Friday Group Ride #316

Friday Group Ride #316

I am over blue bikes (the beauty of the classic Gios Torino not withstanding). Blue is a fine color, as they go, but it does nothing for me on a bike. I prefer grays and deep, dark reds, greens of every hue, and oddly,  mustard yellow. Bright red bikes are, to me, like bright red cars. There better be some speed to back up that flash. My infrequent brushes with form and fitness more or less prevent me from throwing my leg over a bright red bike.

I tried once to believe that the color of my bike didn’t matter to me, to be completely practical, and what I got was a white crackle paint job that made my skin crawl. Fortunately that bike got stolen, although I didn’t feel quite so blase about it at the time.

For a while, I was buying beater bikes and rattle canning them school bus yellow. This was an aesthetic anti-theft strategy that worked pretty well, although with bikes as crappy as those were, it’s hard to say it was the paint that kept the thieves at bay.

Following my yellow phase, I got deeply into black. Low profile, low maintenance black. Black is good. Black never stops being a sharp color for bikes, but I’m not Batman. No one needs me in an emergency, even though I’m already wearing tights.

In 2010 I bought a blue bike at the recommendation of the bike builder, who told me he thought it looked the best of the colors he offered. It was one of those relationship defining moments where I could have disagreed, but it felt like bad form, like maybe we wouldn’t have liked each other an awful lot after, so I went for it.

I never liked the way that bike looked. Nice guy though.

I also have to say that, white crackle aside, an all white bike doesn’t work for me either. As an accent, white is good. Otherwise, it’s like a pallet for filth, and I am a filth seeking missile.

I hate orange, even Molteni orange, which I realize is some sort of sacrilege, but I’ve never been much for orthodoxy.

I have time for purple, based on the simple fact that my first ever bike was a dark purple with sparkle in it. I won’t blame you if you judge me. I won’t care either.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what is the right color for a bike? Do you hew to the line that black/white/red looks best? Look at product catalogs going back 20 years, and I think you’ll find the world’s bike designers think so. Are you a basic black kind of rider? Or do you like flash?

Image: ClassicSteelBikes.com

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37 comments

    1. winky

      Nah. Native Ti is dull. Nothing beats a nice steel paint-job with chrome forks and rear triangle (or at least DS chainstay). The Gios is beautiful and takes me back to the early 80s when I bought my first “decent bike” (which unfortunately wasn’t a Gios).

  1. Peter

    I am with you on blue…with the exception of the blue/white Cervelo Bigla S3 paintjob. I dunno…it just pops for me.

    But I personally love the sports car red. I don’t care that it doesn’t actually make me faster…but I sure feel faster. Same feeling counts for neon running shoes.

  2. Brent

    My theory: you just KNOW when a bike is the right color. Some brands are made for particular colors, like Jaguar XKE’s should always be British racing green. The Gios pictured looks great in blue. I always associate white with classic Cinellis. And there’s a candy-apple red that is just perfect for vintage Colnagos. And do we even need to mention: Bianchis should always be painted “Celeste.”

    My 1980 Tom Ritchey hand-built mountain bike frame came in a dark slate gray. A very undistinguished color in the abstract, but on this bike it was about 20 coats of hand-sprayed metal flake applied by a legendarily perfectionist frame painter. The paint looked positively 3-dimensional and it made the bike look absolutely massive even though it was built before mountain-bike specific tubes and they look spindly now compared to what people ride on mountain bikes. I just trusted Ritchey on the color choice and was always proud as punch when I rode that bike. I saw several other Ritchey mountain bike frames from back in the day and none looked as cool as the gray.

    Nowadays, I don’t care much what color a new bike is. I trust the designers of the bike or the painters to have some vision in the colorways they pick for the bike. My Felt DD-30 is a very unusual shade of blue and it is just perfect (especially when you pair it with orange tires, grips and bottle cages); that color “popped” way more any other fat bike I looked at. The specs were great for the price range, to be sure, but the color, a color I would never have picked looking in a catalog, sealed the deal.

