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Home » Cycling » Bar Tape Wrapping an Aero Handlebar and the End of an Era for the S-Wrap Bar Tape on My Specialized Venge – RIP: 2013 – 2020

Bar Tape Wrapping an Aero Handlebar and the End of an Era for the S-Wrap Bar Tape on My Specialized Venge – RIP: 2013 – 2020

December 2020
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I purchased my Specialized Venge Comp August 23, 2013. It didn’t have one mile on it when I wheeled it in my front door.

I’ve upgraded everything on that bike since, literally everything that could be upgraded, including the shift levers and handlebar, but kept the bar tape. I loved that bar tape. It looked fantastic and was reasonably comfortable, but mostly it looked fantastic… until it finally came time to retire it.

Alas, after seven years and close to 30,000 miles, the time had come. It was starting to look tired. The wrap job done when the new bar went on was outstanding and I didn’t think I could come close to “outstanding” so I procrastinated a bit. I’ve honed my skills over the last couple of years, though, and I’m much improved so early this season I started looking at bar tape to replace the S-Wrap.

I’d done my research, more than six months of it, in preparation to choose the exact right bar tape to complement the bike… and promptly threw all of that research out the window for Serfas Polka Dot bar tape I happened on at the local shop the other day. I’d been eyeing Supacaz bling-y bar tape but, in a moment of clarity, went with something loud, not LOUD. The thinking is, the bike as it is currently built is spectacular and I didn’t want to kill “spectacular” with “gaudy”… it seemed to me it would be like going from Michael Keaton’s Batman to George Clooney’s. In other words, I didn’t want the bar tape to become a focal point and detract from the rest of the bike.

Now that it’s done, I think I chose well. Vastly more proud than plain old cork tape (no chance cork tape was ever going to see the handlebar of my A+ good bike), but it’s a long way from peacock loud. And that’s as it should be in my humble opinion.

Now, previously, I stopped the wrap just beyond the hoods – the electrical tape started under the hood. This, though I didn’t know it at the time, was a mistake. First, you obviously don’t wrap an aero handlebar up the air foil part of the bar. However, if you don’t run the tape to the turn, at a minimum, your thumb pad, just in front of your wrist, rests on bare bar. Over a hundred miles, this doesn’t feel the best, especially when you’re too cool for cycling gloves (or gloves with padding). Running the tape to the turn of the bar will give my hand a little padding and is vastly preferable. I found the ride to be much more enjoyable when I wrapped my Trek’s bar like that:

For the Venge, I employed the “Figure 8” around the shift lever hood collar. Normally, I don’t bother, but I wanted to see if it made a difference in the finished product and now that it’s done, I really like it. Stopping the tape at the turn to the bar top, I had plenty of extra left over, anyway.

That’s that, as they say. So, a few wrapping tips for an aero handle bar…

  • You start the tape at the bottom of the handlebar and wrap inside to outside paying careful attention to overlap the layers just enough so the sticky strip sticks to the bar, just a touch more than half an overlap.
  • Depending on your bar-end plugs you probably don’t need to leave so much overlapping the end of the bar that you have to shove the extra inside… if you’ve got the expander plugs, a quarter-inch to half-inch will be just fine.  It takes a little practice to stuff it into the plug, but it’ll look like a million bucks when you get it right.
  • Pull the tape snug and tight, but don’t stretch it.
  • SLOW DOWN.  You don’t have to be Mr. Pro Wrap-a-bar-in-twenty-seconds.  Take your time and make sure each overlap is even.  Done this way, you won’t have to go back later when you realize you’ve left a gap at the front edge of the drop, just behind the shift lever.
  • Be keenly aware of how you’re overlapping at the bottom of the drops. This is where a lot of mistakes are made because you can’t see what you’re doing.
  • Also, maintain your awareness as the wrap progresses along the leading edge of the drop heading up to the hood. The curve will require you to be a little short at the inside of the curve so your overlap isn’t too great at the front of the drop.
  • I’ve found it best to start the wrap standing behind the bar, then switch to the front of the bike once you start up the drop to the hoods. If I’m at the front of the bike, I can see everything so I can keep a consistent overlap all the way around the bar.
  • Wrapping a handlebar is made immensely easier if you’ve got a stand.
  • You’re going for reasonably even overlaps.  With enough scrutiny, there’s no such thing as perfect.
  • Before you cut off the excess tape, check your work.  Are there any overlaps you don’t like?  Did you accidentally leave a gap?  Check to make sure the hood collar strips are covered and don’t have an edge sticking out.  Now check it one more time.  All good?  Proceed to the next…
  • As you get to the end of the wrap, you cut from the edge closest to the shifter hood to the edge furthest from the shifter hood at an angle that makes the bar tape edge straight to the bar.  Then apply one width layer of electrical tape (see above).  
  • If you cut the tape at a straight 90°, you’ll need at least two, maybe three widths of electrical tape to cover up the end.  Cutting at the angle described above gives you a clean edge to tape.

8 Comments

  1. Good tips! After all these years, I still haven’t perfected the art of perfect bar tape wrapping (even after watching every YouTube video out there on the subject). It always seems to develop a gap somewhere over the first few rides. I’m slowly getting better…

    • bgddyjim says:

      If you’re developing a gap, it’s likely one of two things; either you’re not pulling the tape tight enough as you wrap (you have to pull fairly tight, but don’t stretch), or you’re wrapping the bar the wrong way – you have to start with the tape in the middle of the bottom of the drop, tape with the roll toward the bike, inside to outside as you go up and around. If you wrap the other way, outside to inside, when you get down in the drops, you actually unravel the bar tape, causing your gap.

  2. […] Bar Tape Wrapping an Aero Handlebar and the End of an Era for the S-Wrap Bar Tape on My Specialized … […]

  3. I’m sure this is a silly question, but having tape …. is this akin to having tape on a tennis racquet? ie it gives padding and better grip? I like this very much.

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