How to sort your bike’s bartape (aka its hairstyle)


Jenni Gwiazdowski, the brains behind London Bike Kitchen, has penned an awesome new book called 'How to Build a Bike: A Simple Guide to Making Your Own Ride'. Cool, quirky and full of bike braininess, here’s a taster of the good stuff inside…

I absolutely insist you get some form of bar tape or grips. They make your bike really comfortable to ride, protect your hands and add a nifty look. Also, the ends of your handlebars must be covered or plugged, to prevent something called ‘coring’ – as in apple coring.

There are horror stories about people who get into crashes and their handlebars go through their legs (and other body parts) because the ends weren’t protected. Most bar tape comes with plugs, but if not, you can use a wine bottle cork. At a pinch.

How to wrap bar tape for drop-bars

Good-looking bar tape is a beautiful thing, but wrapping it seems to be a love-or-hate thing for people. I personally love it, and I take great care in making sure that my spacing and tension are even.

There are so many different types of bar tape out there that choosing one can feel paralysing, but luckily bar tape is changeable, so if you get tired of your current style or colour or handfeel (that’s not a real word – yet), it’s easy to change to another one.

There are many ways of wrapping bar tape, so if this method doesn’t work for you, or you’d like to find other ways, as ever, the internet is your friend.


• To start, you’ll need to make sure that your brakes are in the position that you want them to be in. There’s room for small adjustments, but not loads, so take the bike for a spin and make sure you like where they’re placed.

• If you have aero brake levers where the cables come out the back towards the handlebars, now’s the time to tape the cable housing against the handlebars. Depending on where the housing exits the lever, you’ll either want to place the housing at the front of the bar or at the back. Don’t put it on the top, as this will be uncomfortable for your hands. Some modern handlebars have a groove to accommodate the housing here – use it! It will create a nice round handfeel. Use electrical tape to attach the housing to the bars. Make sure you allow enough housing so that you can swivel your bars comfortably to the right and left, and the housing doesn’t tighten up against the frame when you turn the bars.

• If you have old-fashioned drop brakes where the cables pop out of the levers on the top, there’s no need to tape the cables down.

• On both sides of the handlebars you’ll be starting at the bottom end of the bars, wrapping the tape in a circular motion from the inside of the bike, up, over, and away from your bike.

• Pull back the hoods of the brake lever.

• Unroll one of the tapes and peel off a couple of inches of the sticky backing paper. Place the edge of the tape at the bottom opening of the bars, perpendicular from the bar, with the roll of tape on the inside of the bike.

• Line up the edge of the sticky bit with the edge of the handlebar and press on.

• Bring the tape up and over, away from the bicycle and then back down, completing the first circle around your bar. Pull taut but not tight! You don’t want to overstretch the tape and potentially snap it.

• At this point, bring the tape back up and away from the bike, but angle it about 30 degrees from the edge of the handlebar.

• Bring the tape around the bottom, back towards the bicycle and up again. When you do this, line up the edge of the sticky bit with the edge of the bartape as you go around, making sure the sticky bit is touching the bar and not the tape – this will make sure that you keep an even spacing and prevent it from slipping around when you ride. Remember to pull taut.

• When you approach the lever you have two options. One is to use the extra rectangular square that probably came with the box of tape. If it didn’t, cut your own 7-8cm piece. Peel off the backing paper and wrap around the unsightly band holding the brake lever in place.

• Your other option is to use the ‘figure of eight’ method, which doesn’t use this extra rectangle.

Figure-of-eight method
• Upon approaching your lever, make sure the tape is completely wrapped along the bottom of the lever. Then, bringing the tape from the inside to the outside, pull the tape diagonally up across the unsightly metal band, and over the top and back down.

• Continue the ‘8’ by bringing the tape over the unsightly metal band and then pull the tape to the front of the bike and underneath the brake, diagonally up and back around the handlebars. At this point, the unsightly metal band should be mostly covered up with an X shape.

• Bring the tape up and over the top of the brake lever now, and then continue to wrap your tape around as you were before, pulling taut.

• Stop 4cm or so between the bar tape and stem, before the point where many bars get wider. To finish, you want to keep the nice diagonal angle going, but finish the tape parallel with the stem. To do this, you’ll need to cut your bar tape at an angle.

• Pull the tape away from the bar, keeping the diagonal going. Place scissors parallel with the stem and cut the bar tape parallel with the stem, still holding the diagonal alignment. You should have a severe diagonal cut on your tape; as you wrap this around the handlebar, it will create an edge parallel with the stem.

• Use insulating tape to finish, pop down the hoods, and don’t forget the bar-end plugs. If they’re slightly too small, wrap insulating tape round the insertion side a couple of times.



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