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Nothing says “amateur” more than an imperfect handlebar tape job, a dirty bike or a nasty grimy chain. Conversely, a clean bike feels faster. And new handlebar tape and a clean chain imbue a rider with extra fortitude and a little extra snap in the legs.

The professionals don’t need to wrap their own bars-they have full- time mechanics who can do it blindfolded. No matter how carefully I did my handlebar tape around shop owner George, he would regard the job, and then cruelly shoot me a look that said “amateur!” I have studied him wrapping tape. It looks effortless and he might also be talking to a customer, mocking a minion, his mind on many things – but the final result is perfection.

This drives me crazy.

It should not be so hard. I replace my tape maybe two or three times a year, just seldom enough to forget how to do it properly.

The Velominati have spent a lot of energy debating bike color co-ordination (see Rule eight) and I had a bad tire/tape issue, so I had to go white (I don’t do black tape). There is no doubt white looks great; the question is how long will it look great?

The bike shop I like to use, close to us, did not carry my favorite Fizik tape. It is bombproof and magically never ever gets dirty. So I bought what they carried, some white Deda tape.

I stripped off the old and tried to put on the new. After three attempts of rewrapping with more tension and less overlap each time, I was still short on one side. The tape was so stretched I might as well have been wrapping my bars with plastic wrap or the old Benotto cello tape. Son-of-a-bee-aatch!! (F’ing Italians, would it kill them to give me another few centimeters? The other side was better – could they be different lengths? F’ing Italians!) The only way to make it even meant both sides ended up short and too far from the stem-completely unacceptable! This put me in a mood most foul.

I called the other shop within riding distance, a Specialized shop, and was told they had three kinds of white Specialized tape. Three kinds- really? Of course when I got there, it wasn’t so-but the one they did carry has rocked my world. Specialized S-Wrap Classic 3 ply fake leather with some sweet dot perforations. It is $25 but supplies more than enough tape for the perfect wrap. It’s mighty fine looking and feels perfect; perfect cushion, perfect grip, oh, I’m in love. But, will it stay white? How bad will it look in a month? Two weeks of fair weather riding leaves the tape still bright white.

Again Specialized has impressed me with their form and function. I have some Specialized S-Works road shoes and a pair of their leg warmers and they are great. Their glue-less inner tube patches: the jury is out. Sure they lose some cachet because their items are made in China not Italy but until the Italians give me a little more tape, I’m an S-Wrap boy.

*Is it wrong to be this excited about handlebar tape? Is it dangerous to ask this question? I’m hesitant to answer either of these. And yes, Rules violations in photo, how many can you find?

// Technique // The Bikes // The Rules

deda, handlebar tape, specialized s-works classic

  1. @guycollier guycollier, you look fabulous on that bike! I adore the red accents of the Sidi buckles together with the red “Madone” lettering. Smashing! Nevertheless, as the Velominati harass vehemently harass you (honestly I’m surprised they didn’t tear you new one for riding a Trek, since that’s what *Pharmstrong* rides), let me take the opportunity to point out that one can both partake of the Velominati’s passion for the sport, their love of hardmen, and their voluminous historical knowledge, while at the same time ignoring many of the Rules with a perfect equanimity. You can do so by joining the Cognoscenti. We are Rule #5 fundamentalists. If a Rule does not follow from Rule #5, either directly or indirectly, or if it contradicts Rule #5, it should be (quietly) disobeyed.

    P.S. The frame mounted mini-pump does really have to go.

  2. @guycollier
    Love the comeback story Guy but photo 3 shows a clear violation of Rule #37 – luckily this is easily remedied.
    And to add something to Rule #37, my understanding is that eyewear arms go over helmet straps to make the brand more visible to others. So you are doing it for your sponsors.
    In homage to the velominati I have created a cartoon which can be seen in the link below.

    Maybe some velominati can illuminate me as to how to get out for a ride when my wife says no (other than a good dose of Rule #5 of course).

  3. @guycollier
    Would second david’s invitation. It seems to me that you have more than the required battle scars to qualify. It’s much cooler being a Cognoscenti, anyway. The only breach in the pics you provided? Put down the camera and ride!

