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?