Introduction: Make Your Own Foam Grips for Drop Handlebars

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first to…

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.