During the final semester of my senior year of high school, I got really into bikes. And I don’t mean go-for-a-ride-every-afternoon into bikes. First I bought a bike. Then I bought another, more expensive bike. Then I bought 48 different accessories for each of these bikes. When I started to run out of new accessories to buy, I bought a bunch of parts on Craigslist and built a third bike from scratch. When that got boring, I took a job at a bike store fixing bikes. At the bike store, I met a dude who became my kinda-boyfriend, and we rode our own bikes to faraway bike shops to drool over bike parts and tools we didn’t need and definitely couldn’t afford.
Like I said, I got really into bikes.
As much as I actually liked riding them—the freedom of going where I wanted, when I wanted, without having to worry about gas money or a license or damaging the environment—what really thrilled me was how independent it made me feel to be an expert. In the six-month period that I lived and breathed bikes, I started and finished projects, fixed things, took things apart, made a mess of the garage, and set goals for myself that nobody really understood.
“What are you doing with all this crap?” my mom would ask. “You wouldn’t get it,” I’d tell her.
For this DIY, I decided to make handlebar streamers, because they magnify the feeling of being free, like the wind blowing through your hair, but also because the most liberating thing in my life often ends up being a new hobby and all of the trappings that come with it.
You will need:
- About six yards of a bunch of different ribbons and strings and other things you can buy by the yard. I used a mixture of satin ribbon, sisal twine, grosgrain ribbons, and metallic string. You can use anything, but thinner widths will be easier to work with.
- A set of bicycle grips. Your bike probably already has these, but getting them off the handlebars intact will probably take a lot of elbow/actual grease. I used this set instead.
- Enough decorative trim to wrap around the bike grips. This will be about eight inches; this could be a leftover piece of the ribbon you already bought, or you could get fancy pompom trim like I did.
- Some daisy chain trim. (Optional.) Cut carefully into individual daisies.
- Glue. Hot glue is best, but I only had E-6000, so I used that.
- A yarn needle, or a toothpick and some tape.
1. If your bike grips don’t already have holes in the end, the first thing you want to do is make some. Carefully use the tip of your scissors to poke a half-inch wide hole (it doesn’t need to be perfect) at the end of each grip. Rotate the scissors (CAREFULLY!) in the hole to smooth out the edges.
2. Cut your ribbons into equal lengths. The ideal measurement depends on your individual bike, but the basic formula is the length from handlebar end to wheel, minus a few inches so the streamers don’t get caught in the spokes when you ride. Separate your lengths of ribbon into two piles, since you will be making two streamers. The two sides don’t need to be the same unless you want them to be. Mine aren’t identical, just coordinated.
3. Use your yarn needle, or a toothpick and some tape, to gather the ribbons so that you can easily thread them through the grips. Thread your ribbons through the open end of the grip a few ribbons at a time. Keep going until you have a luscious ponytail of ribbon coming out the other end. Then pull the bike grip to the center of your ribbons so it looks like a necklace an elementary school art teacher might wear.
4. Line up the loose ends of the ribbons and tie a big, tight knot—maybe even dab some glue in the knot once you’ve tied it?—and trim off any extra bits. Pull the ribbons on the side of the grip where you made the hole until the knot is secure inside the grip.
5. Repeat all of these steps for the other bike grip. Now you have a cute-but-basic set of streamers that you can decorate at your whim. I added some texture to the streamers by braiding together some of the ribbons and twine, making little friendship bracelets, and sporadically tying knots. Then I glued some daisies haphazardly to the individual strands or braids within the bundle. (I’ve found that the best way to do this is to arrange a daisy flat on your work surface, dab it with a bead of glue, and press the ribbon flat into the glue. If you aren’t using hot glue, give the daisies some time to dry.)
6. Carefully apply glue to the end of your grips and neatly wrap the decorative trim or ribbon. Trim off any overlap and let dry.
7. Once everything has dried (don’t rush this one), slide the grips back on to your handlebars. If they are loose or rotating at all, use some hairspray or spray adhesive to lock them in place. Look over your work and make sure that there isn’t any risk of the bike streamers tangling in the wheel spokes. I trimmed my ribbons to inconsistent lengths, but you could make them even if that’s your thing.
Optional last step: ride your bike really fast until you break through the space-time continuum and merge into the movie Now and Then. Create an alternate ending where you break up the friend group by creating a jealous feud over how groovy your bike streamers are.
If you haven’t seen this movie, you can just ride to 7-Eleven and get a Slurpee or something. ♦