In Memoriam: The Proper Head Badge

In Memoriam: The Proper Head Badge

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The days of the proper head badge, I’m afraid, are numbered. It seems it used to be that any road bike with a pedigree that was really worth riding was festooned with an artful adornment on the head tube. By that I mean something made with a bit of heft, stamped or cast of alloy and riveted front and center. More and more though we’re seeing what amount to head decals put on bikes. This isn’t anything new, head badges have been suffering a long, slow demise. More like religion, instead of the relatively quick and painless one like dinosaurs. Yes, decals are put on bikes with pedigrees that are well worth riding. But these bikes, I would argue, would have a modicum more panache with a proper head badge.

I suspect that this tradition is giving way to “progress”. Economies of scale would suggest that it’s cheaper for mass producers of bike frames to use decals over badges. Material, labor, and production costs must all be considerably higher per production run when using a badge. But when you’re clearing an easy few grand per individual frame would a few extra cents really matter all that much to the buyer? Then there is the question of weight. When bike manufacturers are all clamoring to declare that their frame is 10 grams lighter than the next it wouldn’t surprise me if eliminating a proper badge was one way they got there. That being said, it’s a fine hair to split and there isn’t one of us in this community who couldn’t stand to drop at least the corresponding weight of a head badge from our gut in order to climb faster. After all, it’s not my kit that makes me look fat, it’s me. And what of the aesthetics of badge vs. decal? You won’t find a compelling reason there for me to opt for a decal.

Now there are a number of manufacturers still using proper badges. Bianchi and Pinerello come to mind as common high-end frames still using badges. The badges they use may not always be made of alloy or robustly riveted onto the head tube but at least they are raised and give the illusion of tradition. Other companies using them are often smaller brands striving to carve a niche or stand out among other brands. I commend all these frame builders for holding to the small but significant tradition of branding their frames with a proper badge. Then of course there are the handful of small artisans who fabricate custom badges, made to order, with your own design. I’ve always thought a V-cog head badge would look rather nice on a bike.

Sadly, none of my bikes have a proper badge. Not surprising given bikes one and two are high-end modern carbon tech-weenie steeds. But bike number 3 is a Serotta, a boutique brand one would think would be worthy of a proper badge. Like many of you, I’ve come by my bike frames through the mysterious happenstance of being in the right place and the right time with just enough money and dedication to Rule #11 and Rule #12 to pull the trigger. I wonder though, all things being equal between ride quality, cost, purpose, pedigree, and performance, if I wouldn’t choose a bike with a proper badge over one with a decal. I’ll probably never know.

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// In Memoriam // Nostalgia // Tradition

  1. @Oli My ALAN has a badge.

  2. @Marko My Alan was 1982 vintage, I think. Definitely a decal. They must have gone all up-market at some stage, you lucky swine.

    Head badges are very cool, I was just saying I haven’t missed them on many nice bikes. Would have loved any of those even more if they had had one, I’m sure!

  3. Super topic Marko.  I love the Pegoretti head badge

    sadly mine has only a decal, although of his old logo which is pretty cool:

    My father in law built a frame a few years ago.  I rode it for a while, but the geo wasn’t right for me.  Nonetheless, it has a cool bronze head badge.  I’ll be over there tomorrow and will try to bring back a photo.

  4. @Oli

    Hmmmmm. you got robbed.

    @Nate

    That is a beauty Pegoretti badge. Your bike is sweet without it though.

  5. @Marko  Some of these vintage head badges are collectors items. As objet d’art some of them are quite beautiful as well. Looking at them I can only imagine the riders, bicycles and where and when they were ridden.

  6. That Feather perfectly demonstrates the real reason for right hand front brake and not crossing shift cables around the head tube. Wouldn’t want to obscure the head badge.

  7. very cool topic indeed :)

  8. Image 1 is upside down. My Airborne ‘Thunderbolt’ has a headbadge, thick aluminum, a bit corny, but surely classier than a mere sticker could ever be.

  9. To my mind nothing sets off a frame better than proper head badge, stickers just don’t do it for me. Especially when the frame concerned can cost thousands.

