21 February, 2012

Head Badges

Every so often the idea of having head badges made comes up. Folks e-mail and ask for them or one of us decides they might be worth investigating. Getting head badges made is really pretty simple. A company in Taiwan makes most of them. Send a drawing and they'll send a box of head badges to our frame factory or warehouse.

I'd long been resistant to head badges on our frames, especially back when we had semi-custom frames. I see head badges as something to decorate a production frame. Most constructeurs, and even most American and British custom builders, used a simple decal on the head tube. Actually, some of the best French customs had the "badge" hand painted on.

But now we make production frames, so my resistance is not as strong. We might even have some made for the next run of frames. What do you think, are head badges cool or just needless adornment?

46 comments:

doc said...

There is nothing wrong with needless adornment. That said, I think it depends on the badge.

gatsby said...

no. don't. please.

Louis Philippe Hurtubise said...

The design of said headbadge has got to be very cool. Otherwise it just looks clunky. IMHO.

Meghan K said...

Headbadges should be something that makes my bike mine. I bought my custom headbadge from Laura Crawford at www.tangerinetreehouse.com . She is a touring cyclist and buying my headbadge from her supports her journey, supports skilled artisans, keeps production in the USA instead of some factory in China, and expresses who I am as well as differentiating my bike from others like it.

Bruce said...

Someone once observed that from the bike boom era and onwards, head badges are most commonly seen on lower-end models. Since reading that, I haven't been able to shake that association. In more recent times, head badges seem, at best, to be gilding the lily; at worst, a garish distraction.

Matthew said...

I happen to love old headbadges. Some brands had beautiful designs which really add to the overall aesthetic of the bikes. Some brands, on the other hand, had uninspired badges that just look like dead weight on the frame. The French generally have the worst (e.g. Peugeot, Bertin, Motobecane), whereas the English and some of the Italians had some great ones -- see Rudge, Galmozzi, Humber, Carlton, to name a few.
The problem with a headbadge on a Velo Orange is that it has to evoke straight-ahead retro simplicity, not an ornate colorful design. It shouldn't look like it's trying to be a headbadge, nor should it be wasted, excess metal tacked onto the head tube. A low-profile design of elegant lettering in a mid-century vein with maybe just two subdued colors would do the brand justice. If you can't come up with anything just right, though, you should probably abandon the idea.

Don said...

If it's great, it's great, but if it stinks, it can ruin a bike. In the case of your bikes, which evoke another era while remaining modern, it can be tricky. A headbadge can look dated pretty quickly. It must be sincere and not "designy." You could make it an option as you are with the decals, I suppose. I like the ones that show pride of place, so maybe it should include Annapolis. You could also take the Grant Peterson approach and badge by model, in which case you'd have another excuse to see "Polyvalent" written out.

The real reason for any brand or badge is to ensure that the object before you is the genuine article. What is unique about your frames is the geometry and attention to detail. These things are worthy of protection. Whether a badge accomplishes this may be another question.

On the other hand, a porteur tends to obscure the headtube anyway, so maybe this is all moot. That leaves custom dropouts and the like. Oh so many options!

Alec said...

meghan k: Thanks for the mention of Laura. She actually dropped by our shop last summer with Russ Roca on their Pat Less Pedaled tour they wrote about their experience. We also bump into them at industry tradeshows sometimes.

Laura makes beautiful headbadges, that's for sure.

You mentioned Chinese production as well. We'd be using a small factory in Taiwan like we do with other VO products.

Kilroy said...

Greetings,

I once read an article in Scientific Ameican on headbadges. There exists scientific reinforcement that a bicycle sporting a headbadge will slightly "go faster" than one without.

Best regards

BikeChago said...

Please take a look at the headbadges from traitor cycles, you can't look at them and not think they are awesome.

http://www.traitorcycles.com/WebStoreImages/Head%20BadgeLow.jpg

Anonymous said...

needless adornment.

The fewer logos and decals violating bicycles' clean aesthetic the better.

minisystem said...

I think you've made the right distinction between a head badge on a production frame and a decal on a custom frame.

Frankly, I don't think Chinese or Taiwanese production would affect how I feel about a head badge. Craftsmanship is craftsmanship, no matter where it's done. That said, doesn't Rivendell get their badges made by some medal maker in the US?

