Flashback: U-G-L-Y Your Bike

Bikes Fun & Games
Flashback: U-G-L-Y Your Bike

Looks like a piece of crap bike, right? Not quite. In MAKE Volume 11, Rick Polito showed us how to deter bike thieves by uglifying. It may look like an old clunker, but the bike above is actually Rick’s Bianchi Milano, which rides like a dream. Here it is pre-makeover:


I love the analogy in the intro:

“Nature is the master of disguise. The tiger swallowtail caterpillar starts out camouflaged like a bird dropping to discourage birds from eating it. You can take a tip from the crawling turd and keep your bike from getting swiped by camouflaging it as a piece of crap: dress it down as a rolling piece of junk.Having an ugly bike doesn’t mean having a junky bike. Looks and performance have no exclusive relationship. A savvy bike thief may see the gem under the Krylon, but he also knows he can’t sell it as quickly as the tricked-out speedster at the other end of the bike rack.”

Think paint (emphasize the sloppy factor), faux finish rust, accessories, tape, stickers, swapped out nuts and bolts. Check out the article here in our Digital Edition. And of course you can pick up a back issue of Volume 11, with our alt. vehicles special section, at the Maker Shed.

Jimmie’s uglified camera

14 thoughts on “Flashback: U-G-L-Y Your Bike

  1. Dave says:

    Why would you ever do that!!! If you get mugged for your wallet, are you going to rip all of your money into a million pieces just to say “Hahaha! You can’t steal it now!”

    Giving it a rust finish destroys resale value and by design, looks ugly. To me, that is like destroying your money. Just buy a crappy bike, then you have nothing to worry about.

    1. Riley says:

      If you buy a crappy bike, then you have to ride a crappy bike. Ick.

      Ugly refinishing probably does kill resale value and it does look pretty ugly. I think the idea is that without looks or resale value, it’s less attractive to ne’er-do-wells. But it still rides just as well, and I’ve never resold a bike expecting to make money on it anyhow.

  2. eh says:

    This has to be a joke. The comment above summed it up.

  3. Tom327Cat says:

    I started with a cheap thrift store bike. Replaced wheels and brakes (most bang for buck)with high quality ones. Now I have the same thing for far less.

  4. Moritz says:

    My bike frame has uglified itself over 15 years of use. But when I recently replaced brakes and gear shift with nice new ones I polished the screen printed Shimano logos away and engraved every part with my name. That should make them a lot less attractive to any bike thief and actually doesn’t even look ugly at all.

  5. Martin Hartley says:

    A good trick is to take your bicycle frame and get it powder coated in a nice colour. THEN you take various cheap enamels, duct tape, stickers, etc and use them to uglify your bicycle. If you ever want to re-sell your bicycle, you only have to take paint thinners, a rag and a brush to it to remove the uglification. Powder-coating is a very, very durable finish and is impervious to thinners or strippers.

    I just got an old Malvern Star, which came pre-uglified. Someone tried re-painting the forks and rear triangle white some years ago and made a real mess of it. I’ve just added a basket to the front (another real theft deterrent) and I’ve used rims with plenty of surface rust (not on the braking surface) and used one black-wall tyre and one gum-wall tyre.

    Just to top it off, I’m putting a red chain-guard on it. So blue frame, white forks and rear triangle, red chain-guard, mis-matched tyres, front basket, rear rack, all make for an ugly, but useful and practical machine.

  6. wegrogan says:

    We did this during highschool; early 1960s
    used a gym lock and short chain and tinsel …
    and then ugly cars and HD servicars in the late
    crackle paint dirty oil and bumper stickers ah! the 1960s it was not akways flowers in your hair …
    Then again in the 1970s 80s 00s and so on
    Some trends never go out of style…

Comments are closed.


I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at snowgoli@gmail.com or via @snowgoli.

View more articles by Goli Mohammadi