Bryn Atkinson’s Snake Bike

Custom painted by Tony Baumann / Photos by Bryn Atkinson

There’s something about the lines of a mountain bike that draws us in, but nothing grabs our attention quite like a custom paint job. Australian professional mountain biker Bryn Atkinson teased his social media followers with a close-up photo of his new bike. That photo quickly racked up over 8000 likes on Instagram and immediately piqued our curiosity. We sought Bryn to check out his freshly painted Norco Range. His bike is hard to miss, as it demands attention everywhere it goes. 

Bryn told us he had been wanting a custom-painted bike for some time now, but his dream didn’t come to fruition until professional painter Tony Baumann moved to Bellingham, Washington, where Bryn and his wife, Jill Kintner, a multi-time Queen of Crankworx champion, reside. Bryn came up with the idea to paint his new ride to resemble an Australian red-bellied black snake, paying homage to Bryn’s Australian roots. 

Professional painter Tony Baumann spent 80-plus hours cutting out templates and airbrushing every detail by hand. In fact, Tony was forced to give this bike small imperfections for a more realistic look. Along with this eye-catching paint scheme, Bryn had custom graphics made for his fork featuring the classic Fox logo but with a scaly snake-like tail. The component spec is pretty cool, too, but the frame takes the cake as this bike’s most standout feature. We reached out to Tony Baumann to ask him a little about himself and what it took to pull off this project. Here’s the story behind Bryn’s now famous “snake bike.” 

MBA: How did you get involved in painting? 

Tony TB: As a kid, both of my parents were pretty artistic, and there was no shortage of art supplies around the house. My dad was a sign painter back in the ’70s and always had some kind of paint project in the works while I was growing up. I would spend hours watching him do his thing, and soon his thing became my thing. I was constantly drawing. When I was about 3 or 4, I was given a hand-me-down bike from my sister. It was Strawberry Shortcake pink, and my dad knew I wasn’t stoked on the color. He quickly had a solution that may have been the tipping point for me. He pulled the bike apart and spray-painted it blue. I remember thinking how cool it was that you could do that. Put a fresh coat of paint down and it becomes something brand new. From that moment on, I would “customize” everything I could. Fast-forward to high school, and I moved on to “customizing” the sides of buildings, fences and bridges. In college, my parents came up to visit for a weekend, and I was giving them a tour. While driving around, I pointed out some of my recent work, and the mood quickly shifted. My parents were not happy about it. I could tell they were impressed but definitely not happy. Soon after, I received a small box from my mom. Inside was an airbrush. She was always supportive of my work and talent but was hoping this would shift my energy to something a little more legal. For the rest of my college career, long evenings were spent experimenting and learning to use this new tool. After college, I took some time to bounce around a bit before landing a job at Specialized in their retailer development program. Once I settled into the new role, I began painting again at home in the evenings. I did a few helmets, then a frame for my boss’ wife, and it began to snowball from there. I was eventually asked to do a galaxy-themed demo for Ken Block, and that was when I first thought that I might be able to do this custom-paint thing full-time. 

MBA: What are some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on? 

TB: As far as favorite projects go, Ken Block’s was the first one to really give me a boost, so it’s up there for sure. I really enjoy the projects where the ideas have time to brew and develop in my head for a while. It allows me to pick the idea apart, think about all of the little aspects and details that are possible and figure out how to actually execute it. Bryn’s was a great example of that kind of project. He mentioned the snake bike idea close to a year before we were able to make it happen, so I had time to think about it, gather inspiration and was able come up with multiple ways to bring it to life. It feels good to fully visualize a project beforehand, which is not always the case. 

MBA: How long did it take you to complete Bryn’s bike, and which steps created the biggest challenges?

TB: Not including the time I spent thinking, preparing and testing ideas, I easily put 80 hours into this one. For the snake bike, it was a lot of tedious and intricate work that took more concentration and focus than I realized I had in me. It was mentally draining to spend hours of steady work only to have finished a small section on the shock linkage. The only saving grace was that I was fully stoked to see it finished, and the hours seemed to go by relatively quickly.

 MBA: What are some hidden details of Bryn’s bike you might miss at first glance?  

TB: I worked pretty tirelessly to make sure that the tubes of the frame, scale layout, highlights and shadows all worked together to make it look convincing. I spent a lot of time considering where the light would hit and where it would cast shadows. It’s something that I hope most wouldn’t notice just because it looks right.  

Bryn in action. Photo by Jill Kintner

 MBA: What are the steps involved in painting a custom bike for an athlete? 

TB: It all starts with an idea or direction. From there, we bounce back and forth until we feel that we are on the same page and have a similar vision for the final outcome. The frame then goes through a heavy de-greasing, sanding, masking and primer before any actual paint can be applied. After I have finished with the painting part of the process, we are about halfway there. I typically will put down two to three rounds of clear coat, and each round consists of three to four full coats, allowing for proper cure times in between. I give 24 hours between each round of clear, then scuff it before applying the next one. Once the final clear is down and cured, I go back over it, sanding and polishing any imperfections. 

When I heard Tony moved into town, I knew I wanted to do a project with him, and the first thing that came to mind was a snake-themed bike. To me, the downtube on the Range already looks a lot like a snake, and I knew if done well it would be a standout piece. I like to try to ride a little like a snake, too, focusing on being smooth, efficient and slinging it around the turns. Aside from that, the red-belly black snake is just kinda cool. I’ve come across a bunch of them over the years, and they seem to be really calm and not bothered by much.” —Bryn


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