I know this has being done a hundred times but I thought I would give my take on it. The wrapping of bar tape, sounds simple, but is it really? Bar tape is one thing on the bike your average cycling enthusiast can struggle with. For some, it is sometimes more difficult than a gear adjustment. Most repair work requires special tools, but not bar tape, just a pair of scissors. So fitting bar tape should seem fairly straight forward then, right? Well it is actually not that simple. There is an art to it and the reason some struggle is because of, or rather lack of, practice. Wrapping tape is all down to technique, which you get with practice, it’s that simple. Some will say there will be a right way and a wrong way to wrap tape. You'll realize this by watching a few You Tube videos, in the comment section readers will write stating the procedure being done is wrong, I believe there is no real wrong method, just bad technique. I started wrapping my own bars around the age of 14, so since then I have wrapped a hell of a lot of bars, which is now something I could probably manage with my eyes closed, but I will never attempt doing as attention to detail is what it is all about.
|right side bar wrapped outside to inside.|
In my view, the proper way to wrap bars is to start at the drop and tape towards the stem. A good example of a video the way I do it, is a clip by the Global Cycling Network (GCN) http://www.globalcyclingnetwork.com/videos/sec-how-to/how-to-change-bar-tape-wrap-your-bars-like-a-pro/ Try not confuse yourself with watching too many videos as the variety of methods people use might differ. Although most do it fairly much the same way of drop to stem, the difference is in the direction, as some go inside to outside rather than like me outside to inside. Either way will work given the right technique, but either method is not necessarily right or wrong. My reason for outside to inside is because when a rider is on the drops, they tend to sit naturally with the wrists rolled slightly inwards, thus tighten the tape. In some videos though they think this is the opposite, force is put to the outside of the bar. But I don’t know any elite rider that sits with wrists rolled outward, or even puts that much force to the bars outside edge. At the end of the day wrap your bars any way you please, like I said there is no real wrong way despite what some might say. But I believe the way I wrap is the right way. If you have gaps, bulges, unevenness or the tape unwraps after a couple of rides, you have clearly done something wrong. The way I wrap bars is just the way I was taught but all the mechanics I know in the pro circles wrap the same way as I do. Us race mechanics don’t use any fancy tricks either, just get the tape on quick and proper because most likely in a week or so it will be changed anyway.
|bars wrapped stem to drop.|
Another wrap style is to start at the stem but with this method it will leave the tape with a kind of against the grain feeling under your hands, imagine a cheese grater sort of feel. On the top it will start to curl up on the edges as your hands push against the wrap of the tape. Wrapping from drop to stem will give a much smoother feeling under the hands as the grain runs away from the hands. But some guys wrap this way so they don’t have to use the finishing tape, but the finish tape gives the opportunity for a bit of customizing. The only time I would use this stem to drop method is on bars that have a large flat top section, in where you might want to show a bit of carbon.
Then there is the little piece that goes around the shifter, use it or don't use it. You may hear the term figure8, which relates to the tape going around the shifter body a particular way . Now the shifter is probably the most difficult part and it is easier to use the little strip. The figure8 method can be tricky on current shifters, more so for a beginner wrapper. A few videos will say you don’t need the small strip of tape, but on these videos you will notice most are wrapping around an older Shimano (usually 7800 type) style shifter. This type of shifter is easy to do the figure8 method without creating much bulk because the shifter body dimensions are quite small. Shifters now days have a much larger body profile to achieve a flat transition from hood to bar, so the figure8 method is a little harder to master in order to get a result with no gaps. To do a figure8 with no gaps can create more bulk than if you just used the little strip. On the very few videos that do wrap over newer shifters using the figure8, you might also notice they never show you the inside of the shifter, because this is the area where you will most likely have a gap. Not saying it can’t be done, but you can achieve a nice finish much easier by using the small strip, just because you use it won’t mean it’s not pro, however a nice finish will be pro.
The selection of tape you choose can also make the wrap process easier, If your new to wrapping tape, don’t go with something like a Microtex tape such as the Fi’zi:k. This is a really nice tape but for the beginner but to achieve a nice finish might be difficult, leaving you possibly in a rage of frustration. It is better to choose a good quality cork tape, something with a bit of elasticity so you have a bit of stretch to shape it as you’re wrapping. A tape with Gel backing is comfortable but is more crucial to get the wrapping tension technique just right as some have not much of an adhesive backing , which you might find it coming loose in a day or so. A tape with an adhesive backing is a better option for a beginner. There is a huge variety of different brands and types and it will all come down to personal choice, but if wrapping tape for the first time then just try to keep it simple. When you get the technique down pat you can move onto more complex tapes.
|here I could use white tape, but I had a black seat and a white|
bar and stem, so black was a better option.
