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The Cyclist’s Guide to Color Coordinating EVERYTHING, From Bike to Kit


October 2014

There are a dozen different types of cyclist so this post will probably only fit a very specific group.  Also, this will be based on several separate faux pas of my own.  First, not everyone will care about whether their bike and kit matches perfectly – I ride with several.  The important thing to remember here is that this is not golf where they say that if you can’t play well you should at least look good playing poorly.  In the case of cycling, especially when you’re riding in a group, it is far better to ride well than look good.

In addition, functionality is often far more important than making sure everything matches down to the zipper.  For instance, I have a yellow wind vest that has a mesh back to allow moisture out while blocking the wind up front.  It has three back pockets (where many have none) and has my local shop’s signature logo on it.  It’s also excellently colored for our dreary fall.  The functionality of the piece of clothing is perfect, even if it looks odd on my black and red bike.  Now, could I have found a red or black vest with the same qualities?  Addressing all but the visibility issue, yes.  In fall though, sticking out in the dreary weather is a little more important than looking spectacular – unless you want to look good as a hood ornament.

I’ve tried just about everything to make my bikes look good while looking unique.  At first, I was big on the Red, White and Blue theme.  This was okay with my Cannondale (blue and white bike, red bar tape) though I went back to blue, white and black in the last year or so (the bike’s original colors).  I also tried this with my custom painted Trek 5200.  Unfortunately the bike isn’t a bright, fire engine red.  It’s candy apple red with gold flake so it comes off a deep red/orange.  The blue, now that I’ve had a couple of years to mull it over, just doesn’t fit:

20130601-163738.jpg OldGloryThe Cannondale, at least in my opinion, pulls off the red, white and blue better than the Trek.  The Trek is not bad, of course, but black bar tape would look better on the Trek.  The point I’m trying to get at with these first two bikes is that I tried to force the colors on the bikes.  I wanted what I wanted and I made my bikes conform to that.  Unfortunately you’ve gotta work with what you’ve got.  To illustrate, my buddy Mike just had a frame fail on him – the carbon started to fray around the seat post.  His was a beautiful bike, candy apple red with silver flake and black.  He took it to the shop and they sent it to the manufacturer who promptly replaced the frame with the best frame they offer.  Sadly that frame is a gnarly green, white and black with a little bit of baby-poop yellow in there to liven things up.  Folks, there isn’t a lot you can do to fix that.  You pretty much just have to roll with it.  Black (or white) bar tape and saddle, and that’s about it.  My Venge is another excellent example though the possibilities are more numerous.  My bike came with some pretty plain-Jane looking black rims on it.  I broomed those for a set of wheels that made the red and black pop by throwing a little white into the mix:

Much Classier



Now, there’s some cleaning up to do at the cockpit, I’m well aware of the fact that I’ve got one too many spacers stacked atop the stem.  Stay with me here, we’re talking about color coordinating a bike for Pete’s sake.  Notice how the simple addition of the white lettering on the wheels takes that bike from nice, where it was prior, to “holy crap, it’s freaking awesome”?  Exactly.  That little bit of white lettering takes the emphasis away from the polished aluminum brake surface, making the wheel “pop”.  I spent three weeks researching wheels to find the wheel set that a) matched my bike and b) came in at a decent weight (1460 grams).  Now, going back to the cockpit again…  The stem on the bike is one of those inner adjustable do-dads that Specialized loves so much…  With a turn of an internal piece, you can adjust the angle of the stem by a few degrees without the ugliness of one of those God-awful adjustable stems.  A really cool idea, unfortunately they’re heavy and have no place on a high-end bike (the idea being, once you’re ready to plunk that kind of cash down on a bicycle, you already know the angle of the stem you’ll want on the steed).  Not only that, the front end is a little bit lifeless…  So I swapped the stem and added this:
IMG_5008Notice the red and white matches the paint job perfectly – even the shades of red match.  This throws a splash of awesome at an otherwise ho-hum part of the bike (again, once I get my new handlebar in I’m having the stem cut down to get rid of one of those spacers so I’ve got a small spacer above and one below the stem).  It took me two weeks to lock down that stem (the bar was a little bit easier because it’s a Specialized bar – it automatically matches the bike).  Also, notice that’s a FSA stem?  Look at the crank on either of the photos of my Venge…  That’s a FSA crank that came with the bike.  In other words, try to keep things in the family…  Also, while we’re on the photo above, notice the computer above the stem.  This was a tough one for me because the red of the computer is a little bit more orange than the bike’s paint.  While this is a minor faux pas, I can live with it even if I should have ordered a black one.

