Tape-O-Philia*

Tape-O-Philia*

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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. 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.

  2. @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.

  3. @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.

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

  5. 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. :(

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.


  9. +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

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

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

  11. @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

  12. 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.

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

  14. @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.

  15. @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.

  16. frank :

    @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.

    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…

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

  18. 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.

  19. @sgt
    I got there before you buddy!

  20. Marcus :

    @sgt
    I got there before you buddy!

    Curse you Red Baron…

  21. frank :

    @Souleur
    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

  22. 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.

  23. 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!

  24. *sniff* I love you guys…

  25. 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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