A few months ago I bought some really zoot Brooks handlebar tape. It's genuine high grade leather, the same stuff they use on their saddles. However, unlike their saddles, the tape doesn't age quite as gracefully (or I really have dirty hands).
The tape started out supple and had a beautiful golden brown color to it. I'll probably never own an Alfa Romeo, but it felt like what I would imagine a nicely leather wrapped steering wheel would feel.
In about a week, it turned into zombie flesh.
It lost a lot of its color and it became a little tough, despite a coat or two of proofhide.
I've always been a bit of a traditionalist. I still shoot with a pair of Leicas and a Rolleiflex. I prefer bar-end/downtube shifters to brifters. I like the classic look.
I recently ordered some new handlebars and gizmos to get ready for my summer bike tour down the Oregon coast. When I slap on the new bars, I'm going to try the old cork and shellac technique.
What it involves is using a natural colored cork tape, tying off the ends with hemp twine, then using amber shellac to seal the whole deal. A little time consuming, but beautiful to look at (just a pain if you have to change cabling). I picked up some shellac and did a test on the cork tape. In the picture it shows the nude cork tape, one coat of shellac, then two coats of shellac. The beauty of the whole thing is that you can layer coats to get it whatever color you want.
I'll post pictures soon of the process.