Ross Piper is an architect and artist living in Florida. An avid cyclist, many of his designs are for local riders and teams, and he’s an active supporter of World Bicycle Relief. We asked him to document the process as he designed and painted his new gravel bike:
One evening while brainstorming ideas about my new gravel rig’s design direction I glanced over at my wife and saw her jade buddha necklace clasped in gold playing in the light. It held change and intensity, yet calmness. I started explaining the idea and she began to smile.
At the moment we were in Munich visiting friends. With plenty of time on the flight home, I began trying to take what was designed in my head and put it on my iPad Pro. The color scheme would try to mimic the organic and natural sense of the jade and how the gold didn’t fight, but complemented the beauty of the stone. My left bicep has a mandala tattoo with a rose in the center for my daughter (who just turned 3). The meaning behind the mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, representing the universe. The circular designs symbolize the idea that life is never ending, and everything is connected. The mandala also represents spiritual journey within the individual viewer. This symbolism perfectly fit the theme and I began creating mandalas for the bike.
The Allied Able frame has some unique features and wanted to keep the design more of a complement to the color scheme. The front design features an illustration of Lord Ganesha. Widely revered as the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences and the deva of intellect and wisdom. As the God of beginnings, he is honored at the start of rites and ceremonies. The intricacy of this design as well as the meaning and placement on the frame was perfect. It’s paired with the Allied Logo, connecting the tail to the design.
Patience, Love and Bourbon:
The next step was to pick out the exact paint colors. It’s not an easy task mimicking something so organic. As I sat at my local paint shop flipping through color chips, shining lights on and off, I found the light and dark metallic jade I was on a quest to find. For the gold I wanted something to give more of a varnished / old fashioned / worn type of feel. After many, many golds I found the “golden ticket”.
Creating the masking for the design on the bike was going to be a challenge. It’s a test of patience creating all of those shapes and intricate designs. Each masking is created from a solid sheet of vinyl. The design is sent through a machine and each one is cut into the vinyl. From there, the remaining inverse of the design needs to be removed or “weeded”. Why, whyyy did I have to do so many small, intricate designs?!? You did this to yourself, Ross! But it will 100% be worth the effort. (Pours glass of bourbon)
Allied was able to send an unpainted frame as a blank canvas. After priming, the gold was sprayed on all the pieces of the build. The gold goes down first, as that is what the graphic color will be. It also gives the jade a slightly luminescent gold undertone. Applying the masking is no easy task for a simple design, but adding in mandalas and such thin intricate linework for all the pieces definitely sent me back down the ‘Why do I do this to myself’ path. Once everything was applied to the gold, the metallic light jade was sprayed. Certain sections of the bike have the full dark metallic jade, with a fade/ombre back into the light jade section. After paint, it was time to take off all the masking, reveal the gold through the jade, and really start to see this creation take form.
With paint complete, it was time to get this thing rolling. Seeing all the parts and pieces spread out on my work bench was a first glimpse into how amazing this build was going to look when it came together. After a little photo session, everything was packed back up and taken over to Bryce at Bearded Bike Doc for the build. Bryce is a good friend of mine and riding partner who has a mobile bike repair shop. He had just built his own custom Allied Able that I had painted, so he was familiar with how it would come together.
My last personal bike design and build was on a 3T Strada, which utilized the amazing eTap AXS. I knew I wanted to stick with it for this build. The beauty of having eTap AXS is the assembly. The ease of getting everything together and synced up feels almost magical. We discussed each of the different drivetrain configuration options—with the versatility of eTap AXS, there’s a lot. But, because I am based in Florida, I ended up choosing Force eTap AXS 1x with a 10-33 cassette and 46t chainring for hot, nasty, badass speed. A last-minute miracle happened and I received a new Fizik Antares Versus Evo 00 adaptive! It became the icing on the cake with the unique color of the adaptive material matching really well to the bike. The Zipp 303 Firecrest Tubeless Disc Brake wheels and new G40 gravel tire will be perfect for a variety of terrain.
The clay loop in Clermont, Florida is one of my favorite places to ride. The red clay roads and rolling hills perfectly contrast the greens and golds in the frame design. It’s been overcast, super windy and rainy here in Central Florida lately, but the evening the photos were taken had the best forecast and it did not disappoint. I brought my wife and daughter along for the ride. As I moved around the bike snapping shots, occasionally a car, runner or cyclist would come by and praise the bike. At the end I brought my daughter out, who had been watching the whole process and gave her the first ride on the bike. Now that this is all photographed, it’s time to get it dirty!