Monday, March 03, 2008

Taping Handlebars

Re-taping handlebars is one of those jobs that most cyclists have done many times. However, there has to be those out there doing it for the first time, and handlebar tape for some strange reason, is usually sold in a packet with no instructions what so ever.

It is as if a cyclist is supposed to be born with some divine instinct on how to apply new tape to handlebars. So for the uninitiated here is a pictorial step by step of how I do it.

On opening the package there is sometimes a short piece of tape with an adhesive strip on the back.

The very first thing you do is roll back the rubber hood on the brake lever and stick this short piece if tape on the back of the handlebars, over the clip holding your brake lever in place. (Above.)

If there is no such piece in the package, you will need to cut a piece about 3 inches long (8 cm.) and attach it with some double-stick Scotch Tape. You could use regular Scotch Tape or even masking tape on the outside as a temporary measure to hold it in place.

Without this short piece of tape in place to start with, you will have an ugly gap in the tape as you go around the brake lever.

Start taping from the bottom end of the handlebars. If the tape is the non-sticky type, I use double stick tape to hold the tape in place while I pull it tightly around the bars. Again, you could use regular Scotch or masking tape, as this would be hidden after the first turn of the tape.

Some people put the end of the tape inside the bars and push the end plug in to hold it in place. I find this doesn’t work so well with the thick padded tape I am using.

It doesn’t matter which direction you wind the tape, however, in the interest of looking uniform you should go clockwise one side and counter-clockwise the other.

Stretch the tape tightly as you go. You will notice I have about two-thirds of the tape showing and one third overlapping. Be careful that you don’t leave gaps as you go around the bend.

On the last turn under the brake lever, the tape should fit snugly in the corner. If it doesn’t, unwind a few turns and rewind so you achieve this. With thin tape you can go around an extra turn, but if you do this with the thick padded tape, you will have an unsightly bulge.

Bring the tape up and over the brake lever.

Again, making sure it fits snugly in the top corner.

Bring the tape down, then up again and continue taping above the brake lever.

When you reach the center ferrule, check back to make sure there are no gaps anywhere before you cut the tape to length. Cut the tape so the end is on the underside of the bars. Once again, I have used a piece of double-stick tape as a temporary measure to hold it in place.

Roll the rubber brake lever hood back in place and the finished job should look something like this.

Finally I finished of with some black electricians tape. Some consider this slightly “tacky,” but it does stretch well and can be made to look neat. Also, it comes in many colors so it doesn’t have to be black.

For me this is a temporary measure anyway, as I plan to cord whip later. I wrote about cord whipping in a previous article here.

Also in previous articles are the answers to the unrelated questions that will most likely come up.

Why is my front brake lever on the right? And why do I have wooden beads on my front brake cable?

Feel free to comment with your own little tips on taping handlebars.


johnb said...

Good article, Dave. The part about using short pieces behind the brake levers is especially useful because these days they barely give you enough tape and you'll come up short after criss-crossing and going round and round at the levers to cover all exposed metal. Most tape kits I've used had a couple of pieces of tape with stripes or a logo to use at the ferrule. I usually secure the bar tape with Krazy Glue and then cover that with the finishing tape supplied. But sometimes this tape is too flimsy or doesn't match, so it's back to the electrical tape. Another method I've seen described is to remove the brake levers and just leave the mounting bands and nuts in place, then replace the brakes after taping. That may work with cloth tape, but would probably cut through the thicker stuff you're using.

Vince B. said...

Thanks Dave! This article came just in time - I plan to retape my bars later this week.

Poe said...

Hi Dave,

Wow, that is a very informative post about taping handle bars. I just wanted to thank you for stopping by my site and leaving a comment.

And, no, it's just a Schwinn from Wal-Mart to serve a temporary purpose.

I'm intrigued by your road bikes, and look forward to spending time reading more about your art.

Thanks again,

Redtaildd said...

I have to stir the pot now and then. Some years ago maybe 25 I decided that I didn't like the finishing tape so I started wrapping the bar from the top down and finishing with tucking the end in and inserting the plug. I get two or three years out of my work, so it works well enough for me. I started this in the day of Benotto Celotape but I find it works well with the newer Cinelli cork tape with the double sticky removed. If you are particularly hard on your bar tape or you don't get it good and tight it will begin to curl on the edges which will never happen with the bottom up method.

