Video: Vanhulsteijn produce gold leaf bikes for Sotheby's

Dutch brand creates beautiful and very shiny limited edition bikes from stainless steel, lacquered gold leaf

by Mat Brett   January 14, 2014  

Dutch designer Herman van Hulsteijn has created nine Vanhulsteijn bicycles covered in gold leaf and Japanese urushi lacquer exclusively for Sotheby’s. There’s an extraordinary amount of work involved and the results are stunning.

Vanhulsteijn’s stainless steel bikes are extraordinary to start with, the frames featuring distinctively curved tubes. Herman van Hulsteijn originally designed the bike as a head turner for himself, but built a batch in 2009 for other people who had seen it and wanted one. A small team now handcraft the bikes in Arnhem, in the Netherands. You can buy the standard models online

For the Sotherby’s bikes, Vanhulsteijn joined up with two Russian craftsmen who specialise in Japanese lacquer techniques called urushi. They add several layers of gold leaf to the frame and then put lacquer over the top. It’s an intricate process but the effect is amazing and each of the nine bikes looks slightly different.

As well as the frame, Herman van Hulsteijn designed the parts like the brake levers and pedals himself. Every part that isn’t lacquered has been highly polished by hand while the saddle and handlebar have a ray-skin finish.

Each bike is given Vanhulsteijn logos and numbered. Even that is unusual, Vanhulsteijn employing the Maki-e technique whereby different grain sizes of gold dust are sprinkled in urushi lacquer.

Vanhulsteijn explain, “Urushi is the sap of the urushi or lacquer tree (rhus vernicifera). It is a member of the sumac family (anacardiaceae) and native to China, Korea, Japan and the eastern Himalayas. The sap of this tree contains a resin (urushiol) which, when exposed to moisture and air, polymerizes and becomes a very hard, durable, plastic-like substance. Urushi is in fact a natural plastic.

“The process of applying the lacquer is long and labour intensive: independent of the size of the surface it takes on average six months to carry out the finishing. In some cases 60 layers are applied and polished by hand. Depending on the kind of lacquer the time it takes a single layer to dry can take from two hours up to three months. Due to its fascinating characteristics which are both sustainable and esthetically beautiful, urushi is still used for a wide variety of purposes.”

Here’s Vanhulsteijn’s video covering the project...

The urushi bicycle project - VANHULSTEIJN X SOTHEBY'S from Vanhulsteijn bicycles on Vimeo.

For more information email or go to the Vanhulsteijn website.

9 user comments

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Rolling On The Floor

posted by jason.timothy.jones [303 posts]
14th January 2014 - 13:30


Beautiful, but unpractical... leaning it against lamp post will do untold damage to this precious peace of art. Smile

P.S. Ray skin for saddle... is like sandpaper for toilet paper Big Grin

rix's picture

posted by rix [51 posts]
14th January 2014 - 14:54


"Every part that isn’t lacquered has been highly polished by hand"

Who says you can't polish a turd...

posted by geargrinderbeard [42 posts]
14th January 2014 - 14:55



posted by mylesrants [139 posts]
14th January 2014 - 19:30


My wife bought me a urushi lacquered fountain pen for my fortieth birthday. Family, guests, Ben, the Lord of the Schnauzers and that pen are the only things that I would stop to rescue if the house was on fire. The craftsmanship has to be seen to be believed.

I shudder to think how much that bike will go for but I guess if you have to ask the price ... Day Dreaming

Never in a hurry on a bicycle.

posted by GoingRoundInCycles [134 posts]
14th January 2014 - 20:21


I love Van Hulsteijn bikes, I'd be straight over to him/them for a new bike if I came into some money.

Probably wouldn't go for the gold leaf version though.

And I would dearly love to know what exquisite whip GearGrinderBeard rolls out on if he considers Van Hulsteijns 'turds'.

posted by farrell [1832 posts]
15th January 2014 - 11:14


They are hideous, Form over function and the form looks terrible anyway.

posted by karlowen [65 posts]
15th January 2014 - 14:21


karlowen wrote:
They are hideous, Form over function and the form looks terrible anyway.

In what sense? Did you not find that they're very comfortable bikes to ride?

posted by farrell [1832 posts]
15th January 2014 - 14:30


[[[[[[[ Not so likely to get nicked....but where would the bottle fit?


posted by PhilRuss [325 posts]
15th January 2014 - 21:51