Custom Bike Head Tube Art From Small Framebuilders
When frame painting technology was rudimental, framebuilders branded their bikes with metal badges affixed to the head tube. This tradition continues to this day, with small builders putting care and thought into their head tube art.
Mosaic in Colorado, for example, has a beautiful dragonfly badge that makes you take notice of their bikes. Other smaller brands like Lynskey and Pegoretti have quirky, fun designs like a silly alligator riding a bike.
When it comes to creating a head badge, Shane works with each customer to design a unique piece that fits the curve of their bike’s top tube. The first thing he needs to know is the image they want, and then he can decide what material is right for them.
Brass is the most popular option, but he also works with aluminum, bronze, and even silver. He can do either flat or etched designs. Etched badges start at $75 and can be as simple or intricate as you want.
Head tube badges started out as a way to distinguish one frame manufacturer’s bikes from another at the turn of the 20th century. With rudimentary paint technology and thousands of new bike brands emerging, companies went to great lengths to create elaborate, fanciful head badges that could be easily identified.
If a framebuilder goes to the trouble of creating and affixing a head tube badge, it’s generally a good idea for that badge to have some sort of design that’s unique. Mosaic, a Colorado framebuilder, for example, has a great head tube badge with a silly alligator riding a bike that speaks to the brand. Other examples include Lynskey with its classic badge that looks like it came off a pre-war six-days track bicycle, and Pegoretti with Dario’s handprint.
The material the head tube badge is made of also matters. Brass is the most common, but Shane also works with sterling silver (a beautiful option), copper and bronze.
Once the head badge is completed, it is usually affixed to the headset by using a rivet. But the customer also has the option of having the badge laminated with 3M adhesive to allow for easier mounting. The turn around time for a custom head badge is about 1 week, but will vary depending on the complexity of the design and the material used.
Turnaround depends on complexity but usually about a week. Prices start at $75 for a copper/brass/bronze head badge. Silver head badges are slightly more.
The first step in creating a custom bike head badge is choosing the design. Shane will work with a customer to create the perfect image, either working off a photograph or drawing something from scratch.
Historically, the designs were acid-etched. This meant a copper, brass, or bronze plate was covered in wax to protect the paint then dipped into an acid solution that would etch the exposed lines.
This process isn’t always precise but gives the badges a distinct look and feel. Mosaic Cycles’ stacked “M” is an example of this, as well as Yeti’s humorous cartoon depicting their chili pepper icon that’s still on their new bikes (despite fading logo trends). The Moots badge is another fun one with its silly alligator. These are just a few examples of how brands can use the head tube badge to express their personality and tell their story.
When a framebuilder goes the extra mile to create and etch a head tube badge, it shows they care. These designs can be classic and understated like Lynskey or as fanciful as Pegoretti’s handprint. They can also be humorous. Moots’ silly alligator rider is one example.
Smaller builders often put thought and art into their head tube badges too. Mosaic, for instance, has moved away from their solid badge that tended to corrode, but they have retained the details that let you know it’s a Mosaic.
While metal badges have been replaced with vinyl stickers on many bikes these days, you can still get a high-quality custom head badge made from white bronze or sterling silver. Turn around is about a week depending on complexity and material. All of them include lamination protection to keep your new badge safe from the elements and accidental nicks during transit. They are shipped on a die-cut adhesive backing for easy installation.