Wrapping bar tape – a guide
05 Apr 2022
Reading Time: 7 minutes
G’s Note: This is NOT one of the articles that I have written, rather it was penned by a friend Rich. I’ve put it here rather than loosing it to the ether of time and space, as it is one of the more popular articles from the old company blog.
There are heaps of videos on YouTube about wrapping bar tape, but I thought I’d add my tuppence with this photo sequence of how I wrap mine – including doing the ‘figure of eight’ wrap (I can’t actually remember how to wrap without doing that anymore!).
So, here goes…
Firstly, my method involves wrapping the tape away from the bike – by which I mean clockwise on the drive side, anti-clockwise on the non-drive side. I do this because that’s just how I always have and because I find it finishes more neatly and looks better at the top. Also, the stuff people say about the way you grip the tape and how it’ll consequently “unwrap if it’s wrapped the wrong way” is rubbish – if the tape is wrapped properly to begin with that should never be an issue!
Start with the tape end at the bottom edge of the bar, central on the bar and with the adhesive strip only just touching the bar:
For the first loop around, bring the tape over at an angle so that you still have about 25% of the tape width not on the bar – this makes tucking the ends into the bar tidier and creates a more solid mount for the end plug (as you’ll see later):
Now wind the tape clockwise (as this is the drive side) around the bar, pulling a little as you wrap to keep the tape tight, and using the sticky line on the underside and any stitch or hole features on the top side to guide your wrap – you’re basically aiming to get the sticky stuff to touch the bar right up alongside your last wrap, or wrapping so that stitches or holes show nice and neatly (with this Fizik tape I’m trying to keep the lines of holes constant):
Try to keep it tight and tidy all the way up – keep checking that there’s no lumps or gaps as you wrap, and you’ll need to overlap a little more as you go through the bend (you can actually see a lump in this shot in the penultimate wrap which I had to correct):
Leave just enough space for one more wrap around under the lever (you can often judge this by leaving about half the tape width, sometimes less):
Now for the loopy bit…
I actually often still use the ‘cheat tape’ as is means all risk of bar or lever clamp showing is eliminated – cut it to length so that it is just enough to touch either side of the lever when attached to the back of the clamp (this Fizik tape has twice as much as is needed so I just cut one length of cheat tape in half):
Keep one hand on the cheat tape as you wrap the loop:
Steps 7 to 12
Following on from your last wrap around the bar where you left enough room for one more wrap (#5 above) and keeping the tape nice and tight for this bit, you now want to come behind the lever…
…then over the top just behind the lever…
…then back down behind the lever…
…and now around to fill in that gap you left in step 5 (ignore the crease at the top as it’ll be covered by the lever hood):
Then you’re going back behind the lever…
…and back over the top…
…and now you’ll move on to finish off the top section
Loopy bit done, you can now work your way along the top of the bar – you’ll need to overlap a little more as you round the curve, and here you can use the back of the bar as your guide for where the sticky stripe will fall or where any stitches / holes should meet:
After the curve the wrapping will even out and straighten up – continue towards the stem clamp, and as with the drops keep an eye on lumps and gaps.
And here’s where it gets tricky (to explain and to actually do!)…
Find the point where you want to finish the tape – it might be a bar graphic, or just where you want the tape to run up to (I often mark this with the electrical tape I’m using to hold the cables against the bar under the bar tape):
Make sure your tape reaches far enough – if it doesn’t you might need to undo your handy work and start again (don’t be afraid to do this – the tape won’t suffer from it as long as you’re careful), then just be a bit more frugal on the overlaps.
When you’ve found your finishing point, unwrap the tape by one (or sometimes only half) a wrap. Stand in front of the bike and (assuming the bike is in a stand or somehow supported) hold the tape in your left hand. Using scissors, cut the tape in a STRAIGHT LINE (remembering that the tape is at an angle) from the edge of the tape towards the point you want the tape to wrap up against – if you’re unsure, draw on the tape lightly with a pencil or biro:
When you re-wrap the tape it should overlap in a neat, square line against the point you wanted it to finish (if you drew on the tape the drawn line should do the same):
Using some electrical tape of your preferred colour (anything other than black or white is ONLY acceptable if it’s an EXACT match to something else on the bike, or is so well done it cannot fail to look good [good luck with that]) wrap against the edge of the tape, starting at the underside or where the point of the cut tape falls and wrap in the same direction as the bar tape. Pull the tape taught as you wrap (but not too much) and it’ll tighten neatly just over the edge of the bar tape:
After two or three wraps, cut it neatly on the underside so that the end can’t be seen.
All that leaves is to unfold the lever hoods back into place and tuck the ends into the bar and insert the bar plug, remembering that any logos need to be carefully and correctly presented!:
Et voila, all done:
Actually I still consider this particular example to be quite an untidy job and I’ll probably re-wrap it soon, but remember bar tape is not for life!
As mentioned in step 14, don’t be afraid to unwrap and start again – and if you need to do this you can usually leave the first couple of wraps in place.
Obviously you’ll now need to repeat this on the non-drive side, remembering that you’re wrapping anti-clockwise (always wrapping AWAY from the bike). The last bit (steps 15 & 16) is a little trickier as you still need to hold the tape in your left hand and cut with your right, which can make for an awkward cut (that’s just how scissors work I’m afraid!).
Remember also that you need the finish to be even with the drive side – you can do this by measuring, and if you use my trick of applying the tape you’re using to hold the cables to the bar under where you want to finish the bar tape it’ll make this bit a little easier.
Copyright 2023 Gerard Thomas. All rights reserved.
I've run mtb events, distributed some legendary brands, ran my own cycling clothing brand, designed bikes and was a GM and head designer for a famous but sadly now extinct mtb marquee; and after 20 odd years I decided riding bikes was more fun than working with them.
Over that time though, I wrote (and some wrote for me) a lot of stuff about bikes, on blogs and the like. Some was good, some, well... not so much. Rather than loose it all when I shut everything down once and for all, I have kept some of my favourite, and more popular pieces here for... prosperity?
I also am working on new pieces as well...