Boonen in his final Paris-Roubaix

The Color White

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I saw the Black Crowes in concert some years ago, and as the band swung into their first number, Chris Robinson casually strolled onstage wearing head to toe white sequins. Later in the show, he remarked that nothing quite makes you feel like a virgin like wearing white.

The color white is indeed a bold statement. A white house declares to the neighborhood that the homeowners are committed to give nature the what-for and keep it pristine at all times. Similarly, the Cyclist who wears white declares that they are willing to take their chances against road grime, despite effectively turning themselves into a human mudflap.

White is like hanging a “Kick Me” sign on Nature.

I personally find it irresistible. White bar tape and socks, even on a bike I expect to get dirty, is a must. I do admit to going through phases where I’ll experiment with black or orange socks or bar tape like a temperamental tween experimenting with talking back to their parents. But I always find myself irrevocably drawn back to white.

When I was 13, I bought my first Selle San Marco Regal saddle in perforated white leather. (I promptly crashed on it). It matched my Scott Drop-Ins which were wrapped in white Benotto bar tape, as well as the white spatters on my early Nineties paintjob. It was many years later before I bought myself some White Ladies. And to be fair, as much as I love my Orange Damsels, there is nothing like a clean, white pair of socks matched to a clean, white pair of shoes. Just ask Tom Boonen.

White sunglasses are a must as well, and after a short foray from the path, I’m back on the white helmet program. White jerseys tend to look sharper than their dark counterparts (assuming your physical qualities don’t require the slimming effect of black.) I’m on a quest for a white bike, but people seem loathe to make me one, as they are apparently unlucky. (I’m going for the next best thing: silver sparkles.)

White is bold and requires a concerted effort to ensure one keeps it pristine, but it pays you back by Looking incomparably Fantastic. It seems the only place where white doesn’t look better is on bibshorts. Go figure.

// Awesome Belgian Guys // Etiquette // Export // La Vie Velominatus // Look Pro

  1. Snow is white…
    and Snow is Awesome…


  2. i usually have a white saddle on #1, too, but i’m trying various Prologo models out right now. when i settle on one, it’ll be white, too.

  3. i can’t do white bibs, either, but my favorite bibs have white trim.

  4. White tape on all, white saddles on half. The fi'zi:k white is easy to clean. After enough years you work clean and care is not hard. White gloves and jersey pretty often,. Stands out in a sea of black. White was always PRO since they got it free and didn’t have to work on it. Still love the look and believe all shorts should be black.

  5. My Number One is white. I briefly tried white tape and saddle on her, but it looked a little…pretentious. I then couldn’t afford a new black saddle, so I’m still riding the stock one, which isn’t my favourite thing.

    In case you’re wondering about the spec (yes, it’s a compact drivetrain, and yes it’s a group-san), it was an ex-display model with almost 50% off list price and c’mon; she so purdy!

  6. My #1 is white. Having a white bike encourages you to give it a clean after it is covered in road grime after a ride. Cleaning your bike after a ride is Pro. Plus it actually makes it simpler to clean because you can see all the muck easier.

  7. Riding in and around NYC is not conducive to white anything. Therefore, I chose the black, black, black option regarding Rule #8 compliance. #1 is black, albeit the matte version that shows the carbon weave. The seat post and handlebars are finished with a matching white design, which is continued on the saddle. Italians (Treviso), do these things with flair so I am loathe to change any of the accessories out.

  8. My last bike (replaced 10 months ago) was 80% white with a fine subtle silver met (also black and red), the bar tape was white, the saddle had white trim, the wheels had white decals. Sweet – except that as it aged it when a cream colour. I eventually crashed it and since I wanted to repalace it for the same frame I had to take what I could get. The choice was gloss black with matt black decals or nothing.

    So, now I rock a black bike and I am not excited about it. I have contemplated white bar tape since it would match the saddle trim and wheel decals but can’t decide if it’s going too far. I am due for tape. I should just do it!

  9. White shoes, socks, bar tape and sunglasses on the bike are the tits. Off the bike white can be such a conflicted color (nothing quite says I’m a douchebag like white sunglasses).

    We’ve given up having too much white on the back of our jerseys here in merry old New England. Too much mud in the fall to justify the stains.

