Bar tape is reusable as long as its structure isn’t damaged.
Foam tape makes the procedure a bit more difficult, but with a bit extra care when removing it, future re-wrapping is still possible.
Is The Bar Tape In Good Shape?
Before reusing bar tape, it’s necessary to examine its condition.
If the bar tape is excessively worn and has tears, it may disintegrate with use. In that case, it’s recommended to buy a new one.
If the “scars” are small, and you don’t want to throw away the bar tape just yet, you could reinforce the problematic spots.
I’ve seen people use thick medical plaster to strengthen torn bar tape with a medium level of success. Another option would be a cut inner tube.
Of course, both methods are more a temporary patch than a long term solution.
Note: If your bar tape has foam in it, be a bit more careful when removing it to avoid tears.
What About The Adhesive?
The adhesive under the bar tape will gradually lose its bonding strength, but that isn’t a big problem because the tape can be secured even without the adhesive.
If you wrap the tape tightly and use bar plugs and electric tape to secure the ends, you don’t really need adhesive. There are bar tapes that don’t have an adhesive layer in the first place.
Tip: If your bar tape does not have adhesive, you can reverse it when one side has worn a bit.
What Is Bar Tape Made Of?
Modern bar tape has an outer and inner layer. The outer layer is a petroleum-based synthetic material (e.g., polyurethane). The part underneath is either foam or gel and is there to add shape and cushioning.
In the past, manufacturers relied on natural materials (cork and perforated leather.) Similar options are still present today (e.g., Brook’s leather tape), but synthetic models are a lot more popular primarily due to their lower price and low maintenance.
In both cases, the materials are durable and strong enough for long usage.
If the bar tape is of high quality, it’s not uncommon to use it on multiple bikes over the years.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often should bar tape be replaced?
There are two main reasons to replace bar tape – it’s either too dirty or torn.
If those conditions are not present, replacement is not needed unless you’re after new aesthetics.
Ultimately, the frequency of replacement depends on the style of riding and the training schedule. If you are an avid cyclocross racer, you may find yourself replacing the bar tape more often due to the off-road conditions.
If you’re a recreational road cyclist who only goes out when the sun is shining, the bar tape may last years.
If somebody is telling you that you “must” replace bar tape at a specific period, they are either projecting or trying to sell you a new one.
Is it ok to wash bar tape?
Bar tape has some water resistance and can therefore be washed. It’s recommended to use regular shampoo to avoid damaging the foam layer (if your bar tape has one).
Degreasers such as WD-40 are good cleaners, but relying on them to freshen bar tape has a negative consequence – the grip of the foam will be damaged and the material will be soaked in oil.
That said, if the bar tape is too contaminated for regular shampoo to clean the dirt, a degreaser will be necessary to get rid of the contamination.
Note: If your bar tape is made of natural material such as leather, use a cleaner recommended by the manufacturer to preserve the integrity of the tape. Natural leather needs special care.
Tip: If you’re annoyed by dirty bar tape, stay away from white tape – it gets dirty by just looking at it.
Why do so many pros use white bar tape?
There are two main reasons why the pros often choose white bar tape.
The first one is aesthetics – some people just like the contrast that white bar tape creates against the black handlebars and frame.
Display of status is another motivation to use white bar tape. Since white bar tape gets dirty quickly, recreational cyclists a.k.a. mortals tend to stay away from it because washing it is time-consuming and annoying.
But the pros are different. They have sponsors that can provide an unlimited number of bar tapes for free which the mechanics of the team would later change.
For those reasons, some people consider white bar tape a silent way of saying: “I’m a team rider and a pro cyclist”.
In what direction should bar tape be wrapped?
If the bar tape is wrapped in the wrong direction, it may come undone faster than normal.
To avoid this issue, the tape should be wrapped in a direction that’s reinforced by a rider’s natural wrists movements on the handlebars.
A small degree of wrist flexion (the palms moving in) is common when riding in the drops, especially when the rider is aggressively pulling the handlebars.
However, this isn’t always the case when riding on the flat part of the handlebars. In that situation, a small degree of wrist extension often occurs.
1. Start wrapping from the drops towards the mid-part of the bars.
2. Wrap the left side counter-clockwise from the cyclist’s point of view.
3. Wrap the right side clockwise from the rider’s point of view.
Note: The two sides follow different directions because each wrist twists the opposite way when riding.
4. Start at the bottom and switch the direction of the wrap on the right side (from the cyclist’s perspective) as you pass the hoods. (This video explains it perfectly.)
My bar tape is in good condition for re-wrapping, but it’s kinda firm. Can I make it softer or should I buy a new one?
If your bar tape has lost its softness, you could rewrap your drop bars with inner tubing and then put the bar tape on. The end result should be pretty “plush”.
What’s the lightest bar tape?
The bar tape models with little or no cushioning weigh the least and usually stay under 50 grams per side when wrapped around the bars.
Below is a table containing some of the lightest bar tapes out there:
|Deda Elementi Nastro||64 grams|
|Bike Ribbon||49 grams|
|Deda Traforato||29 grams|
|Lizard Skins DSP 1.8||50 grams|
|Cinelli Cork Ribbon||68 grams|
How much bar tape do I need?
A box of bar tape usually comes with two rolls of tape which are sufficient for one set of drop-bar handlebars.