Wednesday, January 5, 2011

leather bike accessories

Jessica has promised before that this won’t become a bike blog, and she’s absolutely right, because I know nothing about bikes. My bike once belonged to Allen’s mother, and Allen does all the work on it. It’s not that I’m not interested in working on the Schwinn, but Allen is good at it, enjoys it, and makes it awfully easy for me to sit inside sipping lattes while he changes tubes with numb fingers.

What I am good at, bike-wise, is imagining how pretty it could be - if only I didn’t personally need gears and brakes, if only the frame were powder-coated a beautiful cream, if only it had a bunch of honey-colored leather accessories. So Allen gave me a gorgeous Brooks B67s saddle for Christmas (and told me, very sensitively, that he’d chosen the model for those with wider hips). I’ve been working on accessories to match.

I made a pannier a year or two ago, and attached it very inelegantly to the rack using carabiners. I’d wanted to use leather straps, but didn’t want to do a dog-collar-type latch (a too-involved process every time I took it off or on), and thought that heavy-duty snaps weren’t heavy-duty enough. But Allen, the in-house structural engineer, assured me that the snaps would be plenty strong in shear (pulling sideways rather than head-on). So I installed the snaps, one above the other, and I sewed a strap onto the back of the bag through which I can slide the leather attachment straps.

My vintage Schwinn came with black molded-plastic grips, which were fairly comfortable, but not very attractive. Amazon carries some leather grips, but they’re either too cheesy, too expensive, or the wrong sort of application. Some Etsy sellers make beautiful leather bike accessories, so I took my inspiration from them.

Allen had some old, worn rubber grips that he offered me, so I put them on the Schwinn and decided to cover them with leather. (You could certainly just use thick leather, but that would have been less cushioning than I wanted.)

I went through several iterations before I finally came to two versions I liked fairly well, and I have a sample of each version on my bike right now. On the right side, the leather just wraps around the rubber, simple and straight, ending flush with the rubber grip on the inside edge, and flush with the cork/bamboo cap on the outside edge. (I hammered these into the tubes to close them off.)

For the left side, I cut notches along one end of the leather and sewed the notches closed, causing the leather to cup. It thus wraps around the end of the rubber grip, mostly concealing the rubber. Right now, I’m using rubber bands to wrap around the inside edge of the cupped leather grip, but I’ll replace that with twine or waxed cotton if I decide to use that type of grip.

The straight side is simpler and more straightforward, but I think it also looks a little bit fake-y. It looks more like a purely cosmetic treatment – which is precisely what it is. I think I’m leaning toward the left-side method.

Once I decide which to use, and finish the project up, I’ll do a tutorial on making both these grips, as well as the pannier attachment method.

Input and opinions are much appreciated!


  1. Let's ride towards each other and meet in Maryland somewhere...

    I really like the non-rubber band ones. I like seeing the section cut and it's clean and simple.

    Make a side car for Huey!

  2. I love this! I'm currently scouring craigslist to get my own bike!

  3. Oh, and I prefer the exposed stitches of the first image :)