How $30 of leather and some effort ended up on my bike

This starts with wanting some fancy grips for my handlebars. I really like the look of the Brooks plump handlebar grips, the problem is they are very expensive–about $150 plus tax if I were to get them locally. That would be more than my bike is worth and just wasn’t in the budget for a basic runabout.

So it was off to Google to see if I could do it yourself and make my own grips.

I found a good starting point at instructables.com, but that guy had used the leather off of some more chair he found in a dumpster. Frankly that was a little too cheap for me. All I could imagine what bedbugs would infest my bike.

Essentially the Brooks style grips are a series of leather washers that are stacked.This is a view of the nearly finished result and you can see how the pieces of leather are ‘stacked’ one on top of the other.

the (nearly) finished product

the (nearly) finished product

The interior hole needs to be the same diameter as the handlebar, the exterior needs to be around 30 mm or 1 1/4 inches.

So went on to Amazon and looked for leather, I didn’t find much that would ship to Canada I did find a place called Tandy leather and they had some smallish pieces on sale. I ended up getting a half shoulder that was 6 ounces of weight for a total 0f $25 plus shipping.. That’s pretty thick leather, around a quarter of an inch. On Amazon I was able to find a set of hole punches they aren’t the best quality but they’re not bad. They did require some sharpening before use. The key deciding factor in picking this particular set was a punch sized at 20 mm and one at 32 mm.

I figured out I would need 80 leather pieces for the grips. (12 cm long grips area dived by 3mm per disc = 40) Like any good accountant I built up a spreadsheet figure this out that spreadsheet is not attached.

The leather I got was very thick it made punching a hole 32 mm in diameter quite difficult. When I ended up doing is soaking the leather so it was softer and easier to punch. As this bikes sits outside all day getting the leather wet wasn’t going to be a problem.

I start off by punching out the 32 mm diameter discs, that left me with a piece of leather that looked like this. wpid-wp-1406157253847.jpg

Once I had enough desks I went back and punched the 20 mm hole. My punch that had a centering piece which allowed me to make sure the two circles were concentric. Afterwards I realized that that center tended to shift that make the discs somewhat uneven. It wasn’t that big of a deal though perfection wasn’t the goal.

My handlebars are 22 mm in diameter, with the with the 20 mm hole that left a slight interference fit but leather is stretchy so it works well. Keep the leather disks in place the butt up against the brake lever assembly at one end and at the bar and itself I’ve been some cheap lock on bike grips parts. Down the road I may polish them to be just aluminum instead of black.

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To protect the top tube I’ve added a sewn leather sleeve.

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I’ve also used some scraps on my bike rack to hook on bungee cords, protect the edge from straps and fasten on the rear lights.

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The leather piece I got was 7 ft.² and the grips part of the project only used one and a half square feet so I have lots of leather left over.  In non-bike projects I made a leather valet tray and I still have another 4 ft.² leftover.

If I was to do it again I would probably buy thinner leather, the stuff I got was very thick and made punching the holes quite difficult. Buying some 4 ounce leather would probably make things just a little bit easier and probably help with the holes being more concentric.

New bell!

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Just picked up this very big and VERY loud bell at Urkai bike shop in Burlington. I was also able to get a new saddle there.
Nice people and lovely Dutch bikes. I’m saving up for one but for this year the yellow bike will do.

New handlebars

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Velo Orange Left Bank bars

I picked them up on Friday at Urbane Cyclist.  They feel really good on bike and went on with only a few grunts and issues.
Next up will be grips. Thinking of DIY leather ones.

Stripping off parts, buying some things

So I got a chance to take out the wrenches last Sunday and started on the bike.  Off came the shifters, the front derailleurs, then it gets hard.

I needed to replace the chain, to do that you need a chain tool – which I don’t have as my old cheap one broke years ago.

Then I tried to take off the right crank arm, it’s a catered crank so it should be easy.  Just take off the nut and gently tap out the pin.  But the nut wouldn’t loosen, it just seems to spin. Not sure what’s going on there, I need to use a proper crescent wrench so I can see what I’m doing instead of the socket wrench.

As it turns out I didn’t need to pull the crank off to get at the chainring, there’s enough space on the ring to remove it with the crank and peddle still attached. So loosen off the small ring which attaches to the big ring, then loosen the big ring off the crank spider. Then slip the big ring off and over the peddle, then do the same with the smaller ring.

Then it was a quick trip to MEC to buy a chain tool and a new chain. Take the old chain off (the new tool was much easier and worth the extra cost), take the rear derailleurs off and start lining things up. Here’s the tool (also my new toolbox knife from Lee Valley).

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As you can see the chain tool is pretty substantial, more home use than part of a my carry around kit.

At this point I had some choices for gearing. I can put the chainring on the inside or outside of the spider. This would align with either the smallest rear cog (outside) or the middle cog (inside). I can use either the large 52 tooth chainring or the smaller 40 tooth chainring. I decided to go with the 52 tooth, middle cog option for now.

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At this point I should clarify, I’ve kept the rear hub, freewheel and cassette as is. It’s a cheap option that doesn’t have a lot of downside. Down the road I may replace the wheels and hubs or I may set up a two cog setup with shims and some cogs. But for now I’m going cheap for this part of the build.

The new chain went on with only one false start.  I set it in the drop outs so there’s some room to move the wheel back if I want to slip up a gear by moving the chain manually.

Next steps

  • Pump up the tires
  • Adjust the seat, it’s way too low and far forward. I can move it almost 2.5 inches back by just swinging the seat clamp.
  • New handlebars and grips

I’m holding off on the handlebars.  I want to play about on the bike to see if it will  fit me before investing too much into it. Right now I’m only out a chain costing $10, handlebars would be closer to $45.

Currently I’m looking at getting these porteur bar and making my own leather grips.