At every grand tour, bike manufacturers roll out custom-painted bikes, helmets, and even sunglasses for big name riders and stage winners. Case in point: Scott produced a custom-edition pink Scott Foil for Orica-GreenEdge racer Svein Tuft within 24 hours of him taking the first maglia rosa of this year’s Giro d’Italia.
But on a recent trip to Tucson, I discovered that bespoke gear isn’t only for the big shots. On the first morning of riding I noticed this snappy looking Specialized Prevail on the head of one of the guys in our group. At first I figured it must be some special edition scheme I hadn’t seen. Special indeed, Tony Baumann, the guy who was wearing it, told me. He designed and painted the one-of-a-kind Mexican Blanket scheme himself.
Baumann, it turns out, already has a job in the bike industry, on the product side at Specialized Bike Component University, the bike-fitting branch of the Morgan Hill, California, bike manufacturer. But in his spare time, he likes to paint.
“I’ve been sloshing paint on stuff since I was five,” Baumann told me. “But last year I got a bit more serious about it and started doing helmets and bike frames.”
Baumann’s upstart company, Made Rad By Tony, is only in its infancy, with around a dozen helmets and a couple of bike frames completed. But the designs and skills are so refined that they even caught the attention of the creative crew at Specialized.
“One of the designers saw my helmet,” Baumann says, “and when I told him I painted it myself, he couldn’t believe it. He even offered me an internship.” Bauman politely declined because he already has a full-time job with the company. But he also wants to keep his work and play separate. “It’s my art. I like to do it at home, just do it for myself,” he says.
Specialized did persuade Baumann to create some illustrations for a line of saddles it was considering launching. The project has since been put on the back burner, but Baumann was able to keep a handful of the one-off designs.
In addition to the saddles, Baumann has painted about a dozen helmets and several bike frames under the Made Rad By Tony mark. But he says the more his work gets out there, the more requests he receives.
And he’s eager to grow his fledgling business, so long as he has the spare time outside his work at Specialized. “It’s really surprising that custom gear isn’t more common,” he says. “In the motorcycle world, everyone paints and repaints their bikes, their helmets, everything. I could see it catching on in cycling, too.”