Wrapping handlebars is a straight-forward procedure, but, like most simple tasks, there’s a right way and wrong way to do it.
We caught up with Jon Hayes, mechanic at independent bike dealer, Ride, to discover the most effective method of bar taping.
Adopting a ‘two birds, one stone’ approach, we asked Jon to demonstrate his skills by wrapping the bars of the RCUK winter bike.
Happily, he obliged, leaving us with a nicely finished winter steed, as well as this handy step-by-step guide.
Having removed old handlebar tape, the next step is to ensure the brake and gear cables are secured to the bar with electrical tape. Keep the cables close to the bar, allowing them to follow its natural curve. Ensure the brake and gear cables do not cross beneath the electrical tape. Check that they are seated firmly in the housing of the STI lever.
With the cables secure against the bar, you’re ready to start applying the handlebar tape. Remove the adhesive backing strip from the handlebar tape if there is one (typically it’s yellow, and in the centre of the bar tape), and begin wrapping.
There are several different ways to start wrapping. Jon is an exponent of the method demonstrated here: inserting an inch or so into the bar as a first step before beginning to wind the tape around the handlebar. Inserting the end plug as the final step of the wrapping procedure will ensure it remains in place.
Alternatively, you can begin wrapping by laying the tape on the handlebar and covering the end with the next layer of tape. The tension will hold it in place.
It’s fine to wrap ‘inwards’ towards the frame, or ‘outwards’ away from it. The key is to adopt a consistent approach and wrap both sides in the same direction.
A uniformity in the overlap is also critical to a well-wrapped bar. Jon recommends an overlap of approximately half the width of the tape.
Step three: cheater strips
‘Cheater’ strips are used to cover the clamp inside the STI lever, and are usually supplied with the handlebar tape. In Jon’s experience, the strips are typically too long for the task and require trimming by about 10mm.
Roll back the lever hood to expose the clamp, and apply the ‘cheater’ strip. Be sure not to cover the indentations in the lever that correspond with the tabs on the inside of the rubber hoods. Doing so will create a lumpy and uncomfortable lever hood.
It’s useful to have a ‘third hand’ when applying ‘cheater strips’ to hold in place the section of tape already applied. Jon uses a ‘pin spanner’ (what looks like a large pair of tweezers) but a large clothes peg, or a helping hand from a willing assistant will work just as well.
Continue to wrap the bar, covering the ‘cheater’ strip, and winding the tape above the clamp towards the ‘tops’ of the bars. Use a pin spanner, clothes peg or assistant to hold the tape above the clamp in place, and roll the lever hood back into position.
Step four: cutting the bar tape
Continue winding the handlebar tape along the top of the bars, until the final revolution is reached. Standing in front of the bike, and pulling the tape towards you, use scissors to cut a taper on the side of the tape closest to the stem. This will reduce the width of the tape by approximately half, making it easier to conceal beneath the short wrap of electrical tape you’ll use to finish the job.
Step five: applying electrical tape
Electrical tape is used to hold the handlebar tape in place. Use just two or three revolutions of electrical tape over the bar tape, wound in the same direction. Cut the end of the electrical tape beneath the bar so the end is concealed.
Step six: fitting the bar end plug
Tuck in any protruding tape to the end of the bar and push in the bar end plug. Some will have logos – make sure they’re they are the right way up!