Hap Seliga, the head-honcho of Vitus bikes in the USA, has perhaps one of the most eye-catching mountain bikes you’ll ever see in the wild.
His pop art-inspired Rapide FS is a colorful nod to some of the greatest artists of the genre. Painted by Curtis Bullock (a.k.a @savethepostalservice), who himself has one of the most unique styles of any bike painter out there, it’s a self-expressive nod that pairs Hap’s love for art with his love for bikes.
The best part is, Hap actually rides the thing almost every day. Come to Vitus’ US office in Park City, Utah, and odds are good you’ll cross paths with Hap and his custom Rapide FS on a backcountry trail in the mountains high above town.
In the design, there’s some inspiration from Warhol, some Haring, some Lichtenstein, and some more; but the final product is undeniably in the method of Curtis.
We spent time with Curtis at this year’s Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California, where the custom Rapide FS was unveiled to the world. We wanted to get an idea of the inspiration behind the bike, how it was painted, and what fuels his unique and eye-popping designs.
THE DESIGN: HOW CURTIS PAINTS BIKES
Born in 1983, the high-color toys of his generation are, in part, what fuel the high-color designs Curtis paints today. He also finds inspiration in puzzles — really figuring out how pieces can work together in one cohesive design.
A bike painted by Curtis is loud. For a bike frame — a canvas that doesn’t have a whole lot of flat surface area — it’s a lot of color and design squeezed into one space.
But he makes it work incredibly well.
Though the paint job is segmented into sections, each flows together; a design element Curtis says is very intentional.
“It’s all just part of my puzzle brain,” he said, moments after Hap’s pop art-inspired Rapide FS was unveiled. “I like to say: ‘how do I fit these pieces together? What colors can touch and what can’t touch?’ And then integrating the logos and the lettering as part of the art is really fun.”
Curtis tackled the Rapide FS job at his studio in Portland, Oregon, where he painstakingly hand-painted the custom graphics using laser-cut vinyl decals and multiple coats of Spray.Bike spray paint.
He tackled the bike in sections, with each drawing inspiration from one of the pop art greats. The polka-dotted head tube and its meshing with the logos and Keith Haring-inspired midsection is a portion Curtis takes particular pride in.
“With a head tube being such a complex shape, that was something that I was really excited about working on,” Curtis said. “I’m very proud of how that section came out because that was a puzzle in itself.”
From Commuting To a life in bikes
Curtis, like many of us, discovered bikes as a form of transportation while studying at the University of Maryland. They were a solution for getting from one end of the campus to the other quickly, turning a 20-minute walk into just a few minutes on the bike.
That need for transportation blossomed into a love of just being on the bike. Commuting turned into mountain biking, and soon Curtis found himself exploring trails near his home in Baltimore.
An act of kindness towards two lost mountain bikers in Patapsco Valley State Park led to a gift card to a local bike shop, which helped Curtis buy his first real road bike.
What came next is a dive down the cycling rabbit hole many of us can relate to: Soon Curtis was going to that shop’s weekend group ride, which led to more friends on bikes, which led to Curtis working at that shop, and so on.
Fast forward a few decades, and Curtis has become an icon in the world of custom bikes. His work is as unique as it is magnetic; not only is a bike painted by Curtis instantly recognizable, but it’s also something that’s almost always universally loved.
Any one of Curtis’ bikes are made of dozens of colors and shapes and textures, all of which come together into one cohesive design. In all that visual buzz, odds are good a person can find an element or a color that speaks to them — regardless of the bike or who it was painted for.
We watched this happen in real time at Sea Otter at the Vitus booth. People fawned over the bike; they craned their necks to get different angles, crouched to get closer, and pointed to the sections they liked best.
Curtis painted a bike that didn’t just reflect pop art influence or Hap’s own vibrant personality, he painted a bike that catches the eye of a multitude of people, regardless of background, taste, or what type of riding they like most.
It takes a special artist to pull off something like that. We’re proud to have worked with him.