Look, unless we’re independently wealthy, making a bike sexy can be a strain on the budget. On the other hand, if you know how to look for a deal and you can spread your purchases out over time, the once impossible becomes simple… it just takes a while.
Start with a solid bike, even an old school steed works:
Add a saddle (because that old one is gnarly!), maybe a new stem… and slam it:
Paint the frame, put a new headset on it, a new stem… maybe upgrade the drivetrain… some new brakes, and maybe even a new carbon fiber saddle if you’re feeling spunky and happen to find a good deal… and while we’re at it, how about some upgraded wheels:
Upgrade the wheels again, add some sweet carbon fiber bottle cages, another new handlebar and you’re complete:
I’ve got less than $3,000 into that Trek and it’s top shelf for an old school race bike. It’s quiet, fast, and absolutely fits that “sexy, sexy” billing – customized and detailed down to the chainrings. For this bike, the key was small changes over a long period of time. While any reasonable person would say $3,000 is a lot of money for a bicycle, after my initial outlay of $750 for the bike, I’ve only put an average of $280 a year into it since I brought it home and I transformed it from a dirty, worn out shop loaner to a beautiful work of bright red on black art. It just took some patience (on both my, and my wife’s part).
For a newer bike, the same concept applies, but it’s a little trickier adding panache without going overboard – especially when we’re talking about today’s “everybody’s aero-bike looks the same” trap. Canyon, Giant, Specialized, Trek, Cervélo, BMC… with tiny exceptions, they all look pretty close to the same, so how do you bling out a bike so it doesn’t look like everyone else’s?
Saddle, wheels, pedals, bar tape, cages, brakes, and if possible, stem. Maybe some decent cable housings if you wanted to go a little crazy (red cable housings were a bridge too far for me).
The key here is to get the color coordination of the bike right, without taking a nosedive into wrong… or worse, taking a header into gaudy. Ostentatious is great. Gaudy is bad. Very, very bad.
My color scheme is obviously red on black. Too much red (and I’m real close – I was pushing it with the pedals on the Venge) and you go from “awesome” to “wtf were you thinking”… fast. Another problem is the wrong red – or worse, trying to incorporate another color that doesn’t belong. Unfortunately, red comes in all kinds of shades and I blew a little bit of money replacing parts that worked but we just too many shades off to be acceptable.
For an example of going too far, red bar tape would be, really has been, tempting. I’ve thought about it more than once. Red bar tape on either bike would be too much, though. I’d pass gaudy without a glance over my shoulder and head straight into “WTF” territory. On the other hand, if you were to zoom in on the Trek’s handlebar, you would see black velvet bar tape with red dot accents (it is spectacular):
The restraint comes in knowing I can’t get away with that bar tape on the Specialized. I’ve given it some serious (look at me now, serious) contemplation, but I can’t get there. It’d be too much. That’s the discipline.
As a comparison, or contrast, I felt I could get away with a lot more on the Specialized because, well, it’s not exactly a subdued bike or paint job. The Trek, on the other hand, turned out a little more “stately”.