All You Need To Know About Bike Handlebar Tape

According to an estimation by Pioneer Sports Colorado, there are somewhere around 1 billion road bikes in the world. But the majority of owners, especially beginners, overlook one of the essential components in a bike, a bike handlebar tape.

Handlebar tape is wrapped on the handlebar of the bike to provide the rider with grip and comfort. 

Today, this article will cover everything about handlebar tape for bikes. From when you should replace a bike handlebar tape to how to choose one and changing it, we’ll be covering it all in the piece.

So without wasting any more time, let’s get taping! 

When Should You Replace Your Bike’s Handlebar Tape?

All road bikes come pre-installed with a bike bar tape. However, depending on the usage, the bike grip tape can eventually deplete, thanks to the wear and tear during bike rides. And that’s when you’ll need to look for handlebar tape installation assistance.

This scenario will vary from person to person. But at least, you’ll be required to change the bike handlebar tape once a year.

The perfect way to figure out the right time for replacing your bike’s handlebar tape is when you see it’s starting to lose grip and no longer providing comfort. 

How To Choose A Bike Handlebar Tape

Before we tell you about different types of handlebar tapes available in the market, it’s wise to learn what to consider when picking one.

Here are some pointers you should consider when picking a handlebar tape for your ride:

 

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    Colour

    Although not as crucial for your riding experience, picking the suitable colored handlebar tape changes the look of your bike.

    Indeed, picking an ideal matching colored handlebar tape won’t aid your riding experience. But it will satisfy your vision!

    On the market, you’ll find various colored tapes with all sorts of funky patterns and whatnot. Pick one that matches your vibe.   

    Material

    The material of tape you’ll choose for your bike’s handlebar is crucial to significant riding factors like comfort and grip.

    Different materials pose different characteristics. For instance, leather handlebar tapes will last ages and look good, but they are expensive.

    So, you must be sure of the type of material that’s used to make the tape you are buying.

    Thickness

    Once you have decided on the material of the tape, it’s time to think about the thickness level.

    Tapes made with different materials are available in various thickness levels. And as thickness level directly affects your feel of the bike, you must be cautious about it.

    Racers prefer thin tapes as they need a direct feel of the bike and to cut off some weight. In contrast, everyday bikers favor thick tapes as they are comfy and grippy.

    Bar End Plugs

    Bar plugs aren’t just used to tidy up the ends but prevent direct contact with a bike’s bar ends.

    When buying bar-end plugs, make sure to pick the ones that are made of high-quality rubber or silicone. Also, keep in mind the color of your ride and bike handlebar tape, so you find the one that matches your bike’s overall color scheme.  

    Common Types Of Bike Handlebar Tape

    Handlebar Grip Tape

    Bike handlebar tape wear and tear is inevitable. But thankfully, there are hundreds of replacements available.

    Here are some of the common types of handlebar tapes: 

    Padded Plastic

    Padded plastic tapes are sold as a package with two coils of bar tape, adhesive strips, and bar plugs.

    What makes padded plastic tapes unique is their non-permeable characteristic. Meaning, the water doesn’t get soaked in. Also, comfort is another thing that makes padded plastic tape so attractive. 

    Cork

    Although you won’t find cork tape durable, it’s known for its matte appearance, utmost comfort, and moisture absorption.

    Cork tape absorbs shock like no other material, thanks to its unique synthetic blend of cork and ethylene vinyl acetate.

    Cloth Tape

    Cloth-based handlebar tape was the norm in the 70s and 80s as it came with adhesive backing. Not to mention, its unmatching convenience when wrapping also made it one of the best tapes back in the day.

    However, today, people don’t prefer cloth-based tape as there are many alternatives available.

    Leather

    Forever lasting, premium feels, great looking, and you name it, a leather handlebar tape has a class of its own.

    Unlike other materials, a leather-based bar tape doesn’t come with any compromise. However, they are pretty expensive!   

    Thin Plastic

    As the name suggests, thin-plastic tapes are thin. But they are made for racers who want a hands-on and direct feel of their bike.

    Thin-plastic bar tapes don’t come with adhesive strips, and they are tied by tucking them under the bar plugs.

