At Earth Rider we like to sell basic black bikes. It is a nice neutral color and no customer ever walked away from buying a bike because it was black. But with something as important to your well being and transportation as a bike, it is nice to express your personality with it, just like you do with your clothing and hair style. So, whether you start with a canvas of all black or your bike has some color you want to highlight or compliment there are several options to customize your bike so it looks like all yours and is easy to pick out among others at a bike rack. We are going to suggest what you can easily swap out and add and what you should avoid doing without careful thought.
Adding to your bike
Custom decals are an easy way to personalize your bike. Go to Etsy, search “bike decals” and get inspired. For example, the vendor StickerLoaf can create a set of two vinyl stickers in a choice of 14 colors, 24 fonts, and 7 sizes from 4 to 20 inches with information such as your name, logo, flag, hobbies, or slogan starting at $1.99. If applied properly they will adhere to your frame for many years but it is a good idea to apply a clear plastic sheet, known as a frame protector to help protect your decals, sort of like the clear coat that is applied over decals during the paint process at the factory.
Customizations to think twice about
Unless you have a mechanical problem with certain components, such as wheels out of true, cranks rusted and bent, we recommend you not replace the more expensive components with more stylish options without a good reason because they are a significant investment. Sure, spokes, spoke nipples, deep wall rims, hubs, and stems come in colors but incorporating custom colors require a custom hand build and this is an expensive proposition if that component does not need maintenance.
Tires come in colors besides black, both the entire surface in white, red, blue and other colors or with a stripe of color to accent or complement your color scheme and they may not be any more pricey than an all black tire. There will, however, be less options for tire width and tread. If you are in the market for a new tire because yours is worn, then this is a good time to think about something colorful, otherwise it is more economical to wait.
Another customization to be cautious of is painting your frame yourself. You can remove all components or mask them with tape, sand, and spray paint the frame it but it will not look like the paint job you get from the factory and will chip easily. If you really crave a new color, either because your current paint job is chipped, or you just want a new color or one of those clever fades, have the job professionally done for the best results. Be advised that stripping and painting a frame will void any warranty you may have on your bike.
While picking a color scheme can be fun, it is best to limit your pallet to up to 3 colors, otherwise the bike will look busy and pieced together, unless, of course, that is the look you are striving for. Try to go for contrasting colors since it will be hard to match shades of color on different accessories exactly. Remember that most every bike has black and silver so these colors don’t count. Also there is symmetry on a bike with it having two wheels, two pedals, and two grips. You can deviate and have each of these a different style or color, but be cautious not to overdo it so it ends up looking unplanned or random.
The custom bike look need not empty your wallet. With the addition or subtraction of a few accessories you can have a bike you are proud to ride and will result in double takes on the bike path.
Sharon Kaminecki and others comment on adventures in bicycling and other stories