How to wrap your bicycle handlebar tape
Wrapping handlebar tape can seem tricky and best left to the experts. But with a little patience and our detailed guide below, anyone can do it. So if your local bike shop is closed or too busy and you just want to get that fresh new bar tape feeling, follow the simple steps below. And your bike will look like new in no time!
We've also included a simple checklist to make sure nothing is forgotten.
Ok lets go!
Wash your hands. Especially if you've been working on your bike beforehand. You don't want to spoil your lovely new tape with oily hands!
Make sure you have the right tools nearby. Scissors, electrical tape and a pencil. Cut a few strips of electrical tape, about 10cm, and stick them on a nearby surface. And of course, your brand new bar tape!
Clean your handlebars. This will remove any dirt that might reduce the stickiness of the tape adhesive. You want to completely remove the glue residue from the old bar tape. If you have carbon handlebars, please make sure to use the correct cleaner.
Any bits still stuck to the handlebars could also create bumps. This could be uncomfortable (unlikely) but it can also affect the final look. If you're going to put on shiny new tape, it might as well look perfect!
Peel back the rubber brake hoods. Make sure that any brake or gear housing is fixed to the handlebar with PVC tape. This might also be a good time to install new brake housing and cables.
Plan ahead. Have an idea of where you want to finish wrapping the bar tape. Take into consideration what type of bars you have and even your riding style.
For example, here I am using a strip of bar tape to make sure my finishing point is the same distance from the stem, on both sides of the stem.
This is a personal choice. Some people like to have bar tape as close to the stem as possible. Others further away. In the end it's all about you being comfortable and happy with the look of it.
Lets begin wrapping that bar tape!
Start with the right-hand drop. Peel and rip off some of the waxy tape that covers the sticky strip. Start at the bottom of the bar and overlap a quarter to half the width of the tape from the end.
Our tape is thinner at the edge than in the centre. This helps keep the thickness consistent. It will guide you in making sure you don't overlap the tape too much. You'll know this is happening if the tape "bunches up" and becomes overly thick where it overlaps.
You can keep a strong, firm tension on the tape. It won't tear or rip and it's supposed to be stretchy. And remember. If you're not happy with the look, feel free to undo the tape and re-wrap that section. Take your time :-D
You'll know the tension is not correct if you see gaps appearing like the first image below. It should look like the second image.
Wrap clockwise from the bottom up. This ensures that the overlapping tape is not left exposed. Leaving it open to curling, lifting and loosening when gripped tightly. It also means that the grip from your hands will tighten the tape while cycling. This is why we wrap it anti-clockwise on the left drop.
Wrap until you get closer to the brake levers.
Now take one of the short strips and place it over the brake lever clamps.
Then continue to wrap under the lever body once more, then up the inside of the brake lever.
Now wrap over the top and continue to wrap the rest of the bars.
This method ensures that as your grip tightens on the bars, it won't loosen the tape.
As you perfect this technique, you might not even need the short strips!
Roll back the hoods and look for any gaps or shiny brake clamps peeking through. Peel back the hoods again, unwind the tape and cover that area.
Once you reach the the bend of the bar, remember to keep the sections even. Or you might get an uneven feel and the handlebar tape will look strange. We don't want strange looking bar tape! That's for old and used tape :-D
Once past the bend and you get closer to the end, pause and remember where you wanted to finish wrapping. When you are at the point, wrap past it for one rotation. Mark the location of the end point on the tape. Hold the tape and trim away the excess with a long diagonal cut.
This will allow the end of the bar tape to finish flush with the end of the last complete turn.
Use one of the sections of electrical tape to secure the trimmed end at the end of the final turn. Ensure the electrical tape ends at the bottom of the bar, lessening the chance of it being peeled loose by your hands.
Finish it all off with the finishing tape that came with the handlebar tape. Or if you prefer wrap one or two more turns of electrical tape over the previous strip. Again making sure that the tape ends under the bar.
Push in the end plug. Go back to the end of the bar, where you started. Fold the overhanging ends of the bar tape into the open end of the handlebar. Make sure it doesn't unfold. Push the plug into position. The extra handlebar tape will wedge it in place. They should fit nice and flush.
That's one side done!
Repeat the above steps for the left hand side of the bar. Remember to wrap the left side in an anti-clockwise direction. Wrapping from the inside of the bar outwards.
And here's the finished product! For this example, we used our black tape with celeste highlights. Which we think looks amazing on this bike :-D
We hope you found this article useful and we'd love to hear your feedback on it.
To make things even easier for you, we've created a handy checklist for you to follow. You can download it here.
If you know someone who might find it useful, we'd love for you to share it and this post with them. And don't forget to send us photos of the completed wrap!
Early handlebar tape was not like today's. It was thinner and made cycling over bumpy, rocky terrain pretty uncomfortable. The factory that makes our bar tape invented the thicker bar tape of today. But that's not all. They figured out that the overlapping parts would be too thick. So they invented and patented the variable thickness from edge to center, which we see on tape these days. Back in 1975!
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