Make Your Own Foam Grips for Drop Handlebars





Introduction: Make Your Own Foam Grips for Drop Handlebars

My new bike came with some wonderful padded handlebar tape. After nearly 5,000 miles it is time to replace the tape. Similar tape is about $30. As good as that tape was, my hands still went tingly and numb after a dozen miles, but not from needing a shorter or higher stem.

I have foam grips on another bike with drop bars and like the foam very much. Foam grips for drop bars are hard to find locally. I decided to make my own from a child's noodle flotation device used in swimming pools. A foam noodle costs less than $3.

Lime green and dayglo orange were the two choices for color. I chose orange. My tires already have blue sidewalls. Our local sports team uses blue and orange for its colors.

Step 1: Reduce the Diameter of the Noodle

The noodle is a bit too thick for a handlebar grip. I decided I could cut away an outer layer with a hot wire cutter I could improvise.

The photo shows the end of the noodle as it comes from the store (right side). The left side of the photo shows the noodle after it has been pressed down on the hot wire cutter and gently rotated. I pulled the core out a bit for viewing purposes. The internal hole in the noodle is just right for a handlebar.

Step 2: Set Up the Cutter and Cut

I already had some stainless steel wire I determined to be .018 inch thick. That is 25 gage. Testing it with my ohmmeter showed it to have a resistance of about 1/4 Ohm per foot. I made a feeble attempt to utilize Ohm's Law and calculated that eight feet of wire would dissipate the 1.5 Amp. output of my automobile battery trickle charger on the 6 Volt setting. But, the cutter generated no heat in the wire. I flipped the switch on the trickle charger to 12 Volts and 3 Amps. The ammeter on my digital meter told me the cicuit was drawing 3.8 Amps--a little over the rating of the transformer in my (homemade) trickle charger, but just under the rating of the 4 Amp. bridge rectifier I used in the charger.

The cutter really needed only about a foot of wire, but I wanted to avoid burning up my charger or making the wire so hot that it drooped or melted. So, I used eight feet of wire. The duck tape you see holds turns of the extra wire so the coiled turns do not touch one another and the full resistance of the wire could be utilized. It worked fine. I shut the trickle charger off and made sure it cooled completely before cutting the next noodle section down in diameter, just to be safe.

Step 3: A Bit More Detail on Cutting

Here you can see how I used small blocks of plywood on each side of the noodle sections to raise the hot wire above the bed surface so the right amount of noodle would be shaved off of the core.

Cut the noodle into sections with a serrated bread knife. Make each section about 11 inches long.

Roll the noodle section on the bed surface as the hot wire cuts the foam. Go at a slow speed that does not force the wire. Keep the center of the noodle directly over the wire.

Step 4: Install and Use

Remove the old bar tape and the end caps from the handlebars. They should pull out with your fingernails. Remove the brake/shifter combination from each side of the handlebars.

My brake/shifters are made by Shimano. To loosen and remove, peel back the forward edge of the rubber covering on the outer side about midway between top and bottom of the rubber. You will see a bolt head for a hex key wrench at an angle outward. Loosen it until you can slide the brake/shifter off of the end of the handlebar.

Clean the bits of old adhesive from the handlebars. Gently twist each piece of noodle into position on the handlebars. It is possible to be too aggressive and get a linear rip in the material. Saw it to its approximate length with a sharp knife. Slide the brake/shifters into place after the upper portions of noodle are in place and are cut to size. Eyeball their position so both are at the same height on the handlebars.

I did not try to feed the brake cables through the inside of the noodle sections, but taped them on the outside of the foam grips. I tried to place them so they would be under the bends in my fingers. I had bought some colored tape at Radio Shack for some project a long time back. The roll of orange tape came in handy here.

I taped each end of each grip. The end caps were loose, so I wrapped about two turns of vinyl electrical tape around them and pushed them into the ends of the handlebars.

I tried the new foam grips out on a 28 mile ride. They hold up well and are very comfortable. My hands did not even begin to numb.



