Mountain biking is an art. Whether the medium is trail design, bike building, or riding style, mountain biking is essentially an improvisational, expressive practice. For many the canvas is outside, on the dirt, where we test the limits of control and refine our technique. For some, the canvas is the bike itself.
That’s the case for Tony Baumann, a rider and artist who’s living the dream as a self-employed custom bike painter. His business Made Rad by Tony was already on our radar by the time we crossed paths with him in Squamish. You’ve seen his work too, whether you were aware of it or not. That glittery pink Transition ridden by Tahnee Seagrave at the 2016 DH World Champs in Val di Sole? That was Made Rad by Tony.
So how did an art kid from Winston-Salem go from working at the “big S” to becoming one of the most prolific custom framepainters in the world? We sat down with Tony after a long day of shuttled runs on Pixie and MissChief and got the story.
“I’ve always painted things. When I was a kid, I didn’t always have the best bikes, but I wanted ‘em to look good, so I’d paint ‘em. I got really into graffiti in high school and college. My mom bought me an airbrush so I wouldn’t always be out breaking the law. I was really into illustration and painting canvases, but while I was at Specialized someone asked me to paint a helmet and that got the ball rolling.
When I started, I was painting at home in a carport from Harbor Freight. Then I had some big projects – I painted a bike for Ken Block, the Gymkhana driver. That helped spur the excitement about Made Rad by Tony and generate some buzz, so I just ran with it. Now it’s my full-time hustle. Everything just fell into place – it came kind of naturally.”
As any rider knows, achieving that “it kind of came naturally” state of flow requires commitment and practice. Tony’s commitment is immediately evident; the brain-melting colors catch your eye, but it’s the layered complexity of his work that holds your attention.
Each bike takes about two weeks’ worth of masking and spraying, layer by layer, not to mention the initial design work. It’s a dizzying amount of detail, but well worth the effort – especially when the artwork in question is a full-blown shred machine. Have a crazy idea to run by Tony? He can make it happen. We just suggest you get in line fast.