  4. @david Yikes, I didn’t state that properly. If a Rule contradicts Rule #5, it should not be followed. If a Rule does not follow, either directly or indirectly, from Rule #5, and it does not contradict Rule #5, then following it is a matter of personal discretion, taste, and style.

  5. @guycollier Oh, and guy, just tell the Velominati that you need long cables for a helmet basket, so that after you cross the finish line of your local group ride on a hot day, you can flip the lid off and rest it gently and securely in the wires, looking cool and sweaty like an old school Euro pro.

  6. @Marcus Great video, Marcus. My favorite line. Husband, essentially, I’ll do all that after my ride. Wife: “Like fuck you will.” The wife just knows too much.

  7. @Marko
    Yep, spacers on top as I was fucking around with stem lengths and heights.

    Nice pick-up of Rule #37, don’t know how we let that one slip…

    I was so close to mentioning the Madone, but thought that might be a touch cruel at this stage… give it a week or two!

  8. The tears are welling up here. Level 4 and responsible for a new rule.

    i love my Garmin, and having fucked my back by carrying stuff on it when I crashed I tend to be wary of carrying anything there beyond a Rapha Stowaway now. With that in mind it appears that the Cognoscenti is calling.

    As for the Trek. My friend runs a chain of shops that sell Trek and that bike there cost me £800 rather than the £3000 it should have. It’s a good ride but my next bike is likely to be a Pegoretti Marcelo. 2011 all being well.

  9. @Guy
    If it wasn’t for the Testicle, Treks would be ok. In fact, their mountain bikes are fucking cool.

    Nice call on the Pegoretti. When I get to purchase my dream bike, it will be something steel, probably a good Aussie bike like a Baum, or even a Colnago Master X Light…

  10. @brett
    I have a 6 year old Baum Espresso (mix of deda 16.5 and Columbus Ultrafoco) – and it is still as good and cool as the day I bought it. Darren Baum knows his shit.
    And if you are so inclined, his Ti frames are the business.

  11. @Marcus
    Fuck yeah bro! Those bikes are works of art… lets see some pics! Is it a custom?

    I remember talking to Darren at the trade show in Sydney many years ago, when I first saw his bikes. He had a steel Ristretto singlespeed mtb on show, and I saw the welds and was blown away. I asked if the welds were filed back, so smooth were they. He said ‘no, just one pass with the torch.’ Absolutely amazing craftsmanship.

    You’re a lucky guy.

  12. @brett
    They only do custom!

    Mine is one they did in the relatively early stages of their biz. Will take a few pics – after a thorough review of the Rules!

  13. They also offer an off-the-shelf geometry too, which can be tweaked if required. Which is still kinda custom, I guess…

    Sweet bikes, however you say it!

  14. Giving Guy (do you pronounce it Gee or Gye?) a rash about his Trek crossed my mind too. Thing is though, they make nice bikes. Sure, I wouldn’t ride one simply because the uni-ball does and everybody and their sister rides one in the states. But that’s not an indication of quality, quite opposite in fact. Madone’s are simply really nice bikes.
    Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from Pulp Fiction and quote it often. I think a quote that fits this scenario may be this one. It’s from the scene where Vincent Vega is at Lance’s house buying herion and they’re chatting in the bedroom:

    Vincent: What’s more chickenshit than fucking with a man’s automobile? I mean, don’t fuck with another man’s vehicle.
    Lance: You don’t do it.
    Vincent: It’s just against the rules

  15. @Marcus That is a classic cartoon/movie but there is no help from any of the Velominatus with the wife/significant other, have you noticed the resounding silence on that one. Lets face it we are good at riding our bikes but that means we suck at just about everything else – like personal interactions. Oh sure some of us are married and/or have been in long-term relationships but really the truth is that conversation you quote must go on in every Velominatus household quite frequently.

    The only hope I can offer for the future is that 3 things will lessen the conflict. Kid in college, dog dead, and menopause. Seriously life gets incredibly good! I won’t go into details but suffice it to say in my case the dog was the last to go and at the end we were having conversations about her being selfish and if she really loved me she would give it up for the cause.

