When done correctly, Cycling can be both the hardest and dirtiest of sports. We relish in the glory of returning from a ride, battered by the four winds and soaked by the seven rains; our bodies, faces, and machines covered in the reasons why most people might stay indoors. Given that, there is something almost cavalier about submitting to the deluge in the color white, particularly when it comes to shoes, socks, jerseys, and bar tape.
Modern cycling teams, with budgets outsized only by the egos inhabiting the roster, are tending strongly towards a Three Musketeers, unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno mentality. Yet, in years gone by, when Rule #5 was a way of life more so than a badge of honor as it is for us, teams were dominated by a single leader who shouldered responsibility in all manner of races throughout the season. In those days, team bikes were generally built, as they are now, in accordance with Rule #8, with bars wrapped in blue, black, red, or green tape. One bike, however, always stood out as the exception: the team leader’s bars were always wrapped in white.
White is a glorious color to grace a set of handlebars. It emphasizes the sensual sweep of the drops and the beautiful curve from the hoods to the tops. It brings out the crisp shadows of the cables running beneath the tape to highlight a perfect wrap. It stands as a testament to the care that is undertaken in maintaining the machine, for without meticulous attention white does not stay white for long. It states that these bars are graced not by the sullied hands of a domestique, but by the clean grip of a leader.
When it comes to wrapping bars, there are many classy possibilities – black is always stylish and versatile (you can dress it up or you can dress it down), red is fast, celeste is classic – but for Bike #1, I always choose white not because it’s Pro, but because when I go out, I ride like a leader.