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Video: How to wrap bar tape like a pro

Stu Bowers
11 Sep 2018

Badly wrapped bar tape is guaranteed to ruin the look of a bike. Here's a quick and easy pro guide to make sure it's perfect, every time.

Wrapping bar tape is one of those jobs where mechanics always have their own little special techniques and habits and as such it’s often a divisive topic. What we can all agree on though is the key to success is to take your time and get a neat finish. There’s nothing worse than messy bar tape to spoil the look of a bike.

Here’s how I do it.

Firstly, get everything you need laid out within easy reach of where you’re working otherwise you’ll be struggling to stop the bar tape from unravelling as you search for things like scissors and electrical tape at the end.  

Remove any old tape and clean the bars to get rid of any leftover adhesive and grime.

To begin wrapping the new tape, I always start at the end of the bar and NOT on the tops. There are two reasons for this. 

Firstly, leaving a decent overlap at the start enables it to be tucked in with the bar plug for a really neat finish. 

Second, and most important, wrapping from the bottom up ensures the edge of the tape is forward facing around the bends to ensure the edge will not curl up or catch and become untidy and frayed in use. 

I like to wrap the tape towards myself but the direction really doesn’t matter. Whatever you feel most comfortable with. As you start to wrap the key thing is to keep some tension in the tape.

It doesn’t require a big amount of force, otherwise, you’ll risk snapping the tape, but enough tension to keep it snug. 

*TIP: If you like really fat, cushy feeling tape, then don’t apply as much stretch, as wrapping it tighter will reduce its comfort slightly. Vice versa, if you want maximum bar feel, then keep wrap tape as tight as possible.

As you wrap, try to keep even overlaps, and spacing as this creates the neat look you’re after. Also constantly check around the bar for gaps – gaps exposing the bar are a massive faux pas in bar tape fitting!!

Just before you get to the lever, use the short, additional piece of tape (usually supplied – but if not just cut a few inches from the end of the tape, you’ll have plenty don’t worry) to cover the lever bracket neatly.

You may need to hold this in place with one hand as you continue to wrap the tape. It takes a bit of practice to get this bit neat, but don’t be afraid to go back and undo a few wraps and re-do them until you get the tension even and the spacing neat.

I always like to continue to wrap straight up and around the lever – not figure 8. This is something not all mechanics agree on, but personally, I think a figure 8 causes a bulk of tape under the lever hood which can often create an undesirable ‘bump’ in the transition from bar to lever hood.

Again, experiment here for what works best for you.

Continue all the way along the bar wrapping neatly maintaining the same even spacing and tension on the tape until you reach a point about 50mm from the stem (or wherever you wish to end the tape).

Once the finish point is determined, I prefer to cut the tape directly under the bar with a straight cut to begin with. Then unwrap the tape 1 complete turn. 

With the tape held out in front of the bar, cut a diagonal line (from lever side towards stem) to create a tapered edge. Then re-wrap.

Use electrical tape (Don’t bother with the finishing tape supplied in the pack – it’s never as good) to finish and seal the tape end. 

Here is another area where different techniques can be used, depending on the look you want. For instance, some mechanics prefer no tape, and instead use super glue, others use tape but don’t like to overlap onto the bar, and so on. 

I prefer to have a small overlap of electrical tape to the bar to seal the end of the bar tape nicely, keeping out water and dirt.

NOTE: Take your time to get this finishing touch neat. Again, it can really spoil the look if you have a shoddy finish at the end. And don’t use the cheap, crap tape you bought in a pound shop. It will just unravel. A decent quality electrical tape is way better.

Finally, then, fit the bar plug. Simply tuck in the excess tape that you left right at the start, by poking it into the end of the bar as you simultaneously use the bar plug to help it fit tightly and hold everything snug.

Again a bit of practice helps to get the technique right to get the neatest look. Remember, details matter.

Repeat for the other side and...job done!

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