is bare ti – works for me. I picked up a used IF cross bike in a cool orange that made me a big fan of orange. But again, bare ti is fine with me. Boring, but it works.
    I really like seeing some of the works of art people do, like Pegs and others with two-tones and details around the lugs. Not for me, though.
    And definitely not blue – sorry.

  31. Shawn S.

    I believe one of the most fascinating color schemes I recall, was the iridescent chameleon green and purple color scheme on the Cannondale full suspension bikes of the late 1990’s. From one direction the paint scheme would be a beautiful iridescent green, while from the opposite direction, the color would be a great iridescent purple. On a ride at relatively high altitude in the Himalayas, a chum from the UK had one of those bikes and it was really fascinating to appreciate in our oxygen deprived state……

  32. souleur

    sorry for johnny come late, but life is nuts and so am i

    nonetheless, the query of the FGR is paramount. Of course, Dave is right, any color that starts with molteni and ends in Merckx is Holy, and Peter is spot on that Celeste is inspiring. But, since cycling IS directly tied to the soul and to that of all things religious and eternal, WHITE is the color all bikes should be. Its PURE. Its freaking fast just sitting off to the side waiting for you to mount and go. Now, blue, doesn’t appeal to the soul like that, or yellow…it just is loud and loud can be simply chaos too. Black, well…its stealthy and admittedly has a significant place in the bike garage of colors, but the query is best…and white is best. Why then is all things cycling-centric white…like socks at the appropriately donned height of exactly 18cm above the ankles or the WHITE jersey of the Worlds Champion with rainbow stripes??? Bar wrap…white…shoes…white…bibs on a rainy day…white and brown…not so cool in the end, but nonetheless, i digress. Its no accident all things best on the bike are white, white is perfection, and it requires attention to stay that way, like a partner in marriage.

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