I often admire the head bade on my Holdsworth. The Raleigh badge is also classic.

Anonymous said...

You definitely should incorporate a head badge on the VO frames. They look fantastic and add that finishing touch to a frame.

Have a look at the new SOMA frame head badges--they look splendid. Super simple and they clearly displace the company's logo.

The Rivendell head badges are great too. While a lot of others who commented about how bad head badges look, I really feel that they're a great way to add something special to the front of a bike. If you're just going to cast the "VO" letters, there's no need to bother because the decal is perfect. However, if you take the time to come up with a solid design, it'll look great!

-tony

Noah said...

Make it cool and unique. Not just the VO logo and it will be great. Personally in my opinion the current head tube decals detracts from the VO frames a bit. Although the most recent is a little better. But the frames are still pretty great.

Eric said...

I love old head badges, especially on steel. A bike feels naked without it.

Perry said...

Hit or miss. I tend to like lower profile head badges, the Rivendell ones stick out too much for me. The Mondia headbadge has always been my favorite.

llewellyn said...

Always loved head badges.Used to be the cool thing in the 50's and 60's in country towns in Australia. Occasionally see a hand made bike or two here with head badges, they really stand out.

llewellyn said...

If you are interested in head badges check on Flickr, one guy has close to 3500 photos of these items "bicycle head badges"

Nate Knutson said...

I think don makes a good observation about headbadges on your bikes being obscured by bags/cargo. It's a pretty meaningful strike against them design-wise in the case of your bikes.

Ken said...

Head Badges brand your bike. From a marketing and business standpoint it differentiates your brand from another. I have a Gios Road Bike that has a really nice head badge as well as a Fuji that has one also. Rivendell has a beautiful head badge on their bicycles. Trashy, I do not think so. They stand out and are not apt to peel off like decals are. I came across this head badge from Ahearne Cycles.http://www.ahearnecycles.com/blog/2011/12/28/new-head-tube-badges.html
Cheap, trashy no I do not think so. I think head badges are great!

Red said...

I would love to see a really nice classic head badge, they are really beautiful. But more recently, I've been riding on an old Atala, and I am in love with the Italian style paint. I was working on a Bianchi just yesterday, and it's headtube was simply gorgeous. On the other hand, I agree with Matthew, that the French designs are appalling. I covered up the Lion on my Peugeot with a Streetlight Manifesto sticker (http://tinyurl.com/7ustk9y) it was so bad. I think that if you do go for the badge, which I would love to see, you have to go over the top, and err on the side of too extravagant. Though the current decal would look damn sexy as a badge.

neilsen said...

Could you offer a compromise. Make a nice quality metal head badge (stainless or pewter) and offer it as an accessory. If the head badge decal is applied after the clear coat, the consumer can choose decal, head badge, or nothing at all.I personally remove all the head badges that are stick-on type but very much enjoy my bicycles that have bolt-on head badges. Offering a head badge that bolts on with a guide to drill holes would be my preference.

islaysteve said...

Two timely posts (this one included): Lovely Bicycle! is currently featuring a nice post with pictures of Mike at Antbike making a headbadge. Steve

Anonymous said...

I realise it would prohibitively expensive, but a stamped or engraved headtube would be pretty cool.
M Burdge

Nanseikan said...

Sorry bikechago, I looked at the Traitor Bikes head badge and thought it not awesome. Which only proves there's no accounting for taste. None of my bikes have head badges and I don't miss them. Sorry, correction, my old Raleigh Stow-Away shopping bike has one. b

SocialBlunder said...

I don't like head badges because of the bad cleaning aesthetic. Anything that makes a bike harder to clean must go.

Matt said...

I like headbadges. My Rivendell Atlantis has a suberb sailing-ship headbadge which civilians have commented on. I thought about getting a custom Guy Fawkes headbadge for another bike in solidarity with OWS but then watched V for Vendetta and the movie was so daft I couldn't go with it. Still, a good design (or maybe a choice of 2 or 3, customer option?) is a real plus.

Tim D said...

I like the idea of a brazed on badge under the paint. You can then choose to make it as visible or understated as you want. The VO logo from the Rando would look great.

