Wrapping Bars – Fun and Frustrating

This afternoon, I put my bike on the workstand and remounted the handlebar. Why the bar was off in the first place is a whole other topic, and I’ll probably post on it next week, when that saga comes to an end — I hope.

Anyhoo, I got the bar positioned the way I want it, then got the brake levers back on.  I even rode the bike around the block to make sure the levers were just where I was most comfortable with them.

Back in the garage, it was time to do one of my most favorite bike maintenance activities — wrapping new bar tape.

Freshly wrapped. Looks pretty good -- but wait. (Notice the leftover tape dangling from the shift cable?)

Why fun? Well, if you’ve never tried it, take a shot and see for yourself. With a little bit of care and patience, your bike can assume a whole new character in a matter of minutes. Or, you can do as I did, and use the same old black tape. I think it gives my bike a slightly understated look, and that’s fine with me.

There’s only one problem with wrapping tape: starting and stopping. Okay, two.

To start, you leave a bit of tape hanging down at the end of the handlebar. Then you have to make sure you pull the tape taut while wrapping it, or you’ll get gaps in the wrap — and we can’t have that.

Eventually, you get to the point where you want to stop, and here’s where one of my continuing bar wrapping problems crops up. I see all these pictures of nice bikes with one wrap of contrasting color tape to seal the wrap job. When you buy bar tape, you get a short length of the end tape — maybe it has the manufacturer’s logo on it, maybe not. But it’s all of three or four inches long, and only a half inch wide.

But the bar tape itself is wider than that. So one wrap of the contrasting tape won’t cover the whole end of the bar tape, and you get a square-edged corner sticking out from under. I don’t like the feel of that.

So I do it the Bike Noob way. I use black electrician’s tape to seal the job, and I cover the entire width of the bar tape, plus some.

At least it's a comfy place to rest my hand.

This is one of the reasons I prefer black bar tape. My electrician’s tape overdose is not so obvious to the casual observer.

Once I’ve overdone the electrician’s tape, it’s time to go back to the beginning. The length of tape left hanging from the bar end gets pushed into the bar, and kept in place with a bar end plug.  Sounds easy, but mine always comes out like this:

Lumpy on the left, lumpy on the right. Help!

No set of instructions on bar taping clearly explains how to cleanly get all the tape into the bar end and plug it without leaving unsightly lumps. Anybody got any pointers?  I’d love to hear ‘em. In another week or so, I’ll be replacing the handlebar, so I’ll be going through the whole process all over again, and I’d sure like to get a clean looking end.

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14 thoughts on “Wrapping Bars – Fun and Frustrating

  1. I had the shop do mine. Went from dirty 7-year old, paint-matching blue, to wheel and CF fork matching black.

    Looks great, feels better, doesn’t show grease. No lumps :)

    I wrapped the bars on my Raleigh, and it came out alright, but I did that so long ago I don’t remember my technique.

    • I think the design of the bar plugs is worth considering. I reused these plugs from a previous wrap job, but some cheapies I got with Nashbar tape several years ago did a much better job of plugging the bar ends.
      If you ever get the urge to do your own taping again, the Internet is loaded with how-to’s.

  2. I think there’s a few angles to doing this job. The more times you do it the easier and quicker it gets. And different brands of tape have different properties–some are just easier to manipulate than others. Often the better quality tapes are maybe thicker and less elastic. I have white tape which gets dirty quickly and so change it even monthly. If you do it once, keep the old tape and if you have an unused set of bars, practice wrapping and unwrapping every now and then…but again if you use a different brand, then it may have different properties.

  3. I’ve never tuck it into the bar end. Just start it flush with the end, wrap around once and keep going. Nice clean look.

  4. The trick to getting a nice looking bar end is to do one FULL wrap down at the bar end. And make sure you leave plenty so that you can tuck it into the bar. I generally leave 1/2 the width of the tape (or more) sticking off the end to push into the bar end. Also make sure you wrap it pretty tight around the bottom.

  5. I’ve always tapered the tape at the top of the bars too, like they show on the Park site. That way you can (usually) cover the ends with the supplied tape.

    OTOH, there’s nothing wrong with using electrician’s tape. :)

  6. Use new tape every time (with the adhesive, it lasts longer), leave a little extra hanging off the bar ends and stretch it a bit. (via Twitter)

  7. I have a love/hate relationship with handlebar tape. I love it when it turns out well, but it can be a frustrating process if it doesn’t go well.

    I agree with Jared — make sure you have plenty of extra tape at the ends, all the way around. It looks like you didn’t have enough extra to really tuck it in all the way around.

    I’m not sure what kind of bar tape you use, but I usually use Cinelli, and it comes with enough tape. That said, I still end up using electrical tape sometimes.

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