    I have one black bike which looks good because it feels like the color was carefully chosen for the bike. I’ve seen bikes in the shop that are black but they radiate a “vibe” that the design team picked black because they couldn’t agree on anything else or they couldn’t be bothered, figuring black will always sell. Bikes that feel like the designer didn’t care about the color, whatever it is, will never grace my basement.

  3. chuckster

    For me, there are some gold standards that need no tampering (Bianchi Celeste, that Gios Blue, Yeti Turquoise/white scheme, Colnago’s deep red Sarionni scheme and their beautiful Zabel Blue – those two should be staples at Colnago, where they sometimes go a little overboard – Moots Ti with the basic big block letters in white)…

    I’m finally fully burnt out on straight carbon black… it seems swell when you’re a “privateer racer” looking to save 2 ounces of paint, and it can still look stunning via the right builder, but it’s just everywhere and on everything. I’ve somehow gravitated several times towards pearl white and am convinced that it always looks good on any ride – but I think for me it’s time for something a little non-mainstream and flashy next time.

  4. Zvi Wolf

    I have a dark red MTB, a silver flat bar and a black with burnt orange highlights road bike. It’s all good. I even liked my midnight blue road bike with white and gray highlights that ended up under a car. White is probably the only color I wouldn’t want. I had a white car once and it was, as you said, a dirt magnet.

  5. Jay

    Yellow. Brilliant sunshine yellow. Not fluorescent, not neon, just yellow. Or orange, bright orange. Again, no neon or fluorescent. Or any combination of yellow and orange. With glossy black lettering, black saddle and black bar tape. That is all.

  6. Aar

    I’m currently riding a red/white/black bike and every bike I’ve owned since my teens has been some variant of red. So, I’m pretty burnt out on red. I really don’t like yellow on a bike and am pretty sick of all the yellow to chartreuse clothing in cycling these days. So, I’m looking forward to a blue bike. I am also confident enough in my gender identity that I am not ashamed to say that pink and/or purple bikes appeal to me too. Like others here, I think there are certain brands of bikes that should only be painted a certain color – only extremely early Richard Sachs bikes should be any color other than red.

  7. Lyford

    Now that frame designs are becoming more distinctive, it’s harder to say that bikes look best in a particular color. Some shapes seem to lend themselves to different color schemes. This is especially true in the mountain bike world, where non-traditional shapes often look good in non-traditional colors.

    Solid black doesn’t work for me. It needs accents.

    I never thought of myself as flashy, but am currently riding an orange and white Scott. I do like being highly visible.

  8. Marc

    Personally, I favor deep blue or a rich burgundy red, with white accents. But mainly, I just wish modern bikes came in lots of different, vibrant colors. Way too many are black. How boring is that?

  9. miles archer

    I like telling Ti fans that I would paint their bikes to look like carbon fiber.

    I would like to own a high end carbon bike and paint it to look like rusty steel. Maybe with some rustoleam primer highlights.

    How about a mood ring bike? There is paint that changes color depending on the temperature. How cool (get it?) would it be to have that as a paint job.

    They also make some car paints that shift colors with the light. It would be cool to have a bike that looks blue or purple depending on the light.

    Seriously, I like the matte black look now but I bet it will go out of style.

    1. Stephen Barner

      A number of custom framebuilders and painters did chameleon paint jobs in the1990s, and many were stunning. Schwinn had such a scheme they called Purple Freak, which was on their top mountain bike in ’92 and which was real eye candy. We have an early Bilinkey tandem tha has a subtle fade from almost black to a deep maroon which changes to purple highlights when the sun hits it. It never fails to please. In the 1980s, there was a spat of “artistic” paint jobs, mostly from Cannondale, that I never warmed to. I was working in the bike biz at the time and couldn’t wait for the fad to run its course. Very few customers seemed to appreciate the designs, which I think only helped prolong the road bike slump that preceded the Lance years.

