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.

 

// In Memoriam // Nostalgia // Tradition

  1. @Al__S  THE classic. On every bike I ever had as a kid.

  2. 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).

  3. Basso alloy frame production still includes a headbadge.

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

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

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

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

  8. Trying this again…:

  9. @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”

  10. @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!

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

  12. @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.

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

  14. @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.

  15. 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.

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

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

  18. 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???

  19. 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/

  20. @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!

  21. @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!

  22. @Rob

    Principle of Silence violation, no?

  23. @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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