So you scored a beat-up Colnago 10-speed at a yard sale, and you want to restore it to its period-perfect 1970s glory. Or you want to stand out from Toronto’s anonymous army of identical Cervélo-heads. Or you have a great old bike that you just want to keep riding. Two-wheeled fetishists, meet Noah Rosen, North America’s premier bicycle-painting artist.
Rosen trained as a sculptor at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, but his cycling pedigree is about as close as it gets to Toronto bike royalty. He apprenticed at Bicycle Specialties, the shop of the legendary Mike Barry, whose iconic, hand-built Mariposa bikes were immortalized in the artwork of Greg Curnoe. Barry’s son Michael is a world-ranked cyclist who has ridden in the Tour de France for Team Sky and was a teammate of Lance Armstrong with U.S. Postal. When Barry retired from Bicycle Specialties in 2007, Rosen moved into the shop at Eglinton and O’Connor, renamed it VéloColour, and focused on custom painting.
Click on the photo gallery above for a step-by-step look at Noah Rosen’s painting process
The intricate patterns, impeccable detailing, and gorgeous finishes on Rosen’s bikes built his reputation quickly. In 2009, at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, he won the award for best paint job. “Apart from working with Mike Barry,” he says, “that was instant credibility for me.” Soon after, Cervélo listed him as one of only two painters who can repaint their high-end carbon-fibre frames without voiding the warranty. Recently, Rosen was tipped by the Queen West high-end roadie shop Blacksmith Cycle as the painter for their new line of custom bikes. “I think it was important for them as a Toronto company that someone local could do their custom work.”
Today, VéloColour is stacked 50 frames deep, with customers from all over North America and as far away as Germany; Rosen’s waiting list stretches four months. (He’s looking for an apprentice painter.) Here’s how he helps your ride go from beater to beauty.
Cost: A basic one-colour paint job will cost you $275; chrome, pinstriping, or custom decals move the price upward. Most of Rosen’s clients spend between $600 and $1,000.
Weight: Bike gearheads are obsessed with shaving off a gram or two anywhere they can. The one time Rosen checked, his finish on a bike’s fork added seven grams. Suffice it to say, if this matters to you, you’re not his customer.
Time: There are about nine hours of work in a basic job. With dry times, it takes about three days from start to finish. More complicated jobs can add another 20 to 30 hours.
Don’t ask for this: Rosen happily takes direction from clients, but he’s still an artist and has his standards. There’s stuff he just won’t do—skulls, flames, spider webs, or pretty much anything that would look at home airbrushed on the side of a van.
VéloColour, 45 Cranfield Rd., Unit 6, 647-501-8166, velocolour.com.