When I got home to Seattle, I added a couple of coats of shellac and the bars took on a dignified patina.
When I started on my around the world bike trip, I dumped my cork wraps in favor of old time shellac-coated cloth handlebar wraps. I wanted something that would stand up to the abuse I knew my wraps would get and I’d read that shellac was the way to go. I wasn’t sure at the time that I would like them; they’re hard as can be and after the soft feel of cork it took me a while to get used to the solid, no-nonsense feel you get with shellac.
But after more than 5,000 miles of cycling in all kinds of weather, I can report that the shellacked wraps worked beautifully. For one thing, they are indestructible. I can’t count the number of times my bike fell over (sometimes with me on it) and scraped and banged and whacked the wraps and I never got so much as a dimple let alone a tear. I know I’d have gone through at least three sets of cork under the same conditions.
I also like that shellac doesn’t absorb water the way cork does. Cork soaks up moisture like a sponge and riding all day with squishy handlebars guraantees cold, wet hands. Also, cork has the annoying habit of coming loose after a day in heavy rain. Rewrapping my handlebars every night in a rainstorm is not something I care to do, thank you.
“But what about hand fatigue?” you ask. Well, I rode on average, eight to ten hours per day, every day for 5,000 miles and I never had a problem with my hands hurting. I did wear padded cycling gloves and I believe that’s all you need. In my opinion all that extra padding you get with cork doesn’t add to the comfort level. In fact, I think it makes handling kind of sloppy.
My shellacked wraps are as good today as they were when I put them on over 5,000 rough miles ago.When I got home to Seattle I added a couple of coats of shellac and they took on a very dignified patina that speaks to the many miles they've covered.