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?

Specialized S-Works Classic Tape

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126 Replies to “Tape-O-Philia*”

  1. @frank “If God is a cyclist…” is not quite what was in my minds eye. “She” to me is a beautiful woman, the most beautiful (my wife understands, she is very secure in our marriage) and the way I worded the passage had. . . well, you know – shit, do I have to spell it out man?

    So no Rule breaking for the big guy??

    Just a thought; Rule #5 gets so much air time here and is my favorite that I had completely overlooked Rule #6. Man that is so true it is now tied for first! Thank you Frank, you really are the Zenyodarati of the wheel – Awesome.

  2. Benotto tape

    Here is Rob on a real custom-steel-lugged American made racer. The bike was made by Ed Blank, an American who learned the craft in Italy. It sports small wheels, though they must be 24″ not 20″, huge front chainring, benotto tape job, no socks(track racer look) f’ing Marresi shoes(oh my heart be still), Castelli kit(skin suit?) and purple and white hairnet. So ‘core. Rob is mixing it up with the likes of Davis Phinney in this crit. This is a great photo, I must say. Rob also rode this once in the Mt. Washington Hill Climb and thought it was a great climbing machine.

  3. *!*!?! I somehow messed up Frank, can you cram said photo in above comment? It’s in the media directory on Velominati site. prego

  4. Yeah – just email it to me!! You’re killing me with the suspense!!!

    Updated: I never read the second half of your comment regarding where it was. I was frazzled like that time Brett posted the picture of his skull tan lines.

  5. Whoa! This is Rob? We have a true badass among the velominti! Let’s hear some more…

  6. Whew – my cover is blown… I loved that little machine it was ahead of its time. John-o thanks for the image! Aside from his many skills (bikes, writing, women, science) the man is an excellent photographer ala Watson!

    I had forgotten that it was 24″ what I remember is that we got really good sew ups for it. The chain ring was a 60 tooth ordered from some time trial outfit in England and it was a 5 speed. I was the test bunny for it and it was just at the end of my serious racing days and the season so I did not ride it that much – I really do not remember if I rode it up Mt. Washington… myth I think.

    More later I am off for 165 km effort on flat (I hope) part of L.I.

    I will be peaking in July!! Thanks John

  7. @Rob
    That pic is quintessential coolness. The hairnet, Benotto tape (be still my beating heart!), the toe clips and Sidis, the short shorts, the red Coca Cola bottle (always the coolest water bottle, not matter the frame/kit color), the experimental frame design…an era gone by. What carbon monocoque frame designer is going to say, “Sure, lets give 12 inch tires a go!”

    I love that the chainstays rise UP to the BB, owing to the tiny wheels, I’m guessing.

    What pressure were you running those tubs at? There seems to be no compression in them at all. What is that, like 500psi?!?

  8. The hairnet was my favorite bit of kit, I had picked it up in London at my old lbs which happened to be Condor for 4 years(I was on Clerkenwell Rd. Joe). On a return visit to London one summer when I had been racing a season or 2 I saw it – Condor colors and much nicer than the black clunky, ugly U.S. ones at the time. I was disapointed when we went to hard hats as I no longer had the smartest lid in the Northeast…

    The tubs, I think came from Germany so they had my usual 120lbs which is what I ran for fast crits. I miss Marresi’s, or just great leather shoes. I do not miss toe clips (too many spills stuck to the bike). After Greg and Bernard used Look in the Tour I jumped at clipless and have never looked (Ha Ha) back. Although having said that I actually like clips except that you have to take the bike with you when you do that crash thing. I wish I had a better memory for names – the straps with the fiberglass strip between the leather – the Best, plus the little plastic pull tab you would screw on to the end of the strap, then do 2 straps, a la trackies and man you could pull so hard your knees would distend before you’d pull out.

    Hey its a world gone by but the racing is still the same. Even so I was on the old Raleigh last week and a kid actually said “I can’t believe you take your hands off the bars to shift” – Jeesus don’t let him go for his water bottle, its a camelfuck hump for him!

  9. Warning – this post is multi-purpose.

    Cycling history – 1990-1995 raced mountain bikes and Cat 3 road in a very average way. 1996 broke neck (C4) playing football (soccer to the US readers ;) ). No real exercise for 4 years. 2000-2005 motorcylist until crash in 2006 resulting in posterior dislocation of left shoulder, snapped left shoulder blade, broken knee, jaw, hip, wrist and elbow. No real exercise until 2008 when I started running and then started cycling again pretty much on my 40th birthday in December 2009. I cannot believe how hard the first 6 months have been until I ‘clicked’ when I rode a hilly (10,000ft climbing) 100 mile sportive in May in 6hrs 45mins. I ride l’Etape in July. I generally ride with a good friend who is a very good climber so I’m pushing myself hard.

