Because road bikes are usually ridden on smooth surfaces, the pedals scraping against the asphalt/gravel/cobblesones/tree roots/sand/mud/dead branches seem to protect the frame and drivetrain against damage. However, the handlebars, instead of projecting metal butts to the inhospitable environment, offer the gentle bar tape of the drops to absorb all the kinetic energy.

At 10EUR/pair, this turns out to be a rather expensive consumable.

One solution I can imagine is homemade bar tape. Some kind of fabric perhaps?

Another would be some protection for the exposed parts of the handlebars, possibly including the very expensive STI levers.

How can crashing with a road bike be made more economical?

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    Learn to avoid crashing. Why do you crash that frequently?
    – Carel
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 19:49
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    If you crash so incredibly often that you need changing your bar tape so often that it becomes expensive to you, please focus on acquiring better bike handling skills. Medical bills, days spent in bed with broken bones or death are much more expensive than a lousy 10 EUR bar tape. Maybe your choice of a bike is wrong, and you need a cross-country/trail rig that is more appropriate for riding "cobblesones/tree roots/sand/mud/dead branches"? Commented May 16, 2018 at 6:47
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    @Vorac, if you expect to crash that often in the future, I would rather consider going slower and carefully until you know your routine. I crash even more often when on trails, but then again I do not mind scratching my bike or my face, because that is where fun is. On my commuter, I ride slowly, especially when on a new route until I learn all its dangerous places. Also, may I suggest you to reconsider lending out bikes to irresponsible people? Finally, there are other bicycle types in between downhill and road race, and all of them are quite appropriate for commuting. Commented May 16, 2018 at 11:45
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    @Vorac - 1. Don't look at your phone while riding. Duh. 2. Be careful around blind corners -- it happens, but most of the time, being careful avoids accidents. 3. Be careful? Maybe a road bike isn't the right bike for that area? Inadequate riding skills? It sounds like except in case (3) where something like mountain bike would have more grip than a road racing bike (whether or not this would have mattered in this case is another matter; riding like a hooligan probably wouldn't help either way if skill and luck are inadequate), the type of bike isn't the matter, its the rider.
    – Batman
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 3:15
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    An association (lescycles-re.fr/accessoires) makes leather tape out of waste leather sofas & cork. I guess they cut ribbon directly from them but I don't know what kind of glue they use. The cork is for plugging in the tips of handlebars
    – Axel B
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 14:56

5 Answers 5


If you want to make your bar tape last longer, there are a couple approaches you can take: repair it when it is damaged, or invest in longer-lasting bar tape. Even though it seems like it might be harmless, I would not use improvised bar tape, or no bar tape, or some flat, non-absorbing tape like household electrical tape, as it is actually an important component for both comfort and safety.

Along with the seat and the pedals, the handlebar is a primary contact point between you and your bike. All of the vibrations your bike feels are transmitted through these contact points. If you try riding a bike without bar tape, your arms will feel those vibrations much more than they would with something to absorb that shock, your arms will get tired much faster. At best it is uncomfortable to ride like this, and at worst it is dangerous, and can make it difficult to use your brakes properly.

Cheap tape will fray, dry out, or fall apart sooner than nice bar tape. If it does start to fray or fall apart, or if you crash and damage part of it, you can wrap electrical tape around the damaged area to repair it. This will usually hold as long as you need it to.

Personally I have started using synthetic leather bar tape (Brooks) as it is much more durable than the cheap stuff (2 years old, used almost daily, little sign of wear), and does a really good job at absorbing that vibration. It is heavier and thicker, though, so it's probably not what you'd want to put on a racing bike.


If I need tape on a bare bar I use "hockey tape". It's similar to cloth "adhesive tape" or "electrical tape", but intended to be held with the hands and it comes in a variety of colors.

If the handlebar is already wrapped with standard handlebar tape, I cover that with a layer of hockey tape, knowing that the standard handlebar tape doesn't stay in place very well and is easily damaged. And I keep a roll of hockey tape in my touring toolkit to make emergency repairs.

I once experimented with a scheme where I placed beads of silicone rubber caulk along the length of the bar and then, after the silicone set, wrapped with (Ta dah!) hockey tape. This allowed comfortable glove-free touring, but the silicone didn't wear very well. (I considered making a mold to cast "real" silicone rubber into the correct shape to cover the bar, but I never got around to it.)


I figure the real question is this:

"How can crashing with a road bike be made more economical?"

The first and real answer is don't crash as much; you risk injury to yourself and your bike. Ride more safely and improve your riding skills.

The second is the type of parts you use. Brifters tend to get hit in crashes, and one crash is relatively easy to damage them. Downtube shifters or bar end shifters are far more robust in crashes (downtube shifters are relatively hard to hit and are mechanically more robust; bar end shifters are quite similar mechanically, and are a bit harder to hit than brifters anyway); the regular brake lever is much cheaper even if it does break. Another part that tends to get hit a lot in crashes is rear derailleurs (where the hanger may bend/need replacing, derailleur may get damaged, etc.). Running older (e.g. 2x9 speed) drivetrains are cheaper to replace derailleurs if they break. Robust components which can be repaired are the way to go; a ultra light Chinese carbon wheel is probably not going to do so well in a crash as a good touring wheel.

Handlebar tape is a consumable, but if it starts to rip, you can patch it up with some electrical tape to keep it going. Or, use hockey tape. Or, buy better tape that lasts longer. Again, it lasts a very long time for most riders who don't crash regularly (in a way that damages the tape significantly, at least, which is odd on your part), so stop crashing. It doesn't look have to look pretty to provide padding. Also, handlebar tape isn't even strictly necessary -- I've gone extended periods of time without handlebar tape just due to laziness.


I've used old inner tubes in the past.

Cut the inner tube just as if you were cutting a giant bagel. Rinse it off in some soap water, let it dry. It is really easy to wrap, because it stretches and grips the bar (similar to electrical tape, but without the stickiness). It's a little bit thin, so you could do 2 layers if you wanted.

I like it because it is grippy, and it doesn't get dirty or absorb sweat like many bar tapes. It's also free.

I don't know how it would compare to regular bar tape when it comes to absorbing shocks, or getting scrapped off in a crash and exposing your bars. It does last a really long time though.

  • 1
    Good thought - its not like we're short of dead tubes generally :) One possible downside is that tubes are not very breathable, so moisture and salts could get stuck in there and corrode away at your bars. Depends if you sweat lots, or if the area gets salted in winter.
    – Criggie
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 4:25

I have some homemade bartape - and its made out of cheap bartape covered with electrical heatshrink.

Own work

I used nasty $2 foam bartape from china, and wrapped it normally. Then a length of 30mm or 35mm heatshrink over the top, and heated with a hot air gun to reduce. The heatshrink came from one of the Alibaba sites.

The grips are grippy, don't fall off, and are water resistant. The bar plugs work fine and hide the end well.

I tried to be arty with the vertical cuts, hoping for curved areas to show the bartape for increased finger traction, but it didn't really work.

Note don't use electrical tape or anything adhesive. The heat of your hands and the sun will soften adhesive and it will move leaving a sticky mess.

I have used paper tape (ie masking tape) as a short term fix but it only lasts a couple weeks.

If I was doing this on drop bars, I'd probably only do from the hoods to just past the corners. There's little reason to do the drops or tops.

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