Monday, December 7, 2009

BROOKS LEATHER RING GRIPS

Brooks Leather Ring Grips
Brooks England, Ltd.
brookssaddles.com
6 out of 10


Brooks.

Within the cycling community this name brand is synonymous with quality, elegance and timelessness. When you spot a bicycle with a Brooks saddle mounted on its seat post, you know you are looking at the bicycle of someone who champions craft, precision and, above all else, comfort. Owning a Brooks saddle speaks to its owners intelligence and dedication. Brooks is a company so revered and respected that it stands shoulder-to-shoulder with English brands of the same pedigree: Fred Perry, Aston-Martin, Burberry, and so on.

Over time, Brooks has ventured beyond bicycling saddles to create some of the most functional and aesthetically pleasing cycling accouterments you can throw hard-earned money at: panniers, shoulder bags, bar tape, etc. All Brooks products are fashioned from what seems to be the most durable, functional, supple, and proper English leather known to human being's who enjoy riding bicycles. That being said, it saddens me to report that Brooks foray into the manufacturing of handlebar grips is, well, rather mildly disappointing.

If I were to sum-up Brooks leather ring grips with one word, it would be "drama." While these grips are artfully crafted, I found fitting them onto my Wald retro-style swallow riser handlebars a bit of a workout. In all fairness, this particular set of handlebars are, shall we say, odd, with barely enough handle clearance for both grips and brake lever mounts. Still, these handle bars are 22.2mm around (the standard size suggested by Brooks for the grip to fit on to), so fitting them onto the bars wasn't a problem.

Brooks designed there grips with a theoretically ingenious platform: on each end of the grips are locking collars to-which attach three long bicycle spokes, locked in place on one side and threading on the other. Between this span are a series of leather washer "rings", which can be removed individually depending on the size you need. The handsome packaging (God, I love Brooks packaging!) even includes shortened spoke-threads to allow for mounted shifters. All in all, a fairly intelligent design.

If the grips are too long, remove some of the rings and trim the spoke-threading down to the desired size. Simple enough, right? And what buddy bike mechanic doesn't like tinkering and modifying? But here come the first bit of drama; hacking away are minute, yet integral, components on grips that will set yo back nearly $80.00. Slicing and chopping into these seemingly irreplaceable spoke-threads makes you feel like a surgeon operating on your Sister-In-Law with only three months of medical school under your belt: once false slice and you're screwed.

The next bit of drama came when I realized that both the grips and my brake lever wouldn't fit on the Wald bars. Now, these what-the-hell-was-Wald-thinking-??? handlebars are no fault of Brooks. I'm confident that if Brooks were to design handlebars, they would be spectacular. And expensive. These Wald handlebars, however, were quite inexpensive, and I was now paying the price for my frugal find.

Still, these Brooks grips wouldn't allow for brake lever, lest I wanted the lever mounted on the handlebar's bend between the grip and the rise where it would pull funky (this, of course would not do). I have rather large hands, and shortening these grips any more wasn't an option, either. So, I opted for mounting the brake lever near my bicycle's stem, on the shallow part of the handlebar's rise near the mount. I looks wonky, but it functions.

The most irksome drama came in the form of the dime-sized bar ends. Sure, they look very smart, with the word "Brooks" branded into them. But for some reason, my bar-ends kept coming loose during rides, flopping to the side, and dislodging on their own. The threat of loosing them prompted my to tighten the small screws on each of the collars in an attempt to squeeze the ends into immobility. This, however, resulting in over-tightening one of the screws so badly that I broke it's "head" off. I've since opted to ride sans bar ends with the hollow of my handlebars on either end for the world to see. Woe is me.

Next, is the spoke-threads, themselves. Keep in mind that the leather washers are secured by these spokes. That is all well and good; the leather rings are surprisingly grippy and comfortable. But the spoke-threads themselves are a bit... torque-y. I say this because when you wrap your hands around the grips, there is a fair amount of play coming from the middle of the grips. Nothing dangerous, mind you. But enough to be annoying. Though thoroughly secured on either end by the collars, these grips feel subtly "shifty" when riding.

Once mounting these grips to my steed, I found I wasn't very aesthetically impressed by them. I really hate to admit this, but I'm not as in love with them as I thought I'd be. You see, I've recently reconditioned a fixed gear bicycle by having it powdercoated gloss black, mounting white Vittoria Randonneur tires on my silver Velocity Deep V's , and attaching a bronze Crane bell to the aforementioned Wald swallow handlebars. I was going for modern-classic aesthetic, akin to the new Fiat 500 automobile: classic styling on a modern chassis. Of course I wanted grips to match my Brooks Professional saddle, so these Brooks Leather Ring grips seemed like a natural choice.

These grips simply underwhelmed me, however. I chose the black edition to match my saddle, but the sides of the rings on the grips are raw and distressed (as the edge of leather usually is - yes, I know). Then there's the matte silver collars. I seriously wish Brooks would have made these in the same copper color as the exposed rivets on their saddles. I don't know, maybe it's me, but the silver finish on these four collars doesn't seem very English, or dignified. Last, if I had them to purchase all over again, I would have opted for the dark brown leather rings, instead of the almost green-looking black.

Yes, if I had this purchase to do all over again, I would still buy these Brooks grips. They are manufactured by Brooks, after all; the hand-crafted quality is built-in (hell, even the packaging feels hand-crafted!) Despite the drama and mild disappointment, I still hold these expensive grips in some moderately high regard. However, if I may make some suggestions to Brooks for any future editions of these grips, it would be these: four spoke-threads instead of three, bronze or copper-colored collars, finishing treatment on the side of the leather rings, having a way to secure the bar-ends to the collar screw via a small eyelet or some such thing, and a third middle-sized option for the spoke-threads.

All-in-all, I'd say that if you absolutely require your bicycle be outfitted with as many Brooks accouterments as possible, nothing I write here will stop you from buying these grips (I'm guessing the price tag won't dissuade you, either). However, if a simple pair of leather grips from Dapper Dan will do ya, well then, you're not missing much here. So are these Brooks leather ring grips worth the price? Seeing the quality of craftsmanship that went into these grips, I'd say yes. Worth the "meh" and drama factors despite the name on the side of them? Maybe not so much.





All things considered, these Brooks grips rate fairly nominal, with minor flaws that one can learn to live with. How does that English saying go? Oh yes: "Stay calm. Carry On."

2 comments:

  1. I realize this is an old posting, but I was curious on your opinion on weather or not these grips would work or not with twist shifters, or is the inside "ledge" of the grips too great?
    Thanks
    Mike

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  2. I had my bike shop install mine while getting a tune up. So I had 0 problems with them being installed. I have regular handlebars not extra short ones or small size. My bike is a regular safety bicycle with fenders and a basket. These grips are lovely they fit my hands perfectly and they have the right texture for proper grip. They look classy and feel great. The two things I'm looking for in my grips. Thanks Brooks.

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