    I was lucky enough to stumble across a chap called Geoff Moorhouse in the UK who custom makes headbadges. I’ve had two from him and they’ve both been fantastic. The latest one he made up for the custom Rourke that i took delivery of earlier in the year.

    Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

     

    There are also a couple of crackers lurking in the garage that i thought worth sharing. The first is on my Orange 5. Not entirely in the spirit of this site, but a lovely headbadge i’m sure you’ll agree. The second is a real suprise, and came on a sub £900 off the peg bike. A really nice touch.

     

    Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

     

    Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

     

    Apologies in advance for the dirt etc…..

  10. another cool looking one

  11. Head badges are beautiful.

  12. My old Fuji, excuse the bad photography.

  13. My Carlà has a head badge but the Bianchi, no. The rainbow stripes were earned on the track, I think.

  14. @pistard My left-front brake cable doesn’t interfere with the headtube visuals in the least? I run my gear housings a lot longer than on that Feather though, as I don’t want them tearing the stops off if the handlebars inadvertently spin around. Sometimes practical considerations have to supersede aesthetic ones, IMO.

  15. @Oli

    if the handlebars inadvertently spin around

    And here we have Oli’s BMX roots. He finds himself subconsciously doing bar spins on his road bike.

  16. Have you heard of crashing? I’ve seen bikes after crashes that would be perfectly fine if the cable stops hadn’t been torn off by the ‘bars swinging around.

    Also, try putting your bike in the back of a small car without turning them around – probably not a serious issue for most people, but I’ve seen bikes fucked by this simple thing in the past.

    In a combination of the two I’ve even seen a bike that survived a crash get put into a spectator’s car so inexpertly that one of the stops tore clean off and the derailleur hanger snapped as well!

    I might be a wanker cunt but it doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes give okay advice.

  17. goddamit! Oli, who let you know? That was a treasured inside joke! Well, you can now proudly own being a wanker cunt, AND continue to give good technical advice!(better than okay, c’mon)

  18. Mine. Handcrafted in pewter.

  19. My Bianchi has a badge.  I quite like it.  The Oltre I covet has a big-ass badge.

  20. don’t know why the photo didn’t stick the first time? lesson for new player.

    try again…

  21. The only badge anyone needs.

    http://youtu.be/oC4rWA3pTg4

  22. @Deakus

    I always loved the fact the Raleigh bikes in UK had a proper seperately soldered on head badge and I think Dawes did to, it just made them feel kind of classy. The latest iteration of this though is Feather bikes in the north of England. He is carving out a real name for himself for some beautiful frames and has issued bikes with a brass head badge made from the original doorknocker from his first business premises. He has only made about 50 frames to date but here is an example of his work…great article by the way, sadly my Argon 18 came sans headbadge and is less of a bike for it im afraid,,,

    I’m next in line for one if Ricky’s masterpieces. Can’t bloody wait mate. !!!

  23. @Simonhi er…..now I am jealous, although I think if I were looking for a custom steel frame I would go with Demon bikes, purely because he is about 10 miles away and it feels good to support local business.

    Those Feather bikes are stunning though!

  24. I know what you mean. I had a 650 mole round trip to Yorkshire recently for a bike fit !!!

    Really like what Tom is doing, and he is less than a mile from my office, but long been a follower of Feather Cycles so I went with my gut.

    Should be end of Jan then my n+1 will be ready, really looking forward to it, stainless lugged modern classic, with my hand built Royce / Nemesis wheels, a la Frank.

  25. @Oli

     
    Practical over aesthetic is a slippery slope that leads to mudguards and EPMSs.
     
    I’ve been riding track/fixed almost exclusively for more than a decade so all those cables are like horror vacui. Good point about the cable stops; I tend to worry about top tube damage from crash/transport with no cables to limit the bars. Currently building a modern road bike and the sheer amount of STUFF on it is freaking me out.
  26. @Al__S  THE classic. On every bike I ever had as a kid.

  27. I can’t count for the veracity of the story, but I read somewhere many years ago that head tube badges were first replaced by decals by none other the Giuseppe Olmo, and it was a purely pragmatic decisions based on cleaning team bikes after races – after a few washes the badges would start looking a bit daggy and it was a major pain in the arse to remove/replace; Olmo started using stickers instead so that, when tattiness made its presence felt, he could just peel off the old one and slap on a new one (possibly “slap on in a careful and deliberate olde worlde Italian craftsman fashion”); in the same way that fresh ‘bar tape lifts the look of a whole bike, so does a new head tube decal (or polished badge for those of us who have more time than a rushed pro team mechanic).