Now for the kit, the clothing.  Because my bike is red and black, cycling clothes are easy.  Red, black and white jerseys are a dime a dozen out there so finding four jerseys that matched my bike took all of ten minutes.  For the shorts, black always works.  When it comes to the shoes and helmet though, I went a little rogue.  Fashion would probably dictate that black shoes and a black or red helmet are in order.  On the other hand, black holds heat and radiance from the sun while red attracts it.  With today’s modern jersey material, this isn’t such a big deal because the moisture wicking materials stay cooler but when you’re talking about a melon protector, right on the one part of the body that needs to stay cool, I wasn’t too fond of black or red so I had to think a little “outside the box”.  I went with white, both helmet and shoes so I’ve got white on the tips – north (helmet), east and west (wheels) and south.  Now, this choice is debatable but I think it works well considering:
20140713_160811As you can see in the photo above, I’ve gone all out – red, black and white socks (3 different pair), red and black gloves, etc. but that doesn’t really encompass the whole story because I was actually quite lucky.  The bike that caught my eye had a fantastic paint job right from the factory.  You literally can’t go wrong with red and black – it looked like a sports car sitting on the display above the front counter.  The tough sledding is when you pick up a bike that’s black on black, or even tougher, off-colored.

Whatever the case is with your bike, if you have a penchant for matching it up, take your time shopping.  Certain wheel brands, such as Flo, allow the customer to choose their wheel accent color.  If all else fails and you have an oddly colored bike, there’s one simple catch-all trick that will save you:  Black works with everything.  In the case of a black on black bike, if you want your steed to look unique, I’d suggest against white wheel decals.  They do look good but everyone goes that route.  If you want color, try going with a blue or red so you can mix up your kit a little bit.

I’ve seen everything from perfectly matched setups to the disheveled look where nothing seems to have its place.  The main thing that matters, no matter what, is how the bike is ridden.  If the cyclist is good, all is forgiven.  Even a failure to shave the guns.

UPDATE:  WOW, this is an old post… Um, a lot has changed since this was written.

This is my Trek now:

1999 Trek 5200_May_2020

I had the bike painted, and had it done up to match my Venge:


The wheels were upgraded on both bikes, both bikes got new drivetrains and, well, most of the parts that could be updated, were.  They’re both new bikes, basically.  However, as you can see, the main theme was carried through.




  1. fastk9dad says:

    Well you’ve certainly put a lot of thought into this! For me, jersey and bib shorts must match (i.e. same manufacturer & color), colors irrelevant as long as they match. The exception to this would be some charity/ride/club jersey made by a manufacturer I don’t have bibs in. I prefer jerseys that have white on the back because supposedly white can be seen further in low light than even the fluro colors. Current shoes are black, white would be ok though. Current gloves are white leather, but have some black & grey backups. Socks are usually something wild colored, but have a few color matching pairs in my preferred brand to several of my kits. Arm/leg/knee warmers are pot luck as well as jackets and vests. I try to stick with white or black, but for rain & wind I have bright colors since it’s usually dreary out when I’m sporting those. I don’t consider bright colors as “clashing” with the kit as they can kinda go with anything and serve a purpose. My helmet is blue, didn’t think that through when I got it, will probably go for a white or mostly white next time.

    As for matching the bike, well it’s black on matte charcoal. Think stealth bomber. Everything goes with it. There are some orange/rust stripes in “hidden” areas (inside chain stays, rear seat tube) but they almost cant be seen unless looking for them. The only visible “color” on it is white lettering on the crank and white electrical tape to mark the seat post.

    Now for my MTB kit… lol

    • bgddyjim says:

      I LOVE the stealth bikes! Too cool, and you’re right, anything goes with that. Because out main goal, other than cycling awesomeness of course, is to not get dead, on cloudy or dreary days color schemes are no longer applicable in my book. Bright is the order of the day. As for sunshine, I’m working on a theory that looking like you belong on the road in a peloton, aids visibility more than anything other than a bright neon flashing sign that says, “Don’t run me over Bro”.

      • fastk9dad says:

        I agree, you need to look like you belong and also make predictable movements.

        My next bike will probably have some white on it, maybe white letters, or maybe white with red letters, I all depends what Spech has to offer, but I think white looks “pro”. Red just looks sharp like your steed!

      • bgddyjim says:

        Agreed, white is awesome… I was really bummed about some of the new Venge paint schemes. Some are flat out excellent while others, well not so much. Which one are you looking at?

