How to wrap handlebar tape

Learn how bike mechanics wrap handlebar tape perfectly

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How to wrap handlebar tape

There’s nothing quite like re-wrapping your bars to make an old tired bike feel like new. Wrapping bars well is an acquired skill, but luckily BikeRadar is on hand to talk you through the process.

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Ask any 10 mechanics the best way to wrap bar tape and you’re bound to get at least four different answers. What’s more, it’ll be more hotly debated than almost anything else in cycling.

On two things, however, everyone agrees: tape should not be baggy and no gaps should reveal the handlebar.

Why bother replacing tape? If you’ve had a spill and it has got scuffed, you prefer coloured tape, it’s looking a bit used or you’re selling the bike and you want a quick way to make it look fresher, it’s a useful skill to have under your belt.

If your steed sees much use on an indoor trainer, it’s genuinely worth checking the condition of the bars fairly regularly – stories of bars corroding under a mix of sweat, spilt energy drink and dribble are not just urban myths.

Unsure what tape to buy? Check out this roundup of six of our very favourite options.

You will need

  • New handlebar tape
  • Scissors
  • Electrical tape
  • Screwdriver, Allen key or mallet for bar plug
  • Solvent to clean bars

How to wrap handlebar tape in 6 steps

1. Out with the old

Removing old handlebar tape
Remove the old tape and clean off any sticky residue.

Take out the bar end plugs and roll forward the rubber housings on your shifter levers to reveal the tape beneath. Peel off the finishing tape near the stem and unravel the tape from your bar.

Clean any sticky residue off with a light solvent. If you have carbon bars, make sure any solvent you have is safe to use on them. More stubborn residue can be shifted with the blunt tip of a tyre lever or similar.

Once clean, as mentioned before, check the bars thoroughly for any cracks, bends or other damage.

2. On with the new

Wrapping handle bar tape from the bottom upward
Start wrapping the bars from the bottom, keeping even tension on the tape.

Start at the bottom of the bar, keeping tension on the tape and wrap moving out from the bar. The tension will ensure an even thickness all the way up, around the brake lever to the top of the bar.

Most tape has chamfered edges, which allow a given level of overlap without adding thickness, but at the sharpest curves you’ll have to vary the overlap a lot, making the wrap thicker.

Top tip

What do you do if you need to let go of the tape mid wrap? Having some sort of strap handy is a good idea.

Shop mechanics will have unused toe straps hanging around, so go to your local shop and ask to swap one for a pack of biscuits.

3. Mind the gap

How to wrap handlebar tape
Place the supplied extra piece behind the levers. We won’t judge.

Most bar tape comes with two small sections of tape – sometimes called cheater pieces – that are designed to make it easier to hide the small gap left when you wrap around the brake levers.

It is a mark of pride for any good mechanic to be able to wrap their bars without using the cheater piece, and it’s not that hard in practice, but we won’t judge if you decide to use them.

Hold these in place behind the levers and wrap over the top.

4. Cutting edge

Cutting the end of handlebar tape
Cut the end of the tape at an angle for a neat finish.

Work out how far from the stem you want the wrap to finish – around where bars bulge to fit the stem is a convenient point. Too close to the stem will cause awkward cable routing.

Once decided, cut the end of the tape to a point. Doing so means that, when you wrap the final piece over the top of the bar, you will achieve a really nice, smooth edge.

5. Secure in place

Taping the end of handlebar tape
Finish off the wrap with a strip of electrical tape.

Use some electrical tape or the finishing strip included with the bar tape to secure it in place so that it can’t come loose.

6. Finishing touches

How to wrap handlebar tape
Remember to replace the cover of the hoods.

Pop the lever covers back and fit the new bar-end plugs that will have come with your new tape and you’re good to go.

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If you like white bar tape, get used to performing this task because it won’t stay gleaming bright for long.