  10. My then-new Merckx is indeed white, and orange bands as it is a Faema-paint job from The Prophet’s own back shed. The second ride ever, in February, it threw me unmercifully to the ground on a mad descent, breaking a collarbone, four ribs, C7 spine and so much other shit I’m glad I don’t remember the crash or have a stupid camera going. I will also invoke Rule #85 here. White is extremely unlucky. The gentleman of the collection is fully rebuilt (go on, try to source pantographed SR) and has had a number of rides since, with greater respect for the colour. It still is the most awesome thing in the bike room. And the frame has not one scratch on it, which is rather concerningly Christine-like. We have a working relationship. White is awesome but dangerous. Choose wisely.

  11. You got me worried there… But fortunately you did not go astray: “It seems the only place where white doesn’t look better is on bibshorts.”

  12. My #1 is a white 2003 Kona (but built with Italian tubing) and is in the process of a Group San to Gruppo metamorphosis. The red bar tape stays though.

  13. A timely article. I was just thinking about white.

    I recently got some new White Ladies and picked up some of my favourite Goldilocks LG white socks on offer. I’ve got white fi'zi:k tape on currently but am going to re-wrap with white Lizardskins (when I have time to experiment with slamming my stem and changing the angles of my bar and hoods).

    I have also recently installed a white saddle, and bought a white helmet. My bike is mostly black so the white of the contact points looks pro, pro pro.

    It’s not the easiest choice of colour. It is the best choice of colour.

  14. How timely. After years of running black tape on my all-black #1, I just put white on it for the first time. Looks dandy. As for other things white, my sunnies are a 10 year old pair of white Serfas gregs. Love ’em. They’ve been superb and despite other sunnies being bought, these remain the first choice. Socks? Always, always, always short and white. Helmets? Various, but I have a few white ones that see regular action. Bibs? Just got a white pain but these may see late season action as I need to build up enough color on my legs to really justify them.Shoes? Two pairs of all black Shimanos, but other colors in the stable.

  15. Just the right tone of Antique White

  16. @RobSandy

    I recently got some new White Ladies and picked up some of my favourite Goldilocks LG white socks on offer. I’ve got white fi’zi:k tape on currently but am going to re-wrap with white Lizardskins (when I have time to experiment with slamming my stem and changing the angles of my bar and hoods).

    I use Lizardskins bar tape and love it. But you should be aware that it gets dirty pretty easily and doesn’t clean up very easily. I used to have black/white Lizardskins with the black above the hoods and the white below. I don’t ride in the drops that often, but the white got pretty dingy and didn’t clean up. Once the Lizardskins “absorbs” dirt/color, it’s pretty much permanent. You can clean it up a little, but can’t rid of it completely. My wife’s green Lizardskins is dis-colored at all the contact points. Ditto for my pink (that replaced my black/white).

    You can sort of see what I mean/am talking about in this pic that I originally posted in The Bikes.

  17. @RobSandy

    Here’s a pic with my black/white Lizardskins. I know you can’t really tell, but the white is more “off” white than “bright” white (which it was when it was new). I wanted some brightness/color for this riding season hence the current pink (most obviously, for the Giro, but real men wear/do pink), but may eventually (after this season) go back to the black/white colorway. Overall, it’s a good look on my bike. Particularly with the white seatpost (3T Dorico Team).

  18. @Teocalli

    Just the right tone of Antique White

    Oh these are just lovely!!! Chapeau!

    My 1985 Hinault Reynolds 753/Campag SR build is almost complete. I went with toe-clips even though Hinault used the first iteration of clipless that year because I want to ride it in the Eroica events and not have to deal with explaining the clipless timeline every time I show up.

    Still pondering what shoes to buy for the ’85 La Vie Claire team. Seems like each rider used a different type of shoe.

  19. I definitely need to get back to Pinnacle Mtn — and let me mention that Boyd Johnson is riding his annual birthday ride from Hincapie’s Hotel Domestique this Sunday 9:00 — going up Green River and across Pinnacle Mtn.

  20. Velominati central did not like that # symbol in this image filename on the first pass. Here — Green River Rd

  21. @chuckp

    3T LTD Corius bar tape keeps white. There is also a not-so-often mentioned rule about matching bar tape to your seat post manufacturer whenever possible. Confession, I made that part up.

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