Retina-detaching tape, a catalyst for The Rules

Retina-detaching tape, a catalyst for The Rules

“The Rules”

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It’s the little things that do my head in when it comes to my bikes. Stem length, seat height, cleat position, they pretty much get tweaked and when the sweet spot is hit, that’s the end of story. But other, more mundane things, can be a constant source of mind-fuck.

It seems like I’m on a never-ending quest for the perfect combination of bar tape and saddle colours. There was a time when my philosophy was black, and black only. Tyres, rims, bars and stem, but especially saddles and bar tape. We (myself and Johnny Klink) even stoically stated that these were ‘The Rules’. Not to be broken, or even tampered with.

Damned if I know what happened, but I started breaking my own rules. I think it may have been the daily witnessing of the plethora of  bikes in the shop which were specced with white saddles and tape, and it possibly became ingrained on my psyche that this was the new rule. And, of course, all the Pros were sporting clean, bright white tape.

When I bought my Roubaix, it came with the white/white combo. It hadn’t even rolled out the front door before the tape was swapped out for black. The saddle, being somewhat more expensive to replace, stayed.

After a month or two, my work and riding mate Josh planted an evil seed in my head. He’d been on a ride with a bike company rep, whose bike was reportedly looking pretty good  with, wait for it, CHROME bar tape. I had to have it. We searched high and low before procuring what was the last roll of the shiny stuff in NZ. It didn’t really match anything else on my bike, but it certainly garnered plenty of attention.  This stuff was bright. Even at 6am in the middle of winter, it stood out. Too much. It had to go.


But black just looked too dull after that, so white was the next step. Matching Hudz were added, and the ritual of scrubbing everything after each ride became the norm. It drove me crazy. But at least the cockpit was matched.

Like AC-DC, I was soon Back in Black, with a black Toupe saddle swapped with another mate now on my bike. But it all looked too dark now, and the bike never made it to a ride with the black combo. P1060146

Then I hit on the solution. I found rolls of silver, not chrome, tape on the website of one of our suppliers, and a Toupe in white with silver trim. Finally, not too dark, not retina-burning bright, and not white. Black hoods topped it off and prevented the scrubbing blues. How long this will last, who knows. It’s made it through winter, at least, and I’m not sick of it yet. I’m sure the time will come though.

Someone once said “rules are meant to be broken”, but bending them slightly doesn’t seem so sacrilegious.

// The Rules

  1. Silver is totally where it’s at.

  2. Great post. Tape/Saddle combos are critical factors. There was a rider in the ’89 Tour who had – I can’t quite remember – yellow or orange tape and saddle and within one second I realized that the coordination of your saddle/bar tape is a critical factor in making things “awesome”. You’ve done an excellent job here.

    This is a complicated decision. Do you match the frame to the saddle? Then the bars to the frame or saddle? I long believed the tape/saddle should match whatever color the frame is where the seatpost/stem enter the frame, but that led to too many black saddle/tape combos. Biarne Riis says leaders ride with white bars, but that doesn’t explain why all his riders ride white bars.

    It reminds me of when I was suiting up my newly-aquired steel Bianchi, I was looking for a black arione with a red strip. Well, I found a silver arione with a red strip. And the Bianchi decals were in silver. And I found Silver Fi’zi:k tape to match.

    Sometimes love can be found in the strangest of places.

    Oh, and nice Zabel-style routing of the cables.

  3. I think it’s classy when one can match the tires to the saddle and bar tape as well. Provided of course, the colored tires match the road surface, conditions, and type of riding. My older road bike has hutchinson fusion comps in silver and black, black selle italia gel flow with silver lettering and stripe, and black/silver bar tape further accented by the silver cable housings. My fixie has yellow vittoria tires, yellow tape on the drops, and black tape on the top of the bars to match the black brooks saddle. Dorkish yet cool. Nice bike btw Brett, I love roubaixs

  4. We can all learn a lesson from the classiest-ever bike setup:

    One of the Golden Rules: Match the tires to the color of the seat stays. And, what you can’t see here is the gnarly yellow saddle.

