Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Color Me Nauseous: Cycling's Worst Paint Jobs

As internet galleries prove, there's simply no limit to how ugly you can make a bike. All it takes is some patience, a few cans of spraypaint, and a sense of childhood neglect that has festered into adulthood and sublimated itself into a tendency to make desperate bids for attention. Fortunately, though, over the years various manufacturers have made our jobs much easier by providing "pre-uglified" bikes direct from the factory or workshop. Of course, the cosmos of bicycle ugliness is simply too vast and gag-inducingly majestic to capture here. But here are just a few manufacturers who had the temerity to don a blindfold, pick up the ugly stick, and swing at the pinata of good taste with reckless abandon:

Klein

Before Klein was subsumed by the Great Trek Bicycle Making Corporation, they were responsible for some of the most magnificently hideous paint jobs the cycling world had ever seen. This pre-Trek beauty is a stunning example. It literally brings tears to my eyes, though I don't know if that's because of the bright colors, nostalgia for times gone by, or the fact that the thing may still be exuding paint fumes to this day that are strong enough to be smelled through a computer monitor. In any case, the last time I saw something like this I bought it from a truck and it melted all down my arm. Magnifique, Gary, magnifique.

Landshark
Klein may have been a giant in the world of ugly bikes, but Landshark is ugly bikes. John Slawta's paint jobs articulate an ugliness that other bikes can only allude to. Spraypainting wet cardboard in a damp room only begins to convey the types of designs we're talking about here. Dropping the rotting corpse of Jerry Garcia from a skyscraper and then photographing the results comes a bit closer. The above photo is a typical, but by no means exceptional, example. I believe the color scheme is called "Motion Sickness."
Oh, yeah, they're not just for dentists and lawyers either. They look great as fixed-gears too:

Colnago


Ah, yes, the maestro of mutilation: Colnago. Every other maker of ugly bikes owes this storied marque a debt of gratitude. Colnago's paint schemes are the very embodiment of professional cycling, in that both are essentially big knots of revolting colors competing with each-other for your attention. And certainly no instrument--no paintbrush, chisel, nor hunk of charcoal--has been responsible for more works of fine art than the airbrush, which Colnago wields with stunning effect. In fact, in the art world the very word "airbrush" is synonymous with exquisite taste. If the technology had existed at the time, Michelangelo would almost certainly have painted the Sistine Chapel with one. Finally, each frame's top tube is graced with that delightfully whimsical image of a cyclist as seen from above. Bent over his handlebars, his shoulders hunched with effort, it kind of looks like he's vomiting.


Trek



The Great Trek Bicycle Making Corporation knows everything, and one of the things they know is that ugly is not for everyone. That's why they introduced "Project One." I don't know whether or not this still exists, but in any case it allowed customers to express their individuality by choosing from a limited number of ghastly designs, including flames and lightning bolts. Essentially it catered to the same dubious tastes that drive 50 year-old suburban accountants to buy custom Harleys and wear leather vests and skull-and-crossbone bandanas. Project One lacks the ebullient ugliness of those early Kleins, the organic ugliness of the Landsharks, and the rococo ugliness of the Colnagos. Instead, it's robotic, mass-produced ugliness--which in a soul-crushing way makes it the ugliest of all.


Cannondale

For a mainstream bicycle manufacturer, Cannondale's paint schemes tend to be relatively sedate. Until they get in bed with an Italian superstar. That's when the hair comes down, the gloves come off, and the bikes get disgusting. An Italian, an airbrush, and a few bottles of vino is a recipe for il disastro col formaggio. In all fairness, you were only able to actually buy one of these bikes below, but highlights over the years include:

The Fabio Sacchi Tiger Freak Bike;


The Gilberto Simoni Spider-dork Bike;

and of course the Limited Edition Tricolore Dork-tacular. (As ridden by Damiano Cunego and...Gilberto Simoni.)

