Thursday, 10 March 2011

Wood You?

Anybody a fan of wooden handlebar grips? I've been attracted to them for some time and have seen a few on vintage and custom bikes, but have not tried riding with them. I requested these from Bella Ciao, and they sent me a set to try along with a bundle of other stuff for the Superba prototype. The grips are handmade in the EU and Bella Ciao carries them as a special order item. Not sure whether I will actually use these on the Superba, but I wanted to see - and more importantly feel - what they were like.

Here is what the grips look like on a set of handlebars. They are not fancy, but they are classic, nicely finished, and ergonomically shaped. I don't know about Italian city bikes, but I think they would be great on a path racer with upside down North Roads.

I don't know whether I will like these in practice, but in theory I think they could work nicely. While modern bikes tend to come with heavily padded grips, over time cyclists can discover that they prefer a harder gripping surface. That may sound counterintuitive, but padded grips can tense up the hands, whereas hard grips can allow hands to relax. Still, it's possible that the wood could be too hard. I am also curious how well wooden grips hold up in the rain and humidity: Do they swell, crack or distort? Some of the vintage ones I've seen have been quite worn, but did not show any signs of cracking or warping.

Aside from Bella Ciao, there are a few manufacturers who sell different versions of wooden grips, including Dia Compe and Cardiff. I remember Rivendell used to offer some last year as well, but I no longer see them on their website. There were also wooden grips shown at NAHBS a couple of weeks ago, according to this picture via BikeSnobNYC. If you have experience with any of these or others, I'd like to hear about it.  I will be installing mine over the weekend and will make it a point to test them on a long ride, leave them out in the rain, and otherwise abuse them to see how they behave in comparison to other types of grips.


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