  10. Alan

    I have always favored black for road and dirt, which kinda makes all the focus on black bikes suck for me. The trend to matte black is not my for me, though. After riding a matte black teeth-rattling aggressive frame I can say I really prefer gloss black for a silly reason–I like the shiny proof when I clean and polish the bike. It feels like the dull matte finish (or lack thereof) is somehow cheating me out of the satisfying shine from a detail cleaning. Even a college-inspired quick bath and shine is hidden.

    As for dirt, the color seems almost irrelevant when covered in mud. At least that’s the idea. Still, black is preferred, maybe with gray as a compromise.

    Now for commuting; my motto was the “more visible the better.” I didn’t rattle-can the bike, but my go-to single speed was bright orange. After a polish it was almost high-via bright, like the jackets roadside workers wear. Same idea and same goal–be seen. In a short year or so I was somewhat of a staple on folks’ commute to work, which I guess means they indeed could see me–the big guy riding the orange bike.

    Alas, we relocated and I sold the bike while downsizing for the move. It could easily be replaced, but I still miss that bike…

  11. Fausto

    Ti-never goes out of style. Bianchi Celeste, Gios Blue, Colonago Saronni Red, Molteni Orange, Peuguet White, Cinelli lazer blue, Wilier Copper, Gitane Blue, Mapei Multi, Raleigh Belgian Flag, Sachs Red, Peg Pollock, Lemond Neon, Mercier Pink, Koga Miyata lt Blue, Vitus Silver, Canondale Saeco Red,
    Now a sea of Black with no personality. If they can make these things 11 pounds and have to add weight to hit the limit, add some color!

  12. Dave

    I have an old beater Specialized M2 MTB painted a hideous purple fade to green.. What were they thinking? Or how about the Cannondale MTB I bought in, oh I think ’93 that was a silver fade to blue with pink lettering? So bad I stripped the paint off within a month. My favorite was a Gianni Motta I had Peter Ouellette paint a deep burgundy with chrome fork and chrome rear triangle. That was a beauty and probably still my favorite color on a bike. These days, however color seems to matter less to me – I ride a bare ti frame.

  13. Michael

    I am colorblind so I tend to let my friend who builds frames make the decision on color. He always has the grace to ask if I have a preference and then makes a good (apparently) decision when I leave it to him. I have a couple purplish bikes, a couple red ones, a peridote-green one, and a blue one (or so everyone seems to agree, so I trust them). And a black one-speed flat-barred low-maintenance commuter. I think they are all great! A mechanic changed the colors on my cable ends the other day, just because he thought the color would look better than what I had put on. Nice touch, and I thanked him. I don’t understand the concept of colors going together (or clashing, for that matter), but I bet it looks better now.

  14. Pat O'Brien

    My touring bike, SOMA Saga, is British Racing Green with tan accents. It is one of the best factory paint jobs I have ever seen. My road bike is silver, Eh, okay I guess. My mountain bike (Niner MCR) is a metal flake root beer color, sort of a bronze. Only bike I have ever bought that came with a bottle of touch up paint. I like the BRG color the best.

  15. John Kopp

    I have a Trek 950 that is pewter with blue panels on the seat and down tubes. I think any bike needs color accents to add appeal. My Schwinn Paramount is just black. Boring!

    1. Stephen Barner

      But gloss black on a 1970s Paramount with chrome Nervex curly lugs and chrome socks on the dropouts is the absolute bomb. It’s the contrast of black, chrome, and the subtle white decals that puts the combination over the top.

  16. Rod

    I never thought I’d associate it with a great bike colour, but the olive Speedvagen is beautiful to me. More classical, Celeste Bianchi’s always been nice.

    For most of my favourite rides (dirt, mud, CX) I like brushed Ti with sandblasted logos. And well weatherproofed seals. That thing takes a beating.

    Less practical, my road-racing bike is red. I try to do it justice with moderate levels of success. Red wants to go faster!

  17. RM2Ride

    The Eddy Merckx fade paint jobs always looked fantastic.

