Saturday, April 4, 2009

Accessorization, Frustration, and Bike Lust,

The internet is dangerous.

It enables me, makes my wallet lighter, and fuels my bike lust.

Of course I was looking at bikes and/or bike parts, and happened upon the Epicurian Cyclist Blog, where I happened upon some interesting bike accesorization.

These are Velo Orange retro bottle cages, holding stainless steel water bottles. The leather sewed to the cages are VO leather toe clip covers. Epicurian cyclist Russ claims they keep the bottles secure and rattle-free. Besides that, they look really good!

So good in fact, that I hit Velo Orange and ordered a pair of cages, 24 0z. stainless water bottles, and four toe clip leathers. While I was there, I saw some really cool looking Elkhide sewn-on bar covers, so I grabbed those too. Here's what they are supposed to look like:

I ordered these parts last week and they rapidly showed up at my door on Thursday. Of course, the weather being as crappy as it has been (wind, rain, and snow ....yes snow) forecast this weekend it was a good time for bike tinkering. Well, it's always good time for bike tinkering! :>)

First, sewing the toe clip leathers to the cages and cage installation. This really was a snap. And the stainless water bottles look really great, and no nasty plastic aftertaste!

My next project was getting rid of the shellacked blue cork bar tape and installing the new Elkhide bar covers. I couldn't wait! It was easy enough removing the old bar tape, and I read through the installation instructions several times before I started.

This was definitely tougher and certainly more labor intensive than wrapping bars. The kit includes two blunt harness needles, a length of heavy waxed string, and two die cut pieces of elk hide. The sewing pattern is like a baseball, with alternating crossing threads. The trick is using one piece of string and two needles on each end, knotting the string in the middle and passing it through the first die cut hole putting the knot towards the inside of the wrap to start, then crossing the threads over each other and passing back through the holes to secure the end. To sew, the needles are alternately passed over one another through the die cut holes along the edge of the leather forming a crossing pattern (think baseball again). This is harder to do than it is to explain.

After a couple of false starts I managed to semi-sort-of get the hang of it. As I stitched, I also had to pull a piece of double-sided sticky tape lengthwise from the inside of the bar tape. This was put there to hold the sewed up cover securely and prevent twisting.

The really tricky part was passing it over the brake bosses on the handlebar. Of course, I had to remove the brake cable and lever, but leave the brake boss on the handlebar in the desired position. I taped it in place to ensure it wouldn't move. Once my wrapping got to the brake boss, I was supposed to cut a hole in the leather to allow the brake boss to pass through.

And this is where I ran into trouble.

The picture on the instructions showed a large rectangular hole over the brake boss at the brake handle mounting point. This is supposed to allow ample clearance for the brake lever housing to securely make contact with the handlebar, with no leather interfering with the fit. Sure, no problem...I whipped out my X-ACTO knife and started hacking.

What I failed to understand at the time is that hide s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s. Yeah, when I stretched the cover over the brake boss I saw the hole was crooked, off-center, and too large...much too large.

Two hours of wasted time sewing, and one wrecked bar cover. I was cursing. I was frustrated. I sat down on the toilet in my combination laundry/shower/bike tinkering room, head in hands. My lovely and highly intelligent wife, hearing my grumbling and cursing noises, wandered downstairs and saw me in this state, disappointed, pissed, fuming. Cooler heads prevailed, and together we attempted to solve the problem to no avail. Dejected, we clipped the stitching and removed the wasted bar cover.

Don't do this:

Do this instead:

Since I now had a 'spare' piece of hide to practice on, I found that cutting a vertical slit directly and CAREFULLY down the center lengthwise, and stretching to fit worked much better than attempting to cut a hole. So, I got to start all over again with the remaining piece of hide.

Starting the process from the stem end:

Vertical slit over brake boss. Again, CAREFULLY lengthen until proper fit is achieved.

Stitching down the back side:
Trimmed, bar end plugs in, brake lever installed, done.
I smeared some Obenauf's on it to sweatproof and weatherproof it. It looks and smells great.

Unfortunately, I'm short one piece of hide. So of course, I had to go back to Velo Orange and order some more. Furthermore, I thought these cages would look good on the Quickbeam as well, along with toe-clip leathers, a VO leather saddle (replacing the hard plastic ass-buster on the Turquoise Tempo), a new and a real Pletscher Master Commuter rear rack, on sale of course, for the Quickie Blue Fixie. My shrinking bank account!

And, as I was surfing I happened into Travel Gravel's blog, who's listed all 44 (no, it's not a typo) bicycles he owns. Included in this melange of metal is a Bridgestone RB-3 that's too big for him. Of course I had to lust getting the better of me again.

Bike accesorization. Bike love. Bike tinkering. Bar wrapping. Sewing. Blogging. Internet surfing.

Anger. Frustration. Redemption. Satisfaction. Shopping. Lust.

I'd say even with the crappy weather and no riding it was a full day.



Ronsonic said...

Thank you for a very helpful post. I'm considering those bar wraps for a project and wasn't sure about using them with aero cables. Since you didn't even mention it, I imagine there's no issues with stretching the covers over them.

And thank you for making the mistake on the brake post cutout so that I won't have to do it myself.

Ruben Hoes said...

HI, i was thinking of just going to a leather shop and making my bar covers myself, would you think this is doable?