Intro: DIY Leather Wrapped Bar
I recently got the commuter cycling bug and started commuting the 10 mile round trip (scenic route) while in school in Nashville. I made a list if all the things I saw on the Internet I wanted on my bike and then went to work on finding DIY for them. My personal challenge is to keep the cost at under a tenth of the retail version. First thing on my list: leather braided handlebar wraps. On a very popular site for french commuters these are $136! Hmm... $13 seems impossible. I got close, but the cost of tools took me over budget. If I can sell the extras, I'll be under.
Anyway, here's my new grips and how I pulled this off. Keep watching, I've got a long list of upgrades coming...
Step 1: Leather for the Cheap.
I started with this mix of leather bought at Michael's for $8. Using the 40% coupon on the site and all of this was in one bag & cost under $5! I was able to cut 7 straps from this one bag.
Step 2: What You'll Need: Tools
Both of these tools were gotten from the local leather tannery. Most cities have a good Tandy Leather Factory, you can also order online. You could buy your leather there too but it's likely going to be more expensive.
The first pic is a "Safety Beveler"
Second is the "Craftool Strap Cutter"
The Tandy website has videos on how to use both of these so I won't go into it. I will say that use mg the strap cutter was super easy. I destroyed one piece of leather trying to use an exacto knife and ruler to cut my straps.
The Safety Beveler may not be needed but I wanted to thin out my leather so it would lay a tad flatter and be easier to wrap.
Use the Craftool to cut four straps of approximately 4-5 ft long (depending on bar type). My straps were approximately 4ft each for my flipped city bars. Road bars may need the full 5 feet. I used info found on a site that makes leather bicycle goods to find the dimensions and went with the 22mm width.
Step 4: Wrap the Grips.
Simple enough. There are videos showing how to do this on YouTube. I had to "wash" my leather straps due to some yellowish dye that was all over my hands when I began.
Step 5: Practice Makes Perfect.
I wrapped, unwrapped and rewrapped my bars at least three times before I had the hang of it. Each time I removed the wraps I soaked them in water, towel dried them and let them sit for a few hours before trying again. Once I got it, it was time to make it permanent, kinda.
Step 6: Alternative to Double Sided Tape.
Once you're comfortable with the braiding action use some double sided tape (or)
Instead of using double sided tape, I used a precut strip of golf grip tape I already had. If you walk into a local golf shop, they'll probably cut you a piece at no charge. Ask for a length to do 1 grip and then cut it into four pieces.
Step 7: Finishing Touches.
I like the look the darker colored leather so I used some Cordovan shoe polish I had in my shoe shine kit. This is the kind that comes in a tin can NOT the bottled liquid! If you're wondering whether it rubs off on my hands? Not really, my only concern is when/if it rains. But my shoes don't bleed onto my suits so... I think it'll be ok.
Step 8: Tying Up Loose Ends.
I'm still debating on using the leather lace that came in my bag-o-leather instead of plain electrical tape. I would use black of brown polish on the laces. It's free and may look nice. Ideas or opinions on how to improve this are appreciated.
Step 9: Practice Makes Perfect!
I've put this wrap on half a dozen bikes now. I try to use crap leather; old jackets, discarded couches, remnants...the bike in the pic is my latest personal build.