  28. Basso alloy frame production still includes a headbadge.

  29. @mxlmax Nice badge but that thing is in some serious need of Rule #45 compliance.

  30. @Marko I think that this is sadly no one’s particular bike. Image is off the BASSO website.

  31. @Deakus Those are some pretty lugs and badges. The tattoo-based bike design was gorgeous.

  32. My trek’s got a decent head badge…

  33. Trying this again…:

  34. @DavidI

    note to self…use “daggy” a lot more in conversation.

    “I’m a bit daggy today, that girl from Moyston and I went out and drank a liter of Rumplemintz”

  35. @Gianni

    @DavidI

    note to self…use “daggy” a lot more in conversation.

    “I’m a bit daggy today, that girl from Moyston and I went out and drank a liter of Rumplemintz”

    Ahhh the Girl from Moyston – memories flooding back!

  36. Sweet metal badge on my c.2000 Wilier Alpe d’Huez.

  37. @Oli

    Have you heard of crashing? I’ve seen bikes after crashes that would be perfectly fine if the cable stops hadn’t been torn off by the ‘bars swinging around.

    Also, try putting your bike in the back of a small car without turning them around – probably not a serious issue for most people, but I’ve seen bikes fucked by this simple thing in the past.

    In a combination of the two I’ve even seen a bike that survived a crash get put into a spectator’s car so inexpertly that one of the stops tore clean off and the derailleur hanger snapped as well!

    I might be a wanker cunt but it doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes give okay advice.

    You may be a wanker cunt, but I’m in the process of recabling my Bianchi because of your advice! My bars wouldn’t even turn past 90 degrees because I cut the housing so short last time.

  38. @Bianchi Denti Good call, and I’m glad to hear it!

  39. @mxlmax

    @Marko I think that this is sadly no one’s particular bike. Image is off the BASSO website.

    They should know better really.

    Next time I’m at my Dad’s I’ll try and get a few pictures of his headbadge collection, some really nice rare ones in there, mostly British stuff.

  40. I’m late to the party, so have little to add, except to say what a FUCKING GREAT article and thread…. LOVE seeing all these head badges… e.g. the Pegoretti… and @Gianni – that Merlin head badge is fucken awesome.  @marko… your Serotta:  is it carbon?  my carbon serotta has a shitty decal, but my Ti one and my steel one have old school badges.  So I buy your ‘weight saving’….

    On Bike No. 4, my fixed gear… my framebuilder went to town and actually took a saw and a drill to my headbadge to make it a little bit special… it makes me smile.  Every.  Single.  Time I get on this bad girl (at 5:30am for my commute)… Stuart at Pearson Cycles is a legend… and a reason why this bike shop has been going over 150 years.

  41. Copper and brass head badge on the bike my father in law built:

  42. For the more adventurous among you – here are instructions for creating your own

  43. http://trotify.com/

    Given the wicked article lead image I thought this fits in… Can’t wait to get one – it’s completely Pro, right? And follows The Rules, right? Right…? I mean it’s got to be Monty P and all certified – Right???

  44. It seems this thread was passed on by six days and Dutch elves @all – @keepers I need a ruling on this cool throw back with so many nostalgic associations: pre horseless carriages, Monty Python etc. They are half way to filling the first order…

     
    http://trotify.com/

  45. @Rob I am not so sure, looks cool right up until you have had to listen to it for er…the first mile of a ride.  It probably works well to get you dropped with people trying to get away!

    Great for kids though!

  46. @Deakus my thoughts too and really I’d only put it on bike #8 the old Schwine 2 up that Mrs. Wife and I ride on bike paths and as one of the users said in one of their vids it makes the Peds get out of the way!

  47. @Rob

    Principle of Silence violation, no?

  48. @frank  Yes – but this is so cool and the sound is priceless can’t it get a Papal (or at the very least a minor keeper) dispensation (I’d gladly pay into the beer fund coffers)?

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