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Gear Prudence: I love both biking and tattoos. And I love the idea of getting a bike-themed tattoo. But the idea of doing a standard bike outline on my calf seems like it’s been done before, and I want something both really unique and really personal. Any ideas? —I Need Kooky Epidermis Decoration

Dear INKED: It’s good that you want something highly personalized and even better that you’ve asked a complete stranger who knows nothing about you, your personality, or your preferences to weigh in on the choice of what image to forever affix to your skin. This will invariably lead to a great result. Additionally, there’s nothing wrong with the outline of a bicycle on your body—on your calf or otherwise. If the artist renders it with enough verisimilitude, it might even prove useful in a police report if your current ride goes missing. And even the generic image of a bike, like the depiction found in lanes and trails, is still not a bad choice. It’s a reasonably aesthetically pleasing design and also easily convertible if you should decide to give up riding and get way into Groucho Marx. But you certainly can be more creative than your means of conveyance. Here are some ideas:

  • Ink the route outline of your favorite local loop. Everyone loves to ride to Leesburg and back, but do they love the route enough to forever add it to their person? This would also have the added benefit of helping you get home if you’re ever lost. 
  • What about the elevation profile of a particularly challenging “epic” ride? Sure, this will just look like a squiggly line (with, ideally, some kind of severe isosceles triangle in the middle), but you can add some numbers underneath to provide context about the feet/meters you surmounted. This is a great way to memorialize a tremendous accomplishment and can easily be supplemented with future exploits as you have them. 
  • If the image of a bicycle doesn’t do it for you, some bike-affiliated words might do the trick. BIKE LANE makes for some great knuckle tattoos, as would FIXD GEAR, AMST RDAM, or WABA DUDE (or WABA LADY) if you’re especially into local advocacy. Knuckle tattoos aren’t for everyone, so feel free to tattoo random bike words on whatever body part you feel is most appropriate. DERAILLEUR on your buttocks will make for some interesting conversation in the gym changing room. 
  • What if you tattooed the outline of some chain grease on the inside of your right leg? It’d be a winking acknowledgement that you’re a slovenly mess. Also, very meta, if that kind of thing matters to you. 

Whatever you decide, GP applauds your decision. There’s no wrong way to get a bicycle image/word/concept permanently and indelibly demarcated on your flesh. The bicycle is a substantial human technological achievement and affiliating with it is smart and prudent.  —GP