    I’m a recent convert to the K-Wing compact bars as my neck/shoulder/back means I can’t get down too low on the drops. I was running some Bontrager X-Lite Ergo bars and Christ they sucked hard. The K-Wings really hit the spot for me, partnered with Fizik tape.

    As an aside, and as very much an apprentice Velominatus, how is this looking on the co-ordination front:

  10. @guycollier
    Handy with that camera and self pics eh guycollier? Nicely done. When I first had my k-wings I only taped them to the curve on the tops like you. I liked it that way and hated to cover up those sexy bars. Then, I got some new Yokozuna reaction cables and there was no way those fuckers were going through the cable routing holes. Hence I am now wrapping the hole bar.
    Anyway, you certainly get points regarding the Rules on coordination. However, some here might have something to say about that frame mounted pump and your stack height. I’m guessing your stack height though has a lot to do with that shoulder injury you mentioned, so it’s understandable. But when that shoulder gets under control, SLAM THAT FUCKER DOWN! :-)

  11. @guycollier
    Lookin pretty good on the co-ordination there mate; even the bidon!

    But you need to get rid of the pump, and your gear cables are too long and need to be routed around the headtube. Then we can give you a pass!

    (Seriously, it doesn’t really matter if you do that or not, it’s great that you’re able to ride at all after your spate of injuries. And doing l’Etape, awesome!)

  12. Cheers gents. I knew there were existing violations for the stack (sadly needed for now) and the pump. But I really hate walking :D

  13. @guycollier
    Down to the tires matching! I love it! Guy, you are totally coordinating that shit up, Frank-style!

    I’m impressed with the precision on the final strip of tape; that is a tough spot to get right when you only go half way on the tape. That said, I’m a firm believer in taping all the way up, although have to say I struggled to cover that beautiful carbon on my own K-Wings.

    I have to say, though, given your history of injury: perhaps more time should be spent looking at the road?

  14. I just put some Stella Azzurra “Eleganza” (perhaps one of the worst names ever for any cycling product, but that’s another problem) on my bars. Stitched white, so nice on the hands. Soft, but not spongy. Gel tape has the feel of a wet diaper. I ride gloveless when the weather warms, and this stuff has the best grip wet or dry. Alas, it does dirty easily so some effort is involved keeping it white. Anyone have tips on cleaning white tape?

    That pump should be in your middle jersey pocket along with a new tube,and some peel and stick patches all wrapped in a thick rubber band.

  15. @guycollier
    You need to get yourself some cable cutters. Just because the cables come long, doesn’t mean you have to use them all. You could hang someone with those gear cables.

    It is essential that you get them sorted out immediately. They should only be long enough toalmost touch.

    In fact, we need a rule about this.

  16. And that photo of Rob has put me in mind of another rule

    While riding a bike you must always be wearing socks

  17. @Jarvis

    While riding a bike you must always be wearing socks

    That’s already Rule #27.

    I think Rob gets a pass for having fucking balls. And check out his guns, man! But, these days, I’m sure he would never dare ride sans socks.

  18. @Jarvis
    Regarding cable length, this is precisely the type of thing we need a Rule on (sorry, Guy). You should ride Campagnolo and avoid the whole issue, but if riding STI-equipped bikes with external, non Zablesque routing, cables should be as short as possible while still allowing safe movement of handlebars in both directions.

  19. @Jarvis I was young and had pretension to be a trackie (never realized). Also those shoes were so awesome sockless, they felt like your feet were in a velvet vise so connected to the pedals that sprinting in them with double straps was like having the pedals as part of your foot and that was a crit with some big sprints.

    Now I have a very solid tan line 1 and 13/16th inches above my anklebone.

    @frank Oh stop, I’m blushing…

    @guycollier Classy (except for the pump)!

  20. Maybe there should be a ‘No Garmin’ rule too… those things are fucking hideous. How lost can you get?

    Cable length rule coming up…

  21. Agreed on the Garmin rule. It doesn’t require a rule but it should be stated that using that useless finishing tape they provide with bar tape is a waste of time. Electrical tape is the way to go.

    Do you have two spacers above your stem in that R-EPO man pick? Frank was busting my balls today about my bike having two spacers above my stem. I figure when I’m old or injured I might want to put one underneath since it’s slammed down now. Cheaper than buying a new fork.

  22. @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.

  23. @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).

  24. @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!

  25. @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.

  26. @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.

  27. @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.

  28. @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!

  29. 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.

  30. @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…

  31. @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.

  32. @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.

  33. @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!

  34. 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!

  35. 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

  36. @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.

  37. @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.

  38. @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.

  39. @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.

  40. @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.

  41. @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?

  42. @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.

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

  44. 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.

  45. @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.

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