03 Head Badges and Heraldry
Less explicable than the racing-related logos are the heraldic escutcheons favoured by many brands. The bicycle is a great leveller, formerly a symbol of working-class mobility and emancipation, so there is no aristocratic aspiration, simply a patriotic or regional, even tribal, pride — much like football club crests. Plus a certain combativeness: the bicycle, the usurper of the horse, was the steed these latter-day knights rode into battle. Many of these crests would have been designed or suggested by the badge-makers themselves, using a common stock of emblems.
When Hyman Hetchins, a Russian immigrant, began building bikes in Tottenham in 1934, he took on the shield of the City of London, his adopted home, and the totemic lions of England. After a Hetchins ridden by the German Toni Merkins won the 100m sprint in the 1936 Olympics, the Olympic colours were displayed in the background.
Cino Cinelli, a racer from Tuscany, started building bicycles in Milan in 1948. His badge displays the biscione (a snake eating or giving birth to an infant) and the fleur-de-lys, the traditional heraldic symbols of Milan and Florence respectively.
Thanks to the explosion of interest in track bikes, this classic coat of arms has been appropriated for a new generation. Designed by Benny Gold, the revised head badge adorns the Mash SF Cinelli bike, made by the San Francisco collective for aggressive street riding.