    Synthetic

    Synthetic tapes are combined with microfiber, polyurethane, etc., with foam to create a rigid cushioned tape.

    In terms of versatility, no other tape material comes close to synthetic tapes as they are available in an array of styles, shapes, thicknesses, etc.

    Extra-Thick

    For demanding conditions, you won’t find a better alternative than extra-thick handlebar tapes.

    Whether your hands sweat too much or you ride in extreme conditions, extra-thick bike handlebar tapes have got your back. 

    Cotton

    The cotton tape started appearing in the biking scene back in the 1920s. People started to prefer it due to its durability (don’t forget to add some coats of shellac), easy availability, and ease of use.

    But unfortunately, cotton tapes are now old-school. So chances are, you’ll only find them on a few biker shops.

    Foam

    Last and certainly not least are foam bar tapes. This type of bar tape was quite popular in the 70s and 80s due to its cushiony feel, affordability, and excellent insulation.

    Today, you won’t find people foaming their bike’s handlebar as there are many other great alternatives readily available.

    Changing Bike Handlebar Tape

    Handlebar Tape Installation

    Finally, we’ll tell you how you can change the bike handler tape on your ride. We have divided the guide into six brief sections so you can easily follow along. So let’s start wrapping:

    1. Things You’ll Need

    Before we start wrapping, we’ll need some things. 

    Firstly, an electrical tape to secure the brake lever along with its wire. Then, a pair of scissors to cut the width of the tape as we’ll move towards the bottom of the bar and endpoints.

    As you might have guessed, you’ll also need a pair of bike handlebar tape you are looking forward to applying. Also, don’t forget to pick some dry towels, water, and isopropyl alcohol.

    Lastly, make sure you are wearing a pair of surgical gloves to avoid any accident. 

    2. Start Fresh By Removing Old Tape & Cleaning Handlebar

    Now, clamp your ride into a work stand so it can remain as stationary as possible. After that, start removing old handlebar tape from the bike. Make sure not to leave any traces of old tape behind.

    Once you are done removing old tape by your hand, it’s time to clean the handlebar. You can use a solution of isopropyl alcohol and water to clean the left traces of the old handlebar tape.

    Use a dry towel to clean the handlebar nicely and smoothly. 

    3. Make Adjustments & Secure Cables

    Once your handlebar is dried, it’s time to make some adjustments for your brake cables and secure them properly.

    To do that, align the brake cables properly with the handlebar, so they aren’t swirling around. Then, open the electric tape and neatly tie it around the wire and handlebar in a few spots with few inches apart.

    Use the scissors to cut the electric tape once you are done securing the cables properly with the handlebar.   

    4. Begin The Wrap

    Partially peel off the new handlebar tape’s roll and start wrapping at the bottom of the bar on the right drop. Overlap half the width of the handlebar tape from the end as it will get stuffed into the end of the bar with bar plugs.

    Start wrapping from inside out in clockwise motion and keep overlapping the tape by a quarter to a third. This way, the tape will stay tightened by the grip of your hands. Keep a mild and constant tension on the tape to achieve a uniform wrap.

    Keep wrapping in an inside-out fashion.

    5. Taking Care Of Handlebar’s Braking Section

    After reaching the brake lever contact point, you’ll need to follow a figure of eight to hold the tape securely.

    Roll the brake hood forward and stretch the tape under the lever and up the inside. Then, wrap over the top and under the drop. After that, reach back to the initial stage under the lever body to the outside.

    Then, take the tape inside the drop and straight up to the top of the bar. Lastly, make sure the figure of eight is covering the brake lever side of the bar.

    6. Add Final Touches

    Wrap along the top while maintaining the clockwise momentum and once you reach the bulge, stop! Grab your scissors and cut the excess tape while holding it firmly.

    Use the finishing tape that came with your bike handlebar tape to secure the end and repeat the steps from the third one on the left-hand sidebar with an anti-clockwise motion.

    Once done, push in the bar plugs at both sides, and you are done! 

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    All You Need To Know About Bike Handlebar Tape — Bike Hacks