Thanks a again for a great blog.

jhota said...

nice post, Dave. i think there's as many methods to tape bars as there are cyclists who tape them.

what i usually do is start at the end, like you, and wrap the tape "in" (that is, anticlockwise on the right and clockwise on the left), then change directions when i cross past the levers (to clockwise on the right, and anticlockwise on the left). i've found that it helps keep the tape tightly wound, as it makes sure it's always curling in the direction of my grip (whether i'm on the tops or the drops).

and hooray! for electrical tape...

aidan said...

My cork tape used to slide all over my bars until I put unpadded double-sided tape underneath it. That's the ticket. CTTO cork tape rules!

Anyone have ideas for the best fishing tape? I don't like the look of electrical, and haven't found a cotton-tape that stays stuck at its ends. Think I may have to cord-whip the ends.

Tarik Saleh said...

You left out the part where you pull it too tightly and snap the cork tape and have to go out and buy some new tape.

Anonymous said...

I tape my bars in the same basic fashion but take one additional step at both ends. Rather than starting with a square cut end, I cut the tape at a diagonal in line with the “wrap angle”. This leaves a more uniform level with no starting point lump. At the top, I'll do the same thing, cutting the tape at a diagonal so that it finishes right up against the center reinforcement.

Besides eliminating the lumps, you won't have to wrap more than a single width’s worth of the electrical tape and the result is a good bit cleaner in appearance.

Ron said...

Nice one, though personally I don't like the look of your brake hood placement. Shoulders and wrists can get pretty tight. Forgive me if that picture was just for demonstration and you have a different setting.

Bill in Pasadena said...

Nicely done, Dave. I've lost count on how many bars I've taped, starting with the old Velox cloth stuff back in the 70's (that's dating me!)

In reading up on this topic in several bike maintenance books over the years, I was always puzzled by the instructions to make a "figure 8" wrap around the brake levers. It always struck me as overkill, resulting in a bulge of tape right behind the levers. So I just did it my way, which I'm now gratified to know is also your way, too!

Howard said...

I've taped exactly one set of handlebars in my life... and botched it badly. Ever since then I just go out and buy a new bike. :-D

David Naisuler said...

Great to find your blog!

I found that going from the top down and finishing in the bar end plug is the most empirical and aesthetically pleasing way for me. The tape always stays wrapped up top not matter how hot, sweaty and long the ride.

Granted tucking the tape into the bar end plug is an issue with the thick tapes, but I never like the feel or look of them anyhow....

My most comfortable drops ever were wrapped with Velox over cut-up neoprene wet suit material. The Velox kept the bars from becoming slippery when wet, and the neoprene was like riding on air- I could dial the firmness by how tight I wrapped the tape. It seemed the neoprene never decays out of the sun under the tape, it must not mind my sweaty hands either! This was far and away my favorite touring and cross country bar wrap setup ever.

Happy Riding!

Anonymous said...

I too am a fan of wrapping from the top down. I prefer a thin tape like Fizik. Also, if you loosen the brake levers you can tape underneath the clamp (just remember to re-tighten them!), which makes for a very clean look.

Anonymous said...

A follow up question: How does one go about positioning(and keeping level) the brake levers themselves? I've tried using improvised plumb lines, rulers and levels to get a level/parallel, and I just wonder if there is a more scientific way. Any advice would be fantastic. Keep up the great work, and enjoy spring as she takes off those arm warmers!

Bicycle Tutor said...

Dave, you've done a great job of clearly explaining this often tricky procedure. The photos are great!

Anonymous said...

the guy _jhota_ is the only one who talked about the tendency for the friction from the hands resting on the bars (the ("grip") to uncoil the tape.

I also start at the tope (for thin velox etc tape is much neater) When I ride on the tops I rest on the bends where bars direction changes from perpendicular to parallel and depart slightly from the horizontal; here the lower paer of my palms has the most friction/force and this works to unwind the tape OPPOSITE TO _jhota_ 's direction (so I do the oppsite from him and mount the tape anticlockwise on the right, clockw. on left.