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    You can also purchase foam for tool handles at big box Home Depot and Lowes. Still a cool and inventive instructable.

    I am impressed by your ingenuity, but if you want, you may also buy foam handlebar slips commercially made, for $7
    . It comes in 4 pieces (cut to fit), with bar end plugs. This is generally an item made for replacements on 1970's style road bikes, but works fine on STI equipped bikes.

    It will be interesting to see how durable your pads are, and how much drag they create. I expect they will be very long lasting but somewhat rough, and may cause noticeable drag at higher speeds. Perhaps you have hit on something though if they are really comfortable.

    There are lots of designer "ergonomic" sets out there that have pads which are adhered to the bars wtih double sided tape, then wrapped with conventional synthetic tape. Best of luck. If your hands or wrists are numb, it is possible your bike and tire combo does not dampen vibration enough, or that the bars are too far/low. For vibration, you might like "gel" handlebar tape.

    Thank you for your comment. My bike came with the gel tape, but I never really liked it. I had used commercially made foam grips on another bike with drop bars and still like them on that bike. I tried a set of foam grips on this bike, but they began to tear apart while I was putting them on. They were just a lot thinner and weaker than the others I had put on some years ago. Also, our nearest bike shop is now 30 minutes away, so I wanted to try a solution I could manage nearer to home. The grips shown here were pretty good for about a season. Then they had crushed down. They still worked, but not nearly as well. My bike has a carbon fork and carbon seat post, but an aluminum frame, so it transmits some vibration. I am not such a fast rider that I will ever need to worry about air resistance from something on my bars.

    Your solutions are always clever, Phil!

    Thank you, Osvaldo. I really liked these. But, they did not endure well. Since, I am using old inner tubes from the tires wrapped around my handlebars. The rubber inner tubes are not as soft as the foam swimming noodles, but endure well and give a good grip, even if they do not cushion my hands as well as the foam. I was pleased, though, about how well my spur of the moment hot wire cutter worked. Still, the foam lasted well for at least a season.

    I need a little help with putting tape on a bike's handlebars: I have some blue Roubaix foam tape, which claims to have adhesive on the underside. There is no adhesive. I wrap it around, and of course it doesn't stick. It came with 2 strips of black plastic which appear to be some sort of tape, which you peel off a piece of paper; it came with 2 short pieces of the same blue tape, which DOES have an adhesive on the back but isn't long enough to go around the entire handlebar as any sort of tape-down. There are no instructions. In fact, the 4 little extra bits aren't listed on the contents. I cannot find anything with Google to tell me how to make this $20 roll of tape STAY on my handlebars. There must be a trick I'm missing. Can somebody help me with this?

    Late to the party, but can't leave a stranded cyclist out there.  There should be a narrow strip of adhesive on the back of the bar tape.  It's usually covered by some sort of backing.  If not and there's no adhesive, take it back to the shop.  Also, if you pull the backing off to aggressively, it can pull the adhesive strip right off (did it myself the first time).  If you still have adhesive on there make sure that it comes in direct contact with the handlebars and doesn't just stick to the previous loop of tape as this will fall apart quickly.  Hope this helps though it is months late.

    A bit late to this diy idea but there is an "athletic wrap", foam wrap for the ankles or wrists that is much like "athletic tape" but from what I've seen is wider and inexpensive as well. This kind of wrap is already cut to just wrap them on the handle bars. I'm sure they can be functional, I'm not sure if they would be "nice looking." I have in fact used them on handlebars and they worked fine. They can even be, everyone ready?, shellacked as some people do that to handlebar tapes though being foam had the tendency to act some like a sponge but it did still work.

    Well done Phil. I made similar pads from thermal insulating foam tubing used for copper tubing coming from hot water tanks. It works well and comes in black too. This tubing can be found in any hardware or home DIY stores and comes with a slit. It really helps with my tingling too but as I age I require more frequent hand positions changes. I've done a few Century rides ( 100 mile rides) years ago without padding and never had a problem but that's not the case now, alas the savages of time.