    Anyway it all worked out and life is good, I am regularly doing 300-400Km a week and am on track to be peaking in July.

    And that call on Rule #37, what a catch, I looked at that late at night thinking something was not right but missed it, good one.

  16. @Marko

    using that useless finishing tape they provide with bar tape is a waste of time. Electrical tape is the way to go.

    Have I taught you nothing?! Electrical always shrinks over time and leaves a small smudge as it does so. Very unappealing. The finishing tape needs to be applied just like the rest of the tape, firmly and with consistent pressure – not so much it stretches but enough that it stays snug. Clean your hands first to keep good adhesion on the tape, and don’t touch the last little bit of it as you apply the end, or it will eventually come loose. If it does start to come loose there, you can just apply a drop of super glue to it.

  17. @frank
    I can never seem to get that shit to stay smooth and not wrinkle! And the adhesion is way inferior to electrical tape. Regardless of how sterile the environment is in which I apply it, it eventually starts to unpeel. I have not seen the shrinkage you mention but will have to pay closer attention.

  18. @Marko

    Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from Pulp Fiction and quote it often.

    Just when I think you can’t screw up any more, you do something like this and TOTALLY REDEEM YOURSELF.

    (I, on the other hand, have learned a lot from Dumb and Dumber and quote it often.

  19. @Marko

    I have not seen the shrinkage you mention but will have to pay closer attention.

    It happens every time your bike goes in the pool.

  20. @Rob, @Marcus
    I have to second Rob’s enthusiasm for the observation on Rule #37. Well done! What Rob didn’t mention is he’s a recent convert of this Rule.

    As for how to deal with the issue at hand (great video, Marcus) I never saw it last night and now it’s morning here in the Pacific Northwest, so now I see it. My strategy for this matter, as I stated briefly on the Lexicon, is to make sure she always has a better bike that I do. It helps a lot. Why would she want my bike when hers is better?

  21. @brett
    On spacers, here’s an excerpt from the text messags Marko and I have been exchanging on his 2cm stack of spacers ABOVE his stem:

    Background detail: Marko is coming to Seattle after the Tour de Blast where we will be having almost all the Velominati Authors gathering in one location for the first time (only the Aussie Brett will not be in attendence).

    Frank: We’ll have to discuss this further. I’m cutting your steerer after you pass out drunk.

    Marko: You’re gonna look funny doing that with shaved eyebrows and dick and balls sharpied on your face.

  22. @frank
    Looking forward to the pics, though methinks the transcripts of the ride would be fun. Happy climbing, all!

  23. Highlight of my last tour de blast in 08, was not being blown over on the last couple of miles on Johnson ridge as I saw happen to several others. Is this a yearly pilgramage to the volcano for you boys? As only a recent reader I’ve yet to peruse the extensive catalog of stories here. I couldn’t arrange time off this year to do the ride, so will miss spotting some of the new kit in action.

  24. @john e cakes
    Actually, this is a first for most of us. Jim did it a few years back, and we’re doing this year for the first time. We’ll miss Brett for sure.

    You must be from the PNW; we’ve looked at the profile and both that and the distance don’t seem bad, but everyone I talk to say’s it’s brutal. I even chatted about it when getting the kit made with the guys at Castelli USA in Portland and they said it’s hell.

    This hurricane you’re talking about doesn’t brighten the picture any.

  25. I’m from Portland. And you are correct that the distance an climbs aren’t bad. Of course it depends on how your legs are on the day, but I don’t find it a particularly hard ride. From what I can infer from your group, you’ll have no problems unless you ride balls out the whole time. But the weather can be very unpredictable, so bring more clothes that you think you’ll need in the car so you have choices when the ride starts. Often misty and cloudy (and very windy) on the last climb. Roads aren’t great the first 25k on the flats and rollers, but are generally wonderfully clean on the climbs. Giant shoulders and very little traffic make for a very nice ride. Epic views if it’s clear, so bring a camera. Cheers to a sunny day and great legs for you and your crew.

  26. @frank
    So how do you stand on a wrap of insulation (electrical) tape, topped with the proper bar tape finishing tape?

    Also, I would expect that you finish the taping by cutting the tape properly on a curve, rather than merely taking a knife and cutting around the bars.

