Wednesday, February 27, 2008

How's Your Bar Tape?

It sure felt good to be back on the bike yesterday after getting over this local disease that has afflicted everyone lately. While I was “down and out” I had the opportunity to do a few things to the bikes that I’ve been meaning to do for some time. One of those things was to swap out a couple of handlebars and change some bar tape.


Now here's an interesting wrap job, eh?

Are you picky about your bar tape? I mean, do you have to have it wrapped just so and finished off with that “pro” look? Well, I was always curious about why my tape never looked as good as those “pro” bars looked. So, a few years back I began to practice and ask questions about how to get that elusive “pro” look. I guess it is a bit anal to care so much about how your tape looks, but it really does matter to me. I work in a bike shop on occasion and I’ve seen some of the most unbelievable wrap-jobs you can imagine. Some people apparently never changed their bar tape since the first time they purchased their bike. These people are either really cheap, or they just don’t seem to care what the bike looks like. The bar tape jobs that really make me cringe are the ones that look like they have been drooled upon, sweated through, and used as a plate for lunch. You know, the nasty faded, slimmy ones that look like the colors have bled together so badly you can't make out the original design. Nasty for sure! Not to mention the colony of germs and other microscopic creatures that probably inhabit the handlebar.


A rather crappy wrap job in this photo
(Notice how bad the finishing tape looks)

Here’s another example. How about those wrap-jobs that seem to come unraveled all by themselves some place in the middle of the bar. The ones where the overlapping has disappeared and show the bare handle bar. Kinda looks like some kid did those jobs. And finally the finishing tape. My favorite for sure. This is where I’m really picky. I like that sharp, together, pro-look. Not that I need to use the finishing tape that comes with bar-tape package because that stuff can be really hard to work with. I’m talking about a nice neat, even wrap of either black or colored electrical tape. With just a little extra effort, I’ve managed to get some really professional looking bars by just using good ‘ole electrical tape.


This my Trek 5900's bars wrapped with Bontrager finishing tape


The Tarmac finished off with red electrical tape


The Roubaix with Blue electrical finishing tape

On occasion while working in the shop, I’ve seen what looks like miles of electrical tape wrapped and overlapping everything on the handlebar in some of the most heinous ways. The one crap job I get the most kick out of is the one where there is about one-quarter inch of electrical tape on the bar tape and about 4 or 5 inches wrapped off the bar tape and onto the handlebar itself. I guess whoever wraps the finishing tape like that must wanna make sure the bar tape stays firmly on the bar. So, they use just a little extra! Oh, and who can forget the, “I was in a wreck, ripped my tape, and decided to repair the rip with a few extra wrappings of electrical tape” type folks. I like those too. Can’t spend some bucks on new tape so I’ll use a yard and a half of electrical tape to fix the rip.

This is an interesting wrap. Notice that there is no finishing tape

Ok, so what’s the point? Well, here is what I do after years of raveling and unraveling bar tape. I start with the color. Hands down the best color is black. Plain and simple. Doesn’t show dirt, grime, and black always looks black. Unless of course you are one of those acid sweating, bleach anything with my bodily fluids kind of guys/gals. If you are, go for the synthetic mostly plastic stuff. It will last longer for ya. I start off at the bottom of the bar and wrap towards the outside. In other words, wrap the tape towards yourself as you make your way around the bar. Next, keep it a little taut as you make your way around the bar and wrap with about one-quarter inch overlap. Ok let’s get to the finish because wrapping the tape step by step can be somewhat boring and I think you get the idea. So, once you get to the end, hold the tape in one hand and scissors in the other.

This the proper way to start the wrapping

Cut the tape at an angle so that the factory finish side remains on the outside. This gives that factory finish wrap look all the way to the end. By cutting the tape on the inside (towards the stem) the final portion is covered by the finishing tape. Finally, wrap the tape around the bar tightly and follow up by securing the bar tape with some electrical tape. Be sure to wrap the electrical tape neatly over and on top of itself. This is were the extra effort pays off. You can now put the fancy finishing tape over the electrical tape, or you can find an accent color you like and use that over the top of the electrical tape. Voala! You now have “pro” looking handlebar.

This won't work. Notice that the wrapping pattern is backwards. Your pressure on the tape will cause it slide off of itself.

Some bar tape wrapping links:

Park Tools: How to wrap bar tape.
Planet Bike Instructions
Bicycling Article
Stupid Hurts I know article and pictures
Velocity Nation: Article and Youtube Video

1 comment:

Howard said...

Cool post, Mozam. I actually read this a few days ago... and learned a few important lessons too. Thanks! But today, I noticed that another bicycle blogger, Dave Moulton at posted pretty much the same thing about taping handlebars as you did. Of course, he did it on Monday while yours was a handful of days earlier. I wonder if he reads YOUR blog? :-D

Now about that two color tape job in the top pic...