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.