  5. Beauty and/or color is in the eye of the beholder. My Ibis Silk Carbon came with silver tape, saddle and tires. I quickly swapped ’em for red tape, saddle and tires. To me, helps break up the stealth look of the carbon frame.

    That Pantani pic is awesome…

  6. Well said Brett. I want your bike please. I too have purchased Deda Chrome tape and applied it. I liked it and everyone else thought it was too much. Such pussies.

    I have a Merlin Ti frame so all I have is handlebar tape and tires for decor. I barely dare change saddles, so I have a black saddle and that’s that. For now. I’ve done the matching tires and tape too but then you are locked in until both tires are gone which doesn’t happen concurrently, it’s unromantic. It never ends.

    And what about cable housing?? What then?…

  7. @john
    I think Brett already answered your cable question: Nokon. Problem solved.

  8. I very much agree with the rules instated at the time but as with anything there is scope for change due to an evolution of products. When I started riding the equivilent of chrome tape was riding a chrome drop bar without tape. It’s not like you are committing any major faux pa, like shimano and campy mix, a result that would no doubt result in my ceaseing of contact with you. I agree entirely that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if the beholder has no idea he needs to be rebuked until he get one. Lastly white saddle with hints of silver and silver tape…priceless nice work Bretto.

  9. @Dan O
    Yeah, it’s pretty sweet. Old Skule but modern at the same time. Still lovin’ aluminum Campy parts, but mixin’ Ergo and downtube shifters.

    The ’98 Tour was the perfect storm of drugs and racing. We threw out the guys who were pure drugs, but kept the ones who made bike racing exciting. I feel like we’ve gone too far now and thrown out everyone that makes this sport exciting, except we’ve somehow forgotten about Johan Bruyneel who is the only one left who has all his riders chocked up to the gills on dope. And that means only one thing: shitty bike racing.

    I say either clean ’em all up, or just let ’em all race. See the ’09 Tour for any questions.

  10. @johnny klink
    What about bare carbon bars? I see lots of riders not taping the tops of their cool, sexy carbon bars, but I tape the shit out of that stuff. What is right here? Show off the carbon, or tape it? For me, tape serves a function and I believe the function comes before the sexy look of a carbon bar. Others have said bare carbon feels better than tape. I think a Rule needs to be made for the betterment of cyclingkind.

  11. I think an ideal used by the early Modernist design movement the Bauhaus sums it up….Form should always follow Function. If your hands hurt, tape the bars, no good looking at the goods and being a cripple when you get home from a ride.

  12. @johnny klink
    Well put. Frank Loyd Wright would tape those things fo sho.

  13. I’ve seen a few untaped carbon bar tops, but if the brake cable has to be electrical-taped on, it looks shit. Wrap them suckers up, I say.

  14. Pantani = style. Albeit garish Euro style, he still pulled it off. Check it out; yellow shoes, stem and glasses. Climbing in the DROPS! And the sheen on the legs, even if it was raining, that’s pro right there. (I’m thinking this was the classic stage to Les Deux Alpes in 98? Putting 8 minutes into Der Kaiser. Loved it.)

  15. @brett
    OK. Here’s the Rule. Electrical tape may only be used for finishing and indicating seatpost height. Anything else and you’re out of The Club.

  16. @brett
    Dude, you are saying all the right things. As much as I loved Ulli, Pantani lit that shit up. And that bike!! I bought and modeled my Bianchi XLEV2 completely off that look, except my frame was black/yellow and I didn’t get the yellow stem. Yellow tires, yellow flite saddle, matched the bars to the frame.

    That stage was incredible. All the elements that make good bike racing: mountains, torrential rain, and guts.

  17. I generally think this is a great rule – to match saddle to tape color – and I mostly go black/black or white/white. Now I’d like to consider myself a Hardman, as I ride year-round outside in upstate NY, in both snow and rain.

    However, I just couldn’t ever get a white SLR just right on one of my bikes, so now I have a black Flite and white bar tape (with black hoods). Don’t have the money at the moment to spend on a new saddle, just for the sake of color.