  27. @Jarvis
    Are you kidding me? I feel GREAT about that approach. It’s the one I use. I use a color that’s contrasting to the tape and finishing tape, and matched some element of the frame. Then I wrap the finishing tape on there as the final touch.

    And yes, absolutely, cut the team just right at just the right angle so that it wraps up perfectly. Cutting it with a knife seems so crude.

  28. @frank
    I tend not to be quite so fussy as far as the electrical tape though.

  29. I’m super anal about my bikes. BITD when I BMX raced I always ran Campy large flange track hubs. Imagine the ecstasy when I discovered that a Campy bar end plug fit perfectly into the bottom of the steer tubes on my BMX bikes. Anyway, you know how Cinelli bars had the little sleeve at the center of the bar? Well I came up with the ultra sano taping method. I would take a precise measurement from the edge of the stem to the edge of this sleeve. Then I would wrap the tap past the edge of the sleeve. Taking the spoke length ruler I would take a pen and make the aforementioned measurement on the tape. Then you take the appropriately colored electricians tape and do a couple of wrap pulled tight to make the tap skinnier than its untensioned width. Then you let the tape hang for a moment to let it shrink (grow actually) to its normal width. Now do a couple of wraps without pulling the tape tight and make sure that the inside edge is lined up with your mark and that there is no overlap on the wraps – you should have a uniform width of tape all the way around the circumference of the bar . Now take a brand new razor blade and cut along the edge of the tape to remove the excess bar tape that you wrapped past the edge of the bar sleeve. If you did it correctly then the cut/tape will but up against the sleeve and you will have the cleanest tape termination in the peloton.

    Alas, Carbon bars lack this sleeve so it’s back to some pulled tight overlap with the electrical tape. :(

  30. Put some Specialized S-Wrap Roubaix tape on my bars this past weekend (next step down from the Classic). Black, I’m afraid, but it picks up the trim from the frame nicely. Must say I’m well pleased with product and results. Problem is that the saddle picked up the grey in the old tape and frame. I may now have a color-coordination rule breach on my hands. But under my gloves, the bars feel oh so good.

  31. Hey, I did too. White. And it’s already dirty. Sigh. I think white tape demands white gloves. But, it’s good tape, for sure.

  32. The fi'zi:k Microtex tape is the best, but the generic black plugs just didn’t quite seem ‘right’, so Souleur did this which seems right now.

  33. +1 on the fi'zi:k Microtex (black of course), but I don’t mind the plugs. I’ve got some Cinelli “Carbon” I’m going to try out next, but if it’s not da bomb, it’s back to the Microtex. @Souleur

  34. @Souleur
    That is absolutely so incredibly cool. SPOT.ON.MATE.

    The gears are turning for how to make ones with an orange v-cog.

  35. @frank….hmm….let me think. Gotta buddy who does decals, may be able to do something, give me a week though….i will make it happen

  36. Question for the Velominati:

    I just received a SRAM Force group – It’s an American group (otherwise I would have said gruppo) going on an American bike (Cracknfale) so lighten up Frances – and was wondering what the preference (comfort-wise) is on cable routing since the Force levers give me the option of inside or outside of the bars. I’m thinking of going on the outside.

  37. @Cyclops
    I like one in / one out (that’s how my Campy is set up)

  38. @Cyclops
    I have a SRAM gruppo (can’t not say it regardless) and route brake cables on the inside and tracked them underneath the tops. Adds a nice little index for the fingers as they wrap the inside of the bar and thought my palms may hit them if I routed outside which I wouldn’t like. But that’s just my brake cables as the shift cables route inside the kind of bars I ride (FSA K-Wing). Which now gets me thinking, there is no option on the brake cables, just the shifter cables.

  39. @Cyclops
    Depends on round bars or air-foil bars or semi-round. If the tops are scalloped at all or have an oblong shape to them, keep the cables together and try to find a spot where they tuck away nicely and feel comfortable.

    If they are round bars, it depends on the size of your hands and how you like to rest your palms. The traditional way is to go front/back like Sgt (AT EASE!) suggests; if you want a little extra “sumpin'” to hold on to, you can go with both in front. I think both is back is out of the question, even if it’s technically possible.

