DIY Leather Wrapped Bar

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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...

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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.

Step 3:

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.

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    8 Discussions

    None
    Swan Viaduct

    2 months ago

    Dear Leatherworker,
    1st off, thanks for post - accolades to you. One trusts everything's humming along around Music City?
    2ndly, one finds your 10% of retail cost$ genius, in a frighteningly genius way. & some if your insightful tricks, like that golfer's grip tape thingy, well, that's really swingin' for the fences homerunny.
    I've been thinkin' along similar chord progressions, with my new, that is to say, previously owned, two-wheeler; albeit sure to go over your budget heady.
    A couple thoughts/Qs:
    1) I imagine the braiding applique adds depth over more usual leather? Do you think somewhat thinner strips of leather may help or hinder, or otherwise, the job coming nicely full cycle?
    2.) Mine has drop-bars, as yours, but I'm wondering about more maneuverable alt./wider bars. Do you figure your Once Upon a Time spot-on work is there forever and ever, or do you figure you can, easily-enough, switch it to different bars, were you to fancy that?
    Cheers to you, have one on me, you grab the tab, since you're so good with the coverage issues.
    Swan Viaduct

    None
    gumby_kevbo

    5 years ago

    Finish wrap: Hemp twine whipping is traditional for cotton bar tape, it should work well on leather. I found hemp twine at JoAnn craft/fabric store, Micheals may have it (Micheals near me closed).

    If you google, you can find a tutorial on how to do the whipping with both ends neatly tucked under. Shellac over the twine gives a wear and weather resistant finish.

    1 reply

    Thanks, I'm not minding the black electrical tape much it's what I've always use to finish the ends of my cork tape.