Color will also be a huge factor, and this is where no matter how perfectly you wrapped the tape, if the tape doesn’t tie in with the bike it will look wrong. Black or white is probably the most popular on all bikes these days with other colors not as common anymore, as it was in say the 90’s. Back in the old days the tape choice could always match the color of the decals on the frame. In the 80’s white was very pro. Now days most bikes will either accept white or black unless it’s an old school celeste colored Bianchi. For me there are 3 major rules to white tape, 1; white should only be selected if it suits your bike. 2; you’re prepared to clean it regularly or 3; you’re prepared to fork out the cash to replace it often. Dirty white tape is a big no no and extremely not pro. A simple guideline to remember would be white frame decals =white tape, but also keep in mind, white tape white seat, black seat black tape. Just look at all the Pro Tour bikes this season, tape and seat always matching, with the exception of Belkin. White tape has always been the pro look but now more Pro Tour teams are going to black tape as it saves time in the washing process, a majority of teams now use black.
Before you start you’re wrapping, be sure to have all the necessary items to do the job close by. This includes scissors and finishing tape. If you have a Pin Spanner or Peg Clamp then they are useful to hold the tape in place if you need to let it go. It is easier to have the bike in a workstand, but don’t have the bars too high up, lower the bike into a position so you stand a little over the bar. This will give you good control during the wrapping process. Always start with a nice clean dry bar and be sure the cables are in good condition and taped neatly together. This might differ if routing the shift cable at the rear of the bar like on Campagnolo, as the shift cable may be positioned at the back of the bar while the brake cable is at the front. Now is also a good time to check the length, long cables just look ugly as well as increase friction.
Every wrap of the bar you want to focus on keeping the look of each wrap nice and even. Also keep an eye on any gaps or bulges that may appear on the underside of the bar, especially in the bend. Bulges will easily appear with a tape that has not much stretch in it. It is IMPORTANT to keep constant tension on the tape as you wrap.
As you near the shifter, you want to finish no more than 1cm below the shifter body. Then use the Pin Spanner to hold the tape while you cut the small strip piece to cover the shifters band clamp. A tidy trick is to cut this small piece flush with the shifter body as in the GCN video, going over the body can create a little extra bulk and may cover holes in which the hood cover pushes into. But it is not a big deal to just trim it back a little. Place the strip so the bottom edge lines up with the bottom edge of the shifter body. With the small strip in place, continue the wrapping by going under the shifter body so you have half of the tape on the bar while the other half on the shifter body. REMEMBER, keep constant tension.
Then go behind the bar and over the top of the shifter body. The direction of wrapping should now be towards the rear of the bike. This is so when riding on the top of the bars the hand pressure tightens the tape as you naturally roll your wrists downward. So for now just wrap the tape another 3 times, use the Pin Spanner to hold the tape so you can pull back the hood cover to check if there are any gaps before continuing.
|before pulling back the hood I will trim the clamp strip|
so it does not cover any holes or look so bulky.
As you wrap into the bend of the bar, the area of the tape at the front of the bar should become narrow while the outside area remains the same consistent spacing as the rest of the wrap. It is in this bend where hand pressure is very common and often where the tape will separate, so tension on the tape is important.
As you come out of the bend, a couple of wraps will be straight but then continue at the 15 degree angle (towards the stem) and do not keep wrapping straight.
You want to finish the tape where the bar starts to taper out, or where the logo starts. I aim to finish the tape about 40-50mm from the stem, try to get the other side exactly the same so they look even. If it’s not even it will not only look shit but will give you an illusion the bar is not mounted in the center.
Do not cut the tape on the wrong side otherwise you will get the wrong finish. Cut the tape perpendicular to the stem, so that's the inner edge of the tape. The cut should be long enough (about 70-80mm) that it does a complete lap of the bar. To get a real clean look the trick is to now get the tip of tape to finish underneath the bar, you can cut a small tip off if needed.
|the cut edge in on the right side|
Now to finishing the tape off, this is the final touch to get it looking right. First, it’s again about the right color, here though you can get away with a touch of real color other than just black or white. For example, if you have red highlights on the frame you can maybe use a red finish tape. Use a good quality electrical tape that is of reasonable width. Always wrap the finishing tape in the same direction as the bar tape. If you managed to end the bar tape on the underside of the bar, start your finish tape here also, this is better for a smooth look on top of the bar. Overhang the finish tape by just a millimeter or two, give it a slight bit of tension and as you wrap it around, the slight overhang will curl over to cover the cut edge of the bar tape. Once all the way around then release the tension and wrap the finish tape around 2-3 more times. Do not make the finish tape too much wider than its original width, as that is wrong and just looks ugly. I see many mechanics do this and it just screams unprofessional, as it is not the finish tape that holds the bar tape in place, it's the tension you used in the wrapping process.
Then cut the tape off at an angle so it is easier to locate when the time comes to replace the tape.
Then that's a wrap, you have finished wrapping your bars, and if all done correctly you will have a tape that looks pro and will stay on without unwinding itself.
Below is a video I did some time ago for team sponsors, here I use the figure8 method. It was just on a mobile so quality is not that great and I am the first to admit I’m not the clearest talker.