    In any case, the thing to remember is that you have to go whole-hog on the tape job. Cable layouts need to be absolutely symmetrical and taped over tightly and smoothly smoothly.

  40. frank :

    Depends on round bars or air-foil bars or semi-round. If the tops are scalloped at all or have an oblong shape to them, keep the cables together and try to find a spot where they tuck away nicely and feel comfortable.

    If they are round bars, it depends on the size of your hands and how you like to rest your palms. The traditional way is to go front/back like Sgt (AT EASE!) suggests; if you want a little extra “sumpin'” to hold on to, you can go with both in front. I think both is back is out of the question, even if it’s technically possible.

    In any case, the thing to remember is that you have to go whole-hog on the tape job. Cable layouts need to be absolutely symmetrical and taped over tightly and smoothly smoothly.

    Agreed… I have round, traditional (but CF!) shaped bars. And some strategic use of electrical tape to hold the cables in place while you wrap the bars is critical…

  41. On an unrelated note, what happened to my Vuelta polka-dots? Moncoutie is still wearing his…

  42. I went with both cables on the inside (I have perfectly round Easton EC90 bars) and of course I am a tape Nazi so all the routing is completely sano as well as making sure the SRAM logos on the housing are turned so you can read them properly. I also got white tape. I’m pretty anal about my bike and white would not have looked right before but now that I have new Easton EC90 wheels with a lot of white in the labeling and all the white labeling on the SRAM stuff I feel comfortable with it. The seat is still black but as soon as I’m done with my next “project” (pay attention Frank) it will be white too. I’m going to go wash my hands right now so I can wrap the bars.

  43. @sgt
    I got there before you buddy!

  44. Marcus :

    I got there before you buddy!

    Curse you Red Baron…

  45. frank :

    That is absolutely so incredibly cool. SPOT.ON.MATE.

    The gears are turning for how to make ones with an orange v-cog.

    Hey Frank, did you ever get those custom V-Cog bar plugs?

    I ran across this site awhile back, perhaps they could make them for you: http://www.purelycustom.com/c-81-handlebar-end-caps.aspx

  46. Don’t want to dredge but picked up some useful tips from the Park Tool site. I thought I knew how to wrap but they pointed out 2 things of interest – putting a couple of rounds of masking tape, sticky side out, on the lower part of the bars will hold the tape together in a crash, and save its cosmetic appearance. Second tip was coordinating the direction of the wrapping so that your hands’ natural tendency to grip and rotate the tape on the bars would tighten the tape onto the bar. For instance, on the tops the tape would rotate towards the rider, in the drops you would grip and rotate the tape out and away from the bike. They do a better job of explaining it, but it sure does tape up nice.

  47. minion – I’ve been using the tape-comes-back-at-ya type wrap job for a few years now and really like it. (Actually, my VMH has, at my request. She usually tapes my bars, since she’s really good at precise things like that and then every time I grab them while out riding I think, “Damn, that’s an awesome wrap job by my VMH!”)

    Is there a Rule on when tape must be ditched? I’m at about two years on white Cinelli cork tape and it’s still going strong. It’s a bit discolored at this point, but not much. (I do wash it after almost every ride) I love new tape as much as the next guy, but I also love seeing how long I can make it last.

    I picked up two sets of the Microtex glossy tape, one in black, one in white. Anyone try this yet? I LOVE the look of the Microtex, but the feel isn’t as nice as plain ol’ cork for me. The glossy tape might be too hard to resist though.

    Never seen that photo of Rob. Awesomeness!

  48. *sniff* I love you guys…

  49. Getting better all the time, but one part I still struggle with a bit…the finish!

    How do you keep the flow of the angled wrap going yet also finish with a straight edge? It seems like a very delicate balance to keep the flow/overlap just right and also get a clean edge; to get a nice clean edge, it seems like you have to pull the final rotation straight, which causes some extra overlap.

    I can get it with many-a-tries, but I’m inquiring to figure out the best method. (is it just having enough tape length so you can really cut a good section off after finishing, then unwrapping one rotation and cutting at an angle?)

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