Don’t Wrap Bike Handlebar Tape In The Wrong Direction!


I’m back to the keyboard after several hours sifting through many ‘how to’ sites and videos on the art and science of bicycle handlebar tape installation.

There is a lot of good information that is repeated over and over. There are also a few suggestions regarding ‘direction of wrap’ which I’ll throw your way.

How To Tape Handlebars: Why Not Start At The Top?

One of the first videos I watched demonstrated starting the handlebar tape wrap job on the top, working down to the bar end.

Brilliant, I thought!

Why have I been starting at the bar end, having to use electrical tape when I finish at the top of the handlebar? Why not start the wrap at the top with a clean overlap, not needing the electrical tape (or the stylish plastic tape that comes with the handlebar tape)?

I was eager to shout the good news from the rooftops…

Until an hour or so later when I encountered a very good explanation of the folly of such an approach.

One of the themes of handlebar taping is taking into consideration which way the forces from the hands are being applied to the tape. On the top bar, the tendency is for the hands to be pushing (sliding) from the stem to the outside of the handlebar.

When bicycle handlebar tape is started at the bar end, the tape overlaps itself like shingles shedding water from the center of the bike to the outside. Since this is the direction that the hands are typically sliding on the top bar, the edges of each wrap of tape are ‘smoothed out’.

If the edges of the tape are exposed the other way due to starting at the top (near the stem), the edges are getting pulled up and they wear out prematurely.

Darn, handlebar wrapping convention prevails and new innovation loses miserably.

Why Can’t You Afford Enough
Cycling Gear?

I can get twice as much because I keep my eyes
open for deep discounts at Bike Nashbar. Even handlebar tape!

Clockwise Or Counterclockwise?

Reversing direction skills!

Hand forces on the top bar are typically twisting back toward the rider, much like the twist grip throttle on a motorcycle. Because of this the tape is wrapped so that the twisting on the top bar tightens the tape onto the bar rather than loosens it (unravels it).

This is accomplished by wrapping the tape clockwise on the right side of the handlebar, and counterclockwise on the left side. That’s clockwise or counterclockwise when you’re standing in front of the bike, not if you’re wrapping from behind the handlebars.

But it’s all different in the drops.

When the hands are in the drops they’re twisting the tape from the inside to the outside. Some highly skilled tape wrappers start the right bar wrap counter-clockwise on the drops (when standing in front of the bike) and then reverse the wrap direction under the cover of the brake hood. This picture above, from Park Tool, shows how that’s done.

Let’s Wrap It Up With A Wrapping Demonstration

I watched an awful lot of video handlebar wrapping demonstrations on behalf of the Cycling-Review community.

Some videos demonstrated wrapping in the wrong direction (it’s wrong if in contradicts me), some started wrong (top to bottom), some were sloppy at the finishing line (squared off the handlebar tape instead of cutting it at an angle), and others didn’t make the grade for no particularly good reason.

I like the presentation below as a whole, although Mark doesn’t demonstrate the legendary ‘figure eight under the brake hood’. Perhaps because it isn’t preferred with the thicker modern tapes.

Traditionalists like the figure eight, but it puts quite a wad of material under the brake hoods.

Mark also doesn’t wrap the bars with the ‘reverse direction under the brake hoods’ technique.

I’m not surprised since he may be hesitant to accept the liability of unleashing an untrained handlebar wrapping populous onto the highways and byways with such a dangerous skill set.

Like nun-chuck skills, the reverse direction technique may be best left to professionals.

This entry was posted in Repairs and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.