02 February, 2012

The Elk Are Back

Espresso-color elkhide bar cover
We use elkhide for our handlebar covers, city grips, and toe clip covers. Unfortunately we sometimes run out of them, particularly in the espresso color. Elkhides are often in short supply, especially the highest grade, which is what we use. Our elkhide comes from from a small California tannery that buys most of its stock from recreational hunters. They tan and dye the hides and ship them to us. The covers are actually cut right here in Annapolis. It's a tough job since the usable part of the hide is not that large. A lot of thinking goes into deciding how best to utilize them. We need to work around the bullet holes, scars, and rough areas while trying to waste as little of the expensive leather as possible. Since each hide has a slightly different color shade, thickness, pliability, and elasticity, we carefully match the pairs of covers. But these are wild animals, not farm raised cattle, so there will always be some inconsistency. Such is the nature of the beast.
We've thought about switching to cowhide, but the soft feel of elk hide and it's ability to conform to the bends of a handlebar convince me not to. Cow hide is also not as "spongy" and shock absorbent. If we can't get the larger supply of hides we need as we continue to grow then we'll switch. We've already had a run of cowhide covers made as an experiment. They were OK, but not as good. There is another artisinal tannery that we work with, they tan the leather for our mud flaps, and we'll see if they can come up with a custom tanned cow leather that's closer to elk.
City bar grips
To my eye there are two types of handlebar bar treatment that really stand out, elkhide covers and shellaced cloth tape. Leather bar tape is my third choice. Both the covers and shellaced tape are a bit of work. Put aside a couple of hours to do a really nice job on bar covers. It's pretty simple, but repetitive work (I do my covers while watching a movie). Full directions can be found here. Matching bar covers, saddle, fender flaps, toe-clip leathers and straps really bring a bike together. Vegans may not agree.

We just got a shipment of elkhide and have a small quantity of covers in all colors in stock. We'll be making more over the next week.
Leather covers on my old VO rando bike


Gunnar Berg said...

I prefer cowhide.

Anonymous said...

I prefer to wrap my bars in cornbread, like on a corndog.

Anonymous said...

i love my Elkhide sewn on handlebar grips from Velo Orange. My old leather cowhide covers lasted 25 years but were much less supple than the elk leather. The give my 30 year old steel bike a nice retro classic look witt the similarly colored honey VO saddle too!

Perry said...

I remember wrapping those bars, the second side goes three times as fast as the first and looks way better.

Pete said...

Where can I get them in Australia?

Alec said...


you can buy direct from our website or you can contact one of our dealers

email us if you'd like more info!