Chainring tattoo

Ad agency Colle+McVoy created this print ad as part of Bikes Belong’s Bike to Work Week promotion in the Spring of 2010. I’m a bike nerd, so I see a chainring tattoo on a great pair of legs and think “Cool.” What do you see?

Chainring tattoo: Bikes Belong bike to work day promotion ad

Non bike riding people (e.g. the presumed target for this ad) see a grease stain ruining the model’s waxed legs and think, “Why would I ride my bike to work?”

Stuff we think is cool isn’t so cool for people who don’t normally ride bikes. I’ll go a little further and say that many daily bike riders don’t like the counter cultural, extreme sports, daredevil portrayal of cycling that I sometimes show here at Cyclelicious.

Could something like that chainring ad appeal to a certain type of person who doesn’t normally ride a bike to work? Or is it too far from the mainstream view of how things should be?

Pedaling the Mainstream from Team One on Vimeo.


  1. I think a smaller one might be cool – where it's more obvious it's a tattoo. But that one looks like grease to me.

  2. I've actually been contemplating getting myself a chain grease mark tattoo since I seem to always have the mark anyway. They stole my idea!

  3. I think there will probably be a lot of non-cyclists that don't get it at all. They likely don't know anything about a chainring tattoo so the ad will pretty much go un-noticed. I think it's a pretty cool ad and good way of showing that everyone and anyone can be commuting by bike.


  4. I think that print ad definitely misses the mark if they're trying to convince people to ride. I love the cycling subculture, but it's not going to move the needle if you just keep preaching to the converted.

    I'm in the Rick Vosper camp along with the guys who made that video. You've got to get all the companies with deep pockets in the cycling industry to throw money into a coop and then give it to an agency. The agency needs to focus its energy on non-cyclists. And then you need to back it up with some nice big media budgets. Finally, everybody needs to chill out, because these things take time.

  5. I think that the print ad missed the mark a little. I wonder how many working professionals would take the chain mark as one more reason Not to ride a bike to work? How many women (that don't already bike commute) are willing to hassle with cleaning grease off their legs when they get to work?

    On a side note; I had that grease print, and jokingly said to my tattooed biker (motorcycle) friend “Check it out! I got my first tattoo.” She said “Wow, that's pretty bad a$$.” So, now every time I get a chain ring mark I get to remember I'm too much of a wuss to get a tattoo.

  6. That's what Bikes Belong / People for Bikes is — an industry funded coop to lobby for and promote cycling.

    Probably not the big media budget, though — the entire U.S. bicycle industry annual revenue is under $6 billion per year. That's less than what General Motors spends just in marketing each year.

  7. This came up on another blog recently(sorry can't remember where). The blogger put the point that the ad agency completely missed the mark (no understanding of the target market) and instead showed a nice shot of a lady on her mixte ala Copehagen Cycle Chic style. I personally don't fit in either characterization. Eg. if I ride to work, it's gotta be in lycra.

  8. I've been commuting to work by bike in fair weather on and off for the last two years, but this summer I've managed to ride to and from work every day and on weekends.

    When I first started bike commuting, I despaired because I sweat, and I didn't want to have to carry a full change of clothes just to commute to work. These days I ride in my regular clothes, but if I had seen a poster like the one above when I first started riding, I think it would've put me off becoming a daily bike commuter. Now it just makes me angry that more mainstream bike manufacturers don't include chain guards on their entry level bikes.

  9. …a recumbent ???…ewww !!!…
    …okay, okay…not really that big of a deal..

    …but you're prob'ly right, fritz, on it coming from a small wheeled folder…seems logical…

  10. I am an artist in Alaska working on a bike jersey design for a local bike shop. I Googled chainring to make sure I got the design right. I came across your picture and it made me laugh out loud. I am proud to say I have sported that exact look many times. Keep on pedaling!

  11. I ride road bikes, and it NEVER fails, every time I am within 10 feet of my bike I get the chainring print on my leg.  So much so that I am seriously considering the tattoo. 

  12. I have the chain on the chainring tattoo. Very convincing and very much loved by my cycling community. I am about to add a second part – the freshly stabbed look of the chainring itself. The moment I stop getting greasy marks, showing my perfection of riding, I will stop riding.

    I don’t get a lot of non-riders scoff me but the triathletes let me have it often. I assume it is because they can’t appreciate the passion I have for bikes or my love of working on bikes for a living.

    I do love how it reminds people to clean their bike.

  13. I want to get a tattoo of a chain on my leg, but I want it to be realistic looking.  I want it to look like I smeared grease on my leg, but I want it to be permanent.  Where did you get the image to use for your tattoo?

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