I’ve only got one road bike that’s still straight off the rack, my gravel bike. It’s a level up from “entry-level” and I don’t plan on putting any money into it, other than maintaining it. I bought the bike to beat it up in the dirt.
My regular road bikes don’t look a thing like they did when I brought them home. Building them has been one of my great joys in cycling. It’s not the cheapest way to go, not by a long shot, but there’s nothing plain Jane about either of them anymore.
The best I could afford when I bough my Venge was the entry-level model. This isn’t to say it was the equivalent of a Specialized Allez, it wasn’t; the Venge I bought was the cheapest form of the full bike. Some of the upgrades I bought for the Venge helped with the performance, others are simply for looks.
Now, I’m going to come at this from an angle of my own personal experience. I am not an authority on what’s cool and what isn’t – in fact a lot of this is up to choice and opinion. On the other hand, I do know cool from gaudy and that’s because I tried gaudy first. Take what you like, and leave the rest.
On white bar tape
The Venge is my race bike, if I raced. And I don’t. I won’t. I don’t have the time or the want to. There are those out there who insist on white bar tape on the race bike. Their lesser bikes, like the rain bike, black is acceptable, but for the race steed it’s said white is a must. I don’t necessarily buy into that. White bar tape would look (and be) entirely out of place on my Venge. Now, if you look at a lot of the pro peloton, yes, white tape is prevalent, but it’s not a 100% thing (not even for Sky). If white works on your good bike, by all means, have at it. If it doesn’t, don’t sweat it.
Cool vs. Gaudy
Too much of a good thing is gaudy, a line I try to tip-toe on with the Venge. The red Look pedals, the red and black Blackburn cages… if I went red cable housings and bar tape, it’d be way too much. Even the one red bottle cage is pushing it a bit, though I think it works. This one is up to one’s opinion, just be wary of going too far.
Introduction of an additional color to the paint scheme
Originally, white didn’t have a place on my bike. My first set of after-market wheels were black with white and red decals, so I added a stem that had white as well. With the tiny white pinstripes on my saddle, it brought everything into balance. Then those wheels broke on a particularly bad pothole that I nailed dead-center. I bought replacement hoops but couldn’t get new decals. In fact, I couldn’t get replacement hoops from Vuelta, either (rims). I had to resort to Velocity hoops (who were spectacular to work with)… So I lost the decals for a while and that threw my bike’s color scheme out of balance. I could make the argument that I still had the pinstripes on the saddle, but that was a stretch. I lived with it, though, because the stem I’d bought was awesome and super-light. Then I picked up my Selle Italia carbon saddle – the white pinstripes were much more prominent on that, and so my bike was back to being well-balanced again. The point is, introducing too many colors that don’t fit the color scheme is a risky proposition. If one part goes bad and needs replacing, your whole “color scheme” can be thrown off. Proceed with caution.
Next up is practicality. My ultra-light stem, while it feeds my “weight wienie” side and the color scheme of the bike, there was a practical nature to it as well. First, it is exactly the proper length for my needed “reach” to the cockpit/handlebar. I can reach the bar top, hoods and drops comfortably, without strain, and I can ride in the drops comfortably for at least an hour. As well, the angle of the stem was a choice as well. Follow the top tube slope, of flatten the cockpit out with a steeper, inverted stem? Well, with the aggressive geometry of the bike, I opted for the stem that followed the top tube’s slope so it rises a little. If I’d have gone with a -17° stem, I would have had too much drop for the ride to be comfortable. The bike would have looked cooler, but looks don’t matter if you can’t stand riding the bike… I won’t ever sacrifice practicality for pretty, and vehemently recommend against that.
Where the rubber meets the road
If you look at a lot of new bikes, they’re all the same with the exception of paint scheme. Other than bottle cages, you really don’t have a lot of real estate with which to display your “pizzazz”. I went out of my way to make sure that my bike was my own – it’s got personality to it – and the process of making it so has been an absolute joy.