Not the greatest of photos but here's the head badge of our Swallow tandem

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_HD1YM0HgTfk/SraUjARrorI/AAAAAAAAAFU/tvNdZe11g40/RIMG0291_thumb.jpg?imgmax=800

Anonymous said...

Another vote against head badges. I prefer minimalism, and remove badges, decals, and other logos as much as possible (both on my bikes and on other goods).

Plus, more importantly, extra fiddly bits trap water and are hard to clean well.

Christopher said...

Plus one vote for headbadges from me.

Etherhuffer said...

I like well done badges. My fuji Gran Tourer SE has the original badge after its new powder cost. People who know Fujis can always ID the frame! That is cool. I have seen a lot of clunky stainless crap. I prefer stamped and painted badges or just a decal. And, it should have both detail and color.

Nick said...

Generally I like a head badge on a classic-looking frame but I could take it or leave it. A head badge is easy to ignore if you don't like it; decals, however, can easily ruin a frame if they are too large and garish. Although I always liked the paint on your rando frame, the bright orange decals convinced me not to buy one. The subtle decals on the new polyvalent are better so I built a porteur with that frame right away.

If the comments on this post mean anything, it's that there is no universal taste.

Anonymous said...

I ride on the caltrain every day from Palo Alto to San Francisco. Recently had a conversation with another VO fan about your brand design, which we both agree detracts from the brand itself. I think you should really think about getting a great new brand design made before thinking about headbadges.

Christian said...

Really cool blog post about ANT head badges:
http://lovelybike.blogspot.com/2012/02/ant-headbadge-in-making.html

Darrell G said...

I'm definitely in favor of headtube badges. Whenever I see a frame with nothing on the headtube or just a decal, it gives the impression of low quality or lack of attention to detail. A nice badge add class to any frame. Just my $0.02...

Gunnar Berg said...

Do not take a Grant Peterson approach. On anything.

Tom in Delaware said...

A well done head badge can be a very attractive statement in a way that a bare head tube or a decal can not make. Unlike some of the other posters, a decal seems like a cop-out to me.

RoadieRyan said...

Love head badges and think they would be icing on the cake that is a VO frame hope you start offering them

Jordan said...

Head badges have the potential to make a bike look really great, provided the design is simple. Engraving is also can look very nice. I have a Bianchi X4 with the head tube engraved, it looks awesome. The shield with VO has some potential for a good design, its simple enough. In all honesty though I don't think Velo Orange bicycles need a head badge, they are fine the way they are. If VO decides to produce some, I would only put them on something special like a limited run anniversary bicycle frame or something of that sort. Either way, if you don't like head badges just take it off, if you like it, keep it.

Chad Holt said...

i love head badges but have bikes with decals and badges with some custom badges.

I say leave them off with possibly offering as an extra.

Alistair Williamson said...

I agree great head badge = great, indifferent head badge == cheesy

Here's some great. http://www.ahearnecycles.com/blog/2011/12/28/new-head-tube-badges.html

It's a new head badge from Joseph Ahearne a Portland customer builder. There's a level of detail that's even more engaging seeing them first hand

His blog has the design & production story behind them too.
http://www.ahearnecycles.com/blog/2012/2/23/head-badge-design-process.html

theshepherdsdog said...

i like it if it's put in with rivets or screws. if it's just a sticker (surly, raleigh) my ocd-ness will take over and it will come off. but i like the idea though, for sure.

Anonymous said...

As a very busy custom badge maker I think as others that a well designed but simple badge makes a bike. A decal or stick on just leaves a cheap feeling.

Kyle H said...

Thorn headbadges rule. Not only is the design cool, but they aren't just glued or screwed on, they are silvered into the frame...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/adrianjones/3215891178/

Do That.

Anonymous said...

05.30.12Big Bozo ... I once bought an early pre war Schwinn ACE head tube badge at a swap meet and had it in a box for 30 years waiting for the right frame to come along. I re-painted it and now it is leading my (formerly) Schwinn Traveller 3 speed "gravel racer" conversion down the road. It's gorgeous and I get a LOT of comments about it. You must have a distinctive head tube badge. There is no other choice.

Max Schlachter said...

I may be late in the game, but the VO shield would be wonderful with a bit of relief.