To bling or not to bling? That is the question. When I started cycling in the nineties bling was everywhere, and it usually came in the form of anodized aluminium parts in a rainbow of colours. So what is the story now? Can I bling and not look like a twat?
Thankfully the world is not yet done with anodization! Traditionally, bling relates to the ostentatious use of diamonds and gold - anodizing is the easiest way to get this look on a bike. This is also the most affordable method to add a personal touch to your precious bicycle and, metaphorically speaking, there are infinite opportunities. Check some of these out:
Photo: Happy Wheels
- Headset spacers
- Bar ends (warning: very uncool these days)
- Headset top caps
- Seatpost clamps
- Spoke nipples
- Cassette lock rings
- Derailleur jockey wheels
- Cable ferules
- Chainring bolts (although these can seriously creak and drive you nuts)...
Okay, you get the picture, there are lots. But anodizing isn't the only bling. The term can also be applied to any flashy or ornamental additions to a bicycle that serve little functional purpose apart from looking cool and giving the ego a boost.
Titanium bolts (or titanium anything really)
Titanium has been overshadowed by carbon somewhat as THE bling material of the modern day, yet try making a bolt out of carbon and you'll see that titanium has some legs yet. An amusing reality is that no-one will ever know about your titanium bling unless you tell them or, alternatively, you can ride along smug in the knowledge that those bolts you bought for $50 have lightened your bike by 2.4 grams.
Photo: Jersey Cycles
One way to add a touch of class is by getting a fancy quick release skewer. Skewers are available anodized, or there are very cool titanium jobs that look sweet as well. A fancy skewer is one of those things that others may not notice, but you'll feel pretty special about it regardless. The challenge then is to slip it into a conversation without anybody realising you're talking yourself up.
Carbon fiber is the "turbo" of the new millennium. For a while there everything had to look like carbon whether it was actually made of the stuff or not. Some parts came out that were aluminium wrapped in carbon and therefore not only did they cancel out the damping qualities of the fibre, they were also very heavy!
Still, carbon fibre is the premium bike bling of our time. Similar to anodized alloys, carbon can be found just about everywhere. Common carbon bling upgrades are: handlebars, headset spacers, bidon cages, seatposts, saddles (see below), pedals, the list goes on...
Nothing says "I'm hard-core" on a road bike more than a carbon fiber saddle. By this I mean the type that is only carbon with no padding whatsoever. These glossy resin covered devices of torture are an example of modern day bling and a reflection of the extreme cyclist ego. Go hard!
I can think of two brands that have embraced individuality like no others: Crank Bros and Speedplay. Their colorful products reflect the quality and price of the individual pedal. Crank Bros are big on colorful aluminium bodies, while Speedplay rewrote the book on road pedals with their individual design - a great upgrade when you want to bling your road steed.
The question remains: Should I bling? Of course you should. Embrace your twatdom. We all know cycling is half about riding a bike and half about buying stuff for your bike. Bling it up baby!