The secret to perfect bar tape

Here’s my dirty little cycling secret. For a long time now, I’ve totally sucked at wrapping bar tape. I can wrap it up and make it look pretty, but after a hard 100km throw down I’d return home and with the tape looking like the ragged and torn clothes of a homeless meth addict searching for her next hit… (too much?)

Exquisitely wrapped bar tape is the mark of a true bike enthusiast. Over the years I’ve tried countless times to wrap the perfect tape. I’ve watched hours of YouTube videos, wrapped and re-wrapped bars till my hands hurt. Regular or figure-eight style, it didn’t matter. A couple of rides later and sure enough some part of the tape would move or unravel. Usually it would be the drops (where I spend most of my time) and almost always the right hand side.

At first I thought I was holding the bars differently or it was the brand of tape. Both untrue, I’ve got the same Lizard Skins 3.2mm DSP bar tape on my Focus CX bike. That was wrapped by a professional bike mechanic at Sigma Sports and now has over 20,000km on it. It hasn’t moved a millimetre.

Finally though, I think I’ve nailed my technique. It just came down to practice, patience and precision (and pulling a little tighter). I’ve finally achieved a near perfect wrap. Now they come running just as fast as they can, cause every girl’s crazy about a sharp-dressed man…

If you have any tips or tricks to wrapping bar tape, please leave them in the comments below! For anyone else with bar tape woes, the following videos helped me out.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. The Omil says:

    I like the wrapping – but did the tape and the stem have a falling out? I’ve not seen the tape end so soon before. Is that deliberate?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha yeah! I only ever really wrap that far as I spend most of my time in the drops. Wrap just enough for the hoods, on the tops I never feel the need for bar tape. Totally saves me like 5 grams too… 🤣

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I must have wrapped thousands of bars in my shop. 3 parts. the start, the wrap, the finish. Keep it tight, keep it even, pay attention to your angles on the bends, take your time

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good advice, thanks! Hopefully I’ll be a bar tape master from now on.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sheree says:

    I take it to my LBS the owner is mustard with bar tape

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s a good tip! 😁

      Liked by 2 people

  4. magicmoir says:

    I wrapped bars a few times, with disastrous results, so gave up and then always asked someone else to do it for me. When working in a bike shop, the mechanics there would always fit new tape for me (in exchange for beer), but I didn’t do what I should’ve done which was ask if they could teach me how to do it. I was however aware that two of them had their own way of going around the levers, and how to finish, which they would argue over which was best. Skip forward a few years to where that shop doesn’t exist anymore, and due to the current situation bike shops have crazy lead times, I was left with no option but to wrap my own tape. On the first side I took photos as I was unwrapping the old tape, so I knew which way round the lever it had gone, and made a note of how big the over lap was and where the tape started. That first side was fine, I finished in the right place, and it looks great. When it came to the other side however I had a nightmare, mostly to do with trying to mirror the other side, and going round the lever. From just under the lever to the end I had to redo a couple of times, but it ended up looking okay. If you look close, it’s clear however that I’ve done one lever one way, and the other another, but each one is tidy. 4,000 miles later it’s still on, and still looks good, but I’m still not convinced that I’ve cracked it. I think I just lucked out.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. alexmwilkins says:

    I think the trick is to mind the direction, and keep it tight. On the tops your hands tend to pull the tape back towards you. On the drops your hand tend to pull the tape out, if that makes sense. Meaning you should wrap such that this movement tightens rather than loosens the wrap. Maybe climate plays a role too. If you’re in a hot humid place, the poor adhesive has quite a job to do, leaving you little margin for a sloppy job 😁🤓

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I definitely think not pulling tight enough was a big part of my problem. The Lizard Skins tape comes with a “do not stretch” warning which I was probably adhering to too much. Now it’s far tighter and not moving at all. So far so good!

      Liked by 1 person

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