Faux Finish

As I mentioned in my prior post about our lack of bike parking in the U.S., it’s sometimes suggested that nice bikes are not well-suited for utilitarian use because they’re vulnerable to vandalism and theft. And as I also stated in the post, suggesting we ride junker bikes is a sorry excuse for a real solution to the problem.

Well, here’s another half-baked solution for you. How about self-adhesive stickers that you apply to your bike to make it look scratched and rusty? They’re from artist Dominic Wilcox in the U.K. He calls them “Anti-Theft Bike/Car Devices” and they sell for $3.99 (UK). I have to hand it to Mr. Wilcox for doing such a good job designing the stickers; they look fairly convincing in photos (though I have to doubt they’d fool a serious thief). As ridiculous as this idea sounds, it beats the genius that took a chain and Dremel tool to the finish of his brand new Surly (sorry, I can’t find the link right now), or this guy who painted his shiny new Bianchi Milano with “Rust Antiquing” paint.

Dominic Wilcox
UGLY Your Bike @ MAKE

12 Responses to “Faux Finish”

  • henryinamsterdam says:

    That’s cute but just not enough to make a bike unappealing to thieves. In any case I suspect Wilcox was inspired by our (WorkCycles) much more complete system: “High-Tech Antitheft Bicycle Spray:

  • brad says:

    According to a friend of mine who has 30 years more experience in urban biking than I do, the best approach is to simply paint your bike matte black. Thieves look for logos, so painting over the logo will make it impossible for them or potential buyers of stolen goods to see what brand of bike it is, and let’s face it, not a lot of people want to buy a dull-finish black no-name bike.

  • henryinamsterdam says:

    Brad, Your friend is probably right. Years ago while I lived in the US (CA) I sprayed a brand new celeste green Bianchi Reparto Corsa primer gray, from the brake hoods to tires to the chain and saddle. I rode that bike daily, leaving it not especially well locked around San Jose and San Francisco for years. Nobody ever touched that bike and I still have it.

    However in places like NY more extreme measures are necessary.

  • tdp says:

    I was able to easily de-badge my LHT but have still wanted something extra. Spray painting to me seems a little too much for my needs and also seems it would wreck the paint job. These stickers seem perfect as they can be taken off later on down the line and does nothing to devalue the bike… except maybe to thieves. I think I’ll order a couple of sets, thanks!

  • Andy says:

    I’ve thought about spray painting. What about covering the bike with duct tape? I recall seeing bikes covered in tape. Does anyone have experience?

  • Adrienne says:

    I have decided to let the universe take the reigns here. My bike is beeeeautful and there is no way in hell I am painting/scratching/uglying her up. I have a good u-lock for the frame and a cable with which I am able to lock up my front wheel & Brooks seat to my AXA Defender (built on). If I have to go somewhere where there is truly nowhere safe to park, I take my old bike. In 30 years of parking bikes in San Francisco, just locking up well has been enough.

  • henryinamsterdam says:

    Duct tape becomes a nasty mess after a while and would be almost as difficult to remove as paint if left on too long. Gaffer’s tape of photographer’s tape is strong stuff, usually comes in black or grey and has an adhesive that can be removed later. Much better for this type of use.

    But I’ll stick to my guns that the usefulness of any object that must be left out in public is inversely related to its attractiveness to thieves and vandals. However the agony and despair of having your precious bike damaged or stolen is directly proportional to its attractiveness. It’s unfortunate but a fact of life. This is why there are a million (literally) beater bikes on the streets of Amsterdam.

  • joe3 says:


  • beth h says:

    I’m with Adrienne on this one.

    My Rivendell LongLow, built to suit in 1999 and ridden almost daily as my preferred transportation, has old sticker residue, dents, and ugly scratches dabbed over with my niece’s not-quite-matching blue nail polish. Reflective tape was added early on and has begun to wear off at the corners and edges. There are clamp marks (but not big dents, don’t worry) on the chainstays from the center-mount kickstand (this was before they started adding kickstand plates to their frames; and if I ever get anal enough to care I may ask a local frame-builder to add a plate to mine). The seatpost has old divots and marks from an old Wheele trailer mount, now long gone.

    The Carradice Nelson bag that usually lives on my saddle is seven years old, faded and stained; and the dowel may need to be replaced soon because the wood screws that hold it to the canvas have chewed up the wood and worn it out so they don’t really grip anymore. It’s on its third set of Planet Bike Fenders and will soon have its wheels rebuilt onto a fourth pair of rims. In short, this bike does everything short of major cargo-hauling, and it shows.

    The bike still looks beautiful, but it’s no longer pretty; it’s old and beat-up and sort of funky-looking. I have occasionally thought of removing the headbadge, but there’s no point in uglyfying a bike just to make a point; I think I’ll let it fall off instead. Meanwhile, a stout U-lock through the frame and rear wheel and a cable for the front wheel have provided enough protection all these years.

    If I knew how to add a picture of the bike in its present state here I would, but instead you can see it here:


  • Alan says:

    Here you go, Beth…

  • beth h says:


    How’d you do that??


  • Ken Pendergrass says:

    Parking in the busiest most in the way places and not leaving it 8 hrs. are my best tricks. The police here don’t like u locks. They feel a $3.00 jack will open it in 20 seconds. I only carry cables and pad locks. If your bike is stolen a good place to look for it is at the bus depot. Hundreds of stolen bikes are left on bus bike racks. My buss driver friend called me recently after seeing a Trek Soho in the bike pile at the depot. Luckily mine was in my living room at the time. I’m really perplexed by those who leave bikes at “remote” urban bus stops all day or out front of the house in the student apartment district. However there are so few good bikes out there it can be quite a search for a thief to find one.

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