    So here is a question for the resident V-Hardmen – would a true Hardman just put up with an uncomfortable saddle in order to match it to the tape? OR does a Hardman put on a saddle that works, ignore the rule, and go ride in 25*F weather, with sleet coming down?

    Agreed that Pantani’s bike was pretty awesome, but what about the red pedals? Those seem out of place. And I can watch him during that climb over and over and over. So sweet to watch him not just climb mountains, but accelerate up some of the craziest pitches.

  18. @Ron

    In his case, Pantani was unable to match the pedals because he chose the best pedals in the business and in that year probably only came in red.

  19. I see an obsessively color-coordinated bike (and/or kit) except on a Cat 1 racer and think Phred. Yes, we are mostly all Phreds and our core but sometimes concentrating too much on how it looks instead of how you ride places us into the Poseur category. Just ride it.

  20. HOLY FUCK!! So as probably a lot of you do, you take ganders at older articles. The ones that have 20-30 posts that all end up being Frank, Gianni, Brett and maybe one other person going back and forth about stuff. None of us was here.

    But, this, this, article by Brett was the beginning of The Rules, wasn’t it.

    And shame on you; chrome bar tape? I knew better way before showing up here.

    Awesome! Can I give @Brett my +1 badge?

  21. Oh, and to read THIS article, push on my comment of The Rules, don’t link the “The Rules” we all do. Different thing altogether.

  22. @scaler911

    I think @frank might have tweaked the “Recent & Random Article” algorithm recently because it’s begun spitting out old gems like this.  And agree, that chrome bar tape is hideous.  Especially combined with running the 7800 era Shimano cables under the tape.

  23. Yep. Fugliest bar tape ever. On Bretto’s probably, least favorite bike ever? We went for a longish ride just after he got it, which largely consisted of Bretto being unable to adjust his FD properly and having to stop and ask Josh to do it. Josh rightly told him to do it himself since we all, you know, worked in a bike shop.



  24. Yeah, that was some shiny shit! The Nokon cables weren’t worth the effort to set them up, and to constantly keep the derailleurs working. But as for the routing, well Zabel did it, so I did it.

  25. @frank

    I feel like we’ve gone too far now and thrown out everyone that makes this sport exciting, except we’ve somehow forgotten about Johan Bruyneel who is the only one left who has all his riders chocked up to the gills on dope. And that means only one thing: shitty bike racing.

    Looks like the USADA has been reading through old Velominati posts to see who to prosecute…

  26. Yikes! When I first bought my CAAD 9″”gun metal grey””it had similar chromish-looking bar tape on it. I preferred the grey/black colour scheme to the alternatives, but had to think long and hard before I could commit to buying with that tape (the idea wasn’t a terrible one, but it didn’t quite match the bike). Changed to black…

  27. Ha! The chrome ruled, damn it. It looked better on my bike. This was before I threw my cyclo-computer in the harbor. And no, that was not my helmet…

  28. @Gianni that’s painful.

  29. @Gianni

    Ha! The chrome ruled, damn it. It looked better on my bike. This was before I threw my cyclo-computer in the harbor. And no, that was not my helmet…

    How the hell do you ride that tape under your tropical sun?  I can barely deal with white tape in coastal Cali.

  30. @Nate

    That was a six(?) year old photo, back in New England. Let’s just say I was “experimenting”.

  31. @Gianni Rule #30 clarification please. If your (steel/Ti/Al) steed has a brazed/welded on pump peg, a frame pump is OK to mount?

  32. @sthilzy

    To this day I have a frame pump on my bike but it’s a cute little Lezyne, which actually pumps up tyres damn well, if not slower. Regarding Rule #30, good luck for anyone finding a Silca pump with a Campy head on it. I haven’t seen that on the rear triangle of a bike in 15 years.

    One would hope if your pump was painted to match your frame, it belongs on the frame. Regrading pump pegs, I love ’em. But I don’t think I could get that past the Rules committee, they are a very strident drunken group. I’ve never even used a CO2  canister. Old School.

  33. Black-black-black. Sorted.

  34. Am I missing something? Rule #48?

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