Orbea

Lastly, I'd like to give Orbea honorable mention. While lower-key than some, this Basque collective is nonetheless an inspiring example of teamwork in the service of ugliness. They may lack the audacity of some of the other manufacturers I mentioned, but they make up for it by blending their euro-flash paint schemes with bulging, swollen, and distended tubing. The result is a kind of three-dimensional ugliness you don't really get with the other manufacturers--the vileness really pops. In fact, in some way I think Orbea represent the ugliness of the future. And like the best ugly bikes, they will stand the ugly test of time by only growing more offensive and dated as time goes on.

70 comments:

Anonymous said...

You didn't even mention the gag reflex inducing Bianchi Green...

GhostRider said...

Celeste ("Bianchi Green", for those who are too ignorant to know any better) is a "love it or hate it" color. It's been around for a LONG time and signifies a storied and successful racing legacy.

I will agree that the way Bianchi is currently using the color -- stripes, smears and crosshatches --leaves a lot to be desired...

Anonymous said...

How about this one?
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nickw3216/623310827/

quaffimodo said...

Jerrr-rryyyyy....noooooooooooo!

Pete said...

Ronald McDonald, your new mountain bike is ready.

Jim said...

The original Bianchi color, Celeste Classico, is a lovely powder blue. It sometimes turns up on Bianchis and the odd On One il Pompino. Shame about the green Celeste, which is the same color as the interior of many U.S. Army vehicles - not exactly works of art.

I'm a little baffled as to how Pegorettis missed the list here - Dario P. says he's paying homage to Basquiat, whose art wasn't exactly a thing of beauty either.

And just as an antidote to all this ugly - I'll take a plain black Independent Fabrication cross bike, black and white decals, thanks.

Anonymous said...

I do believe the upper Landshark paint job would be described as "Steelhead" or maybe "Coho Salmon". I wouldn't expect a New Yorker to understand the almost freakish connection between Northwesterners and their salmon.

Cheers!

Matt Case

Anonymous said...

That's one of the first release Attitude models. Say what you want about the paint jobs, but that is an awesome bike. I own S/N 454 and it hauls ass and tracks like it's on rails. The paint job was replaced in 1998 by their trick "Jade fade". The original 'neon Mexican flag' paint was a big hit in barrio Tucson back in the 90's- Lot of "Go ese! Dudeonabike! Wassuuupppp! commentary...

Anonymous said...

From the CN article on Sacchi's frame:

"A quick squiz at the frame reveals no real surprises."

Ya, looks like someone took a quick squiz all over it after a tequila-fueled late-nite banana-raisin smoothie binge. Granted, the cat artwork is nice, but as a whole...blechh.

bikepennst8 said...

BSNYC, did you let that landshark track bike with the scarf around its seatpost really escape so easily? The paint was fantastic, but the scarf was really fantathtic!

bother yam said...

Jesus, I gotta stop reading this while eating lunch...

bikesgonewild said...

...hmm, looked @ all my bikes this morning, thought to myself, "whoops, maybe i'd better shaddup on 'bsnyc' today !"...

Prolly said...

You are crazy, Colnago and Landshark frames are always gorgeous. But again, you can't be afraid of color.

Chromophobe!

Anonymous said...

This is really funny stuff. Nice work

Anonymous said...

Thank you for highlighting the Landshark paint schemes.

I've often been intrigued by the Landshark frames and have heard they are wonderful quality, but the paint always had me thinking the bike I was seeing had to have been purchased at a hefty discount.

And I usually felt a bit queasy afterwards.

BTW, that's no tiger for Fabio Sacchi... more like a cheetah.

Anonymous said...

That Klein is a classic, I couldnt disagree more with your observations on that one. I was wondering what BSNYC's own personal bikes look like, just for frame of reference...

schaughvn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Art said...

At least Cannondale has come around and realized that just because you have a down tube fat enough to print your name on it four times doesn't mean you should.

schaughvn said...

Ahh, the old Klein's. but the where's the icing on the cake? Where's the purple anodized Cook Bros. cranks and matching Ringle hubs?

Cycling Under The Influence said...

They will paint 'em any way you want 'em at LandShark, so blame the end user, not the man with the spray gun. I have seen some really nice looking ones too.

What is with all of the hating on Celeste? It's timeless, baby.

