Beer Cooler Handlebar Padding

The handlebars on my Waterford 1200 with beer can cooler padding
Top view

Years ago, when I was in the middle of a long tour, I stopped to visit my friend Dick Boyd in UP Michigan. Dick showed me how he had added padding to the drops on his touring bike's handlebars using thin sheets of foam and then helped me do this on my touring bike. It really made riding on the drops for long periods of time much more comfortable.

A few few days later, I saw a foam beer can cooler in a convenience store near the Soo and realized that it would also work well as handlebar padding. I bought it and carried it with me for the rest for that tour. That winter I replaced the foam sheets with foam from the beer can cooler, held on by duct tape and covered with electrical tape - friction tape, not the new slick plastic tape - to provide a good gripping surface. I found that, when I removed the bottom piece of the cooler and cutting the remaining cylinder of foam into two equal pieces, each piece could be wrapped neatly about the drop section of my handlebars. I've been touring with those padded grips ever since. I have needed to replace the electrical tape every year or two, and, after five years I needed to redo the duct tape.

Recently, I decided to try to use my old Waterford 1200 again. This bike is a racing bike which I stopped using a few years ago because its harsh ride was too hard on my aging body, especially my wrists. I once put a suspension stem on that bike, and that helped a lot, but it also destroyed the excellent fit - it is a semi-custom frame with an extra long top tube to match my extra long torso - and feel of the bike.

A few days ago, I took a new beer can cooler, removed the bottom piece and cut the resulting foam cylinder into two pieces which I temporarily tapped around the handlebar tops behind the brake hoods. Then I went on a century ride with a racer friend who is always complaining that my touring bike and commuter bike slow me down ;-{. The bike still beat me up on bad roads, but the extra padding on the handlebars really helped my hands and wrists and my friend didn't complaining about me being too slow, so I decided to add permanent beer can cooler padding to that bike.

The handlebars on my Waterford 1200 with beer can cooler padding
Side view

Since I wanted to fit the padding under the existing bar tape, I cut the two pieces of foam into four equal sized pieces, one for the top and one for the drop on each side. I only need padding on top of the handlebar, and, by only padding the top, it was possible to add the padding without replacing the existing handlebar tape.

I started by pulling the hoods back and removing the tape from the top of each bar. Then I placed one of the foam pieces on each top, butted up against the bottom of the brake, and, carefully and tightly, re-wrapped the tape over the foam. I had just enough tape to do this and cover the bars in far enough that I could finish them off with electrical tape.

The top padding - closeup

Although it might have been possible to mount padding under the existing tape on the drops, it would have been tricky. I took the easy way out and just wrapped the padding with electrical tape. I placed one of the pieces on the drop on each side and wrapped it tightly with friction tape. This setup is sticky initially, but the adhesive doesn't come off on your gloves or hands, and it loses its stickiness over time and the tape 'sets up.' I've found it to work very well as bar tape.

The drop padding - closeup

In the closeup of the drop, you can see the dark blue foam from the beer can cooler between the tape and the handlebar end. It is roughly 1/4" thick and very good at absorbing shock.