    Anything Firefly builds looks great – anodized accents on Ti.

    Personally, I am so over the black on black on black themes….

    Accents matter, too (see Cielo, Indy Fab…)

    Any bike you’re riding is the right color at that moment, because you’re riding.

  18. Gary

    Orange did it for me on my Lighthouse Sequoia. I found a nice orange Fizik bar tape to match, and a caramel Brooks saddle.

  19. Tom in Albany

    I find all-black uninspiring. the first bike I bought for myself was an aquamarine-ish blue-green schwinn. Still have it and still love the color. Since then, I bought a Mongoose polished Al mountain bike. An un-painted Ti from Serotta. (Now there was dumb move. Serotta had some of the finest paint-jobs going!) I bought a Trek mixed Al/Carbon frame. Al front triangle grey. Rear triangle black. Intersting striping. I think my next bike will have some color. Not white. Not red. Definitely NOT black. But, I don’t know what color it will be. I hope I’m like my son and see a bike and just ‘KNOW’ it’s mine!

  20. Drew B

    Love my 2012 Surly Pacer in Sparkleboogie Blue. I would never be caught on a red bike. Cant stand the color

  21. Dan Murphy

    Red with yellow highlights and lettering. ‘Nuff said.

    I remember well the Serotta Colorado I saw in my LBS with the flared tubes, curved stays – and the red/yellow fade paint job. OMFG. A couple years later, I ended up with a Colorado TG – red with yellow lettering.

    Fast forward 20+ years, and I really got turned on with orange after buying a used IF Planet-X. Not a bright orange, more like the Molteni orange.

    But, I really like ti and not having to be concerned with paint scratches. Boring, but easy.

  22. Peter Leach

    My bikes:
    – Ti [raw/brushed, carbon fork, white tape and saddle, white labelled carbon wheels] road bike
    – carbon [black/white/red, white tape and saddle, Ti finished alloy wheels] road bike
    – steel [Ferrari red, chrome fork, white tape and saddle, Ti finished alloy wheels] road bike
    – steel [Ferrari red frame / fork, white tape / saddle, vintage Pista hubs / stainless spokes] track bike
    so, there’s a bit of a theme emerging 😉
    Oh, I do have a blue bike – my mtb is alloy, blue frame, white forks / bars / grips / saddle, alloy wheels. Blue seems to go well with a bit of dirt / mud.
    Ride forever …

  23. Peato

    White, with black and red accents, is so 2011, and that’s what my #1, a Ridley, is. Always looks filth, and I’m pretty fastidious. Glad my #2 is a blue Gios (1983). #3 is a proto-Moltini, orange, Mercian (1970).

    And, don’t get me started on how much better a polished alloy crank looks . . .

    One of the teams in the Dauphine has a light blue/white frame with orange stem and bar tape. Interesting

  24. Mark Beaver

    Interesting article. I’ve owned over 85 bikes in the last 35 years, still have the ~30 favourites, and none of them are blue – except my ’74 Raleigh Pro MK4 in signature Mink Blue/Silver. As a former custom framebuilder and painter, I’ve painted over 350 framesets, lots in blue, but none of the custom frames which I built for me were blue. Wonder why…

  25. Kurt Freytag

    Bikes are as much an expression of one’s sense of self as they are a ticket to exploration, escape and pain. Perhaps that’s why we choose different materials (carbon racer, classic steel, smooth Ti) – to match how cycling fits our individual world or, if we’re lucky, mood. Color gives us a chance to amplify and share our perspective, even if it’s an aspirational racing red.

    My outlook:
    https://flic.kr/p/o6prKb

  26. Dan Dammit

    I’ve gravitated back to white, which is where I started on a Peugeot PXN. Moved to a flashy Battaglin in Carrera Red before the American steel rebellion jumping on an IF in cobalt blue. Now I’m back where I started on a sleek Parlee Z5 in white with orange and black accents. Oh, plus the all black Ridley X-Bow!

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