      • fastk9dad says:

        If I were to get a 2015 model it would probably be a Tarmac Expert in carbon/charcoal or a Roubaix Expert in black/white/charcoal. (I prefer the Roubaix gearing but Tarmacs are so sweet) But all the bike shops are getting rid of their 2014 models and a few have various model Tarmacs in white/black/red schemes.

      • bgddyjim says:

        A buddy of mine has a 14 pound S-Works Tarmac… He’s running SRAM 53/39 with an 11-23 cassette, too much gear for me. They’re awesome (especially with the internal cable routing now). Check out the ones with FSA cranks… They’re running 52/36 pro compacts with 11-28 cassettes. Nothing you can’t tackle with that and you get a speed machine to boot. I can tackle 15% easy on my bike with that drivetrain. Whichever you choose, enjoy. They’re both fine bikes.

  2. If you’re in it for looks, just don’t go near me – your worst nightmare? You’ll have probably realised this from my ramblings anyways.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Not at all my friend. My enjoyment of the sport doesn’t hinge on others enjoying it the way I do. To the contrary, it’s guys like you who know the best routes and where to find a coffeehouse.

      It’s all about the ride.

  3. The groups that clog the roads around here, three abreast and four deep as if they were some sort of presidential motorcade, look like radioactive Easter bunnies from Hell in those neon Lycra body panties. Just sayin’.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Ooh! I’ve written about a million words on this blog, 8,000 comments and you’re the first cyclist hating commenter I’ve had! Congratulations.

      Now, the question is, do I kill you with kindness (pardon the expression, no pun intended of course), confound you with wit or make fun of the fact that you’re old enough to think that a pair of shorts that extends all the way down to an inch shy of a person’s knees are panties (just sayin’). Or do I get belligerent and point out that we ride four abreast at times? Decisions, decisions…

      Here’s the deal, three abreast is a little rude. It is. As long as we’re a few feet inside the yellow line you have no complaint though. Zero. You’re going to have to get into the other lane to pass either way, it’s as simple as that.

      Look at it this way, at three wide and four deep you only have to get around a group as long as a large SUV. At two wide and six deep you’d be in the passing lane for an additional 14′ or so, add a trailer to the SUV. At SINGLE file and in the middle of the lane (where they should be with a group that big so crazy drivers don’t try to “cheat” by not getting into the other lane to pass), you’re looking at 40′ or more – a semi truck long – to get around. Your local cyclists are doing you a favor by putting you in the passing lane for a shorter distance.

      Now, where I live the police pull cyclists over for riding illegally. They also make themselves visible to motorists to protect us as well when we’re riding legally. We have a responsibility to ride in a manner that allows motorists a full lane to get around us. On the other hand, the sad reality is, if we don’t take up enough of the lane, motorists won’t wait for opposing traffic to clear, they’ll try to cheat, squeezing in between, trying to fit a row of cyclists, a car going the same way and a car coming the other way on the same road… A friend of mine was hit by an old fella doing this very thing – thankfully my friend only had to miss four weeks with a broken arm and some road rash (it could have been much worse). When the police officer asked him why he hit the cyclist, you know what he said? “Well there was a car coming the other way.” He hit a guy on a bicycle, damn near made this guy’s wife a widow, because there was a car coming the other way. We were single file, riding on the shoulder of the road.

      We have to coexist. We don’t expect motorists to stay off of roads so we can ride and we’re certainly not going anywhere… Does it take you an extra 30 seconds to get around a group of cyclists? Yes. Is that a big deal? No it is not. Please don’t kill us because we wear funny clothes. We just want to be fit. Cycling makes us feel happy and alive. It makes me a better husband to my wife and father to my two daughters. Thanks.

      • fastk9dad says:

        I was riding in my hometown over the weekend and was on a narrow two lane road w/o no shoulders. There was a cyclist coming the other way, we were both riding the right half of our lane and some brain surgeon actually decided to thread the needle between us instead of just waiting 10-15 seconds until we passed each other when he could of made a staggered pass. SMH

      • bgddyjim says:

        That’s exactly what I’m talking about… It boggles the mind.

  4. That Venge is a beautiful thing my friend, although the idea of gnarly green and baby poop yellow frame can set any colour scheme in a good light. As you say though, you can’t go wrong with red and black.

    I’m currently in the process of picking out parts for a new frame and bike I’m having built up – starting with a clean slate is trickier than I expected!

  5. […] To wrap this post up, once the bikes are set, all that’s left is to match the kit (clothing) to the bike and we’re all set. Here’s a post for that. […]

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