I have been converting my old crome moly mountain bike into a touring/trekking bike and I just installed some trekking type handlebars. Part of the reason for this was because they were of the right diameter for all the mountain bike hardware to fit. And it is intended to be a budget solution so I didn't want to buy new brake levers and gear levers.
Last time I went on a long trek/tour my hands were numb for days afterwards after a long time with the straight mountain bike handlebars. So I decided I needed the additional hand positions of drop bars or trekking bars. I also realized that I would want a more thickly padded grip or wrap but after going to the bike shops and finding the price of the good thick stuff I was looking for something less expensive. Orignally I figured I would put some gel pads under a thicker bar wrap but that ends up costing about 50 bucks. More than I paid for the trekking bar. It was hard to justify.
For the lower part of the bar where the brakes are and the bar is straight I just installed an old pair of cut off mountain bike grips. They are there until I get some better ones like some Ergons which I have on my other bike. I tried wrapping the remaining bar with some old inner tubes which I intended to cover with a final standard type of bar wrap which is usually around 8-10 USD. But after putting on the tubes I found the surface too uneven and not padded enough. I wanted something better but I didn't want to pay 50 bucks for the bike shop stuff.
So I went to Home Depot looking for alternatives. I thought maybe they had some foam tape and that I could wrap the bars with that and then go over it with some standard bar wrap. They didn't have any of that foam tape but what I found to try were two things.
The first was the cheap polyethylene foam insulation that is used on plumbing pipes. This was really cheap and had about a 2 inch outer diameter and the inner was close to the bike handle bar size. I had to slice it to get it on and then apply tape around it. It felt pretty good. It was nice and soft but a little too mushy.
I was going to do both sides this way when I thought I would try the other method I had conceived on the other side to compare. The other method was to wrap the bar in this garage door weather stripping material that I had got for 9 bucks. About the price of standard bar wrap.
It turns out this stuff works really good and is much better than the polyethylene foam pipe insulation. First off this stuff is some kind of more dense foam. It is designed to lie on the bottom of the garage door and take the weight of the door and maintain it's shape so it can take more weight without compressing. I think it is some kind of polyeurethane foam but it is really very similar to bike bar wrap in that the outside is a water proof rubberized finish. It has an unusual cross section and is a little more than 2 inches wide and about .25 inches thick. It also is tapered on one side and has two ridges running down the lenth that make it easier to keep the wrapping aligned. When finished the wrap is very firm and looks nearly like standard handlebar wrap except that the bar is now nearly two inches around.
I liked the garage door weather stripping wrap so much that I took the polyethylene pipe insulation off of the first side because I could immeadiately tell that the garage door stuff would be a lot better.
I just finished wrapping the bar and it is raining and I don't want to go out in the wet since I am breaking in a new Brooks seat. But It feels incredible so far from just sitting on the bike.
Anyone wanting an inexpensive and thick bar wrap for touring long miles may wish to give this a try. I will post back on how the wrap actually works on the road. The strip was for a 9 foot wide door and I had about 3 feet left over so I think the whole nine feet cut in equal lengths it would work well for a drop bar. If not it is also available in 16 foot lengths for a little more money.