Self-Expression in Cycling: Using Shoes As A Canvas

January 14, 2020

Cycling culture definitely incorporates a lot of individuality, self-expression and most importantly customization. Ask anyone who is serious about the sport of cycling their feelings toward what bike they ride, what components they use, what nutrition they can’t live without, what kit they prefer and what shoes they love. Well, I am guilty of all of these things especially my cycling shoe “problem.” I guess as problems go it’s not a terrible one to own.

One afternoon at work I was walking down the hallway and noticed my neighbor’s door was open. Music was playing and it smelled like wet paint. I knew my neighbor, Elliott Schuessler, was an artist but had never seen his work. So I stepped into his studio and was immediately impressed by the depth of his art and his Jackson Pollack-inspired canvases. I ventured further into his studio to find where he created his masterpieces. The room was covered 360 degrees with plastic from floor to ceiling and the floor was a work of art in itself. However, he was not working on a canvas. He was working on a pair of running shoes! I was immediately intrigued and blown away by how cool these shoes looked. This got my mind racing. I had recently purchased a pair of PEARL iZUMi Tour Road shoes in white and thought, “How cool would it be to see if Elliott would create a masterpiece for me to sport on the road?” He graciously agreed and was excited to try his craft on a cycling shoe.

The floor of Elliott Schuessler’s studio.
Even on the first ride several fellow riders asked about my shoes.
San Diego artist Elliott Schuessler dances around his “canvas” to make his magic.

The next morning when I stepped into my office my shoes were ready and as I opened the box my mouth hung open with disbelief on how awesome they turned out. I immediately purchased another pair so I could witness the process. The prep time for a pair of shoes takes over an hour. Carefully taping the soles, removing laces, and masking the uppers surrounding the opening for your foot. Once this is done to your liking, the shoes are ready for paint. Watching Elliott slowly circling the shoes in a kind of rhythmic dance, all the while flinging paint with accuracy. I was warned to not get too close or suffer being also covered in paint. Well, I got a lot of paint on the camera, and me. We chose three complementary colors and each layer had to dry before applying the next coat of color. Watching these shoes transform was so exciting and inspiring. These personalized kicks are now a one-of-a-kind work of art and truly incredible.

The following Saturday morning I set out on my weekend training ride along the coast on Highway 101 from Carlsbad to La Jolla, California. Needless to say, at every stoplight, cyclists would ask me about my shoes. Where I got them and where could they purchase a pair. I could feel the shoe envy from a mile away. Not only are these shoes a modern interpretation on a classic lace-up but a one of a kind custom art piece worthy of many miles. I’m sure Elliott would paint you a pair as well. Ride for life and be original.

See more of Elliott’s work on his website and Instagram feed.

In the midst of transformation.
A few recent creations using the PEARL iZUMi Tour Road shoe by Elliott Schuessler.

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