Though this is not his first collaboration with an artist—two of the bikes Armstrong used in his 2005 Tour de France victory were customized with designs by legendary graffiti artist Futura—Armstrong’s involvement in the art world has reached new heights this year: he’s raced on bikes designed by graphic designer KAWS, Pop Surrealist Kenny Scharf, and contemporary artist Shepard Fairey, and during Stage one in the ongoing 2009 Tour de France, which started July 4 and ends July 26, he rode a Trek Speed Concept time trial bike crafted by industrial designer Marc Newson. Armstrong is set to ride the same model decorated by Japanese Pop artist Yoshitomo Nara during Stage 18 and will spin into Paris on the Tour’s final day on a Trek Madone customized by art-world bad boy Damien Hirst. (He is riding a different Trek Madone during the other stages of the race, so he’ll have ridden four bikes in total during the competition.) The artists do not construct the bikes, but they do, however, add their one-of-a-kind touches to the frames, wheels, and wheel discs.
In March of this year, when announcing launch of “Stages,” Armstrong explained his desire to work with artists when he said, “I’ve kind of been a closet art collector. And in the last three years because I didn’t anything much to do other than run around with [Livestrong president Doug Ulman] and fight cancer, this art passion accelerated.” He went on to credit the involvement of Nike C.E.O. Mark Parker, who is a noted contemporary art collector. Armstrong said they “spent more time over the last three years talking about art than we spent talking about sports.”
Herewith, a sampling of Armstrong’s art bikes over the years.