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Leather Wrap Handlebars

posted by Matt Pierce on September 30, 2013

You might know I like bicycles... and probably more tinkering with them than riding them. I've had my beige beauty for a while now, and figured it was time for a refresh. It's been a straight-bar, fixed bike for a while now and I wanted something more relaxing. I opted to loose the skinny tires for some Ruffy Tuffy 28c and put some swept-back bars on it. I went with a Velo Orange Left Bank handlebar if you're wondering.

After the change, I was thinking about cork and shellac, like I did with my Raleigh, but realized it'd be a shame if I didn't try my hand at a leather-wrapped bar. So, using the similar technique as on my Landcruiser steering wheel, I went for it.

To start this project, first measure the circumference of your handlebars and then lessen the number a little, depending on how stretchy your leather is. I used Horween Chromexcel and it's got plenty of stretch to conform perfectly around the bends. Estimate your length and add an inch or two just in case. This will be trimmed off later.

After cutting the appropriate sized leather pieces, I ran them through the sewing machine with a 23 needle to punch my lacing holes evenly. This can be done with an overstitch wheel and an awl if you don't have a sewing machine available. Once the holes are in place, it's time to start wrapping. Tie a loop on your thread to keep it secure in the first hole and lace it through the inner end a couple times before beginning your lace sequence. I just looped heavy nylon waxed thread in a single-needle continuous stitch. It goes slow, and you'll need to pull and tighten the stitch every couple loops. This works best if you can have the bar loose. If you're using a quill stem, you're gonna have to lace at least one side on the bike.

As you get to the end, get your scissors and cut the leather so you'll have a very tapered end. You'll cut your stitch holes off, but you can use an awl or a punch and make new ones. The leather ends need to be sewn together in a peg-leg fashion, so the material can be cleanly folded into the end of the bars. After feeding the ends into the bars and smoothing out any lumps, I tapped in corks from the hardware store to finish (not pictured).