Picture of Leather Mountain Bike Grips
robot grip.JPG
After one mushy blister too many, I set out to make some new leather mtb grips.  I don't wear gloves when I ride - for me, they dull the responsive feelings of the bikes front end - so nice handlebar grips are important.  Leather has an air of the 'organic', 'pure' and 'natural', that appeals to my romantic, and probably naive, barbarian tendencies.  It may not have the same "quad-core compound for density advanced shock absorption system™", but similarly, I figured it would not leave horrible black bits all over my hands every ride. 

If you make your own leather grips they can be responsive, a custom diameter that fits your own hand preferences, cost very little, designed not to twist or slip on the bars, and generally please the body and soul. 

If you want to buy leather grips, you don't get a lot of choice and they are reasonably expensive (probably rightly so). There are two different styles, one simply wraps a big piece of leather round the bar, the other takes many small cross sectional circular pieces, and stacks them up over the bar.  I thought the second type would produce a rougher, grippier and more sweat diffusing finish, so that's the way I went.      
crazypj11 months ago

Just noticed this is from 2010.

Still neat idea, particularly the spoke to stop things spinning.

It's now a moot point but how about using rubber cement?

It would probably grip leather well enough and still have some 'give'

bongodrummer (author)  crazypj11 months ago
Yep wort a try on the rubber cement. Also, just to report - the grip's still just about going. Has had some mods: one end lock ring broke off, so that's been replaced. Will replace the whole thing soon though.
Thanks for the comment.
Hamzah3 years ago
soft and comfortable
nice bike, is that a hydraulic v brake?, street riding is super fun, but it's a pain because i have to throw around my sub 45lb DH bike.

keep riding
bowmaster4 years ago
Cool, I'd rather just wrap leather around, epoxy it in place, and stitch the side with sinew or similar, but this is still really cool.
shadowman24 years ago
Oh, and nice rear brake)) Looks like a Hope, although I'm not sure.
bongodrummer (author)  shadowman24 years ago
Hay Shadowman,
thanks. The rear is just you regular magura HS33, the front is a hope trial. I wish I could run disk on the back, alas the Pashley frame has no disk mounts.
Ooh, i thought your right handle goes to the rear brake. So you're moto-style ;)
Btw, I have hope m4's with mini handles and 203 backsaw discs (sorry, just couldn't resist.)
bongodrummer (author)  shadowman24 years ago
Hehe. I actually have a Hope M4 on with mini lever on the back of my trials bike - lovely! Not having one is only just bearable on the Pashley because I don't do a lot of trialsy stuff - more rolling jazz.
shadowman24 years ago
Making these grips at this very moment. They look very cool.
Best instructable ever. ;)
You actually look like Danny MacAskill btw.
kimomenu4 years ago
What about laser cutting the leather ?
bongodrummer (author)  kimomenu4 years ago
Well yeah, would work very well I expect, if you have a laser cutter... Let us know if you try it.
Golaboots5 years ago
Nice idea.
Looks comfy.  I don't think I'll do it because I often come off and would cut my hands to ribbons without gloves.
bongodrummer (author)  Golaboots5 years ago
 Hmm, yeah.  If you fall of lots gloves are good.  Have gone on one ride with gloves (with the leather grips).  I didn't like it, felt how it always feels with gloves: strange.  No stranger than with average rubber grips though.   
dwosullivan5 years ago
 The left over inner pieces look about the right size to stop cable rub on the frame. a bit of contact adhesive and you are set. i know thats only about 4 out of the hundreds but still :-)
bongodrummer (author)  dwosullivan5 years ago
Yep, nice idea. now for the rest....
PatientZero5 years ago
 Very nice instructable and very nice Pash. Seriously considering this. You just can't get a proper nose-pick on when wearing gloves.
alcalaino5 years ago
Strange pyjamas? :o
nickodemus5 years ago
My brother would love this! Nice project, I really like the application of slightly more organic materials, how comfortable is it? Does it give you sore hands? Again, great 'ible!
bongodrummer (author)  nickodemus5 years ago
Thanks Nick,

It is quite comfy, because I was able to make it the diameter I wanted.  
Does it give me sore hands? Yes, but less so than my last rubber grips, and more importantly my hands feel good.  And they recover much quicker after a long days riding.  See the last step for more of an evaluation...

him92925 years ago
You are basically making a leather knife handle, except on a bike handle.
Check out the link, basically, assemble your stack with pressure from a vise to help hold it together, plus gluing with epoxy.
Finish it in the traditional method for what you are looking for.
bongodrummer (author)  him92925 years ago
Hey him, thanks for this. Awesome link. 
I did actually experiment with compressing the leather ringlets with clamps, while on the bars, but I found that when I compressed it much more than 'grunting hand tight' It became very solid.  My hands like some give to the grip, so that's the reason that didn't make the cut.

One thing about the epoxy is, how to put it on without permanently gluing the leather to the bar.  Unlike the leather in your example, the ringlets have a very small surface area, so it would be pretty difficult to apply the glue without it leaking onto the handlebar and bonding it permanently.  Also as it is reclaimed leather, it is much thinner, so you would end up spending a very long time putting epoxy onto the ringlets. And because they are so thin and 'wibbely' inevitably when you slide them onto the bar the glue would go everywhere.

So yeah, I see the similarities, but this is reasonably different to the knife technique. Sanding to shape afterwards, for example, would not be possible, unless you did go in for the clamped up 'super hard' grip - even then one slip with a power sander would take you through to the handlebar.  It may be that just the tiniest dollop of glue, delivered with a syringe, just before pushing the ringlets together would help...

Anyway, many thanks for your comments, I will add something into step 6 in relation to the glueing and clamp possibilities.               
To be honest, I would slather a release agent on the handlebars to allow for removal. Additionally, I would probably use a contact cement or some sort of more removable glue to allow a limited removal. In the shaping, I would use a punch to avoid having to awkwardly grind down the leather peices, and with a bit of planing, and different punch sized, I could get a profile that would thin and thicken with a minimal amount of grinding/sanding.
The leather grip would be much harder, and would not be apt to wobble. With proper treatment, a nice grippy and sweat free surface would be achieved. Thus, sourcing such thick leather could become a problem, but a saddle shop would be a good place to try for scraps; alternatively, one could get old belts at goodwill.
I agree that the stacked leather method would be quite a pain, but I feel it would result in a much better grip surface, but that surface would probably lack the amount of grip you want.

frenzy5 years ago
Very good instructable, I like the idea and the application. Now i just need to try this with some vegan materials. :-P
darwinian5 years ago
Good idea.   Looks comfy and reuses.

I know you are into free riding and these probably wouldn't interest you but, I think these are the best grips for city riding.


They're all natural, sustainable and look really good with hemp twine and shellac (another great natural material!).  And heck, they are only $15.  I have had the ones with the plug and bar end shifter cable channel cut out ( a little more expensive) on my commuter for a couple of years now.  They look great.  I love them and am considering a pair for my mountain bike.