Inside the design: Custom Felt FR

Chief creative officer explains inspiration behind latest UHCCF auction item

2 months ago by Tom Soladay

How can you capture someone’s energy and personality in a piece of art? Rally Cycling’s design team, led by Chief Creative Officer Sam Wiebe, has tried to solve that equation with their latest custom bicycle design. Rally Cycling spoke with four young UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation grant recipients and used these inspiring conversations to inform an aesthetic for a one-of-a-kind Felt FR road bike. 

In this special Q&A, Wiebe gives us some insight into the team’s design process for this gorgeous one-off bike.

Speaking with the kids was awesome and provided me with extra motivation to make this bike special. A big thanks goes to Alyssa Hodnik and Scott Otto at the UHCCF and to the parents of these kids who were willing to participate. They had amazing stories and vibrant personalities. It was cool to see how these grants, whether they provide an advanced hearing aid or carbon wheels for a racing chair, are used to great effect by these kids. And even cooler to see how these kids had grown up to be amazing young adults.

I definitely cherish our work with the UHCCF and love to see how our painter can bring our crazier ideas to reality. Charles has always been a huge supporter of the UHCCF, and he had the idea to paint some race bikes and auction them during a race. Since then, with the help of our designer Emily Saint-Onge and some others, we’ve designed dozens of themes for bikes that have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the charity. It’s been a rewarding partnership.

Our ace in the hole is airbrush artist Brad Galvin of Dirt Designs Graphic in Bloomington, MN. The late, great Steve Hed told me about Brad back in our old windowless concrete block office in downtown Minneapolis, ten years ago. Meeting Brad and seeing his immense artistic capabilities has driven a lot of the special work we have done for the UHCCF over the years. His attention to detail, his knowledge of color science, and overall artistic talent amaze me. 

It’s important to us that the designs have heart. We interview grant recipients and figure out what they are like, what they love to do, what they want to be when they grow up, all the great kid stuff. This informs the themes, color schemes, and look of these bikes. 

We wanted there to include details in the artwork that only the kids themselves would get. For Aidan, we reference his sub-two-hour finishing time in Grandma’s Marathon, which qualified him for Boston, and memorialized his dog, Buster. Chloe was focused on music, and art, loved Beyonce, and wants to be a singer when she grows up. She also sent me a drawing with some pretty amazing wolf-women-warriors, and we featured an ear and eyes from that. Kaelyn is a black belt in Taekwondo and was another talented artist, drawing her own characters, one of which we included on the bike. And Marissa was a photographer, basketball player, and gave me lots of fun details about her life that translated well. 

Some other symbols represent the foundation itself, the UHCCF, the butterflies, and stuff. The idea of a seed growing into a flower was also representative of this year’s theme for the auction, which is about how these kids have used their grants and grown up with them, blossoming into these super vibrant young adults. 

Sam drew the initial design by hand.

The auction ends Tuesday, August 4 at 4 pm CDT, so don’t miss your only chance to bid on this incredible hand-painted race machine! (scroll down to find bike listing)