Greg said...

Noooo....
Somehow the paintjob spread to the rims...

Aaron said...

While Colnagos are so fetishized they can afford to be ugly, I think Landsharks are so ugly that they are cool.

Treks, C-dales, and the rest make me gag though.

mr.sad said...

Touche bikesnob

I'll be sure to post to velospace after I finally get around to asking Mr. Slawta to repaint my rather staid, purplish shark to look like a delicious pacific mackerel ("Land Saba"). He renders uncannily good animal surfaces as you've shown.

Honorable-honorable mention goes to Orbea's angryroosterbike. It's time for professional cycling to have its own Michael Vick.

Anonymous said...

Wig warmin' wheelitter wippy skinned autonomochromo eel bightin' fo' sheer!

Anonymous said...

To Mr Sad, that is Scott that is responsible for the Angry Rooster for Mayo. Orbea may have ODed on the Euskatel orange there are apparently some limits to their ugliness.

mr.sad said...

Sorry for the brainfart, I was mesmerized by the streamlined aero cockscombs. Funny that one might get one globulous carbon frameset confused with another.

bikesgonewild said...

...'angry rooster ?'...i thought in that frame size, that was the scott iban mayo - 'little cock' bike...
...hell do i know ?...

...bianchi celeste is very traditional, very italian & will always be, in a strange way, very lovely...

Anonymous said...

I see your lime green and trump you with pink polka dots.

Ebay item# 130147243016

Anonymous said...

Remember the Cannondale Team Crest bike?

ugh...

http://chicago.craigslist.org/nch/bik/408867818.html

lectron said...

Wow. Cool bikes.

What's wrong with some crazy colors. It's not a freaking catwalk :)

Or. Maybe it would be better world if we all rode a Specialized Allez...

Anonymous said...

always found the colnago to look rather whoreish

Scott said...

You forget the terrible paint jobs of the Panasonics of old....

meli said...

a yes. klein.
seems that I just stare at it every Seinfled's re-run I watch. I dont think its ever been used.

Anonymous said...

"bulging, swollen, and distended tubing"

man, you hit that one square on the head.

Regarossa said...

I think the landshark was painted by Stevie Wonder...
Reg

pgclydesdale said...

I submit to you, the 2001 Lemond Zurich (actually, my own bike).

http://velospace.org/node/646

Certainly visible on the road, the blue and canary yellow are brilliant. No picture can do justice to the glitter flecked blue paint on the top and seat tubes. It was a real beast with the red heliums I had on it originally! The real offense on this rig, though is the ammount of times the word "Lemond" appears on this bike. I believe its 11 times. That kind of ego trip is certainly fodder for a BSNYC blog entry.

ainsley said...

road bikes and decals are usually always ugly. my ex has a white, royal blue, and yellow cyclops road frame he just purchased. it's vomit on wheels with his blue and yellow grip tape, matching blue wheels... it's probably the true reason i ended it.

this is, exactly, why the first thing i do when i get a new frame is paint it. but don't you harp on us kids for custom paint jobs?
we can never win!

Scott said...

ainsley,

BSNYC harps on the kids for custom painting frames that weren't even particularly good when they were new, and that was before their new owner was born. There's no reason to custom paint a crappy department store bike from 30 years ago. As the old saying goes, "you can take a dead toad and put it in a box, wrap it all nice and pretty with paper and put a bow on top, but it still ain't no christmas present."

I am also going to have to come out as a hater of the Bianchi celeste. Just because it's been around forever and is "traditional" doesn't make it not ugly. Flatulence has been around forever and is "traditional", but it still smells bad no matter how you cut it.

Philip Williamson said...

Yeah, those IFs are really understated... http://www.flickr.com/photos/nickw3216/623307449/in/photostream/

Landshark paint jobs are an *ahem* acquired taste, but the yellow and purple one I liked. I don't like bandanas on bikes to make them cool, though. That only works on dogs.

Scott, 'celeste' is a great color. I just farted, and I can tell the difference.

I think the ebay 'Circus Circus' Baylis wins. The matching pump puts it over the top. "Two seat tubes?!"

Anonymous said...

I have to side with prolly on this issue. The only thing worse than an ugly bike is a boring one.

Ronald said...

Hey you people arguing about celeste-ghostrider said it perfectly-it's a"love it or hate it" thing-so why argue?

Jem said...

fantastic! the frame in your first example was in our hallway for a while... benjamin?

benjamin said...

ja ja ja it was indeed in our hallway, until i sold it on ebay... i had it slightly less pink with no velocities, but just as gaudy all the same. 'Twas all in good fun!

Anonymous said...

I own one copy of both of these:

http://oldmountainbikes.com/catalogs/ritchey/1988/ritchey1988_09.jpg

http://sheldonbrown.com/bridgestone/1987/pages/bridgestone-1987-17.htm

mojito said...

No fair picking on bikes from the '80s and '90s. The first Klein you posted looked great back in the day to those of us who thought we looked cool sporting mullets and fleck jackets with the sleeves rolled up.

Anonymous said...

It didn't take the whole address:

http://oldmountainbikes.com/catalogs/
+
ritchey/1988/ritchey1988_09.jpg

http://sheldonbrown.com/bridgestone/
+
1987/pages/bridgestone-1987-17.htm

Brainraid said...

Those "mass produced" Trek Project One frames are actually hand painted by some very talented folks at Trek. The lightning bolts are airbrushed and no two Night Storm frames look alike. Just an fyi...

Anonymous said...

Some very talented out-of-work '70's-era custom van airbrush painters?

gewilli said...

don't ya DARE diss the klein color or paint!

that's sacred territory...

for some at least...

BikeSnobNYC said...

Brainraid,

Thanks for the correction on "Project One." I didn't know that and I'm glad you pointed it out.

Anonymous 8/30 9:51am,

Thanks for the cool links.

--BSNYC

ainsley said...

scott,
true... a dead frog is a dead frog. but a less ugly bike is still better than a dead frog.
my frame isn't the best and it was ugly, really ugly. but now it's a good looking bike. but i guess i'm saved cause the frame was made the year i was born.
the celeste is attractive in the way hospitals seem nice, sterile, and inviting.

Anonymous said...

Dear BSNYC,
awesome quiz! I check this blog daily. Please consider making a post on bike saddles and saddle covers. It's a gold mine of material: sheepskin seat covers, not just for summer anymore!

Anonymous said...

It's always great when the jokes come at somebody else's expense, right?
Funny how your loyal readers get all defensive when the jokes hit a little too close to home!
Keep it up BikeSnob!

Little_Jewford said...

I'm way behind the curve on this one but you picked a strange land shark to pick on....its a trout! Really...its painted to match a rainbow or maybe brown trout (trust me, I'm a fish biologist). Ugly maybe, but ugly with a purpose.

Ringo said...

GT had some real ugly paint schemes in the late 80's and early 90's.

Anonymous said...

the newer pinarellos deserve mention too. Their aesthetic inspiration seems to be hotdog commercials, combining the red and yellow paint scheme with those crazy wavy front forks and seat stays.

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GabeZ said...

Any and all of the 2012 Giant road bikes.

Giant threw up all over them.

On the 2012 Defy, they've plastered their name on the forks, the rims, the hubs, the tires, the stem, the bars, twice on the head tube, three times on the down tube, the chain stays, the seat post....this is just off the top of my head...I'm sure..oh yeah and on the seat tube!

http://cdn.mos.bikeradar.com/images/news/2011/12/20/1327586571724-1jfqmmikzh292-670-70.jpg

Anonymous said...

I hate most cannondale paint jobs, you could include any and all of Cipollini's bikes alongside Simoni's, in his Saeco days.

Also hate most Scott paint jobs.

Anonymous said...

are you a cycologist? haha.. not sure what childhood neglect has to do with what others might call "creativity".
that might be something you should research. your highbrow dissertation makes me nauseous.

Leon Hubbard said...

i just lol'd really loudly! whats better than a cannondale, you ask? but of course a cannondale cannondale cannondale cannondale...